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Five Questions with Al Yellon

My colleague Al Yellon, from Bleed Cubbie Blue, and I have shared five questions for each other regarding both the Sox and the Cubs, and the series coming up.

Here are my five questions and his answers.

1) Are you optimistic going into the Red Sox series? How do you think it will play out?

I'm very optimistic, despite losing two of three (and looking bad) to Toronto. The Cubs have still won 18 of their last 27 games, and currently are the NL wild-card leader. I like the pitching matchups, though Wade Miller has give the Cubs fits for years while he was with Houston.

2) How has the injury to former Red Sox, and current Cub, Nomar Garciaparra effected the team as a whole?

Surprisingly, I'm going to say it hasn't affected the team very much at all, at least performance-wise. Neifi! (we Cub fans put that ! there first as sort of a joke, now it's because of his amazing performance) Perez has played out of his mind for two months, and we all fear what'll happen when he reverts to career norms, but he's pretty much putting up similar numbers to what Nomar might have.

Nomar's veteran leadership, the Cubs miss. I saw him play in spring training and he seemed like a man possessed -- to come back and have a big year. It's really a shame what happened to him.

3) Which Sox hitters do you fear the most? Which Sox pitchers do you fear facing?

As I said above, Wade Miller used to drive us nuts while he was with the Astros. Curt Schilling -- well, if healthy, he'd be the toughest Red Sox pitcher to face. I'm glad we don't have to face Matt Clement, with the start he's off to.

You're going to be surprised when I tell you which Red Sox hitter I fear the most. Believe it or not, it's Kevin Millar. He used to absolutely kill the Cubs when he was a member of the Marlins. I know he's not off to a very good start, but he's probably licking his chops thinking about hitting in Wrigley Field. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez -- of course. Every team fears them.

You should know that Cub fans have warm memories of Bill Mueller, who is a class guy in every way. I'm sure he'll get a nice round of applause when he's announced.

4) Where do you think the Cubs will finish in the standings when the season is all said and done?

Wow, put me on the spot, why don't you?

Well, the Cubs still do have fourteen games left with the Cardinals (don't face them again till after the All-Star break), so don't discount the possibility that the Cubs could get hot and win the division.

I still believe they are well-positioned to win at least the Wild Card. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood will be back soon, they have gotten good production out of people who have replaced injured players, Nomar may also return around August 1, and at last they have solved the closer problem -- Ryan Dempster has been terrific. No one has stood out from the pack yet -- so why not the Cubs?

5) If you could take any player from the Red Sox system and put them on the Cubs, who would it be?

This one put me on the spot again, as I haven't been that familiar with other clubs' farm systems. But taking a look at the Red Sox' minor league rosters, one name stands out -- Cla Meredith. I know Red Sox fans thought he probably shouldn't have been brought up so soon, and perhaps needs another year at Triple-A. But at age 22, to have both the control (so few walks) and strike zone judgment (so many strikeouts!) -- this guy appears to be the real deal. I presume he's a closer-in-waiting.