CUBS 9 DODGERS 5
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart
W: John Koronka (1-0) L: Derek Lowe (4-5)
The Cubs are playing in my neck of the woods, so I thought I'd try one of those running diaries that is all the rage. I'll try and update every half inning or inning as long as the twins cooperate. Pre-game You know it's your first major league start when the L.A. Times list the matchup as Derek Lowe versus Jeff Koronka. At least the picture was right, I think. I've actually never seen Koronka. Top of the 1st The great Vin Scully lets us know the Cubs haven't swept a series in Dodger stadium for 10 years. He also says Ramirez turned an ankle yesterday which explains his absence. Scully can't explain why Enrique is batting second.... Neifi doesn't waste any time, singling on the first pitch. Neifi doesn't waste any time getting thrown out at second either. Lee singles but Mr. Burns ends the inning. Bottom of the 1st Scully says Koronka is a "southpaw all the way"...what the hell does that mean? Someone told Koronka to stay away, away, away. Scully says Koronka has surprisingly had trouble versus lefties in his career and on cue, Drew singles. Replay shows it was a bad call though, third day in a row Lee makes a throw while on his butt.
GAME 51 PREVIEW CHICAGO CUBS (26-24) at LOS ANGELES DODGERS (26-25) Dodger Stadium, 9.10pm CT, TV: ESPN2, FSN2
SP Derrek Lowe SP *John Koronka
SS #Neifi Perez SS #Cesar Izturis
3B #Enrique Wilson 3B Antonio Perez
1B Derrek Lee CF *JD Drew
RF *Jeromy Burnitz 2B Jeff Kent
2B *Todd Walker 1B Olmedo Saenz
CF *Corey Patterson RF Jayson Werth
LF Todd Hollandsworth C Jason Phillips
C Michael Barrett LF Mike Edwards
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
The Cubs' system is chock-a-block with pitching. Yet filling in today for the Mark Prior as the Cubs try to run the streak to a season-high six with a first sweep of the Dodgers in LA for a decade will be a real non-prospect making his major league debut. Koronka's not yet 25, but he's already into the eighth season of a minor league career over which he has a 4.41 ERA. If that doesn't say it all for his talent, his fastball doesn't reach the nineties, and his only quality off-speed offering is his changeup. The Cubs' decision to add him to the 40-man roster last November was then at best rather bizarre. Their decision to actually use him in a major-league game today probably borders on capitulation (of course, now that I've forecast him getting tatooed left, right and centre, watch for him throwing shutout ball). Strangely the decision makes some sense though. Besides Sergio Mitre, of all our prospects only Angel Guzman and Jerome Williams are refined enough to comfortably handle the jump to the majors. The diagnosis on Guzman though is a strained right forearm, and at best he'll only throw his first pitches since the spring in a few days' time. Jerome Williams meanwhile has struggled terribly of late, and the decision to place him for a while at Iowa, where he last night threw six solid innings (2 runs on 8 hits, 1 crushed home run that was only just fair, no walks and 4 strikeouts), is entirely the correct one in my view - he needs some confidence running through his veins again. Behind Guzman and Williams lies a whole host of talent, led by Renyel Pinto, Ricky Nolasco and Rich Hill from West Tennessee. Calling them up would though represent really throwing them in at the deep end, sink or swim, since not one of the three has a successful inning at Triple-A under their belt. Is that the wisest way to treat prospects? It's debatable. Of the more experienced options, the Cubs' decision to leave Todd Wellemeyer and Ryan Dempster, who've both started games this year, in the bullpen where they seem to have found a groove is probably wise. Though he only throws in the mid-eighties, Raul Valdez, signed out of the Dominican Republic last year, throws a wide variety of pitches at a wide variety of speeds from the left side, but he would be going on short rest today and he'd require someone being kicked off the forty. Jon Leicester meanwhile started a previous emergency start, but he was roughed up a bit by the Mets in that game and he's lost Dusty's faith. And that really leaves just Koronk-urgh. It's not ideal, but for today, it'll have to do. Hopefully the offence shows up, hopefully Valdez or Leicester can start next time around, and hopefully Mark Prior gets well soon. Roll on, Cubbies, roll on. [UPDATE Rob G.] I'm going to try and do a running diary of the game (twins permitting), updating every half inning or so.
Trivia Question: Which player drafted by the Cubs, went on to have the most illustrious Cubs career(that should be easy), who would you rank #2 and #3 though (considering their Cub career only)? Tell me if this sounds familiar. The games wealthiest clubs, particularly one in New York, were outspending the more financially constricted ballclubs to sign available players. Salaries (actually bonuses) escalated out of control and something needed to be done to restore competitive balance. Proposals were introduced, arguments were made and rules were changed. And in 1965, the amateur draft was introduced, now known as the First Year Player Draft. On June 7th of this year, the 41st baseball draft will be conducted and the Cubs first selection of the day will be at the 20th spot. This is a rather low pick historically for the Cubs, whose first pick from year to year on average is around the 10th or 11th pick. Considering draft slots are selected in reverse order of win/loss records, this is a dubious distinction indicating the organization's futility over the years. All those upper round picks though should have been the fruits of a better tomorrow, but as you'll see, the Cubs drafting has been nearly as disappointing as their play.
Carlos Zambrano turns 24 today. So here's a birthday wish to our favorite web-surfing, muttering, gesticulating, switch-hitting, complete game-throwing, goateed behemoth of a perpetual-Cy Young Award contender. We Love Ya, Z. For some birthday reminiscences, how about these.... Remember when we wondered who would be better, Zambrano or Cruz? Remember the first time we discovered Z was a switch-hitter? Remember Z retiring Barry Bonds in an especially tense series in 2003, Z getting all excited, and Barry sulking about it? Here's a question: what should we get Z for his birthday? (photo from http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/mlb/photo/photogallery/2003_2nd_half_moments)
CUBS 2 DODGERS 1
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart
W: Michael Wuertz (4-2) L: Yhency Brazoban (2-1) SV: Ryan Dempster (6)
Looks like I'm stuck doing the Game Review. My First One. I don't like doing them. So this will be the stripped-down version. Things to know about this game: 1. There was a very bad "Batter's Interference" call against the Cubs. In the seventh inning, with Corey running, Dubois struck out, and the catcher, recent call-up Mike Rose, pulled a Reggie Miller and drew the contact with Dubois on the throw down to second. Ed Rapuano called interference on Dubois, and thus Corey is out at second when he had stolen the base, cleanly. It was good to see Dusty get up and argue a call. 2. Zambrano was nearly unhittable. One hit, in fact, over eight innings. 3. With a runner on first and nobody out in the ninth, tie game, Gagne on the mound, Dusty asked Burnitz to bunt. Burnitz has one sacrifice bunt since 1999. He bunted hard to the third-baseman, forcing the runner at second base. Let me quote to you from the delightful children's story and excellent allegory, The Little Prince:
"If I ordered a general to fly from one flower to another like a butterfly, or to write a tragic drama, or to change himself into a sea bird, and if the general did not carry out the order that he had received, which one of us would be in the wrong?" the king demanded. "The general, or myself?" "You," said the little prince firmly. "Exactly. One must require from each one the duty which each one can perform," the king went on. "Accepted authority rests first of all on reason. If you ordered your people to go and throw themselves into the sea, they would rise up in revolution. I have the right to require obedience because my orders are reasonable."
Bob Brenley came dangerously close to questioning Baker's decision, using The Little Prince-style logic. We'll see if Baker is allowed on the plane back to Chicago. 4. With runners on second and third, two outs in the ninth, facing Gagne, Dubois ropes one down the left field line, just foul, before striking out to end the inning. Interesting that Baker let Dubois hit, with the Proven Veteran Left-handed Bat Off The Bench, Hollandsworth, left sitting on the bench. Personally, I would have let Dubois hit, too. 5. Ed Rapuano had a terrible, inconsistent strike zone. 6. NEIFI!!! with the go-ahead single in the tenth, run scores when the left-fielder boots the ball. 7. A shout-out to all the people in Parachat, who were going strong at a Dusty Baker's dozen, in an extra-inning game that started at 7 pm on the West Coast. I'll put on the coffee, in the morning. 8. Dempster hit Antonio Perez in the batting helmet with a Curveball to start out the bottom of the tenth with a run one lead. Perez wasn't pleased, but nothing happened, and he stayed in the game. 9. Dempster recovers to get a sacrifice bunt, pop-up, and 6-3. Game over, one-hitter. And so the Cubs, for all the drama and disasters and disabled-list trips, finish May on a five game winning-streak, and two games over the .500 mark.
GAME 50 PREVIEW CHICAGO CUBS (25-24) at LOS ANGELES DODGERS (26-24) Dodger Stadium, 9.10pm CT, TV: WGN, FSN2
SP Brad Penny SP Carlos Zambrano
SS #Neifi Perez SS #Cesar Izturis
2B *Todd Walker RF Jayson Werth
1B Derrek Lee CF *JD Drew
RF *Jeromy Burnitz 2B Jeff Kent
3B Aramis Ramirez LF *Ricky Ledee
CF *Corey Patterson 3B Antonio Perez
LF Jason Dubois 1B *Hee Seop Choi
C Henry Blanco C #Mike Rose
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
The Cubs have seen the best and worst of Zambrano so far this year - he's been brilliant and unhittable in some starts, wild and certainly fallible in others. And throughout he's of course been ever emotional. Which Z will it be tonight though?
From Al Yellon's Bleed Cubbie Blue, way way down at the bottom of the post, after his review of the new Star Wars movie:
Finally, the usual "reliable sources" tell me that further trades may be on the horizon, which may include one or more starting players. Beyond this I cannot comment without compromising my source, and I'd like to keep the information flow. Stay tuned.
That, my friends, is one of the best cases of burying the lede I have ever seen in my life. So who's it gonna be? Speculators, mount up!
CUBS 5 DODGERS 3
Recap | Box Score | Play-by-play | Game Chart
W: Greg Maddux (3-3) L: Wilson Alvarez (1-3) SV: Ryan Dempster (5)
Itís nice to get back to the writing discussing a win. The Cubs extend their winning streak to 4 and for the first time since April 30th, .500 can be seen in the rearview mirror. The game started off as well as you anyone could hope. The first pitch of the game was an 87 mph meatball down the middle of the plate by Wilson Alvarez to Jerry Hairston. I thought to myself, that I bet scouts have gotten the word out that Hairston likes to take pitches to start off the game and wondered if Hairston should every once in awhile, rock that first pitch fastball just to keep teams on their toes. Of course Alvarez dared to throw the exact same pitch on the next offering and Hairston sent it over the left field stands for a quick 1-0 lead. And then I thought to myself, what the hell do I know? The Cubs seemed to pound Alvarez for as long as he was in the game, but only managed a 4-0 lead. The Dodgers cut it to 4-2 after Corey Patterson just missed making 2 consecutive amazing plays, one ended up being a short-hop single and the other a 2 run double off the left center field wall. Aramis Ramirez continued what is hopefully a season long hot streak going 3 for 4, including a solo homer to extend the lead to 5-2. The game belonged to Greg Maddux who notched career victory #308 and is now only 43 strikeouts short of becoming the 9th pitcher in history with 300 victories and 3000 strikeouts. For the third straight game Maddux didnít walk a batter and continually had the Dodgers meekly grounding balls around the infield. Despite walking the first two batters in the 8th, Todd Wellemeyer continued his scoreless streak with some help from Will Ohman. Ryan Dempster gave up a home run but managed his fifth save. Carlos Zambrano goes tomorrow and hopefully he comes with his best. A win tomorrow is somewhat essential to staying over .500 and gaining some much needed momentum before facing the super hot San Diego Padres, particularly since John Koronka looks to be called up on Wednesday for his major league debut.
GAME 49 PREVIEW CHICAGO CUBS (24-24) at LOS ANGELES DODGERS (26-23) Dodger Stadium, 7.10pm CT, TV: ESPN, FSN2
SP *Wilson Alvarez SP Greg Maddux
2B Jerry Hairston SS #Cesar Izturis
SS #Neifi Perez RF Jayson Werth
1B Derrek Lee CF *JD Drew
3B Aramis Ramirez 2B Jeff Kent
LF Jason Dubois 1B Olmedo Saenz
RF *Jeromy Burnitz LF *Ricky Ledee
CF *Corey Patterson 3B Antonio Perez
C Michael Barrett C Jason Phillips
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
These days a week of games hosting the Astros and Rockies is about as easy as they come. The Cubs played some good ball, their oppositions some quite bad, but the sum total of it all was the Cubs going 5-2, the minimum requirement in my eyes, and with that dragging themselves back up to five hundred for the first time since the terrible losing streak that began the month. Now though we'll see what the Cubs are really made of. They've largely squandered a pretty comfortable schedule thus far, and being at five hundred, even despite the injuries, is not something of which they should be proud. Now the next three weeks bring encounters with nothing but good to excellent teams. The Dodgers, Padres, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Marlins and Yankees; this is a nineteen game stretch born to give us a better idea of just where we stand. Are hopes of playoff baseball unfounded? Newsflash - Dusty Baker picks same lineup two days in a row! Sadly, that means more Neifi Perez batting second, and less Todd Walker playing second. If I didn't know better, I'd say Dusty's given Walker's job to Jerry. If so, it's great that Dusty's come to the realisation that getting on-base by whatever means possible is a good thing. It's not so great he's not yet realised he doesn't need to relegate Walker to pinch-hit home runs to do so. Hairston for left field! Maybe Walker's still hurting though. In which case, Dusty, carry on. And carry on Cubs, too, let's run this winning streak to four!
Team Records Updated through 5/29/05; Individual Stats Updated through 5/29/05
Organizational Records
TeamW-LGB/Pos.Last 10W/L (2003)W/L (2004)
Chicago Cubs24-247.5/2nd6-427-2125-23
Iowa Cubs 22-284.5/3rd6-4&nbsp&nbsp
West Tenn Jaxx34-160.0/1st5-5&nbsp &nbsp
Daytona Cubs25-232.5/3rd4-6&nbsp&nbsp
Peoria Chiefs25-254.0/3rd7-3&nbsp&nbsp
Boise HawksSeason begins in June N/A N/A &nbsp&nbsp
AZL CubsSeason begins in JuneN/A N/A &nbsp&nbsp

&nbsp
GAME 48 PREVIEW COLORADO ROCKIES (14-33) at CHICAGO CUBS (23-24) Wrigley Field, 1.20pm CT, TV: CSN
SP Sergio Mitre SP *Jeff Francis
SS Clint Barmes 2B Jerry Hairston
2B Luis Gonzalez SS #Neifi Perez
1B *Todd Helton 1B Derrek Lee
CF Preston Wilson 3B Aramis Ramirez
RF *Brad Hawpe LF Jason Dubois
LF Matt Holliday RF *Jeromy Burnitz
3B #Desi Relaford CF *Corey Patterson
C JD Closser C Michael Barrett
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
Jeff Francis has strange splits this year...
IPHHRBBKERA
Coors Field24.222210142.92
Everywhere else27.034317196.67
He's young though, and he'll learn. Hopefully he'll only start learning tomorrow though. A note for the readers of the Cub Reporter Thank you for your patience while our comments have been closed. The disturbances we've suffered are all the work of two individuals. Please be assured that we are working hard and making great progress towards the day when they will no longer bother any of us. In the meantime, we are going to re-open the comments in today's two posts, albeit with a few conditions - you must flood them with positive, constructive comments, you must ignore their disruptive posts (have faith that one of TCR staff will be along shortly to delete any), you must be on the lookout for those using fake names, including the names of TCR staff and regular posters, and, most importantly, you must show them, once and for all, that two bad apples won't ruin things for you. This is your community, now go out and claim it! Yours, The Cub Reporter Staff

When the Cubs first signed LaTroy Hawkins as a free agent in the first few days of December 2003, they were signing the most dominant eighth-inning pitchers in the game. And, through until early June, that is exactly what they got, and at a good price too. Hawkins' numbers from the start of 2002 (when he was of course with the Twins setting up Eddie Guardado) through to that June were simply formidable...

  IP H HR BB K ERA GB/FB
LaTroy Hawkins 188.1 149 12 36 162 1.91 1.21

It was only then, when Joe Borowski hit the disabled list, that Dusty Baker took the decision that changed LaTroy Hawkins' career - he moved him to closer. This at the time was a move many approved of. Those that disapprove didn't have the strongest case. Hawkins certainly struggled mightily in the role in 2001, but that neglects two points. Firstly, while Hawkins did have a disasterous 2001 as the Minnesota closer, he only earned that job by going a perfect 14-for-14 in save opportunities the year before. Secondly, Hawkins, reacting to 2001, made huge changes to his game that winter - he scrapped a high leg kick and compacted his delivery, which brought him improved control and velocity on his pitches, and he worked hard upon improving his off-speed stuff. The results of his re-invention were the numbers above, so far removed from his numbers prior to 2002 (5.78 ERA) that he may as well have been a completely different pitcher. Hawkins in 2001 wasn't just a bad closer, he was a bad pitcher. The latter was in June 2004 certainly not the case.

Leaving aside debates as to whether the best reliever on the staff should be strictly limited to the ninth with one to three run leads, Dusty's decision to try Hawkins as a closer was certainly justifiable. Where Dusty erred though was in standing by his ninth-inning man too long, when it was abundantly clear that Hawkins, for whatever reason, still couldn't handle the ninth. Instead Dusty ran him out there time and time again, and time and time again Hawkins either failed to close the door or only closed it with a squeak rather than a slam. There was a real lack of confidence and conviction to his pitching, and he seemed far more prone to leaving pitches, especially with 0-2 counts, in areas where hitters could hit them too hard...

  IP H HR BB K ERA GB/FB
LaTroy Hawkins 71.1 73 11 15 58 3.28 0.70

Those numbers, from when he first inherited the ninth through yesterday, would appear to come to the same conclusion. In particular, Hawkins allowed an increasing number of flyballs, and flyballs (especially at Wrigley) have a nasty habit of from time to time leaving the ballpark, which of course is the worst thing a pitcher can do if he's in the business of preventing runs. All the same, those numbers taken as a whole are far from bad. Charicatures of Hawkins as some sort of Alfonseca figure who was responsible for all of our bullpen's woes are far-fetched and inaccurate. Indeed, even that lesser version of Hawkins was still a comfortably above-average reliever, and the Cubs' bullpen will take a hit without him. Then again, as a result of irresponsible management on Dusty's part, overreacting and relegating Hawkins to mere mopup work, that hit had already been taken. And that, combined with the boo-birds of Wrigley, made Hawkins' situation in Chicago unnecessarily untenable. There's more than a touch of the Sosa debacle about the fall of LaTroy, only underlined by the fact the top brass was willing to eat some of his contract to ship him elsewhere.

There is a fundamental difference though between the Sosa and Hawkins trades - the level of the talent the Cubs received in return. Jerome Williams and David Aardsma represent a far better haul given what we gave up than Jerry Hairston and a retired pitcher (though, in fairness, the Orioles will be sending someone to replace Crouthers). Williams, who won't turn 24 until December, is one of the better young pitchers in the game, with pedigree as a prospect and considerable major league experience (and no small amount of success) under his belt. That is though in spite of some areas of his game upon which he needs to work, as per Baseball America...

When healthy, Williams has command of a low-90s fastball that he uses to set up a very good changeup. He has yet to find a consistent third pitch however, with both his curveball and slider lacking the depth or command to be a consistent out pitch. Williams' conditioning also has come into question.

That when "healthy" caveat is a rather large one. Williams last season suffered first from tendinitis in his throwing shoulder and later in the year required arthroscopic surgery on his throwing elbow. It, of course, goes without saying that shoulder and elbow injuries in one so young are most definately not a good sign. Neither has the way Williams has been throwing so far this year - his customary control deserting him and his ERA, at Triple-A no less, rocketing though the roof. How much of that is attributable to the fact his seriously ill father required liver and kidney transplants during Spring Training (Williams also lost his mother at 19) remains to be seen. The Giants did a good job of offloading Kurt Ainsworth down the stretch in 2003 just before injury completely ruined his prospect status (well, I say a good job, but actually all they got in return was Sidney Ponson for a few months!), and I'm slightly concerned that the same fate may be about to befall Williams, shedding a brighter light on his very disappointing numbers so far. It's possible the Giants know something about Williams that we're not going to like finding out for ourselves.

If that is not the case, and the Giants have traded him in good faith, I simply cannot understand this move on their part. To give up a pitcher as young, as promising and yet as experienced as Williams, not to mention the also very well thought of David Aardsma, who the Cubs can now place at the top of their collection of young, hard-throwing and promising right-sided relief prospects, all for setup man LaTroy Hawkins simply staggers me. Either Barry Bonds is a lot closer to returning than anybody might suspect, or the Giants are simply deluding themselves when it comes to their competitiveness this year. The Giants have certainly had problems with their bullpen, serious problems not helped by Armando Benitez's injury, but their relief corps still ought to be the least of their worries - their offence is unspectacular, their starting pitching besides Schmidt likewise, and their defence disappointing. Without Bonds, there is absolutely no question, in my mind at least, that they are inferior to both the Padres and Dodgers, and maybe even the Diamondbacks too. Even should Bonds return tomorrow, they'd still face an uphill struggle to make the playoffs. What use is a premium eighth-inning guy to them then even in the short term? As for the long term, their team right now is overwhelmingly old, and they simply have to get younger if they're not to fall off a cliff upon Bonds' retirement. Trading away Jerome Williams and David Aardsma for a 32-year old whose contract expires after 2006 goes entirely against that.

Does this trade for the Cubs represent a salary dump, represent giving up on the season? Certainly not. LaTroy Hawkins, though it was overwhelmingly the Cubs' (and the booing Cub fans') own fault, could probably not have continued pitching in Chicago for much longer. Even overlooking that, they still received far more for Hawkins than they could reasonably have expected - it really was an offer they couldn't refuse. Though Williams will be out of options next year, and therefore in the same boat as Angel Guzman and Sergio Mitre, needing to make the team, he at the very least makes a very useful chip in a further trade. At the very best he'll hold down a spot in a sensational Cubs' rotation for quite a while to come. That is, of course, assuming injury doesn't ravage his career first. Aardsma meanwhile has the stuff to become a closer somewhere down the line, and could be contributing in Chicago before the year is out.

The Cubs won twice yesterday, I think. First they got the better of the Giants with this trade, then of course they dispatched with the Rockies.

Specifically, San Francisco's. The Cubs today traded LaTroy Hawkins to the Giants for Jerome Williams and David Aardsma.

Since the Giants are my #2 team (thanks to The Lovely Wife), I'm pretty familiar with these guys. Williams came up in 2003 and had a real nice rookie year (88K, 49 BB in 131 IP) but struggled in 2004 and had to have elbow surgery at the end of the season. He hasn't put it back together since - he started this year on the active roster but struggled and was sent down for a few starts to work on his mechanics, and hasn't come back up yet. This is why:

2005, Fresno: 15 K, 17 BB, 30 2/3 IP, 9.39 ERA

He is having trouble finding consistency with his delivery, and I he's also had to deal with some pretty serious family problems, so he's far from a sure thing, but he's still only 23. When he came up in '03, he looked remarkably poised for a 21-year-old and displayed great control. He's a project, but he's also got a pretty decent upside.

Aardsma, John Sickels' #4 Giants prospect, was the Giants' #1 pick in the 2003 draft and made his major league debut less than a year after being drafted. He was a closer in college and has continued in that role in the minors and in his brief time in the majors. He's also notable for replacing Henry Aaron as the first player, alphabetically, in major league history.

I like this trade. I wasn't as down on Hawkins as some, but given that he had been reduced to pitching mop-up (loss of confidence? loss of talent?), I think the Cubs got a good return for him. I think we'll enjoy Jerome Williams' pooka-necklaced presence on the mound if he gets things turned around (and who knows, being back with Dusty might help), and Aardsma can be a solid piece of the bullpen puzzle.

GAME 47 PREVIEW COLORADO ROCKIES (14-32) at CHICAGO CUBS (22-24) Wrigley Field, 12.05pm CT, TV: CSN
SP *Glendon Rusch SP Byung-Hyun Kim
SS Clint Barmes SS #Neifi Perez
2B Luis Gonzalez 2B *Todd Walker
1B *Todd Helton 1B Derrek Lee
CF Preston Wilson RF *Jeromy Burnitz
C Todd Greene 3B Aramis Ramirez
LF Matt Holliday CF *Corey Patterson
3B Garrett Atkins LF Jason Dubois
RF Dustin Mohr C Michael Barrett
Pitcher's spot Pitcher's spot
I commented just yesterday that "Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch and Sergio Mitre looks to be the rotation for the time being." That last all of a matter of hours, and so, the Cubs now have something in common with every other major league baseball team - no Mark Prior. He's been placed on the 15-day disabled list, with Roberto Novoa promoted from Iowa to the bullpen. One of Ryan Dempster or Todd Wellemeyer will probably move from relief back into the rotation. Todd Walker commented yesterday that the grass is partially responsible for our offence woes. Perhaps at his request the Cubs cut the grass a little shorter then, because the Cubs scored ten runs Friday and won comfortably. Or perhaps the bigger issue was that the wind was blowing out. If anything at Wrigley sets it apart from other ballparks, it's the wind rather than the grass. Wrigley can be transformed from Coors one day to PETCO the next all according to which way it blows. Andy Rutledge from the View From the Bleachers has been tracking the Cubs' performance so far this year and last, and his findings for this year in particular are startling - the Cubs have scored well over twice as many runs per game with the wind carrying the ball as with it holding it up. That's a ridiculous difference. Unlike the grass, is this then an adequate excuse? Again, not really, in my view. Scoring less runs due to the wind is nothing to be ashamed of. Being out-adapted by oppositions that aren't anywhere near as familiar with the conditions certainly is. The Cubs have played in Wrigley for many years now, and they above all should know then that they have to deal with the wind when it comes to formulating their team for the season, their lineup each day and their approach each at-bat. Anecdotally, all of us have noticed that the Cubs seem to go for the long ball regardless. The Cubs won't win like that. There's some good news though. Come the summer the wind tends to blow out more often, and that should help. Mark Prior or not, there's still not enough reason to completely give up on this team yet. Things could be a lot, lot worse. We could be the Rockies, for instance.
Mark Prior was hit in the arm by a comebacker in the 4th inning of today's game and left in obvious pain. Preliminary reports indicate a bruise only, no fracture, so I'm thinking at most he'll miss one start and maybe not even that. Finally a bit of potential good news on the injury front. [Rob G. Update:] Espn is reporting that an MRI later revealed a "slight" fracture. No timetable on his return as of yet. From personal experience, a broken elbow takes at least 3 weeks to heal and 3 weeks for rehab although mine was probably significantly worse. On the other hand I'm not a major league pitcher, nor had access to the same technology and therapists that Prior will.

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