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Buehrle backed up

Mark Buehrle is still on schedule to start against the Royals on Opening Day.

March 24, 2009, 1:58 PM

AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Mark Buehrle

White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle is still on schedule to start against the Royals on Opening Day. A combination of cautiousness by the front office and general arm fatigue has backed Buehrle up a bit. Buehrle told me Tuesday that his arm feels great -- the best it's felt this spring. The plan is for a couple of days off after a side session (usually 30-35 pitches), then a start on March 31st. Pitching coach Don Cooper told me that he expects Buehrle to throw five or six innings on the 31st. If he's okay after that, he'll have five full days of rest before the opener at US Cellular Field.

Another Sox starter will help determine his early season fate on Wednesday. Bartolo Colon is set to start the Cactus League game and go three innings (roughly 60 pitches). Colon must prove to Sox brass that he's improving towards the fifth starter spot. If he continues to be erratic through the last 10 days of Spring Training, the Sox will put him on the DL to start the season and try to allow him to build up his endurance and arm strength. If Colon isn't ready, manager Ozzie Guillen has said that lefty Clayton Richard will be the Sox's fifth starter. If Richard starts, the Sox manager is leaning towards keeping an extra left-handed reliever in the bullpen, which means non-roster reliever Randy Williams might make the team -- unless the team decides to keep former number one pick Aaron Poreda in the big leagues. Poreda has impressed coaches with his fastball and his workman-like desire, but the Sox young left-hander has a ways to go with his slider and his change-up. At this point a trip to the minors for two or three months might be the best thing for Poreda.

Centerfield is still a big question mark for the White Sox's brain trust. Brian Anderson will be the right-handed part of a platoon to start the season. A late rush by Jerry Owens could cause White Sox officials to think twice and take him on the 25-man roster over veteran Dewayne Wise. Both Owens and Wise are out of options, meaning they would have to clear waivers to go to the minor leagues.

It appears catcher Corky Miller will be the team's backup behind AJ Pierzynski. General manager Kenny Williams and the coaching staff like the way he's thrown during spring training and, more importantly, love his demeanor taking charge of the pitchers he has caught this spring.

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Sale Update

March 18, 2009, 10:36 AM

AP Photo/Morry Gash

According to Crane Kenney, the Chairman of the Board of the Cubs, the sale between the Tribune company and the Ricketts family is very close. The parameters of the deal are to first finalize the deal with the Ricketts family, then get approval from the bankruptcy court since the Tribune has filed for Chapter 11, and lastly, get approval from 75% of major league baseball's ownership group. According to Cubs sources, closing the deal before Opening Day will be a challenge, but the exchange of ownership could occur sometime in May. The Tribune company will keep a small non-controlling portion of the team to avoid some capital gains losses.)

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Future of the Cubs' Spring Training Facility in Mesa

March 18, 2009, 10:35 AM

The Cubs' contract with the city of Mesa, AZ includes an option. If they inform the city by 2010, the team can leave Mesa after 2012. The Cubs have been talking to cities in Florida about a possible relocation after that date. Sarasota is one city whose name has surfaced.

Recently Crane Kenney and Cubs officials have looked at the new state-of-the-art facilities at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, where the White Sox and Dodgers train, and the new Indians' facility in Goodyear, AZ. "Right now we don't have the best facility in Arizona. We are the valley leader as far as being the most popular team," said Kenney.

The team is looking for more space, better facilities for the major and minor league clubs, and a year-round facility for rehab and for working out young players. The Cubs also seek a larger 15,000 seat stadium, which would be the largest in Arizona if they were to stay. Kenney had a meeting this week with the mayor of Mesa and officials of the Ho Ho Kam group, the private not-for-profit group that manages the facility, to discuss their contract.

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Back in Wrigleyville...

March 18, 2009, 10:35 AM

The Cubs are starting their own restaurant-retail venture on the corner of Clark & Addison where the old Friendly Confines Café was. The facility will be their first attempt at a year-round restaurant/bar and is scheduled to be ready by Opening Day. The people from Haray Caray's (Grant DePorter) will be managing the operation that will a capacity of 491 and feature indoor and outdoor seating. The venture is the forerunner to more retail business at Wrigley Field twelve months out of the year. The Cubs are also talking about a new triangle building to be erected in the old Yum Yum Donuts and Car Wash lot, angling from Clark & Addison to the corner of Waveland Avenue. That building might be part of the total renovation of Wrigley Field in the next five years.

Finally, there will be three concerts at Wrigley this summer, two by Billy Joel and Elton John and one by Rascal Flatts and Willie Nelson, which will net the Cubs $2 million per concert. The Cubs will donate $150,000 per concert to charity.

A new playing surface will be installed at Wrigley Field again this year after the field was virtually destroyed by the Winter Classic hockey game held on New Year's Day. The $500,000 that it will cost to refurbish the grass will be paid by the NHL as part of their agreement to play the game at Wrigley this past winter.

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Is Crosby an option?

March 4, 2009, 3:31 PM

AP Photo

The sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family appears to be moving along a bit slower than either side would prefer. A month ago the Ricketts family sold $350 million worth of TD Ameritrade stock in order to position themselves to pay at least 50% down on a Cubs' sale that will fall somewhere between $800-900 million. The sale itself may take until at least May to consummate, and with credit opportunities at an all-time low, even for the very rich, the only way the Cubs can be sold is with at least half of the money paid in cash. Before the deal is completed, the Ricketts family, along with the Tribune Company led by owner Sam Zell, are working on changing and possibly extending the long-term television deals with Comcast and WGN-TV. Both parties are using opportunity to create their own cable station in the future as leverage to get better terms and conditions on a deal that's already locked in for many years with both TV companies. Both the Cubs and White Sox currently get up to $275,000 per game for Comcast broadcasts. This season the Cubs will only have 63 games on WGN-TV, the fewest since they began broadcasting games in 1948. The reason for this is that no amount of advertising on WGN-TV can come close to the amount that the Cubs gross from each game on Comcast.

Although 29-year old Bobby Crosby of the A's makes $5.2 million in 2009, Oakland may eat a good portion of that amount to try to trade the former star infielder due to the fact that they've signed shortstop Orlando Cabrera to play Crosby's old position, and have also inked Nomar Garciaparra to back-up several infield positions. Crosby might be the perfect fit for the Cubs, who are out there looking for a versatile back-up infielder who hits right-handed off the bench. The A's shortstop was on the road to stardom until injuries began to take their toll on him. After hitting 22 home runs in 2004, Crosby played in just 273 game in 2005, 2006 and 2007 combined, before a mostly-healthy 2008 season. With the acquisitions of Cabrera and Garciaparra, it appears the A's will move Crosby to anyone who offers a decent young player is able to afford a portion of the contract.

The Cubs' and White Sox's match-ups in Vegas March 4th and 5th will gross the Cubs $1 million and net the White Sox $150,000. In reality, both teams are being paid $150,000 for their two-day excursion, but the Cubs and WGN-TV have a tourism deal with the city of Las Vegas that ups to ante for the north siders with a continued connection between Las Vegas tourism and Cubs advertising.

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