May 2009

Drink up

When the Cubs return to Wrigley Field on June 12 after their upcoming three-city, nine-game trip, the old drinking fountain will be back in the dugout. The Gatorade dispenser was expected to be pulled. The orange cover of the dispenser, new this year, has been punched by Ryan Dempster and bashed by Carlos Zambrano, who took a bat to it last Wednesday. It also has a large hole on the side. Micah Hoffpauir joked with the repairman last week that he should be put on a full year retainer.

“I like the cooler,” shortstop Ryan Theriot said, upset that it was being pulled. “Me and the cooler have a good relationship. It’ll be tough for me to let the cooler go.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/31 Lineup & quick hits

Sunday’s lineup vs. the Dodgers will be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, RF Bradley, 1B Lee, CF Johnson, C Soto, 2B Scales, 3B Fontenot and P Marshall.

* This could be Sean Marshall’s next to last start. Lou Piniella was asked where he sees the left-hander fitting in once the team gets Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden back, and the Cubs manager said in the bullpen.

“I see him back in the bullpen and the only reason being is it gives us a lefty with experience out there and it improves our bullpen,” Piniella said. “I feel just as comfortable with Marshall in the rotation. The problem is we have to look at the needs of the team right now.”

* Zambrano will return Thursday from his six-game suspension. Harden (back) threw on the side, and had no problems. He could throw off the mound Tuesday in Atlanta. There’s no date set for his return.

* Ryan Dempster, who has a blister on the index finger of his right hand, will pitch either next Friday or Saturday for the Cubs.

* The Cubs released Minor League outfielder Richie Robnett.

— Carrie Muskat

Colvin to Tennessee

Outfielder Tyler Colvin, the Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2006, was expected to be promoted to Double-A Tennessee on Sunday. Colvin is coming back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last November, and he began the season at Class A Daytona. In 31 games, he was batting .257 with one homer, five doubles and 10 RBIs. He spent all last season at Tennessee.

— Carrie Muskat


Ryan Dempster is a hockey fan but he didn’t have a chance to salute the Chicago Blackhawks who were introduced pre-game Saturday. The Blackhawks, wearing their red sweaters, walked onto the field from the left field corner as Dempster was warming up. They were greeted by cheers from the fans and posed for a picture at home plate, then exited in the right field corner. The Blackhawks were ousted in the conference finals by the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday. Former Cubs president John McDonough, now with the NHL team, led the group in its parade.

— Carrie Muskat

5/30 Lineup & quick hits

Saturday’s lineup vs. the Dodgers will be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, RF Bradley, 1B Lee, CF Johnson, C Soto, 2B Scales, 3B Fontenot and P Dempster.

* Expect Mike Fontenot to handle most of the playing time at third base until Aramis Ramirez returns. On Friday, Bobby Scales started at third, but Lou Piniella said Saturday that he’ll lean toward using Fontenot primarily at third. Ramirez is not expected back until the first week in July. Andres Blanco can start at second against right-handers and backup Ryan Theriot at shortstop as well.

* Rich Harden, on the DL with a mid back sprain, will throw long toss on Sunday and try to air it out a little, pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. Harden has played catch two days in a row, and had no problems. If he passes Sunday’s test, he could do a bullpen session. There’s no timetable, but Piniella said there was a chance Harden could be activated during the next road trip, most likely late in the upcoming three-city junket to Atlanta, Cincinnati and Houston.

* Carlos Zambrano, who is serving a six-game suspension, did throw in the bullpen on Saturday to stay on track for his next start which will be Thursday in Atlanta.

— Carrie Muskat

5/30 Cubs sale update

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Tom Ricketts, who is leading his family’s bid to buy the Cubs from the Tribune Co., is closer to sealing the deal than recent reports suggest.

There was believed to be some disagreement over the terms of the team’s broadcast contract with Tribune’s WGN network that left the two sides as much as $50 million apart on the nearly $900-million deal.

Sources now tell Crain’s that both sides have made concessions on some of the key sticking points. The Ricketts family has had exclusive talks with the Tribune re: the sale since January.

The financing appears to be in place. J. P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Corp. and Bank of America Corp. have agreed in principle to loan the Ricketts family about $350 million, and Crain’s has learned that draft commitment letters are expected to be signed by next week. The balance of the funding will come from a $100-million private placement of notes and $403 million in cash the family generated when it sold stock of TD Ameritrade in February.

— Carrie Muskat

5/29 Soriano update

Alfonso Soriano admits he has a sore left knee, and that it will probably be three to four more days before he feels 100 percent. Soriano banged his knee against the wall April 23 at Wrigley Field when he was tracking Joey Votto’s home run. “It hasn’t been the same since,” Soriano said. “It’s getting better.” 

Lou Piniella said athletic trainer Mark O’Neal hasn’t told him that Soriano can’t play. He’ll take it day by day.

“Soriano is a tough kid and wants to play,” Piniella said. “If it persists, we might have to get him out of there for a few days.”

He went 1-for-4 on Friday, and is batting .253 overall. After hitting .290 with five homers and 11 RBIs in 14 games from May 2-19, he’s 5-for-36 in his last nine games.

— Carrie Muskat

5/29 Quick hits

Last year, the bottom of the order gave the Cubs a boost. The sixth, seventh and eighth hitters haven’t contributed as much this season. “The injury to [Aramis] Ramirez makes us a little more vulnerable at the end,” Lou Piniella said. “If you just depend on one, two or three hitters to hit, you’re going to struggle. You need contributions.”

* With the Dodgers starting left-handers on Saturday and Sunday, will Jake Fox get a start?

“The problem with Fox is where do I put him?” Piniella said. “He’s out there working right now at third base. You saw the feed [Thursday] to the second baseman. I would love to get him in the lineup. The kid can swing the bat, I recognize that. Let’s just see what plays itself out. When Alan Trammell tells me he’s comfortable as the infield coach [having Fox at third], then I’ll be comfortable as the manager.”

* Alfonso Soriano’s left knee is sore.

“The trainer hasn’t told me he can’t play,” Piniella said. “Soriano is a tough kid and wants to play. If it persists, we might have to get him out of there for a few days.”

* With the off day Monday and Carlos Zambrano serving his suspension, the rotation for the upcoming series at Atlanta will be: Randy Wells on Tuesday, Ted Lilly on Wednesday, and Zambrano on Thursday.

“Wells has pitched excellent,” Piniella said of the rookie. “If he continues to pitch like that, he’ll win a lot of ballgames. The ratio of strikes to balls is good, he throws three different pitches over the plate. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he’s performed.”

* Rich Harden was able to play catch again on Friday and is making progress. He’s on the disabled list with a mid back strain.

— Carrie Muskat

About last night …

Lou Piniella met with the media before Friday’s game to try to explain what happened in the eighth inning the night before. After Bobby Scales homered, which closed the gap to 2-1, the Dodgers replaced Randy Wolf with right-handed reliever Ramon Troncoso. Jake Fox pinch-hit for Andres Blanco, and singled. Koyie Hill was on deck to bat for pitcher Randy Wells, and kept looking back to the dugout for a signal. He didn’t see anyone call him back so he stepped up to the plate.

“Usually the umpire looks in and we give him the sign to put the batter into the ballgame,”  Piniella said Friday. “We couldn’t get [umpire Mark Wegner’s] attention, we couldn’t get Hill’s attention — we tried — and Hill got in the batter’s box and that was it. The umpire said that signified a position change.”

Piniella said they had sent Hill to the on-deck circle as a decoy, just in case the Dodgers chose to bring in a lefty. Kosuke Fukudome was ready to hit against Troncoso.

“I am certainly not going to hit Hill ahead of Fukudome or [Micah] Hoffpauir with a right-hander in the ballgame,” Piniella said. “First of all, the other two I’ve used in that category, and second of all, he’s my only backup catcher. It’s something that shouldn’t have happened.”

Fukudome walked, Alfonso Soriano struck out, and Ryan Theriot hit into a double play to end the inning. And that’s the rest of the story.

— Carrie Muskat


5/29 Lineup

Ryan Theriot has caught the flu bug. Friday’s lineup will be LF Soriano, 3B Scales, CF Fukudome, 1B Lee, RF Hoffpauir, 2B Fontenot, C Hill, SS Blanco and P Lilly.

— Carrie Muskat