May 2009

The EXST Giants defeated the EXST Cubs 4-1 in a pre-planned 12 inning Extended Spring Training game at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning in Mesa.

The Iowa Cubs dropped the opener of a four game set in Colorado Springs by a score of 16-15 on Tuesday. They've won the next two by tallies of 18-4 and 17-4. 50 runs on 66[!] hits will getcha two out of three every time. Apparently there's no humidor at Security Service Field.

Jake Fox is back up to .420 with 107 total bases and 28 extra base hits in 30 games.

Lefty swinging Brad Snyder has poked five of his 11 HR's off of southpaws.

The I-Cubs started the series with a very respectable team BA of .273 and have still managed to jack it all the way up to .296 in three days!

Jeff Samardzija started last night and went four innings, giving up two runs on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Both runs came in the first. All told Samardzija threw 67 pitches, 45 of them strikes. He also stroked two hits of his own.

After tonight's series finale [featuring a fireworks promo - seriously] pitting Mitch Atkins against retread Josh Fogg, the team heads to Salt Lake City, another of the PCL's rareified launching pads. By the time the road trip ends the trainees may be hitting at a .300 clip as a team.

On a personal note, this writer's book [Far From the Trees: The Troubled Sons of an American Neighborhood; Outskirts Press], mentioned in this space during the offseason when it released in December, has today been named a finalist in the Indie Book Awards category of Regional Non-Fiction. Feel free to judge the book strictly on the basis of the front and back covers. I think you'll appreciate them both, if nothing in between. The book's available online @ Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And please forgive the shameless self-promotion. Rob said I could...MW

There was a brief discussion in the comments earlier this week about general manager Jim Hendry's liberal use of the no-trade clause. Reader WISCGRAD did the legwork to see if indeed Hendry hands them out like a lollipop after leaving the doctor's office or if it's line with other ballclubs.


No-trade clauses in player contracts are controversial. On the one hand, they are often necessary to attract or keep high-value free agents. On the other hand, towards the end of player’s career a team may wish to trade a player whose skills have declined, but are unable to do so. No-trade clauses can range from full – where the player must approve any trade during the length of the contract – to limited – where the player has no-trade rights for a specified period of time or to specific teams. Making the issue more complicated, the current collective bargaining agreement between the Major League Baseball Players Association and Major League Baseball automatically grants a player full no-trade rights if he has 10 or more years of major league service time and has been with his current team for 5 or more years. The following table lists all players with no-trade rights for the entire 2009 season. This excludes those players who recently signed as free agents and cannot be traded until June. The information was taken from Cot’s Baseball Contracts, and each player was coded for the type of no-trade that applies to the 2009 season only. As one can see, with only a few exceptions, these are the cream of the crop of major league players (ed note - it's important to remember that the details of no-trade provisions or even their existence are not always made public and the information on Cot's Baseball Contracts should not be considered 100% reliable, but more as a good guide).

Sean Hoorelbeke slammed a double off the right-centerfield fence with two outs in the top of the 8th, scoring Chris Weimer from 1st base with the go-ahead run, as the EXST Cubs edged the EXST A's 3-2 in a rematch at the A's Minor League Complex Field #2 at Papago Park in Phoenix this morning.   

The Cubs claimed a rain-shortened victory Wednesday night, winning behind: Ted Lilly, who pitched into the seventh inning and improved to 5-2; Alfonso Soriano, who hit his 53rd career leadoff home run; Geovany Soto, who hit his first homer of the season after 96 plate appearances; and George Herman Theriot, who banged out two home runs and now has five in the month of May. (He had seven career homers in 380 games heading into this month.)

CF Jae-Hoon Ha had three hits, scored three runs, and made three circus catches in the outfield, leading the EXST Cubs to a 13-5 drubbing of the EXST A's at the Oakland A's Minor League Complex at Papago Park in Phoenix this morning.  

Milton was the talk of the town last night with the moonshot to replace all moonshots...one of the farthest non-steroid enhanced home runs I've ever seen. You can see the video at MLB.com. The story coming out this morning was that he may have been jawing with some of the fans in the on-deck circle and right at the end of the clip you can see him put his hand to his ear as if to say, "oh now you love me".  Bradley may have been addressing it to the whole crowd,  but with the little head nod at the end accompanied by the "we'll shut up now" looks on the faces of the clowns with the good seats, it looks more like a little give and take with the Wrigley faithful. Screen grabs after the jump....

On the 39th anniversary of Ernie Banks' 500th home run, Milton Bradley hit a titanic, two-run blast in the sixth inning to lead the Cubs and RIch Harden past Jake Peavy and the Padres.

In the first inning, Harden gave up a leadoff double to Brian Giles and one out later, a two-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez. He limited the Pads to just two more hits and held them scoreless over the remainder of his six innings, at one point retiring 13 San Diego hitters consecutively.

Dwayne Kemp drove in the go-ahead runs with a line drive two-run single to right-center in the top of the 11th, but the EXST Cubs could not hold the lead, as the EXST Angels rallied with two runs of their own in the bottom of the frame, as the Cubs and Angels played to a 4-4 tie in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at the Angels Minor League Complex at Diablo Park in Tempe this morning.

The other offensive highlight for the Cubs was provided over the course of an inning by speedy Dominican lead-off hitter Jose Valdez, who reached base after being hit by a pitch to lead-off the top of the 5th, and then proceeded to steal 2nd, 3rd, and home.

For all you Angels fans out there (and you know who you are), RHSP Kelvim Escobar (on the 60-day DL after undergoing shoulder surgery) made a rehab start for the EXST Angels, throwing 1.2 IP (30 pitches) and retiring all five men he faced on three ground outs, a line drive, and a strikeout. 

Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only)...

Some stuff I've been meaning to mention...

- Scout.com's top 5 hitting prospects at the moment...

  1. Jake Fox
  2. Josh Harrison
  3. Tony Thomas
  4. Brad Snyder
  5. Rebel Ridling

and on the pitching side...

  1. Dan McDaniel
  2. Jose Ascanio
  3. Ryan Searle
  4. Chris Archer
  5. Chris Carpenter

 - This article is a couple weeks old, but Craig Brown has figured out what is wrong wtih Derrek Lee from the comfort of his computer. While the data he presents courtesy of Fangraphs is interesting in of itself, you have to love the conclusion he conjured up.

For starters, he needs to lay off all pitches outside the strike zone
and focus only on those pitches that are over the plate - the pitches
where he can actually accomplish something productive.  Then, he needs
to concentrate on making solid contact.

So swing at strikes Derrek and make sure it's good contact when you do swing...a hitting coach in the making.

- Most of you have probably seen this one already, but History Channel did some morose show about life on Earth after all the people died. They imagined what would happen to Wrigley Field in the process.

 - Joe Aiello at VFTB  is asking Cubs fans to fill out his "Cubs Confidence Survey".

- Want all your Cubs news in one place (or any other team?), try Baseball Tribune.

Tags: 

Live Long and Prosper.

It's not a good thing for the Cubs when I'm writing all these articles. It means somebody on the team is injured, exploding or a decision on how to use (or not) the disabled list is looming. So I'll keep this maximally short (oxymoron that I am).

Today we finally get some good news and the results from the MRI on DLee shows the same old, same old. Yes, a bulging disc is causing neck and upper back spasms. No, he won't go on the DL. Yes, he'll be ready to play in the next game or so against San Diego at Wrigley Field.

Tags: 

Just back from Principal Park where emergency starter Greg Reinhard tossed four hitless, shutout innings and left the game with a 4-0 lead over Memphis and Cardinal prospect P.J. Walters [who made his MLB debut on April 17th against the Cubs at Wrigley].

By the time Walters, whose middle name doesn't start with J, left the game he'd managed Memphis' only hit, a single in the 6th off of Vince Perkins.

Brad Snyder touched P.J. for a three-run homer in the 4th, the game's big blow so far.

Memphis' lone run was unearned as a result of Jake [5 for his last 25] Fox's first error of the season at first base.

Reinhard retired the lineup in order the first time through before walking Jon Jay to leadoff the 4th. Jay was later erased on a strike 'em out/ throw 'em out DP to end the inning and Reinhard left having faced the minimum 12 batters while needing only 41 pitches to get a dozen outs. Besides walking Jay, he fanned three.

In the top of the 3rd, I thought of Harry Caray when Sam Fuld, "tied a record held by many," when he made all three PO's in the inning. Fuld also swiped two bases after scoring four runs yesterday and making a running over-the-shoulder basket catch in left-center to boot.

 I wish I could've stayed for the end of the last game of the homestand. It's a beautiful day here in Des Moines and school buses were lined up outside of the ballpark like charters on Waveland Avenue.

One last thing: how does Kyle Reynolds get booted up from Tennessee to Iowa after starting the year 5-57 in Double A? He hit the ball hard three times for outs today and made a sparkling play at 3B to get a fielder's choice in the 5th; must just be hittin' in tough luck wherever he goes...MW

I had a nice chat before Jeff Samardzija's return engagement in Des Moines Saturday night with I-Cub pitching coach Mike Mason. We talked about Jose Ascanio's pitch counts, Samardzija's repertoire, the organization's pitcher pecking order and the effect, if any, of yo-yoing between the bullpen in Chicago and the rotation in Des Moines on young arms and minds.

Ascanio was the first order of business. It took him until his 6th start to record a win, despite a 1.01 ERA, because his pitch count leash was still so short. After a high-water mark of 81 two starts ago, he'd been pulled after 76 last time out even though he fanned the side in the 4th and 5th, his last two innings of work. Why wasn't he allowed to come out for the 6th?

"He was still closing in winter ball," Mason noted. "When the decision was made in camp to start him this year, the plan was to give him a couple starts at each pitch count level - 60, 70, 80 - as he went along and see how he handled it. The other day we figured why trot him out for the 6th just to pull him after half a dozen more pitches."

Mason had lots more to say about Ascanio before Chad Fox's elbow came undone again later that same night in Milwaukee. I asked him if the organization saw Jose as a pleasant surprise at this point.

"Pleasant is a huge understatement. He's done way better than expected," he grinned. "All along the thought was that the [Chicago] Cubs' 6th starter would come from the organization, but nobody thought 'Hosie' was the guy. Well, he's the 6th starter now. He's passed Atkins."

What about Samardzija? Passed him too?

"Ascanio is a four pitch guy. He throws a curve, a slider and a change-up that's his best offspeed pitch," Mason said. "Jeff and I are talking about him working to develop a curveball to go with his fastball and split." Apparently Samardzija's change-up isn't the complement yet to his high-nineties heat that Ascanio's is to his.

"'Hosie' used to start with Atlanta through Double A," Mason recounted. "Then he went to relief, but he's been throwing multiple pitches longer than Jeff. Jeff's attitude coming back here is great and he understands what he's got to work on."

Later that night of course, Mason's ranking of the trio of proteges in his care was borne out when Ascanio was summoned to the big leagues in the wake of Fox's latest, and maybe last, breakdown.

Yesterday Atkins responded to his snub with probably his best start of the year in pitching the team to a 9-2 win over Memphis. After a rocky start he settled down to last seven innings, the last six of them scoreless.

I asked Mason about Jeff Stevens, who appears to be the best early dividend of the DeRosa trade, although he won't be filling in at 3rd for Aramis Ramirez as DeRosa could capably have done. Stevens still has a non-existent ERA, having allowed only four hits in 14 innings. Batters are 4-45 against him for a BAA of .088, 3rd best right now in professional baseball among pitchers who've thrown at least 10 innings.

"Jeff's been very good, but he's young and he knows he wouldn't get by in the big leagues with essentially one pitch like he is here right now," said Mason. "Down the line if the bullpen keeps struggling in Chicago, I suppose they might give him a shot, but right now there's probably guys ahead of him." Mason named Kevin Hart as one of those, despite his uneven pattern so far this spring.

What about guys like Ascanio and Samardzija ping-ponging between short relief and starting?

"That's a bigger issue in terms of mental preparation than physical." according to Mason. "And even the physical part might be more with the legs than the arm because you just don't run as much if you're in the pen as you do if you're starting every five days. You have to have a different approach with your legs and your head as much as your arm if you know you might pitch any day you come to the ballpark."

I asked Mason if he mostly carries out orders from above or if he has latitude in how he works with his pitchers at the Triple A level.

"I talk with Larry [Rothschild] all the time, and he might say, like with Jeff [Samardzija], 'he's gotta develop secondary pitches,' but it's up to me what pitches we work on. That's why Jeff and I are talkin' about maybe workin' on a curveball for him. They give me assignments, but it's up to me how I work on them." he explained.

Given the ongoing bullpen turmoil in Chicago it doesn't appear Mason's workload will let up any time soon.

OTHERWISE: Greg Reinhard will start in today's noon matinee in the wake of Ascanio's call-up. In 18 innings out of the bullpen he's compiled a 0.49 ERA with 26 strikeouts and only five BB's...the PCL American North is a nice parallel to the NL Central with Iowa [16-13], Memphis [17-11] and Nashville [17-14] jockeying in the standings like their counterparts in Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee...Jake Fox has been day-to-day since catching some broken bat shrapnel on Friday night and taking a few stitches to close a leg wound. He's expected back in the lineup today...catcher Chris Robinson is not only hitting .394, he's also swiped five bases! For what it's worth, he's only nabbed 2/15 stealing against him...couldn't help but notice that the redhead is till red hot. Matt Murton is hitting .411 at Colorado Springs. Sometimes we take our stats with a grain of salt in the PCL...MW

Assuming Aramis Ramirez is out of the Cub lineup for exactly 8 weeks from this past Friday night, he'll be back for the July 4th game between the Cubs and Brewers at Wrigley Field, the third game of a four-game series.

In the interim, the Cubs will play 48 games, including all 15 of their interleague games against AL Central teams. Ramirez will also miss 20 games against NL Central opponents and the one and only visit by the Dodgers to Wrigley Field, which, owing to other, non-injury events, will now be completely Ramirez-free.

Here is what the next 8 weeks hold for the Cubs and their two leading division rivals:

In an embarrassing conclusion to the saturday night game against the Brewers, the Cubs bullpen literally and figuratively exploded.

In a highlight on TV for Mr. Brenly, he went out on the ledge and predicted the two run HR from Micah Hoffpauir in the 5th inning as the big first baseman strode up to the plate. Brenly had given a handsignal to Hoffpauir before the game indicating his swing was just a pinch off the night before and he expected a sweet spot power shot tonight. Hoffpauir's blast to right was on the first pitch, making that a magic moment in the booth and both Len and Bob were somewhat giddy. Len Kasper couldn't recall any such prognostication from his partner in their 5 years together. It brought a game that felt like the Cubs were behind by a million runs actually back to a 3-2 defecit and made me realize that Ryan Dempster was having quite a solid outing.

Brenly the Prognosticator? Ryan Dempster deftly lasted into the 7th
inning although on TV, Len and Bob thought he was done after 6 and
they expressed their surprise to see him out on the mound beginning the 7th
after over 100 pitches. After back to back HR's to Counsell and Braun,
Dempster was done at 121 pitches. Cotts and Patton made the really ugly 7th a six spot for the Brewers.

During the disgusting 7th and 8th innings, the walkmasters paraded their stuff including walk(s) from Cotts, Patton, Fox and Heilman. I was suffering along with Ron Santo who said on the radio: "anytime you have 7 walks you don't deserve to win." Six of the nine walks the Cubs pitchers gave up came from the bullpen.

In the top of the 8th, the Cubs brought it back to  9-6 defecit with a 4 spot including back to back doubles by Fukudome and Bradley but the bullpen was yet to complete pouring kerosene on the ballgame.

The bottom of the 8th started with Chad Fox on the mound who promptly walked Braun (on 7 pitches) then blew out his right elbow on a pitch that was five feet high and wide above the strike zone. As we all know Fox's elbow has had multiple reconstructions and after his last term with the Cubs in which his usage by Dusty Baker drew criticism, he didn't get another surgery...just a miracle feeling that he could pitch on scar and duct tape. Apologies to Mr. Baker, time didn't heal that wound. In a 24 hour period the Cubs have exposed both the proximal humerus and the distal humerus. Ouch.

Chad Fox is now on the DL and the Cubs have called up Jose Ascanio from AAA Iowa as the bullpen parade continues.

Injury Delay...photo of Chad Fox after icing his elbow postgame.

Aaron Heilman replaces Chad Fox

Heilman promptly wets his pants by walking Fielder (4 pitches), Hardy (4 pitches) and Hart (6 pitches), with Hart's for the second run of the inning. Nobody to the rescue (Mets fans must be laughing their asses off). The cliche coaching visit to the mound does no good and then Duffy singles for another run and Kendall hits a sac fly for the Brewer's12th run.

As Arizona Phil has explained, Chad Fox was brought to the majors so that the Cubs will have roster flexibility if they get to the post-season. The Boy Scouts 60 day DL mastery merit badge goes to Jim Hendry.

 

Well, actually it is the humerus that sees all the action when one dislocates a shoulder.

The shoulder anatomy is based on giving the joint extreme flexibility including very close to a 360 degree arc of motion. To achieve this enhanced level of function, mother nature drew up a ball and socket joint with an extremely shallow socket (the glenoid, which is the joint component of the shoulder blade or scapula).

The comparable joint in the lower extremity is the hip which is also a ball and socket joint but with a much deeper socket. The hip doesn't need the same arc of motion for function. The trade off for less motion is much better stability.

A shoulder dislocation shouldn't be confused with a "separated shoulder" which is what is medically known as an injury to the A-C (acromio-clavicular) joint between the clavicle (collarbone) and the acromion (the shoulder blade's bony projection that connects it to the clavicle).

In the bottom of the third inning, on a sharp grounder down the line, Aramis Ramirez fully extended to his right and immediately grabbed his arm. Initally it appeared that maybe he broke his elbow or another bone by his reaction, but the replay showed him immediately grabbing his hand and upper tricep area and nothing really impacted with the ground that would apper to lead to any broken bones. The parachat consensus was a disclocated shoulder and Aramis looked in great amounts of pain.  Screen grabs after the jump...

UPDATE: If I understand this correctly, the offical deal is the Cubs getting Ryan Freel and $2.6 or $2.7M from the Orioles for Joey Gathright. The O's would then pay the rest of Gathright's contract (about $670K), thus making it "cash-neutral" as Rosenthal described as Freel was owed about $3.3M on his $4M deal for 2009.


 

I guess the O's really did want to get rid of Ryan Freel as Rosenthal is now reporting that deal has been made...Joey Gathright for Ryan Freel.

The deal is cash-neutral, according to one source. The Cubs will pay
the balance of Gathright's $800,000 salary for 2009 with the O's paying
the balance of Freel's — about $3.3 million
(ed note - Freel's 2009 deal was for $4M total).

If that source is correct, then an absolute no-brainer for the Cubs as Freel can play the outfield and a few infield positions at the same cost for the Cubs. Freel also gives the Cubs a right-handed bench option that they'd be missing, whenever a walk or a single might be needed.

 


Besides his little friend Farney, Freel also brings a rap sheet with him...a DUI offense in Kentucky in 2005 and then "disorderly intoxication" during a bachelor party in Tampa, FL in January of 2006. He's also a magnet for concussions.

 

On the other hand, Christie Freel is part of the package as well.

 

 

 

Soriano, Theriot, Fukudome, Ramirez, Hoffpauir, Bradley, Fontenot, Hill and Randy Wells tonight versus Weeks, Hart, Braun, Fielder, Cameron, Hardy, Hall, Kendall and Dave Bush.

Dwayne Kemp had three hits (including two triples) and drove in four runs, Chris Weimer slugged three doubles and drove-in three runs, Logan Watkins had three hits and two RBI, and Kevin Soto had three hits and an outfield assist, leading the EXST Cubs to a 12-3 drubbing of the EXST Angels at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning in hot & sunny Mesa.

A native of Rotterdam, Kemp was the second player signed by the Cubs out of the MLB European Baseball Academy (Italian RHP Alessandro Maestri was the first) and was a member of the Team Netherlands provisional roster for the WBC, and like Cubs 2B Mike Fontenot, the 5'8 might-mite really packs some punch. Both of Kempy's triples today were opposite field shots slammed off the right-centerfield fence.

20-year old Venezuelan RHP Robert Hernandez, who is at EXST rehabbing from a sprained ankle suffered in a game at Papago Park the last week of Minor League Camp, pitched two innings today and showed no ill effects. Several of his family and friends were at the game today, and he looks to be about ready to move up to Daytona.  

And LHP Chris Siegfried, who was left at Fitch Park at the end of Minor League Camp to work on his mechanics and revamp his delivery, has been promoted to Peoria.

Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only):

The Cubs needed to make a roster move with Randy Wells getting the call-up for today's start. With MIlton Bradley's ridiculous 2-day suspension loooming and Derrek Lee in injury limbo - too hurt to play, not to hurt to be put on the DL - the Cubs are going to ask Joey Gathright to go the minors.  WIth 5+ years of service time under his belt, Gathright can refuse the assignment, but then he forfeits the remainder of his $800K contract and has to hope another team will pick him up. And him getting picked up is an unlikely scenario with a .214 batting average, being a putz in the outfield and getting caught twice stealing to just one successful attempt for a guy whose speed is suppose to be his main tool. Enjoy Iowa Gathright, I hear it's lovely this time of year. Say hi to Jeff Samardzija...and your mother.

On the rumor front (hat tip to VA Phil for the find), the Cubs are interested in utility-man Ryan Freel who seems upset with the Baltimore Orioles. Freel is owed whatever is left on his $3.3M contract this year and can play all three outfield positions along with second and third base. Once an easy bet to steal 30 bases, it looks like he's lost a step but will at least take a walk although he brings almost no power. As an added bonus, Freel also brings his imaginary friend Farney with him....fun on bus rides or when you've accidentally killed a hooker.

"Farney, what have you done?"

So those that had Jake Fox to the Orioles in your trade pools, I think the odds just went up.

In day old news (that high priest and ruler of all men "The Joe" uncovered for us after hours of laboring), Luis Vizcaino will sign a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians.

In Houston, Ted Lilly straightened himself out after a ragged beginning—four-pitch leadoff walk to Kaz Matsui, gopher ball to Miguel Tejada; Miggy's first home run in 116 at-bats this season—as the Cubs beat the Astros, 8-5, to sweep the two-game series at Minute Maid Park.

The Cubs have now won six of seven and have climbed to four games above .500 for the second time this year, heading into a weekend series in Milwaukee.

Just missing a grand slam HR, 18-year old Korean OF Jae-Hoon Ha clubbed a bases-loaded triple high off the left-centerfield fence to cap a five-run 5th, and fellow 18-year old Korean Hak-Ju Lee (presently rehabbing from 2008 TJS at Fitch Park) doubled twice and drove-in two runs, as the EXST Cubs outlasted the EXST A's 10-7 at Fitch Park Field #3 this morning in hot & sunny Mesa, AZ.

19-year old RHP Tarlandus Mitchell had the most-impressive outing of the four Cubs pitchers who worked today, tossing 2.2 IP of hitless ball. Mitchell may be only 5''8, but his mid-90's fastball really packs a wallop. The young Texan was an all-state football player (QB/DB) as well as a two-way star baseball player (P/OF) at Alto HS before getting drafted by the Cubs in the 22nd round of the 2008 Rule 4 Draft. He fell to the 22nd round only because he was considered a "tough sign" who was more-likely to play college football than pro baseball, but the Cubs are no doubt glad he chose a career in baseball.

Converted 3B Josh Lansford (son of Carney Lansford) also got an inning of work today and looked good, retiring the side 1-2-3 with one strikeout. Although his father and uncles were MLB third-basemen, his brother is a pitcher in the A's organization, and so maybe it's not surprising that Josh looks like a natural on the mound.

Here is today's abridged box score (Cubs players only):

The Cubs put up a four spot in the first and make it stand for the 6-3 series opening win over the Houston Astros. 

Why the Cubs Won:  Most of the regulars were back in the lineup sans Derrek Lee who took another day off as the bulging disc issue flared up again.They worked Mike Hampton over in the first inning to the tune of 35 pitches. On pitch 25, with the bases loaded, Reed Johnson lined the ball deep to the gap in left field that a diving Michael Bourn just missed and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. It had the makings of a possible inside-the-parker, but Johnson settled with the stand-up triple and the Cubs took the quick 3-0 lead. A passed ball by Gold Glover Ivan Rodriguez during Micah Hoffpauir's 10-pitch at-bat scored Johnson and the Cubs never looked back.  Another passed ball scored Johnson again in the 6th and an Aramis home run in the 7th accounted for the other runs.

Rich Harden bounced back nicely from his last outing to lower his ERA to 4.83, which would have been even better if he hadn't come out for the 8th inning where he gave up a single, a 2-run homer to Lance Berkman and another single before finally being removed. The strikeouts weren't there - just four on the night - but he seemed to get stronger as the night went on retiring 10 in a row at one point including a few fastballs in the 94-95 range before the gas ran out in the 8th.

Carlos Marmol looks like he may be finding his groove again, needing just 10 pitches (8 for strikes) to clean up Harden's mess and Kevin Gregg just needed 12 (9 for strikes) to get the three-up, three-down save.

Armchair Managing:  Rich Harden and his fragile arm were up to 92 pitches through seven innings. Not something I would normally worry about, but with a five run lead, having an at-bat in the top of the 8th and it being Rich Harden, thought Lou might might want to be quick with the hook.

Death Pool: You still have to think Bobby Scales will get sent down by Friday to make room for the starter that night, but with Bradley's suspension about to start and Lee hurting, maybe they'll DL Lee to keep a position player around a little longer.

Tags: 

It looks like I was on to something yesterday when I mentioned that Jeff Samardzija might get sent down. Chad Fox gets the call-up and has been added to the 40-man roster. As in years past, when Fox blows out his arm and has to go on the 60-day DL, the Cubs can call up anyone from their organization for the playoffs to take his spot (as long as he was with the organization by September 1st I believe).

Also, Derrek Lee sits again with the bulging disc issue and the lineup for tonight is Soriano, Riot, Bradley, Ramirez, Soto, Johnson, Hoffpauir, Miles and Harden against lefty Mike Hampton

Chris Weimer blasted a bases-loaded triple to key a five-run 8th, as the EXST Cubs rallied to tie the EXST Giants 6-6 in an eight-inning game at Fitch Park Field #1 this morning in Mesa. The 22-year old Weimer was signed by the Cubs as a Non-Drafted Free-Agent (NDFA) this past off-season after surviving a near-fatal car crash during his senior year in college at the U. of Nebraska - Omaha. 

19-year old Korean RHP Su-Min Jung got the start for the Cubs and worked three strong innings, mixing a plus-fastball with an advanced curve and change. He got a lot of swings & misses.    

Here is the abridged box score (Cubs players only):

Jose Ascanio was brilliant this afternoon at Principal Park but he remains a pitcher in limbo.

 Ascanio tossed five scoreless innings at the Nashville Sounds on a drizzly day at the ballpark to lower his ERA to a minuscule 1.01. He didn't walk a batter and fanned nine, including the side in each of his last two frames. All of which begs a question as to why he was yanked after throwing 76 pitches, 51 of them strikes. His high water pitch count in six starts this year is 81 in his previous start, which was the only other time he lasted as many as five innings. He left the game leading 6-0.

Looks like the Cubs are grooming a helluva long man...

ALSO: Ascanio's opponent was the Nashville Sounds, Triple A affiliate of Milwaukee, managed by long-time Brewer 3B Don Money [great name]. Money showed he's still cat-quick at the hot corner when he made a slick barehanded grab in the 3B coaching box in the bottom of the first...the sacrificial southpaw the Sounds trotted out actually took the mound leading the PCL in walks with a BAA vs. lefties in excess of .500! I-Cub skipper Bobby Dickerson stacked his lineup accordingly which meant,among other things, that Jake Fox got the day off. Why then, if Dickerson wanted as many LH's as possible to hit, did switch-hitting SS Andres Blanco bat from the right side?...before striking out the side in the 4th and 5th, Ascanio whiffed somebody by the name of Tony Gwynn on a 12 pitch marathon AB in the 3rd...last night the I-Cubs finally got their first pinch-hit of the season in their 19th try...Jeff Stevens, obtained in the Mark DeRosa trade, entered the day's play unscored upon in nine appearances spanning 11 innings. He's permitted only three hits while striking out 12...in the wake of Randy Wells' call-up to start in place of Carlos Zambrano on Friday, reliever Greg Reinhard is slated to start on Saturday against Memphis. Reinhard has a 0.55 ERA in 16+ innings and 24 strikeouts versus a mere five walks...MW

The Cubs drop the finale versus the Giants to split the series and end the homestand at 4-2.

Why the Cubs Lost:  Clearly Lou laid some money on the Giants taking this game, trotting out the entire bench and resting every regular he could. While I'm sure there batting averages appreciated not seeing Tim Lincecum, the paying fans must have thought it was still March and spring training. I'm all for resting the regulars, but maybe Lou would consider spacing it out a bit next time. 

Sean Marshall gave up a three-run homer to Bengie Molina in the first, which probably isn't the strategy you want to employ against Tim Lincecum. He then shut down the worst offense in the league for the next six innings, before the first two runners reached off him in the 8th. Jeff Samardzija proceeded to hit Bengie Molina - Molina's first time reaching base via HBP or BB all year - and then gave up a double to Aaron Rowand who hadn't had a hit in about a week.Then another single on a drawn in infield to Randy Winn before finally retiring Juan Uribe on a popout. After walking Emmanuel Burriss, Lou had seen enough and summoned Neal Cotts who did a much better job than Samardzija of preventing the inherited runners from scoring.

The Good: Marshall looked good from innings two to seven and Neal Cotts took one pitch to get two outs in the 8th. Bobby Scales in his major league debut, got his first hit and almost a second if not for a fine diving play by Winn. Scales also made a few nice plays at second base. Lincecum did retire 11 in a row at one point, but the Cubs did hit a few balls hard at least and were in the game until the pitching imploded in the top of the 8th.

Death Pool:  Probably be Bobby Scales getting sent down to make room for Friday's starter, but don't overlook Jeff Samardzija and his 8.10 ERA heading back to Iowa and someone like Chad Fox getting the call-up.

Tags: 

Pitchers: Tim Lincecum (2-1, 3.16) vs. Sean Marshall (0-1, 3.32).

Lincecum opened the season with two rough starts, resulting in a no-decision and a loss. In his last three outings, however, he has gone 3-0, 1.57, with 33 strikeouts and 4 walks and a .193 BA Against. He dazzled the Cubs in a game last July at Wrigley, becoming the first pitcher to beat Ryan Dempster last season in The Friendly Confines.

Marshall pitched well enough to beat the Marlins last week, though the bullpen failed him in the only game the Cubs have lost thus far on this brief homestand.

Here is the Cubs batting order...

Gathright, cf
Miles, ss
Fukudome, rf
Lee, 1b
Hoffpauir, lf
Fontenot, 3b
Scales, 2b
Hill, c
Marshall, p

...and per Chris DeLuca of the Sun-Times, here is the manager's explanation of the fact that Babe Theriot, Soriano, Ramirez, Soto, and Bradley are all sitting:

With Aramis Ramirez back in the starting lineup, the Cubs won their fourth in a row, defeating the Giants, 4-2, on Monday night at Wrigley. The Cubs will have a chance to finish a 5-1 homestand when the teams meet Tuesday afternoon.

Why the Cubs won: Ryan Dempster, coming off his first loss and poorest start of the young season last week in Phoenix, earned his second victory with his best start of 2009. Dempster kept the Giants off the board until the sixth inning and allowed just 5 hits and 2 walks over seven.

Is there anything Carlos Zambrano can't do on a baseball field [other than keep cool]? What is he, an ace or an ass?

Dave van Dyck speculates in this morning's Chicago Tribune that if Zombie [call him Big Z if you like; I call him Zombie - it will make a good stage name when he becomes a pro wrestler] misses his Friday start in Milwaukee one of three Iowa Cubs will take his place: Randy Wells, Mitch Atkins or Jose Ascanio.

Atkins' first two starts were poor and as a result he still carries a bloated and somewhat misleading ERA of 6.99. The last three have been better.

Wells has been solid from the outset in compiling an ERA of 3.13.

Both Atkins and Wells have K/BB ratios of 3:1 and are big, imposing righthanders.

Ascanio has made five starts and sports a sparkling ERA of 1.25 but only in his last outing did he go five innings. His pitch count that night was 81, the first time he's been that high as he transitions from relief to the rotation. Of the three candidates van Dyck names, Ascanio seems the least likely from here.

This morning's Des Moines Register says Wells will start the opener of the I-Cub homestand tonight versus Nashville. The team's website tabs Atkins. A complicating factor might also be that the team's last two games over the weekend in Memphis were rained out.

Atkins' last appearance was on April 30, Wells' was April 27 and Ascanio was May 1.

There's always Samardzija...MW

I'm holding my breath (and have turned a nice shade of Cub Blue at this point). Big Z tweaked his left hamstring in the 5th inning after successfully bunting for a hit. It was a key to the Cubs 6-4 win over the Marlins as DLee whacked a grand slam homerun  to break a 2-2 deadlock. The Cubs have been hit hard with pulled stuff...hamstrings, calves, groins all of which are in this grey zone of injury where they've not disabled listed anyone so far. The roster is running on empty to the point that they've had to use Koyie Hill as the backup-backup third baseman, Zambrano as the first pinch hitter off the bench and now Rich Harden gets told to put on his spikes to pinch run for Z.

We'll find out today the results of Zambrano's MRI but from the usual sources covering the Cubs, manager Lou Piniella was quoted as saying the injury was in the belly of the hamstring. This means muscle belly rather than the tendon which is where muscles attach to bone. Proximally hamstring muscles attach to the pelvis (ischium). If the MRI picks up on enough  muscle injury expect the first DL stint of the season but a grade I injury can be better in 2-4 weeks. If the MRI doesn't pick up much injury he may just miss a start.

 Carrie Muskat/mlb.com quotes:

"I tried to initially [take Zambrano out], but he told me that it
was more of a cramp than anything else," Piniella said. "After a pitch,
he realized it was more than that. I tried to get him out initially,
and he talked me out of it.

Zambrano then slowly walked back to the dugout. The problem is in the "belly" of the (left) hamstring, Piniella said.

Toni Ginnetti/Sun-Times quotes:

At first he tried to convince trainer Mark O'Neal and Piniella it was
only a cramp. After one pitch to the next batter, Alfonso Soriano, ''he
realized it was more,'' Piniella said. ''We did the right thing by
getting him out.''

Zambrano's next scheduled start is Friday in Milwaukee.

''I'd say it's in jeopardy,'' Piniella said. ''And if I had to
guess, I'd say no. We'll see. I'd guess we'd have to do something to
bring up a starter, but let him get his [MRI].''

 

Ryan Theriot's grand slam on Friday put the Cubs ahead to stay, as did his first-inning home run on Saturday.

Friday's blast ended a string of 620 at-bats and 157 games in which Theriot had failed to homer. In terms of GP, Theriot's homerless string was the 15th longest among Cub non-pitchers since 1954.

The list of 15 follows:

Sorry to be so brief—there's an all-block garage sale happening on our street today and I think I just overheard my 13-year-old agreeing to sell our second car. 

Saturday: Anibal Sanchez (1-2, 4.13) v. Ted Lilly (2-2, 3.80). Sanchez is making his first career start at Wrigley Field. Lilly was telling Carrie Muskat about his plans to revive the Cubs attack by generating his own offense, by "going deep" and "maybe swipe a couple bags." Sounds like someone is experiencing delusions of grandeur. TLFC—this is your fault!

Sunday: RIcky Nolasco (1-2, 6.92) v. Carlos Zambrano (2-1, 4.64). Juan Pierre Ricky Nolasco, who has seemed primed to be the Florida ace, won the Marlins' season opener and has gone winless in the four starts since. As for Zambrano, nice of the Cubs to give their ace pinch-hitter an opportunity to try his hand at pitching. Who knows—maybe the guy will have a future on the mound. 

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