By Doug Halberstadt
As the month of February comes to a close, the Chicago Cubs begin preparing for the 2011 season. Their first Cactus League Spring Training game is this Sunday, Feb. 27. The Cubs will host the Oakland Athletics at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa, Ariz.
They follow up Sunday’s game with a split squad game against the Brewers the next day. The Cubs will play a total of 36 pre-season games prior to opening the regular season with a six-game home stand April 1. They open up with three games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and then the Arizona Diamondbacks come to Wrigley Field for a three-game series.
Chicago strengthened their roster with the off-season acquisition of starting pitcher Matt Garza and free-agent first baseman Carlos Pena. Garza and Pena come to the Cubs from the Tampa Bay Rays. Garza had a 15-10 record last year and tossed his first career no-hitter in late July. Pena hit .196 and had 28 homers for the Rays last season.
At the Cubs Convention last month, Pena said he felt at ease with his new club almost immediately.
“Just walking in here, I ran into a few [players] and already feel like I’m part of the family,” Pena said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here. We want to make sure we have that chemistry and tight bond. I think we can achieve that here, and I see it already. I’m just glad to be joining the party.”
The 2011 Chicago Cubs will be under the guidance of manager Mike Quade. He took over for Lou Piniella last Aug. 23. He led the team to a 24-13 record in the final six weeks of the 2010 season. He became Chicago’s 51st manager last November.
Cubs’ third baseman Aramis Ramirez recently summed up the team’s expectations for the upcoming season: “We’re very excited, we can’t wait to get on the field and see how it is this year. We finished strong, and hopefully we carry that into 2011.”
The 2011 baseball season has arrived, and I hope so, too!
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Feb. 23-March 1, 2011, issue