It's becoming apparent that Piniella is finally starting to see the true MO of his band of merry men this spring.
First, the offense is powerful, but the ugly scenario of having men in scoring position with less than two outs and not putting any runs on the board, is still a concern.
Second, the pitching staff has been mandated to throw strikes and so far the Cubs have actually taken more walks than they've given up.
Third, the defense with the reported projected lineup, is starting to show it's true colors. When the best defensive outfielder Jones, appears to be the one most likely traded, you know their is a problem.
Piniella has made it known that spring training isn't band camp. It's the time for a team that is overcrowded with talent for a number of positions, to step up and show you belong here. At this stage of spring training Piniella has to do more than just talk the talk, he has to walk the walk and field the best 25 man team possible.
Piniella has, much to my delight, been holding players feet to the fire and letting it be known in the press what he expects and demands from his team. His most recent comments illustrate just what a departure his tenure as manager will be from his predecessor's. Yesterday when he was asked what he saw in Neal Cotts? Piniella said, "I see he gives up runs every time he pitches." Priceless stuff I tell you.
Now Piniella has to actually back up his statements and walk the walk. If Prior can be shipped down to the minors to work out whatever it is he has to work out. Then Piniella has to do the same with the everyday roster. If defense is a problem then fix it. If we need more situational hitting, then fix it. There are players in camp that can do the job, if Piniella will back up his statements.
Say what you want about trading for Neal Cotts and signing Mark DeRosa. But it is becoming abundantly clear that they are not living up to expectations. Neither of them has a bigger contract than Mark Prior. If Prior can be sent to the minors, so can Cotts. The Riot is continuing to show that his speed and plate discipline will serve the Cubs best as an everyday player. DeRosa needs to assume his super-sub role, damn the contract. It won't be as bad a misuse of payroll as the $9 million three headed 2B of the past. That team wasn't close to being a contender, this one is.
The same goes for the porous outfield. If Piniella is willing to toy with the idea of Jones in the 2 hole when Floyd is in the lineup, why not Pie. Felix has already shown he has made strides in being more disciplined at the plate. If fastballs would be good for Jones in front of Lee and following Soriano, just think what the speedster Pie could do batting out of the 2 hole. Not to mention the defense he'll provide to make the outfield at least respectable.
If the Cubs have to trade Jones, then trade him. If DeRosa has to play super-sub, so be it. The speed and defense of Pie and The Riot, not to mention what appears to be superior plate discipline, just can't be ignored.
It's time to walk the walk Piniella. That's the cold hard fact of the matter.