Chat with Bruce Levine
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! The baseball season is upon us, and there's plenty to discuss on both sides of town.
ESPNChicago.com baseball beat reporter Bruce Levine will be here to take your questions about the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.
Send your questions now and join the chat Tuesday at noon CT/1 p.m. ET!
Bruce Levine (1:03 PM)
Welcome to a brand new season! Not a real good start for your Chicag Cubs, while White Sox fans are wondering when they can buy their playoff tickets. Let's keep it in perspective, this is not the NFL. There are 162 games. Welcome to a new season.
Matthew H (Phx, AZ)
Hello Bruce! As a lifelong, BUT REALISTIC, Cubs fan, I am only seeing 76-84 wins this year.
Bruce Levine (1:04 PM)
If you could tell me Lilly is going to come back and win 15, I'll tell you it could be more. That's how important he is to this staff. My greatest concern for this team is still the bullpen. It's way too inexperienced.
Mike (Lake Bluff)
Where will Mark Buehrle defensive play yesterday rank in the history of great plays? Also, do the White Sox have the best bullpen in baseball right now?
Bruce Levine (1:06 PM)
The White Sox bullpen potentially could be among the best. I sure would have liked to see Sergio Santos get his feet wet in a game that was basically over. If you could point to where we keep a history of great plays, I'll tell you the answer. I can tell you I've never seen a more athletic play than what Buehrle made as a pitcher.
Brandon (Sioux Falls, SD)
Bruce, if the season does not start well for the Cubs, do you think the Front Office look to unload contracts via the trade, such as Zambrano?
Bruce Levine (1:07 PM)
Many of the players you'd like to trade have full no-trade contracts, such as Zambrano, Soriano, Fukudome, Ramirez and Lee. That doesn't mean you can't trade them, it just makes it a little more difficult for a general manager to approach a franchise player and ask if he'll agree to a trade.
Any news on Wagner Mateo, the released Cardinal signee who the Cubs worked out in Arizona awhile ago? Are the Cubs interested in signing him? How long of a leash do some of these relievers have (i.e., Berg, Russell, Samardzija)? I assume Gray is the first in line for a call.
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
No word on Mateo as of yet. Gray will be called up quickly, especially if we have results from the pen like yesterday. We know Lou has a lot of patience when it comes to handling his team, but zero patience when it comes to bullpen guys who get behind in the count.
Bruce what are the Cubs going to do with Jeff Samardzija? He has a good fastball, but know control?
Bruce Levine (1:11 PM)
Samardzija needs to go back to Triple-A and be a starting pitcher and develop. He is not a developed major-league pitcher as of yet.
Bruce, Its a new season, almost the same team, and soo far the same results. Will this be the year the Cubs fire Lou and Jim?
Bruce Levine (1:12 PM)
Let's give it more than one game. Please! I love talking on these chats, but let's remember the Beasr aren't playing. It's not a 16-game season. It's 10 times that. This is a new team, as a good Cubs fan, give it time to fail.
Is it me or is there serious cause for concern with Soriano? He looks like a fading, one-time star? Im basing this not on yesterday but last season and this spring.
Bruce Levine (1:13 PM)
There's concern in the Cubs front office and in the dugout as well. But what are you going to do about it. I do know if Soriano doesn't play well, Lou will get other players in there. He's not married to the fading superstar having to play every day.
Bob (Austin, TX)
As a nervous White Sox fan (is there any other kind) it is amazing how one very nice win can make me feel better. That said, the offense still makes me apprehensive and it seems that we have too many outfielders for too few spots. Do you believe the offense is good enough? More importantly, do the Sox players genuinely believe their offense will be good enough?
Bruce Levine (1:14 PM)
This is a very confident White Sox team. It's based on the fact they feel they have outstanding pitching 1-12. Normally when you have that and good defense, the rest will take care of itself. Runs will be a challenge at times for this team.
Craig (Palatine, IL)
With one major calling error already on day one, how many more errors should we expect before serious discussions of implementation of instant replay take place. Or do these errors not matter being so early in the season?
Bruce Levine (1:17 PM)
They matter, and I'm being swayed toward more replay for baseball. A game like yesterday's Cubs loss was directly impacted by a horrendous call not caught by any of the four umpires. I was never a fan of replay before, but now that we have limited replay, it's incumbent upon baseball to get these calls right.
Bruce, should we as Cubs fans be worried about team based on yesterday's performance? Or, is it like some say- Its just 1 of 162?
Bruce Levine (1:18 PM)
Base running and team speed are certainly something to watch in the early going. The Cubs can't afford any poor base running, just because of their lack of team speed.
Jason (New Jersey)
With Aramis Ramirez starting to age, is it time to start hoping the Pirates will give up Pedro Alvarez for a bag of lightly-used balls?
Bruce Levine (1:19 PM)
Sorry, the GM who used to be with the Pirates is now a scout for the Cubs. The Bucs don't make those trades anymore.
James (elk grove)
After yesterdays game I think I was more happy with the performances of Putz and Rios. If they perform like they did in Seattle and Toronto I think the Sox can make a serious run and make some noise in the playoffs, do you agree with those two or are their others you can see having a big year
Bruce Levine (1:20 PM)
I can see others having a big years, but those are two keys to the White Sox season. Rios' defense and offense will be counted on to win a lot of ballgames. So far so good.
mk (new mexico)
fishing for something encouraging from yesterday. how bout this? at least Z didn't have a tantrum after giving up EIGHT EARNED RUNS IN 1.1 INNINGS. see? it was a good start to the season after all.
Bruce Levine (1:21 PM)
When was the last time you remember Zambrano having a dominant start. How about late-Sept. 2008, when he no-hit the Astros.
Samardzija made the club because of his contract, correct? He has never had any extended periods of success at any level.
Bruce Levine (1:22 PM)
Hard to argue with that. He needs more minor league experience and to pitch every five days, and they need to stop switching him between starting and the bullpen. It's retarded his development.
Ryan Foley (Mundelein)
Bruce, do you see marlon byrd having a big year or could this be another case of a big first game like kosuke? Btw, Go Cubs Go!
Bruce Levine (1:23 PM)
I think Byrd will have a good year. I don't think a great year. He's capable of very good, and that would be a nice improvement for a Cubs CF.
Bruce, can you explain why the Sox picked up Teahen? He's a below avg fielder, bottom of the order hitter and little pop. Is it b/c he's lefty and to save money?
Bruce Levine (1:24 PM)
I'm with you. I think Teahen is the ultimate utility type guy, and those guys aren't known as everyday players. That said, the Sox could always do a little platooning with Nix at third as well.
Well Bruce, are you caught up in the Heyward hype yet? Smooth as silk. Bad day for Zambrano or cause for concern?
Bruce Levine (1:24 PM)
Cause for a 161 more games. Don't worry, be happy, baseball season is here. Heyward should be a really good, young player, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't struggle at some point.
Craig (Palatine, IL)
How much can we take away from what happened to the Cubs on opening day? Is it nerves, or is it just a case of opening day excitement that vaulted the Braves to a higher level of play? Or could it be a matter of sloppy gameplay due to a lack of preparedness on the cubs part?
Bruce Levine (1:26 PM)
First, remember the Braves are one of the top teams in the NL. And the rest is all conjecture, based on assumption the Cubs will be really bad. Which I don't believe, at this point. Although I have a hard time believing they'll be really good, as well. A lot of things will have to go right with their starting pitching.
should we (sox fans) be confident about linebrink in the pen?
Bruce Levine (1:27 PM)
Yes as long as he stays in there. Start to worry when he comes into a game. Seriously, Ozzie continues to say Linebrink is the key to the bullpen, and by that I think he means if someone gets hurt, they'll have to depend on him. I don't root for many players, but he's one of the major excpetions because of what a great individual he is. That said, he can't stink like he did last year.
Johnny D (New Milford/CT)
Can you quell all the fears of the "nay-sayers" and admit with confidence that Peavy will end up as a top 5 pitcher in the AL
Bruce Levine (1:28 PM)
I cannot guarantee his good health. And the way he delivers the ball gives some concern to scouts. I can tell you his competitivenes is off the charts.
Do you think the White Sox will be looking for a power bat come the trade deadline?
Bruce Levine (1:29 PM)
Tell me if the Sox are averaging more than five runs per game. If not, they will be looking for a left-handed bat. I think their offense can be good enough.
Scott (St. Louis)
Bruce, if there's one lasting legacy for Jim Hendry as GM, it's the almost blanket "no trade clause" thrown into almost every contract. (Even Samardzjia...ugh). How short is his leash (regardless of how the team performs this year)?
Bruce Levine (1:30 PM)
Well, from a business perspective, he has two more years left on his contract after this. Also, the minor-league system for the first time in a while appears to be flourishing. Let's wait a little while before we fire Hendry. There's plenty of time for that if this team continues to struggle.
If the Cubs fade early, I see them going to a youth movement...they have several young outfielders--and I see whole sale changes and the deadline.
Bruce Levine (1:32 PM)
I see some contracts that aren't easy to move. If you're going to try trade Zambrano and Soriano, and they don't have any success this year, then you're just kidding yourself. As far as the other contracts, Lee and Ramirez can be free agents. And although they ahve no-trade clauses, they may accept a trade.
mk (new mexico)
hmm. i think it's hard for any one call to directly impact an 11 run blowout. i'm gonna argue that the absence of viable arms in the bullpen, along with a pretty ugly outing from big z, are the factors that directly impacted the ball game
Bruce Levine (1:33 PM)
No one will dispute your reference to Z's poor start. However, I believe the game was 8-5 when the blown call came. That could have directly changed the flow of the game. I'm not arguing the Cubs were lousy yesterday.
Do you have any theories on why Zambrano gets slightly worse every year? It seems he was a better pitcher when he was inexperienced than the past few years when he should have been in his prime.
Bruce Levine (1:33 PM)
My theory is when he got in trouble in the past, he always had the velocity to blow people away. I don't believe he has that now.
Bill (Glendale Heights)
what is it in Zambrano that the Cubs see that makes him a #1 pitcher??? I have doubts he would be the #1 on the Iowa Cubs!
Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
Let's be honest about this now. The guy averaged 16 wins for 7 straight years before 2009. That's what being called a No. 1 is. Whether he still is will be proven on the field.
Jeff (Aurora, IL)
If the Sox are withing striking distance of the division lead come the trade deadline, do you think they have enough to pull off a swap with San Diego for Gonzalez?
Bruce Levine (1:35 PM)
I'm sure the Sox will consider that. But it's going to cost four of your top young players. And I don't know if the Sox farm system is as good as players who might be available from the Red Sox.
Where will Lou play Colvin? Will he take the place of Soriano in left or in center for Byrd? Please say LF, because I won't put up with watching Soriano swing at curveballs two feet low and away.
Bruce Levine (1:36 PM)
From my conversations with Piniella during spring training, and they were numerous, I don't get the feeling he'll stay with any one player who slumps very long. He'll worry about hurt feelings after the season.
I know we have yet to see him pitch in the regular season, but should there be concern over Freddy Garcia at the 5 spot? It doesnt really matter how great of a staff you have when you automatically lose every 5th day (Contreras.....that was bad)
Bruce Levine (1:37 PM)
Also Colon, that was bad, too. If I'm goign to tell you that you ahve a really good chance of winning four out of five days, i don't think you're going to worry about Freddy being a .500 or slightly below .500 pitcher. How many fifth starters are double-digit winners?
Ryan Yoder (Columbus)
Bruce, one of the few bright spots yesterday for the Cubs was the performances by Byrd and Fukudome. Will these two provide consistent production from the outfield that was missing last year?
Bruce Levine (1:38 PM)
Fukudome has a chance to be better with the Jaramillo factor, as well as the fact he moved back to his natural position. Byrd is a good player, but don't expect him to be Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime.
Bill (Glendale heights)
T/F - Starlin Castro gets to that popup behind short that theriot didn't get to?
Bruce Levine (1:39 PM)
Didn't see the play. Heard about it. Would prefer to see it before commenting. Castro has better range and eventually will be the shortstop, but bashing Theriot is not my intent.
Ross (Lagrange park)
with kotsay hitting like he is will it be hard for andrew jones to get in the line up ? that saying rios is back to his old self
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
Jones will get in because Ozzie knows that Jones can hit a ball out of the park at any time. This is a guy that can hit 25 home runs in 400 at-bats. He'll make his way into the lineup.
Watching the Twins-Angels last night Buck Showalter praised both Gardenhire and Scioscia for not being afraid to bench big contracts who underperform. Will we see that in Chicago?
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
You will if it occurs. Soriano is not promised playing time by this manager.
Craig (Palatine, IL)
There has been a lot of talk about Castro this year, but I haven't heard as much about Cashner and Barney. If the Cubs begin to slump early this season, who do you think gets the call up first?
Bruce Levine (1:41 PM)
Barney is being looked at as a second-base and shortstop backup right now. Cashner still needs a little experience in the minors. I would say Barney is closer to coming to the big leagues.
Any concerns about Z's mechanics/velocity yesterday? When he had shoulder issues in the past, he often looked like he was shot putting rather than pitching. Did you notice some of that yesterday?
Bruce Levine (1:42 PM)
Good observation on your part. His fastball isn't what it used to be. That doesn't mean he still can't pitch.
It always seems Kosuke hits like a beast in the first month or two before fading into his usual slump. Let's hope he does what he set out to do and hit .300 this year. Anyway, my question is how soon do you think Colvin will start threatening Soriano or Fukudome for a starting position in the field?
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
Just start watch Piniella start to implement him against right-hander pitchers. He'll probably pick some spots against No.3s and 4s rather than 1s and 2s.
Hi Bruce...Obviously the over reaction to one game is rediculous...that being said, Theriot didn't come up with two plays Casto makes in his sleep, and the same with Fontenot at second...June or sooner for the kid?
Bruce Levine (1:44 PM)
I would have liked to have seen him make it out of spring training. But 31 games at AA does not make you a major-league player. I would say June, but you identified a major problem, and that is defense and range have to be there if you're going to be a good team.
Valentino (Lake Forest, IL)
The Braves did get a lot of lucky breaks (3 bloop hits) to begin the game, which I think led to Carlos being frustrated and serving up the gopher ball to Heyward. Then the blown call most likely took another run from us. There were players who had terrible games (Soriano, Z, Samardzija), but the bad luck we had turned it from a close loss to a blowout. I was pleasantly surprised with the outings from Marshall and Russell. One poor start and some bad luck in one game. Perspective is needed. All that being said, I think it's safe to say that Big Z shouldn't be starting on opening day anymore.
Bruce Levine (1:46 PM)
It doesn't really matter where your first four starters start in a rotation. They have to go out and win. If Z goes out and loses the third game, it's no better than Opening Day. Cubs starting pitching is the key to their season. Don't think it isn't.
I don't expect the Braves to score 16 runs every game, but could the Atlanta offense be sneaky good this season? 1-8 I really don't see any weak links, and even though nobody has elite power there could be 3-4 20 hr guys and 6-7 15 hr guys. Where do you think the Braves' offense stacks up against the rest of the league?
Bruce Levine (1:47 PM)
I like the Braves' offense. Just make sure Chipper stays healthy. I believe he and McCann are the keys to their season.
The Fontenot/Baker platoon scares me. What is a more likely scenario; we go after a 2nd baseman before the trade deadline or Castro comes up and Theriot moves to 2nd?
Bruce Levine (1:48 PM)
I believe Castro needs at least 2 mos in the minors. If the team is struggling big time by June, I think they consider making the move. If the team is winning, you'll see status quo.
What kind of contracts will Pierzynski and Konerko get at the end of the season? Hypothetically speaking, if the Sox HAD to sign one of them, who would it be?
Bruce Levine (1:49 PM)
Probably A.J. because of the difficult of finding top catchers. It wouldn't be for a long-term deal. At age 34, the amount of innings he's caught will eventually catch up to him. For now he's still a real good catcher.
The way Soriano swung at those three straight breaking balls yesterday for three straight strikes proves the theory that there is no reason to throw him any fastballs. Why cant he hit that pitch?
Bruce Levine (1:49 PM)
Well most people can't hit a pitch 3-4 inches outside. Those are called balls. Until he learns to lay off that, or wait for a mistake, you're going to see the same results.
Eric Crabbe (Blomington)
Bruce, one thing that no one mentions is the fact that the Twins moved from the metrodome to their new outdoor park. I honestly think that this will have a negative effect on the team (Twins) given how poorly the White sox have played in the metrodome. Do you agree, or do you think the Twins will always own the White Sox at home?
Bruce Levine (1:50 PM)
The Twins are prepared for their new park. It's a park that will still favor power-hitting left-handed hitters. They have four, so you'd have to say they're prepared for their new outdoor experience.
What is it about Lou that people advocating firing him could point to as poor managing? The coach is often the fall guy for either the talent on the field or the people that put them there (GM, front office). I'm in the camp that the manager has very little effect on the W-L column come the end of the season. The GM, much more so...
Bruce Levine (1:53 PM)
I believe it's a combination of the two. I thought Piniella after the first month of 2009 did a very good job, keeping a team together that was decimated by injuries and sub-par play.
Adam (Madison, WI)
What would be the realistic return on A-Ram or D-Lee IF they wave their no trade clauses?
Bruce Levine (1:54 PM)
Not a lot, because both are potential free agents. If you're trading them in July, that means a team will potentially only have them for two months. Unless a team is goign to give them a big-time, long-term contract as part of the trade, you're not getting a lot back.
Bruce, as a lifer Sox fan, i'm very encouraged by what we saw yeaterday in the opener. That being said, i'm curious as to what your "gut" is regarding the futures of two of our long-time staples, A.J. and Paulie. What do you place the odds of each of them, respectively, coming back to the South Side, (in a Sox uniform, lol), after the 2010 season?
Bruce Levine (1:55 PM)
I think the odds are good. Both have the perspective of taking short-team deals.
Bruce, Adrian Gonzalez would look great in black and white, but with the combination of the ChiSox's weak farm system and how the BoSox need to replace Big Papi soon, do the Sox have a legit shot at landing him?
Bruce Levine (1:56 PM)
If they put Beckham in the trade, they got him. The question is would you trade him for a guy who hits 40 home runs and drives in 120. You know what my answer would be, but I'm not sure what the Sox woud do.
Do you think Alexei Ramirez will ever "get it"? The 360 throw yesterday was cringeworthy.
Bruce Levine (1:57 PM)
You're right. There was no reason for it. He blew a simple double play by being late to the bag. Ozzie and Joey pulled their hair out when he relies on his athleticism rather than his baseball IQ. I don't know if he'll ever get it.
Bruce, do you think Alex Rios can get back to his old form? Is he a guy when the sox bats go into a slump he can carry the team?
Bruce Levine (1:58 PM)
I don't know if he's ever been a guy to carry the team. He can be a real good player that the Sox fans were not expecting to show up. This guy is also capable of stealing 30-40 bases. In the Ozzieball funhouse, he's liable to get the opportunity.
What's the plan in to keeping Vizquel and Nix from dry-rotting on the bench, (assuming good health for Teahen, Ramirez, and Beckham)? Kotsay and Jones seem to have the inside track on the DH duties, and I can't see Beckham or Ramirez hitting the bench all that often...
Bruce Levine (1:59 PM)
Ozzie will find time for all of his players. He realizes some of the guys in his starting 9 will perform better with a day off per week. Vizquel is still a magician defensively. He played 66 games last season without making an error at 3 different positions.
Eric (Melrose Park)
One question that I have is Why isn't Marshall the fourth or fifth starter? I like our chances with him instead of silva
Bruce Levine (2:00 PM)
Marshall has been a very good swing man for the Cubs. He's still not perceived as a seven-inning pitcher. I don't know if I agree with that or not, but that's management's view.
Bruce Levine (2:02 PM)
I hope you're as excited about the new season as I am. Continue to follow all my blogging on the Cubs and Sox on ESPN Chicago, and listen to "Talking Baseball" on ESPN 1000.