According to sources, the Cubs are kicking the tires again on Padres closer Heath Bell (left), as they did at the winter meetings. He would strengthen the bullpen, but Lou Piniella would be back to juggling two would-be closers in Bell and Carlos Marmol, who went 11-for-11 in save situations after Piniella gave him the job. … The Brewers are thrilled with shortstop Alcides Escobar. He got to the big leagues with his glove and all-around game, prompting the trade of J.J. Hardy to the Twins for Carlos Gomez, and recently won a Venezuelan League batting title by hitting .393 over 45 games. He stole 16 bases and used his speed to get 12 extra-base hits. … The Cubs' signing of MarlonByrd for three years doesn't mean they plan for him to be the center fielder for three years. Brett Jackson, a first-round pick in 2009 from the University of California, is on the radar for late 2011 or '12. He's racing Jared Mitchell, the White Sox's first-rounder from LSU. … Hats off to Scott Eyre, who retired last week after 617 appearances and three trips to the World Series. Eyre, a White Sox product, started 28 games for Terry Bevington and Jerry Manuel in 1997 and '98 but only four more over his 13 seasons. … Randy Johnson's retirement was no surprise. Neither will be his election as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2015. … Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar, who were close to crashing Cooperstown this year, are virtual locks for 2011. … There is a chance Andre Dawson will enter the Hall of Fame in a Cubs hat. He definitely would go in as an Expo if there were no players representing that team, but Gary Carter ended that shutout. The Hall is thus free to consider the most popular choice, and that's the Cubs, with whom Dawson won an MVP award in 1987. … Dawson included a cap clause in the contract he signed to go to the Marlins in 1995, but the Hall responsibly stepped in to stop players (including Wade Boggs and Jose Canseco) from auctioning their historical ties. … Miguel Tejada has been on the Cardinals' radar all season. They're penciling in David Freese to play third base but would love it if Tejada's value fell into their price range. … Russell Branyan would be an interesting gamble for the White Sox, who are penciling in Mark Kotsay and Andruw Jones as the primary DH options. Branyan outpriced himself with the Mariners after his homer total jumped from 12 in 2008 to 31.
Chicago Cubs still like Heath Bell