The One That Got Away

GAME 62 PREVIEW FLORIDA MARLINS (31-29) at CHICAGO CUBS (33-28) Wrigley Field, 7:05pm CT, TV: FSFL, CSN
SP *John Koronka SP *Dontrelle Willis
CF *Juan Pierre SS #Neifi Perez
2B #Luis Castillo 2B Jerry Hairston
LF Miguel Cabrera 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Carlos Delgado 3B Aramis Ramirez
3B Mike Lowell LF Jason Dubois
C Paul Lo Duca RF *Jeromy Burnitz
RF Juan Encarnacion CF *Corey Patterson
SS Alex Gonzalez C Michael Barrett
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
The Cubs get a brief respite from interleague play (they're now 4-5 against the AL this year, with six games to play) as fishy Florida visit town. On the mound tonight for those Marlins will be the one that got away, Dontrelle Willis, who is currently enjoyable an unbelievable season. No, literally, I don't believe it - he's 10-2 with an ERA touching two. I don't believe he'll keep it up either. The Cubs tonight have their chance to give his numbers a little more respectability, and in the process they could make themselves feel a little less rueful about throwing in the young lefty who'd never pitched an inning above Low-A ball when it came to acquiring the bust of a closer that was Alfonseca and fellow throw-in Matt Clement. At least he didn't figure out too badly. How the Cubs might be wishing they had either Clement or Willis starting for them tonight, given that as it is they have to throw John Koronka out there. Injuries or not, there's now no excuse for Koronka being in the rotation any more as far as I'm concerned, because the Cubs could surely by now have reconfigured schedules, days of rest and the like to avoid the unfortunate situation of a pitcher scarcely capable of getting out minor leaguers on a regular basis having to try and prevent major leaguers getting runs across the plate. Hopefully he can keep us in the game tonight, but I'm not holding my breath. Jerome Williams at Iowa is looking like quite a coup given the way he's turned his season around in his first three starts as a member of the Cubs organisation (18.1 IP, 18 H, 2 HR, 3 BB, 13 K, 2.45 ERA). The Cubs certainly have to balance the short-term needs of the big league club with the long-term development of their prospects at all times, but there's no real conflict of interest here now as far as I can see. Williams' weight (reportedly 260 pounds, 20 pounds overweight) isn't a concern in the short term given Williams' recent success in spite of it, nor in long term given Williams' own determination to shift it. Neither is his lack of a truly refined third pitch too problematic, given that he's already achieved major league success without one. Refining either his slider or curveball while in the minors would certainly be nice, but it's hardly essential or urgent, and the need for someone better than Koronka in the rotation right now seems to me more pressing. And Williams, given his recent success, looks like a good bet. Unfortunately, the Cubs seem intent on keeping Williams at Iowa for a while yet. In that case we can only hope Kerry Wood returns double quick. He's making his first rehab start at Iowa tonight on a 60 pitch limit - listen live here from 7.05pm CT if you like. The Marlins haven't been that impressive of late, winning just five of their last eighteen to drop from top to bottom of the NL East. Their big problem has been a shoddy bullpen and a lineup unintent upon scoring runs. Sound familiar? It was only a month or two ago we were in the same situation. Cubs, let's not go back there!
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Comments

Typical, lead-off walk on four pitches from Wood!

Big Game today.
We've beaten CY Young quality pitchers 3 times this year (clemens twice, Halliday), we need to beat another one here. We have got to establish home field dominance at some point this year, and we need to end losing streaks at 1, which we haven't done well this year.

I want 2 of 3 this series, and I'd rather start with a win tonight to make things more breathable the next two games...a 4-5 homestand is not good, no matter the quality of your opponent if you plan on being a playoff team.

Let's make Willis work himself into trouble early.

Lead-off walk was picked off, Wood then struckout the next two batters. 13 pitch inning, 7 balls. His fastball is apparently just low-90s.

Willis career stats versus Cubs:

0-1; 4.40 ERA 14.1 IP, 3 GS, 9 BB, 13 K, 0 HR

Does not include the pain we inflicted in the 2003 playoffs.

Once again a major league team did not get the memo that Koronka has a horrible time at it versus lefties, only Delgado and Pierre in the lineup. I swear major league managers would rather avoid answering questions from the press then try something unconventional liking batting more lefties then righties against a lefty pitcher.

Castillo hitting righty, Rob?

not sure what you meant by your question but isn't castillo a switch hitter? And in my opinion he should bat lefty instead of righty against koronka...koronka's trouble versus lefties is very understandable and will continue for as long as he doesn't develop a useful slider. He's all fastball/changeup and like Remlinger that changeup just dives right into the sweet spot of most lefties swings, low and in.

Yes, he's a switch-hitter. I was wondering whether he's hitting from the right side as you'd expect versus a lefty.

unfortunately I'm listening to the game, so I don't know if he has the guts to try something unconventional, but I'm doubtful.

Wood allowed a lead-off bloop double down the left-field line in the second, runner to third on a throwing error, scored on a sac fly. He followed that by allowing a single (making the run earned), fielder's choose groundout, walk on full count and a third strikeout on the night to end the inning. 38 pitches through 2 innings.

It's worth noting the gun in Iowa is notoriously slow, so he's probably not low-90s on his fastball at all.

Did anyone see the side by side comparison o fKoronka and Dontrelle? It was just on a minute ago, but Koronka's leg kick looked similar to Willis's. The rest of the mechanics matchup was won by Dontrelle. Brenly actually added something valuable to the game...maybe.

Wood just hammered a triple to deep Ledt-Center.

Quick third inning for Wood. A lineout to shortstop (apparently a great catch by Cedeno), a bloop single, and then an inning ending 6-4-3 double play. 47 pitches through 3.

Wood triples off the wall in the bottom of the inning and later scores to tie the game at one.

Rain delay in Iowa, so Wood's night is done at 47 pitches.

3 IP, 3 H, 0 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 ER (3.00 ERA) for Wood tonight.

John,

Thanks for the updates! Do you have a strikes/balls total?

I make it either 28 strikes and 19 balls or 29 strikes and 18 balls. Not sure which.

Was 2-1 to the I-Cubs when the rain forced the delay.

Anyway, night guys. Go Cubs!

On TV they just said 28 strikes in 46 pitches.

I thought these fellas had trouble scoring runs....sheesh!

wow did this game go to hell in a big hurry.
I think this Koronka experiment needs to end immediately, and I'm not sure what Borowski does for us anymore either.

Florida's 5th: 7H, 1BB, 7 Runs....ouch
Koronka: 7.63 ERA
Borowski: 6.48 ERA

Sure small sample size for both...but I don't see either of them heating up a lot.

At this point, I am a little pissed at the Cubs for making this a "throwaway" game. Koronka could not have been our best option to bring up for a few starts. This is where the 40-man roster games come into play. Williams has looked nothing but solid, and has had some success in the bigs, and there are at least 2-4 other options in AAA or AA that I'd have rather had fill in.
Someone put a fork in Jobo..he is done!

I'm fishing for someone who may be willing to share driving responsibilities to New York this coming weekend from Chicago. I don't know if I'm going for sure, but if you are thinking about going, or are going and have an extra seat for someone willing to chip in on gas and driving, email me at [email protected]. I could take my car if need be. I'm looking to leave Thursday evening. Thanks, Carl Wolf

Ok...let's add Cliff Bartosh to that scrap heap as well...positively FLAMMABLE!!!

It's worth noting the gun in Iowa is notoriously slow, so he's probably not low-90s on his fastball at all.

Not to be a ****ing jack ass or anything, but that's been what Wood has been throwing for the last year. In 2003 he averaged 95.6 with his fastball. After he got hurt last year that was down to like 92. Velocity is everything for his health. Earlier this year, with the exception of his last start, his fastball was 90-95 most starts. He just hasn't been right, and we should expect the Kerry Wood we saw in the second half last season; an ERA around 4.00 with a 9 K/9 and a hit per inning.

2nd complete ass whipping in a row.
We have given up 29 runs in the last 4 games, after shutting out teams 3 times in 7 games.
Can't blame these on Dusty...we were just whitewashed. We must end this trip with 2 wins for a 5-4 homestand heading into a tough 10 game roadtrip.

also, for whatever reason, we aren't taking walks again.

Jerry Hairston has logged more CS(7) than SB(6).

Koronka's performance so far is making me miss Woody and his career long inconsistency. Hopefully Kerry's rehab assignments will get him up and starting soon for the big club.

Here's what gets me. Why not let Koronaboy pitch last night? We had just taken two from the champs, what would a sweep mean? Not as much as winning the first game of the next series. SO, why not let Krunk pitch last night and give Glendon one more day to rest up for a bigger game?

Had we not won both of the first two, would you still have wanted Koronka to pitch Sunday? Assuming the answer is no, then that only gives one day for each pticher to prepare...it was a decision that was made a few days earlier, allowing both pitchers to do their off day work out according to plan...I don't think there was better choice.

Anyway, they both stunk up the field, so I'm not sure what we would have gained by flipping anyway. When you score 2 runs in 2 games, your chances of winning are pretty small.

Carl
( or anyone else coming for Yankee games)
I have some extras for each game. I am kind
of moving around the park ( bleachers, tier
& upper boxes) depending on the day . Since
I live here I can't help you on the travel
but if need tickets let me know ASAP
Think there should be a good contingent of
us out there.

Jessica

Try to come for Friday night as it should be
Johnson vs Zambrano

You could see how lack of experience really hurt Koronka when he got into the jam in the 5th. Besides that, it was a pretty good outing in my opinion.

He made some mistake pitches that the Marlins jumped on, but some of their hits came off good pitches, too.

He's definitely not ready for the big leagues, but he's got some potential. Especially if he can increase his groundout/fly out ratio.

You could see how lack of experience really hurt Koronka when he got into the jam in the 5th. Besides that, it was a pretty good outing in my opinion.

He made some mistake pitches that the Marlins jumped on, but some of their hits came off good pitches, too.

He's definitely not ready for the big leagues, but he's got some potential. Especially if he can increase his groundout/fly out ratio.

Ienpw--"After he got hurt last year that was down to like 92."

That's because he was experimenting with throwing a two-seam fastball, which is typically a couple of miles an hour slower than a four-seam fastball. When he threw the four-seamer, there was nothing wrong with his velocity.

Why was he throwing the two-seamer? Because he was trying to induce balls in play, allowing his defence to work for him so he could work in fewer deeper counts and thereby go deeper into games. He fell flat on his face trying to do so. He did induce more balls in play, and he worked in fewer deeper counts as a result (his pitches per plate appearance dropped). Unfortunately, because balls in play have an unfortunate habit of turning into hits, Wood allowed more hits and more baserunners, and so had to see more plate appearances in each inning. The net result was he was just as ineffective with his pitches per inning. And because more baserunners means more runs, he was a whole lot less effective as a pitcher too, his ERA ballooning above 4.00 as you say. Whoodydoo.

Ienpw--"Earlier this year, with the exception of his last start, his fastball was 90-95 most starts."

That's just simply not true. Wood was regularly throwing his usual 95-97mph this year whenever I watched him pitch. He'd scrapped the Greg Maddux ball in play experiment and gone back to trying to be a dominant pitcher. As a result, I expect his future performance to mirror 2002-03 a lot more than post-injury 2004. That is, of course, assuming that Wood reportedly changing his mechanics doesn't compromise his effectiveness.

I see absolutely no reason to think Wood will be throwing anything less than 95-97mph when he returns. As I said, the gun in Iowa is notoriously slow (by something like 3-6mph), so it's extremely encouraging that Wood's fastball was registering 90-92mph on it in his first rehab start. The announcers were talking about his fastball looking sharp and having a lot of life. I'm not concerned about his velocity at all then. It's still, as ever, his control that causes him his problems. He walked two last night, and his fastball often got away from high and tight to right-handers (high and away to lefties), as it is prone to do. Sounds like continued problems with his release point.

Of the three hits Wood allowed, two were bloops.

Ryno--"He made some mistake pitches that the Marlins jumped on, but some of their hits came off good pitches, too."

And that's as clear a sign as any that he's not a major league pitcher. His arsenal (fastball/change) just isn't varied enough that he can keep hitters guessing, and once hitters figure him out they can sit on his pitches. And since his pitches aren't good enough that they can survive being sat on, they get hit. He threw a good changeup to Reed Johnson in his start against the BlueJays. Johnson through knew it was coming and hit it out.

ESPN.com did a story on managerial styles and they had this snipet on Dusty (from Steve Phillips, former Mets GM). It sound pretty right on...

"Dusty is his players' biggest fan. He is a cheerleader. He pulls for them as individuals while understanding that when they perform it helps him and the team. With all the adversity the Cubs have had with injuries this year, it's amazing they're in the middle of the NL wild-card race. He deserves far more credit than he has gotten for the job he's done in a tough market with more adversity than anyone should have to face. Dusty has become a little bit sensitive to media criticism, but that's easy to do. He has to remember that if he lets the media get to him, the players can feel justified to do that, too."

I hope the Koronka experiment is over now and either the Cubs a)outright him to AAA and call up Rich Hill and add him to 40 man or b)call up Williams for Koronka's next spot in rotation. I would prefer B, especially with Prior and Wood coming back soon.

The reports of Angel Guzman being ready to start pitching soon seemed a bit early. This is from Cubs.com:

"Minor League right-hander Angel Guzman is not ready to throw in a game yet. He's still sidelined with a sore right forearm."

No time frame was given, but with him, and his fragility, I would not expect to see him pitch before the All-Star Break.

I don't know, John, there are big league guys that do just fine with a fastball/changeup combination. I think the problem is just experience and he'd be a MLB candidate after a year or two more in the minors, no doubt.

I vote to leave Koronka in and give Woody a full 3 games of rehab before sending Koronka back. Let's face it, Iowa needs the help, they're last place in their division still?

from the Cincinnati Post

Wood pitches in Class AAA - Chicago Cubs right-hander Kerry Wood made his first rehabilitation start since straining his right shoulder in late April, allowing one run on three hits in three innings for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs on Monday night.

"I've got some things to work on," said Wood, who also tripled in the game against New Orleans. "I just have to keep working and try to get the pitch count up there."

Wood threw 46 pitches - most in the low 90s - and had three strikeouts. He did not throw any curveballs.

"I'm not concerned with the gun reading right now," Wood said. "I'm more concerned with making good pitches and repeating my delivery."

Wood, who returned to Chicago after leaving the game, will rejoin the I-Cubs in Nashville for a weekend series. He's scheduled to start Sunday.

What's Spanish for bullshit?
MIERDA DEL TORO

"New moniker: Remember last season when the Cubs bench players called themselves the "Lemons?" They have a new name this year -- "Los Matadores," which is Spanish for "bullfighters." Give Enrique Wilson credit for the name.

"We were looking for something good, something strong," Cubs utility player Jose Macias said."

Los Hombres de la Basura would be more precise Enrique. THE GARBAGEMEN.

Speaking of Sanitary Engineers. Anyone wondering, like me, if the Cubs will pick up Alex Sanchez?

cubswinthepennant,

I'm fine with their new moniker. Now, whenever one of those guys strikeout, we should all collectively yell. "OLE!"

Ryno--"I don't know, John, there are big league guys that do just fine with a fastball/changeup combination."

Absolutely. But most of them are relievers, and most of them have a far better fastball/changeup combination than Koronka. When you watch Koronka, are the words that pop into your head "left-handed Trevor Hoffman"? Hardly.

Ryno--"I think the problem is just experience and he'd be a MLB candidate after a year or two more in the minors, no doubt."

Except this year represents Koronka's seventh year in the minors, so while he's not exactly old at 24 (turns 25 in early July), more experience and a few more years in the minors really shouldn't be what he needs right now if he's ever going to legitimately be a major leaguer.

I hope you're right though, and that there's another team in the majors out there that is willing to take the gamble on him, because he has no long term future in the Cubs organisation besides being a spot filler at Triple-A, and getting something for him now would be great.

Manny--"ESPN.com did a story on managerial styles and they had this snipet on Dusty (from Steve Phillips..."

I stopped reading there.

Cincinnati Post--"He did not throw any curveballs."

Well, either that's wrong or the announcers last night were wrong.

I know I shouldn't say this because it's not very nice, but I think we're all thinking it; maybe Wilson and Macias will get gouged by bulls and therefore need to go on the DL.

John Hill-
What is wrong with Steve Phillips?

JH:
"maybe Wilson and Macias will get gouged by bulls and therefore need to go on the DL."

Sadly John, Macias has the 6th best BA on the team (better than our entire starting OF). And only slightly behind or ahead of them in OBP.

Good one shawn. The "matadors" all have -oles in their swings.

Perhaps they could complete their male bonding ritual by wearing red capes in the dugout.

If Koronka was to ever have a legitimate major league career, one of the two would have to happen...

1)Perfects his control to a Glavine, Moyeresque quality. He certainly could make a living throwing to the outside corner all day with his fastball and change and watching righty batters meekly ground out to short and third. He's done a very good job of keeping the ball in the park throughout his minor league career, so if you could avoid the walks, he won't get nickel and dimed to death like he did last night.

2) Find a third pitch ....he has a slider but it's just not very good. I don't have the numbers but Scully on the Dodgers broadcast said he's had troubles versus lefties his entire career and well that makes complete sense. Without a good breaking ball, that mediocre change is going to fall in a lefties sweet spot, low and in. The exact same problem that Remlinger has. He could probably be an effective reliever but with reverse splits, which means almost no one would ever use him.

I think his time is done for now with the Cubs, potentially Wood could be back the next time we need a 5th or bring up Williams for that start.

Regarding Angel Guzman...Onari Fleita on June 11th said "Heís supposed to start throwing again next week. The only thing I can tell you is that heís in the best shape he's been in for a while. He is excited about throwing this week when he resumes his program."

The timetable for him pitching in a game has been July for quite some time now.

Sheffield to the Cubs?

Wha?

According to the abvoe post, Wood tripled last night. 1. Not happy that he's trying to leg out a triple in a minor league game but 2. it shows that he care which is unusual in this day and age.

from inside the ivy...

"He tripled in the third inning. The play involved Wood, on the instructions of manager and third base coach Mike Quade, sliding into third on the wet surface of Principal Park, which one Iowa Cubs source described as ìshocking,î considering the circumstances."

Manny--"John, Macias has the 6th best BA on the team (better than our entire starting OF)."

Thank God then that batting average is only one of a number of measures by which the production of a player should be quantified. And thank God we have Dusty Baker as our manager who realises that. Oh. Oops. Scratch that last bit.

Manny--"What is wrong with Steve Phillips?"

I think I'd be easier to list the things that are right with Steve Phillips. Um. Er. Yuh. Okay, I'll tell you what, I'll get back to you on that.

John Hill-
Thanks for a whole bunch of no answers...

What do you want me to say? The guy was a incompetent general manager in New York and I disagree with just about every journalistic word of his I have the misfortune of reading thanks to others passing it on to me (I don't subscribe to ESPN Insider). I think there may be a link between the two.

"That's just simply not true. Wood was regularly throwing his usual 95-97mph this year whenever I watched him pitch"

Im gonna go through MLB.tv and look at this. I remember him throwing slower.

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