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Your Morning Phil: Kruk, Flowers, Bowden

Phil Rogers

On Baseball

9:55 AM CST, December 4, 2012

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Talking baseball while wondering whose stock has climbed faster, Apple or Northern Illinois’ football program:

1. John Kruk feels the pain of Cub fans. But he is a huge believer in the path set by Theo Epstein, who continues to try to accumulate under-25 players rather than 10-year veterans.

“That’s the only way,’’ said Kruk, who was named on Monday to replace Terry Francona on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts. “They’ve tried going with Milton Bradley, (Alfonso) Soriano, guys like that, and it didn’t work. ... I’d rather lose with young kids than lose with veterans. You can see hope for the future. The young kids are hungry. They play hard. When you have old players and you’re not winning, it’s bad for everyone.’’

Kruk says that Epstein’s first year in Chicago set a decent foundation to build a team around.

“I know that Rick Sutcliffe was talking about (Jeff) Samardzija out of spring training,’’ Kruk said. “He said he was the best pitcher he saw last spring, and he carried it through the year. He should only get better now that he’s figured it out. You’ve got (Anthony) Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and that guy in center field, the fast one with the Italian name.’’

That would be Tony Campana, who is not exactly on the same level as the others Kruk mentioned. “His speed is a real plus,’’ Kruk said. “He can real do things when he’s on base for Castro, Rizzo.’’

Kruk believes Dale Sveum is a good choice to carry out the plans of Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

“I love Dale Sveum,’’ he said. “Dale Sveum is a good manager for that team. He came up with (Robin) Yount, (Paul) Molitor. With those guys, it’s all about the right way to play baseball. I think he’s a good guy to have with a young team.’’

With all that said, Krukkie, what’s your take on the Cubs in 2013? Will Soriano drive in another 108 runs? Will they miss Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm? Couldn’t they be worse than the team that lost 101 games last year?

“Oh, yeah,’’ Kruk said. “They could. But who cares? They’ve got a plan and when it’s time they’re going to throw a lot of money at it.’’

Until then, at least the Cubs have Campana. Unless he’s in Triple-A, that is.

2. Rick Hahn says the White Sox don’t need to acquire a catcher to replace A.J. Pierzynski. “I don’t think we need (to add a veteran catcher),’’ Hahn said Monday, adding that the organization’s coaches and scouts would be comfortable with 30-year-old journeyman Hector Gimenez as a backup for the unproven Tyler Flowers. He said this in the same conversation in which he said that he believes the Sox are good enough to compete against the powerful Tigers, who will add Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez to the core that just won the AL pennant. This tells me one thing – the Sox are in significant discussions to add a veteran catcher (the most likely scenario being a trade to bring Jarrod Saltalamacchia from Boston) and don’t want to appear desperate. By the way, if the White Sox do work out a deal that sends Gavin Floyd to the Red Sox for Saltalamacchia, Hahn should also find a way to get right-hander Alfredo Aceves, who was 25-for-33 as a fill-in closer a year ago. Aceves is durable and has good stuff. He might be worth a look as a starter and has pretty much worn out his welcome with Red Sox management and fans.

3. Oswego’s Michael Bowden is having a great winter in the Dominican Republic after pitching well when he joined the Cubs during the 2012 season. He has been starting for Aguilas, the second-place team, and is 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA through six starts. Bowden once longed to get a real look as a big-league starter but Epstein sees him as a reliever, even given the success he’s had this winter. He said that Bowden is viewed as a long/middle reliever and possible emergency starter as the 2013 roster takes shape. “We’re looking at him as a reliever,’’ Epstein said. “It is good that he’s getting stretched out this winter. It gives us some options if we have an injury in the rotation.’’

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