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updated: 8/12/2012 6:37 PM

Tough recognizing the Cubs these days

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  • Brooks Raley pitches against the Reds during the first inning of the Cubs' 3-0 loss Sunday at Wrigley Field.

      Brooks Raley pitches against the Reds during the first inning of the Cubs' 3-0 loss Sunday at Wrigley Field.
    Associated Press

  • Chicago Cubs starter Brooks Raley throws a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012, in San Diego.

      Chicago Cubs starter Brooks Raley throws a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012, in San Diego.
    Associated Press

 
 

Q: The Cubs' roster has changed at warp speed over the past two weeks. Do you recognize all the guys in the clubhouse these days?

A: Yes, a lot of coming and going lately, which we expected at some point, just not maybe all at once.

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It's funny because most of the call-ups are guys I've seen at one point or another in spring training, but occasionally, a player will slip through the cracks like Brooks Raley. Prior to his debut in San Diego, if he had walked right up to me on the street, I would have had no idea who he was.

But that's one of the fun things about baseball. Each organization has so many guys toiling away in the minor leagues and every so often you hear about a call-up you know very little about. What it speaks to is the enormous opportunity for every player in the system. The Cubs have pounded home the idea of building the big-league roster through their own system, so if you're in the system and you produce, you will likely get a look at some point.

Q: The starting rotation in particular has taken a big hit with the trades of Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm and the injury to Matt Garza. Can the group that's been patched together give the Cubs a chance to compete the rest of the way?

If you're assessing the rotation honestly, you have to acknowledge that losing those three veterans is pretty devastating. The silver lining is that it gives a bunch of young starters more experience this season, but it is going to be difficult to find the consistency those three starting pitchers gave this team for the first four months.

Q: Can Brett Jackson be a productive offensive player in the big leagues with all the strikeouts?

A: The answer is a qualified yes. In the long haul, you can live with the strikeouts if you get a lot of walks to go along with them. As a minor-league hitter, Jackson's career on-base percentage was 97 points above his batting average, so that bodes well. The other thing is extra-base power. If you are getting doubles, triples and homers consistently, you will accept the strikeouts as the price of business.

There is a limit, however, and his strikeout rate this season has been a bit alarming. You just fall back on the idea that he has had success at every level and that he will hopefully make the necessary adjustments at the big-league level. He will certainly be given plenty of time and support to sort it out.

Q: What about Josh Vitters' ceiling?

A: I think the jury is still out on him as a third baseman. While he was ready for the jump to the majors as an offensive player, he still needs to make strides defensively which is why he hasn't been handed the everyday job just yet.

Josh has been in the system since 2007, so he knows better than anyone that the Cubs are looking for the next Aramis Ramirez. Ian Stewart struggled, then got hurt, possibly opening the door to putting himself in a good position going into spring training next year.

His offensive production will obviously play a big role in his future, but just as important will be his ability to be a consistent defender at third base.

Q: With the Astros coming to town this week, will you miss them next year as they move to the American League?

A: I will actually. They are in a major rebuild mode right now and it will be interesting to see how quickly new general manager Jeff Luhnow is able to make them competitive again.

They are on somewhat of a parallel track to the Cubs, so I will probably keep an eye on them over in the AL West the next few years.

• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @lenandbobwww.wgntv.com/lenandbob;http://www.wgntv.com/blogs/lenandbob/[URL]. Subscriber Total Access members can email him [/URL]questions;mailto:cubsquestions%40dailyherald.com?subject=Reader%20question[URL] each week via our online link.[/URL]

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