Andrew Cashner, second base and Kosuke Fukudome are the hot topics in this week's Cubs Inbox. E-mail your questions to email@example.com, and please include your full name and hometown.
Any chance the Cubs let Andrew Cashner start in 2011? His changeup rates as solid to go with his plus fastball and slider, and he had some really good success as a starter in the Minors. It'd be a lot better to get 180 good innings out of him instead of just 70. -- Peter O., Chicago
Cashner may get the chance to start, depending on whether the Cubs add another pitcher this offseason and if the right-hander's changeup looks "solid" this spring. When he pitched in relief, Cashner became more of a two-pitch pitcher. Manager Mike Quade's assessment is that Cashner is capable of doing whatever needs to be done.
"He needs to get better," Quade said last week at the Winter Meetings. "Whatever role he's in, it's going to be important for him to get better. I think he just likes to pitch. I think he had a lot of fun at the end of the year and hopefully he comes into Spring Training and says, 'Give me the ball.' That's what I expect from the young kid."
Everyone has, understandably, been talking about getting a couple of arms. While I understand and agree with that being the primary concern, are we assuming Blake DeWitt is the answer at second? The Cubs have options in the farm system and payroll is an obvious concern, but second base has been a bit of a revolving door since Mark DeRosa was let go. -- Rick K., Naperville, Ill.
It's an open competition for second base this spring with DeWitt, Jeff Baker and Darwin Barney among those vying for the job. Baker does have the edge against left-handers (he hit .350 vs. southpaws, .106 vs. right-handers).
Now that the Cubs have finally found a left-handed bat in Carlos Pena to stick between Aramis Ramirez and Marlon Byrd, that still leaves the question, who leads off? DeWitt? Starlin Castro? Sadly, I don't see those two being ready for the job, but what other options do they have? -- Doug S., Malin, Ore.
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Quade did use Baker as leadoff man against lefties (he was 13-for-28 in eight games batting first), while DeWitt has a career .224 average, .270 on-base percentage batting first. Castro seemed a good fit in the No. 2 spot. Kosuke Fukudome likes batting first and also could be an option. Quade looks at matchups when he writes his lineups, so the leadoff man may change on a daily basis. It's definitely something that needs to be improved.
With Pena now locked in at first base, have you heard of the Cubs trying to shop Fukudome? I believe he's owed $14 million next season, and while they may still have to eat most of that, maybe they can get some pitching in return. That would free up right field for Tyler Colvin full-time. -- Nathan P., Omaha
Don't be surprised if the Cubs open the season with Fukudome, Colvin, Alfonso Soriano and Byrd on the roster. Soriano and Byrd do need a breather now and then, and it'll be up to Quade to rotate the four in a way that works for the team and the players.
If memory serves me correctly, the Cubs finished at the bottom of the Major Leagues in stolen bases. What are the chances Quade turns Castro and Colvin loose next year? -- Dave G., Downers Grove, Ill.
The Cubs did rank 15th in the National League in stolen bases with 56 (only the World Series champion Giants had fewer at 55). This is not a fast team, and even if Quade wants to be more aggressive, he won't ask Geovany Soto to steal bases. With Bobby Dernier on the coaching staff now, Colvin and Castro could run more.
I read the Cubs were looking into a trade for Chris Davis and Darren O'Day from the Rangers. The piece said a good fit for the trade would be the Cubs sending Carlos Marmol to Texas. Please tell me this is crazy and won't happen. -- Orville H., Taylorville, Ill.
That's crazy and won't happen.
I would like to express my sadness at the passing of Ron Santo. He was a great player/broadcaster/person and will be missed greatly. I was wondering if the Cubs have anything special that they will do to honor him? For example, the Phillies hung the sports coat of their broadcaster, Harry Kalas, in the dugout. They also wear a "HK" patch on their uniforms. -- Ryan D., Chicago
The Cubs will add a patch to their uniforms in 2011 to honor Santo.
I just made a $10 contribution to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) in Ron Santo's memory, the greatest No. 10 ever to wear a Cubs uniform. Maybe you could pass this idea along to your readers to help support the cause that was so dear to Ron's heart. -- James C., Frederick, Md.
Great idea, and I'm sure the Santo family and JDRF appreciate your kind donation.