Va, Ositos, Va!: Cubs in the 2009 WBC

fukudomeswingOfficial WBC rosters came out last week and a handful of N.L. Central players made their country’s respective cut. Midwest Swing takes a deeper look into the lives of N.L. Central players battling for world supremacy.

The preliminary rosters had so much promise for those hoping to catch Cubs star-power at the WBC. Once the final rosters were submitted? Not so much. Alfonso Soriano? No. Rich Harden? No. Derrek Lee? Nope. Aramis Ramirez? Negative. Ryan Dempster? Nada. So who’s left?  There are a few superstars willing to suit up for their country of origin, especially since Carlos Marmol decided to shake hi magic 8-ball one last time and it read, “Signs Point to Yes.” Other Cub-affiliated players:

Hung-Wen Chen, Chinese Taipei – RHP
Club affiliation, 2006 WBC: Between the Cubs’ A level teams Chen rang up a 3.38 ERA over 128 innings.
In an hour, Chinese Taipei’s insatiable hunger for glory, spring rolls will return. Fact 1: Hung-Wen Chen is the first Taiwanese/Chinese Taipei player ever signed by the Cubs. Fact 2: Hung-Wen Chen did not play in the first WBC. That covers just about all of the relevant information regarding Mr. Chen, so lets talk about what’s really on everyone’s mind: is it Taiwan or Chinese Taipei?

Kosuke Fukudome, Japan – OF
Club affiliation, 2006 WBC: Fukudome plays for the big boys, though it remains to be seen how often he’ll be starting this season. He also hit .182 in 8 WBC games in 2006 for Japan.
Japanese WBC team in 2027? Robots. Predicting Kosuke Fukudome’s upcoming WBC performance is n enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a wonton. He could hit .400 and lead Japan to back-to-back titles or he could bat .080 with more pirouetted swinging strikeouts than a Russian ballet — and neither outcome would surprise me. Spring training/WBC results usually aren’t much of a barometer when it comes to regular season contribution, but if anyone needs to have a hot spring, it’s Fukudome and the thousands of Cubs’ fans that bought his jersey in the first week of the season last year.

Corey Koskie, Canada – 3B
Club affiliation/2006 WBC: This is Koskie’s first stint with the Cubs and he will be trying to make the roster out of spring training. In 2006 Koskie hit .400 with 1 HR and 2 RBI for the team known as “America’s Hat.”
First stop on the “Corey Kosie Comeback Tour.” Corey Koskie was signed only a few days ago, so to call him a Cub is purely a technicality at this point, but his performance in the WBC will be interesting to track. Remember, this is a man who has been out of baseball for two years after slamming his noggin off of the turf while chasing down a Felipe Lopez fly ball. He’s suffered mightily since with post-concussions syndrome, vertigo, memory loss and nausea. He only started running, throwing and hitting two months ago, and here’s hoping Corey socks a few dingers for our neighbors to the north.

Ted Lilly, USA – LHP
Club affiliation/2006 WBC: On the Cubs’ major league roster, DNP in 2006’s WBC.
He’s pitching for who? Don’t get me wrong, Ted Lilly is a fine pitcher. Since his signing, he has been one of, if not the most dependable Cub to wear the uniform. That being said, did anyone wake up this morning thinking, “That Ted Lilly is really something! He must be the second or third best American starting pitcher in existence.” Seriously, check out the rotation for the US team. Roy Oswalt, Jake Peavy, Ted Lilly. Those are your starting pitchers, and the reason that America’s interest in the WBC can be summed up with a shrug of the shoulders. Tim Lincecum, I’m looking at you. Haven’t you been watching President Obama’s commercials? Volunteer your time and help America become great again.

Alex Maestri, Italy – RHP
Club affiliation/2006 WBC: Pitched for the A Daytona Cubs and AA Tennessee Smokies last season. Posted a 13.50 ERA in 2006 WBC.
That’s a (authentic) spicy meatball. Frank Cattalanato, Nick Punto, Mike DiFelice, Jason Grilli — meet Alex Maestri. Who? Oh, he’s the guy on the Italian baseball team that was, you know, actually born in Italy. What a nutty concept. Alex, whose name is actually super Italian, Alessandro, pitched in 2006’s WBC and pitched a robust .2 of an inning in two games, giving up a dinger and a walk. Apparently that resume was good enough to warrant a repeat performance. I think this year’s team will be considerably more difficult to play for because, honestly, who wants to play when this guy is one of your coaches?

Carlos Marmol, Dominican Republic – RHP
Club affiliation/2006 WBC: Marmol is expected to become the closer for the N.L. Central champion Chicago Cubs. Marmol posted a DNP in the 2006 WBC.
“I’m in! I’m out! I’m in!” The WBC is the first stop on the Cubs’ newest attraction, “Carlos Marmol’s Wild Ride,” one that might cause hundreds of heart attack-related deaths in Chicagoland this year. After delivering more mixed messages about playing in the WBC than your cute lab partner in 2nd period Biology, Marmol finally plucked the last petal off of the flower and decided the WBC does love him. What does this mean for the closer race between Kevin Gregg and Marmol? Nothing. Carlos Marmol would have to collapse on himself like a dying star this spring for Kevin Gregg to win the closer job, no matter what Lou Pinella says.

Vince Perkins, Canada – RHP
Club affiliation/2006 WBC: Signed as a minor league FA. Perkins pitched an inning of relief and surrendered a walk in the last WBC.
Canada’s strategy: Outscore opponents with kindness. Vince Perkins signed with the Cubs this season as a minor league free agent after pitching in the independent league last year. This Canuck is good friends with another Cubs Canadian, Rich Harden, who isn’t playing for Canada this year (thank God). They both grew up in Victoria, B.C. and have been playing ball together since the 4th grade. Perkins embarrassed Harden by hitting a game winning grand slam off of him in high school. In retaliation, Harden went on to make millions of dollars at the highest level of competition while banishing Vince Perkins to baseball obscurity. Now Vince will vie for redemption in this winner-take-all international slugfest that is the WBC. If this isn’t an ABC Family made for TV movie in the making I don’t know what is. Make it happen ABC Family.

Geovany Soto, Puerto Rico – C
Club affiliation/2006 WBC: Is currently slated as the Cubs’ catching messiah and was left off the Puerto Rican roster in 2006.
If Soto gets injured Cubs nation will declare war on Puerto Rico. He’s the only Cub (with the possible exception of Rich Harden) that I wanted to not participate in the WBC. Don’t get injured Geovany. Don’t get injured. Don’t get injured. Please. Paul Bako and “starting catcher” are two things that should never be used together more than 30 times a year. Here’s an idea, start that Yadier Molina fella, make him hustle out a few ground balls, eh?

Carlos Zambrano, Venezuela – RHP
Club affiliation/2006 WBC: Went 1-0 with a 5,40 ERA in 2 games with the Venezuelans in 2006, with 7 whiffs and 5 walks along the way. Carlos is currently employed by the Cubs to be their starting pitcher and Sybil Dorsett impersonator.
Don’t we have enough Carlos-es pitching for the Dominican Republic? If “Carlos Marmol’s Wild Ride” is too much for your weak stomach, Carlos Zambrano offers fans an alternative source for crazy. Obviously, if Big Z goes out to the mound during the WBC and gets lit up its going to mean very little in the big picture. But wouldn’t it be nice if, just for one season, Zambrano were consistent from day one? UPDATE: Though Zambrano is listed on the roster, don’t expect him to throw a single pitch. Why? Because he says he won’t.


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