GAME ELEVEN IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CHICAGO CUBS (6-4, 4th, -0.5) AT PITTSBURGH PIRATES (4-9, 6th, -4.0) PNC Park, 12:35 CDT Weather: Cloudy, 58, Wind right to left @ 8 mph TV: CSN, DirecTV 743 Radio: WGN, XM 185
Ian Snell, RHP 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 10 IP 7 K, 5 BB, 3 HRGlendon Rusch, LHP 0-2, 8.00, 9 IP 6 K, 3 BB, 6 HR
*Juan Pierre, CF *Freddy Bynum, RF Derrek Lee, 1B Aramis Ramirez, 3B *Todd Walker, 2B Matt Murton, LF Ronny Cedeno, SS Henry Blanco, C *Glendon Rusch, P* Nate McLouth, CF Jack Wilson, SS Jason Bay, LF Craig Wilson, 1B Freddy Sanchez, 3B *Jeromy Burnitz, RF Jose Castillo, 2B Humberto Cota, C Ian Snell, P

Pirates vs. Rusch Jack Wilson: 15-33, 455/500/667, 1 HR, 3 BB Craig Wilson: 14-26, 538/571/769, 1 HR, 2 BB, 5 K Jeromy Burnitz: 2-20, 100/217/250, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K

Bynum #2 and Walker #5, huh? I think it would be smarter to put Walker #2, move Murton and Cedeno up, and bat Bynum #7. But, of course, Bynum is fast, therefore he has to bat at the top of the order. This could this be Rusch's last chance to keep his rotation spot, though more likely he'll stick around until Kerry Wood is ready, even if he's merely mediocre. But we can hope, can't we? The guy he's matched up against, Ian Snell, hasn't been too impressive this year either, but at least he hasn't given up six home runs. Angel Pagan's hamstring injury from last night is serious enough that he'll probably head to the DL. There's a chance Felix Pie will be called up, but Mike Restovich seems more likely. I haven't seen or heard an official annoucement yet. I'll post the transaction here as soon as I know it. And, of course, it's time for my annual MLB blackout rules rant. When I was living in San Diego, I didn't get to see the Padres, even though I was more than 60 miles from San Diego and the town I lived in did not carry the cable channel the Pads were on. Now that I live in Pennsylvania, I'm lucky enough to have four teams blacked out: Phillies, Nationals, Orioles, and Pirates. I get Baltimore, Philly, and Washington games either via the regional sports channel or over the air, but I'm too far away from Pittsburgh for DirecTV to give me the Fox Sports channel from Pittsburgh. So, no Pirates games to be found anywhere. It's just silly.
GAME 10 REVIEW
CUBS 1 PIRATES 2 W: Zach Duke (1-1) L: Jerome Williams (0-1) S: Mike Gonzalez (2) Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart
Ugh, a tough game to lose. Zach Duke returned to last season's form. After the Cubs had forced him to scuffle and struggle and throw pitches in the first two innings, the lefty settled down, pitching seven strong innings. The Cub defense let down Jerome Williams, aiding the Pirates in the only two runs they would need. Cedeno got charged with a throwing error on a difficult play in the hole, which allowed Craig Wilson to score from third. Bynum, (who replaced Pagan in right field after Pagan seemed to seriously injure his left knee while running to first) misplayed a Wilson drive off the right field wall, and then jogged after the ball while Wilson legged out a triple. (What was up with Wilson's wheels? He stole a base in advance of the Cedeno error, and eventually scored after his triple. Wilson hit one triple and stole three bases all of last year!) Williams also threw a ball away on a pickoff play, giving Cub fans everywhere a sense of deja vu. The Cubs had one golden scoring opportunity in the eighth, with runners at first and second, one out, Duke out of the game, and Ramirez and Barrett up; Ramirez popped up, Barrett struck out, and that was pretty much the game. If that's the bad news (and indeed, it's considerable), the good news is that Williams pitched quite well - certainly well enough to merit another start, while our horde of supposedly near-ready injured starting pitchers continues to recuperate. Murton kept raking, and Eyre looked good in relief. While I'm not sure that this really counts as good news, I'll also add that Aramis managed to not pull a leg or butt muscle, when he had to go from a walk to a sprint in a single step upon realizing that his 410 ft. double was not, in fact, going to be a home run. Congrats, Aramis.
GAME TEN IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CHICAGO CUBS (6-3, 1st) AT PITTSBURGH PIRATES (3-9, 6th, -4.5) PNC PARK, 6:05 CDT Weather: Clear, 72 degrees, wind out to center 15 mph TV: WGN Radio: WGN, XM 186 -->
Zach Duke, LHP 0-1, 6.55, 11 IP 6 K, 5 BB, 3 HRJerome Williams, RHP 0-0, 3.60, 5 IP 2 K, 5 BB, 1 HR
*Juan Pierre, CF Jerry Hairston, 2B Derrek Lee, 1B Aramis Ramirez, 3B Michael Barrett, C #Angel Pagan, RF Matt Murton, LF Ronny Cedeno, SS Jerome Williams, PChris Duffy, CF Jack Wilson, SS Jason Bay, LF *Jeromy Burnitz, RF Craig Wilson, 1B Joe Randa, 3B Jose Castillo, 2B Humberto Cota, C *Zach Duke, P


After writing how the Pirates haven't been using Craig Wilson enough, we'll see him tonight in place of Sean Casey, who will be out 6-8 weeks with two fractures in his lower back after a collision with John Mabry last night. Yeowch. In other Pirate (and ex-Cub) injury news, Jody Gerut has been placed on the Restricted List after electing to have knee surgery against the wishes of the team. The Cubs made a roster move too, sending Michael Wuertz to AAA where he blongs and recalling the 100% valley-fever-free Roberto Novoa. Todd Walker gets four hits last night and sits tonight. Get used to it, Cubs fans. Jerome Williams makes his first start of the season tonight. As Kerry Wood, Wade Miller and Mark Prior inch closer to returning (Wood threw to hitters today and both Miller and Prior had 40-pitch sessions yesterday), Williams needs to establish himself if he hopes to stay in the rotation past May. Then again, he could always take Glendon Rusch's spot.
GAME NINE IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CHICAGO CUBS (5-3) AT PITTSBURGH PIRATES (3-8) PNC PARK, 6:05 CDT Weather: Overcast, 68 degrees, wind right to left @ 12mph TV: CSN+ Radio: WGN, XM 186
Victor Santos, RHP 1-1, 4.66 ERA, 9 2/3 IP 9 K, 4 BB, 0 HRSean Marshall, LHP 0-0, 8.31 ERA, 4 1/3 IP 2 K, 1 BB, 1 HR
*Juan Pierre, CF *Todd Walker, 2B Derrek Lee, 1B Aramis Ramirez, 3B Michael Barrett, C *John Mabry, RF Matt Murton, LF Ronny Cedeno, SS *Sean Marshall, P*Nate McLouth, CF Jack Wilson, SS *Sean Casey, 1B Jason Bay, LF Joe Randa, 3B *Jeromy Burnitz, RF Jose Castillo, 2B Humberto Cota, C Victor Santos, P

Cubs vs. Santos Michael Barrett: 2-19, 105/150/158, 1 BB, 2K Derrek Lee: 3-18, 167/286/500, 2 HR, 3 BB, 3 K Aramis Ramirez: 7-16, 438/438/938, 1 HR, 1 K

Aramis is back in the lineup, as is Todd Walker. Jacque Jones will apparently miss the entire series, allowing Dusty to use Mabry tonight and probably Angel Pagan tomorrow. Who knows, maybe Freddie Bynum will get a start on getaway day. I'd like to see Marshall last a little longer than he did in his first start. In his (short) outing, he wasn't too bad, and now he has a chance to build on his spring success and force Dusty's hand when Wood/Miller/Prior are ready to return. GO CUBS!!!
As the Cubs head to Pittsburgh to start their first road trip of the season, I thought I'd take a few minutes to tell you what you need to know about this NL Central rival. When their fans close their eyes at night, they see Sid Bream in their nightmares. My buddy Mark might want to avert his eyes for the next few paragraphs. In the early '90s, the Pirates were the class of the NL East. They won three staight division titles from 1990-1992 behind an exciting core of young players which included Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, Doug Drabek, Jay Bell, John Smiley, and Barry Bonds, who won his first two MVP awards in 1990 and 1992.
Mike Kiley reports in the Sun-Times that Kerry Wood is scheduled to pitch a simulated game tomorrow at Fitch Park in Mesa, and probably another next Thursday. If all goes well, that would put Woody's first minor league rehab start on April 25th, keeping him on the same pitching schedule as the temp #5 starter. If he stays on that schedule (pitching the same days as the temp 5th starter), and depending on how many rehab starts he needs to make (probably at least two, those being the April 25th and April 30th Iowa Cubs home games in Des Moines), Wood could return to the Cubs starting rotation on Friday night May 5th at SD, or certainly no later than Wednesday night May 10th at SF (again, if all goes well and there are no setbacks). It is possible (but not real likely) that he could make just one rehab start (April 25th at Des Moines) and return to the Cubs rotation at Wrigley Field on Sunday April 30th versus MIL. There is no specific schedule suggested for the return of Mark Prior or Wade Miller at this point. As far as the current 3-4-5 starters are concerned, all three (Sean Marshall, Jerome Williams, and Glendon Rusch) are scheduled to pitch the three games this weekend in Pittsburgh. Pitching tonight, Marshall is the only one of the three who could start next Wednesday night in LA, but don't forget that Angel Guzman is "shadowing" Marshall at Iowa, pitching on the exact same schedule. So if Marshall gets blasted tonight, Guzman could be recalled to replace Marshall in the starting rotation as early as next Wednesday in LA. And between Williams and Rusch, whichever one pitches best this weekend will probably get the start next Friday night in STL, with the other skipped until a 5th starter is needed on April 25th. That 5th starter slot (needed permanently beginning on April 25th) is the one Kerry Wood would slip into, either on April 30th, May 5th, or May 10th (depending on how the rehab goes).

One more time....

The Cubs make their lone trip of the season to Dodger Stadium next week and I was wondering who might be up for a little venture to Chavez Ravine for the Monday night game, April 17th; 7:10pm PST? The tentative pitching matchup is Greg Maddux versus Brett Tomko. Enjoy a little baseball, beverage and world famous "Dodger Dogs", (apparently world famous for their sucktitude). Email me if you're interested, we'll figure out the ticket situation once we know how many people are going. Those who think it's a good idea to leave before the 9th inning need not apply....

GAME 8 REVIEW
REDS 8 CUBS 3
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart | Photos
W: Eric Milton (2-0) L: Carlos Zambrano (0-1)

The first piece of good news is we don't face the Reds again until the end of May. The second piece of good news is we're off to play the Pirates next and they've struggled mightily out of the gate. The third piece of good news is Matt Murton broke out of his mini-slump with 2 RBI's, 2 Hits and a Home Run. The final piece of good news is I saved a bunch of money on my car insurance.

What I really took from this game was the importance of on-field leadership. Without Henry Blanco catching and Neifi manning the hot corner, we could really see the calming influence they both had on Carlos Zambrano as he really settled down after gettting into some tough jams early. Oh wait, no he didn't, he tried to pick off Eric Milton from first for no apparent good reason and then he tried to pick off Eric Milton later in the game from third base for no apparent good reason. And I believe at one point I actually saw steam coming from his ears. At least Barrett's all well and rested. Hopefully his bat won't cool off with the rest.

What's there to say? The Cubs stunk up the joint today, Baker should of forgotten about getting the scrubs some starts today and put some better bats in the lineup, waiting until we were a bit closer to full strength (or at least until Aramis came back). Walker hits lefties just fine and Milton just fine as well, same goes for Barrett. Off for a nine game road trip from Pittsburgh to LA to St. Louis. Let's get them tomorrow Sean Marshall!!!

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GAME EIGHT IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CINCINNATI REDS (5-3) AT CHICAGO CUBS (5-2) WRIGLEY FIELD, 1:20 CDT Weather: Cloudy, 74 degrees, Out to Center @ 18mph TV: WGN Radio: WGN, XM 186
Carlos Zambrano, RHP 0-0, 4.42 ERA, 10 2/3 IP 10 K, 9 BB, 2 HREric Milton, LHP 1-0, 2.57 ERA, 7 IP 3 K, 0 BB, 1 HR
Ryan Freel, CF #Felipe Lopez, SS *Adam Dunn, LF Rich Aurilia, 3B *Scott Hatteberg, 1B Austin Kearns, RF Brandon Phillips, 2B Dave Ross, C * Eric Milton, P*Juan Pierre, CF Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B Derrek Lee, 1B Matt Murton, LF #Angel Pagan, RF Ronny Cedeno, SS #Neifi Perez, 3B Henry Blanco, C # Carlos Zambrano, P

Reds vs. Zambrano Adam Dunn: 6-25, 240/355/600, 3 HR, 5 BB, 8 K Austin Kearns: 3-16, 188/381/313, 4 BB, 5 KCubs vs. Milton Aramis Ramirez: 9-24, 375/375/833, 3 HR, 4 K Neifi Perez: 3-20, 150/190/300, 1 HR, 1 K Derrek Lee: 4-17, 235/222/765, 3 HR, 2 K Michael Barrett: 6-16, 375/444/813, 1 HR, 2 BB, 1 K

Big Z goes to the mound for the third time this season and tries to win the Cubs their 2nd series of the year. I understand Barrett can't catch every game and I kind of expected Blanco to be Z's personal catcher for most of the year. It seemed that Z was a little annoyed by Barrett in some comments I heard, plus the whole Venezuelan brothership thing going. But Barrett's been smoking hot and without Ramirez in the lineup (should be back tomorrow), you'd think it would be a good idea to bend the rules for a game. Of course with Homer Happy Milton on the mound and some gusty winds hopefully Blanco can lift a couple into the jet stream. GO CUBS!!!
GAME 7 REVIEW
CUBS 4 REDS 1
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart | Photos
W: Greg Maddux (2-0) L: Brandon Claussen (0-1) SV: Ryan Dempster (2)
A game loss by the Reds more than won by the Cubs, but take them anyway you can. The Reds committed an abysmal 5 errors, a few of them caused by the speed of Juan Pierre. He bunted for a hit to leadoff the bottom half of the first and 2 batters later attempted a steal of third which Javier Valentin air-mailed over the 3rd basemen's head for the Cubs first run. Lee was also stealing on the play and advanced to third on the throw, scoring on a Barrett sac fly. Pierre reached again when his speed forced Tony Womack to rush a throw to 1st. although the error was apparently given to 1B Scott Hatterberg. A little bit more of the Reds defensive foolishness followed and the Cubs scored their third run of the day on a Barrett grounder to third that Encarnacion muffed. On the type of day you dread when Maddux is on the mound (wind blowing out 18 mph+ to right), Maddog proved an old dog can learn new tricks. He kept the Reds batters fooled all day, locating his pitches to perfection and even throwing a few pitches that barely topped 60 on the gun. The only blemish was a walk to Dunn and then a double to Edwin Encarnacion. The Cubs had Dunn at the plate, but a less than perfect throw by Cedeno short-hopped Barrett, who made little effort of his own to get the ball despite having plenty of time to get the lumbering Dunn, and the ball skipped away. Barrett more than made up for it with a 2 out single to score the Cubs final run, ending the day 1 for 3 from the plate with 3 RBI's (I believe currently tied for the NL lead with 13). The bullpen went back to being fantastic, 2 scoreless innings by Scott Eyre and a rather uneventful 9th for Dempster. Eyre got through the 7th inning on a mere 8 pitches, so Dusty rightfully put him out for the 8th. He got himself into a little trouble by giving up a single to Brandon Phillips and a walk to Ryan Freel (who replaced Ken Griffey in center after Griffey left with stiffness in one of his knees). This left Eyre with the dubious task of having to face Dunn as the tying run, but Eyre quickly dispatched Dunn on a groundout to 2nd. Not the prettiest of games, the Cubs caused some havoc on the bases with their speed but also ran into some outs. The defense was generally solid beyond the one run scoring play for the Reds, Ronny Cedeno and Angel Pagan both making nice plays in the 9th to secure the victory. The Cubs try to win the rubber match tomorrow with Big Z going against Homer Happy Milton. The Cubs have now won 5 games, Glendon Rusch has lost two.
GAME SEVEN IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CINCINNATI REDS (5-2) AT CHICAGO CUBS (4-2) WRIGLEY FIELD, 1:20 CDT Weather: Partly cloudy, 69 degrees, wind out to right @ 18mph TV: WGN, DIRECTV 734 Radio: WGN, XM 186
Greg Maddux, RHP 1-0, 1.42 ERA, 6 1/3 IP 1 K, 2 BB, 1 HRBrandon Claussen, LHP 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 5 IP 5 K, 0 BB, 1 HR
*Tony Womack, 2B #Felipe Lopez, SS *Ken Griffey Jr., CF *Adam Dunn, LF Edwin Encarnacion, 3B *Scott Hatteberg, 1B Austin Kearns, RF #Javier Valentin, C Brandon Claussen, P*Juan Pierre, CF Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B Derrek Lee, 1B Michael Barrett, C #Angel Pagan, RF Matt Murton, LF #Neifi Perez, 3B Ronny Cedeno, SS Greg Maddux, P
Reds vs. Maddux Tony Womack: 11-39, 282/293/308, 1 BB, 4 K Rich Aurilia: 8-39, 205/205/410, 2 HR, 5 K Adam Dunn: 4-26, 154/214/500, 3 HR, 2 BB, 6 K Austin Kearns: 7-22, 318/318/500, 1 HR, 6 K Ken Griffey Jr.: 9-20, 450/542/800, 2 HR, 3 BB, 6 K Ryan Freel: 5-18, 278/278/556, 1 HR, 2 K Javier Valentin: 6-10, 600/636/1800, 4 HR, 1 BB, 1 KCubs vs. Claussen Derrek Lee: 3-9, 333/455/1333, 3 HR, 2 BB, 2 K Aramis Ramirez: 4-9, 444/583/889, 1 HR, 3 BB, 1 K Todd Walker: 4-8, 500/500/1375, 2 HR
Let's hope the Cubs can put yesterday's shellacing behind them and paste a few against Claussen. This looks a little too much like a getaway day lineup to me, but with Ramirez and Jones both dinged up it's probably the best the Cubs could do.
Here is the roster status of Cubs major league and minor league players as of today:
GAME 6 REVIEW
REDS 9 CUBS 2
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart
W: Bronson Arroyo (2-0) L: Glendon Rusch (0-2)
The first game of the year that I didn't get to watch and am glad I didn't. With a stiff 17 mph wind blowing out, the Reds blasted Glendon "Butterball" Rusch (so named for his portly status and quality of his pitches) to the tune of four solo homeruns in the first 5 innings although by the sound of it, none of them needed much help by Mother Nature. Home runs to Dunn and Griffey Jr. can be forgiven, but an 0-2 meatball to your nemesis Bronson Arroyo is pretty darn unforgivable. The formely spotless bullpen stepped in to start the 6th and Will Ohman immediately got greeted with 5 more runs without recording a single out, his ERA jumping to an obscene 27.00. Only a meaningless 2 out double by Derrek Lee in the 8th and Michael Barrett home run in the 9th kept the Cubs from being shut out. Although Rusch had a relatively rough spring and has looked less than adequate so far in his 2 starts, it should be remembered he's been up against arguably the NL's best offense and has pitched in less than ideal conditions (Great American Home Run Park and a 17mph wind blowing out today). The conditions for success loom just around the corner as he'll get the Pittsburgh Pirates for his next start in the lefty friendly PNC Park. If he cannot put together something resembling usefulness in his next start, and Jerome Williams does pitch adequately in his start on Saturday, don't be surprised by a switch in roles. The Cubs won't need a 5th starter again until April 25th which by all current accounts, Kerry Wood could very likely be ready by. On the injury front, Jacque Jones left the game with a tweak in his hammy. An MRI was performed but it appears that it's nothing to worry about. Unless you're worried about Jacque Jones getting more at-bats, as he's listed day-to-day. Conveniently for the Cubs it comes at a time when the Reds will throw out 2 straight lefties, plus the Pirates throw out another lefty this weekend. Aramis Ramirez apparently hurt a muscle in the gluteus maximus on a swing late in the game, haven't heard if he'll miss any time. There's a chance we'll see Angel Pagan (RF), Neifi Perez(3B) and Jerry Hairston(2B) in the lineup tomorrow. That could be a downright scary lineup tomorrow, scary in the sense that a $100 million team could put out a lineup that bad. Can't win them all I suppose, so far the Cubs have won 4 games, Glendon Rusch has lost two. Hopefully Greg Maddux can right the ship tomorrow.
GAME SIX IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CINCINNATI REDS (4-2) AT CHICAGO CUBS (4-1) WRIGLEY FIELD, 1:20 CDT, TV, RADIO: CSN, XM 186
Glendon Rusch, LHP 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR, 4.0 IP 2B Ryan Freel SS #Felipe Lopez CF *Ken Griffey Jr. 1B Rich Aurilia LF *Adam Dunn 3B Edwin Encarnacion RF Austin Kearns C Dave Ross P Bronson Arroyo Bronson Arroyo, RHP 1-0, 4.05 ERA, 0 BB, 7 K 2 HR, 6.2 IP CF *Juan Pierre 2B *Todd Walker 1B Derrek Lee 3B Aramis Ramirez C Michael Barrett RF *Jacque Jones LF Matt Murton SS Ronny Cedeno P *Glendon Rusch
Griffey: 5/23, 217/296/652, 3 HR, 3 BB, 7 K vs. Rusch Dunn: 8/23, 348/348/913, 4 HR, 7 K vs. Rusch The rematch we've all been waiting for, the chance to avenge our sole loss of the season. Glendon Rusch tries to bounce back from his disappointing opening outing while trying to keep the torrid bat of Bronson Arroyo in check. The Cubs will try to keep the ball rolling and look to extend their winning streak to 4 games today. The weather is a bit nicer than over the weekend, temperatures in the high 60's, hopefully it'll warm up Aramis' bat. And of course Derrek Lee can start earning his contract today with a nice 3 HR performance. As they say, GO CUBS!!!
All's well in the world again. The first Sunday of April has come and gone, and baseball is back. Every day is a good day. And when the Cubs win, it's just that little bit better. A sweep of the Cardinals is six months of winter well rewarded. Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno and Sean Marshall have graduated to the game's biggest stage this year, and all played their part over the weekend. Hoping to follow in their footsteps is young talent at Iowa, West Tennessee, Daytona and Peoria, where seasons got under way last Thursday. The Iowa Cubs (Pacific Coast League, Triple-A) and West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx (Southern League, Double-A) have both gotten off to promising 4-1 starts, topping their divisions early doors, while the Peoria Chiefs (Midwest League, Low-A) are at 3-2. Things haven't gone so well for the Daytona Cubs (Florida State League, High-A), who at 0-4 haven't yet won a game. Their game yesterday game was suspended due to a power outage with the Cubs batting in the top of the ninth, trailing 5-3 with a runner on first and one out, Jake Fox, Matt Craig and Alan Rick due up. It will be completed this evening before the regularly scheduled game. Crown Jewels Felix Pie is the organisation's top prospect, but if his ridiculous start to the season is anything to go by, he doesn't plan on hanging around the minor leagues for too much longer. He's 10-for-21 (.476), with a double, two triples and a grand-slam home run, six runs scored and eleven RBI, he's walked twice, struck out just twice, and has stolen three bases in three attempts. Naturally, he's also errorless in centre field. To put it another way, everything Iowa's leadoff-hitter has touched so far has turned to gold. Such performance is all the more impressive when you consider he's a 21-year old getting his first taste of Triple-A, hitter friendly league or not, all after losing half of last year to injury. Angel Guzman, Rich Hill and Jae-Kuk Ryu were all in competition for spots at the back end of the Cubs' rotation this Spring, but missed the cut. Angel Guzman, while throwing extremely hard, displayed a worrying lack of control during some of his Arizona outings, and looked, dare I say it, a little like Roberto Novoa out there at times. His debut at Iowa though went smoothly, as he allowed just one walk and two singles in five scoreless innings on Sunday, punching out six. Rich Hill meanwhile went six innings yesterday, a first inning two-out solo home run the only real blemish. A second run, unearned, scored on a double steal of second and home. Hill struck out six, walked none, allowed three hits in all, two of them singles. And Ryu, pitching on Opening Day against Renyel Pinto, threw five innings of one-run ball, allowing two singles, three doubles, five hits in all and a walk while striking out four. Pinto, for the record, walked seven in 3.2 innings. Mitre and Nolasco both cracked the Marlins' Opening Day roster. First base prospect Brian Dopirak, 22, struggled mightily at Daytona last year, yet received a promotion to Double-A anyway after a decent Spring Training. But after grounding out to third base, being called out on strikes and singling up the middle, Dopirak broke his foot on the bases on Opening Day and is expected to be out for at least six weeks. Right fielder Ryan Harvey was another that didn't have the best 2005, but he too's been pushed up a level to Daytona. After missing the first two games with a sprained knee, he's racked up four strikeouts and no walks in his first ten plate appearances. Huge power or not, if he's to make it to the big leagues, he needs to exhibit much better plate discipline. He is though still just 21. Best of the rest Eric Patterson spent all of last year terrorising the Midwest League, before receiving a late season double promotion to West Tennessee so that he could partake in their playoff push. He's beginning this season there again, and is off to a decent start. He's only 5-for-18 (.278), with five strikeouts, but he's walked three times, stolen three bags in as many attempts, and has two triples and a home run to his name already. Patterson's partner in domination at Peoria last year was Sean Gallagher, who's also started this year well. His first start saw him strikeout eight in six shutout innings, allowing just five hits and a walk. Meanwhile, Carlos Marmol, Randy Wells and returned Rule 5 draftee Juan Mateo had good opening starts for the Diamond Jaxx. The three combined to pitch 16 innings with a 1.69 ERA, allowing 7 hits, 1 home run, 3 walks and striking out 15. In the West Tenn bullpen, Lincoln Holdzkom, one of the prospects acquired for Todd Wellemeyer, struck out three in an inning and a third in his only outing, while at Iowa, David Aardsma has continued where he left off in Spring Training: four innings, six strikeouts and just one measly single allowed. Last year's draft class First rounder Mark Pawelek has stayed behind in extended Spring Training and will likely be assigned to Peoria within the next month or so. The Cubs aren't going to rush him, and realise that he needs to work on some mechanical issues. That leaves Mark Holliman (Daytona) and Donald Veal and Mike Billek (Peoria) as the top picks in action right now. Veal, a hard-throwing lefty that needs to work on his off-speed stuff, was wild in his Opening Day start, allowing six walks in 3.1 innings. He'll go again tonight. Billek meanwhile struckout six, walked one and allowed seven singles in a losing four-inning effort. Holliman though allowed just just two runners to reach (single, double) in five innings of one-run ball, striking out seven. Quick hits -- It was a good week for the Cubs' minor league arms, with just one glaring exception: Luke Hagerty, who last year put up the ugliest pitching line I've ever seen (6.2 IP, 14 H, 0 HR, 30 BB, 4 K, 31.05 ERA with 9 wild pitches) with short-season A-ball's Boise Hawks, has ended up in the Daytona rotation this year. His first start saw him issue 5 free passes and 1 wild pitch in 1.2 innings. Stick a fork in him. -- You can now watch Iowa Cubs home games on your computer. Through the month of April, the feed is absolutely free, and it costs a mere $10 to watch the rest of the year. Alternatively, for $20 you can get access to every Triple-A team. However, you'll have to put up with a one camera situated high behind home plate, and broadcasters that like discussing Kevin Costner movies. In other words, the service isn't great, but it's better than nothing. -- Also new for this season for the Iowa Cubs is the Gameday game tracker. You can follow them pitch-for-pitch then, via green, red and blue circles, and jump up and down when those "in play - run scoring play" words pop up on the screen with Felix Pie at bat. -- Free radio feeds for all minor league games are available as follows: Iowa Cubs (click on the feed of your choice), West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (click "Listen to NewsTalk 101.5 FM Online"), Daytona Cubs (click "Listen Live") and Peoria Chiefs (click "Listen Live"). From June onwards, when then Boise Hawks get their season underway, you'll be able to watch their home games and listen to all their games from this page. -- The Cubs recently released, amongst others, Russ Rohlicek, Jon Connelly, Olivo Astacio, Jason Wylie, Bo Flowers and Jason Szuminski.

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