July 2009

7/31 Wheeling and dealing

Lou Piniella says he wasn’t disappointed the Cubs didn’t add another player by Friday’s trade deadline. GM Jim Hendry apparently talked to a few clubs about acquiring someone who could play three, four positions, a Mark DeRosa-type player. But the Cubs wanted that someone to hit left-handed.

“Jim tried,” Piniella said. “Our ownership group would’ve okayed a deal. I’m not talking about a big salary player, but a nice productive, usable, versatile player — that’s what we were looking for more than anything else.”

Instead, the Cubs found help from the left side for the pitching staff with the deal Thursday for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny.

“Am I disappointed? No,” Piniella said about no further transactions. “We need to continue to play and swing the bats and stay healthy. Talk about healthy, we’ve still got three key people on the disabled list. We have a starting pitcher who made the All-Star team [Ted Lilly], we have our No. 1 catcher [Geovany Soto], and our fourth outfielder [Reed Johnson]. We’re not healthy.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Soto's rehab, Gorzelanny update & more

Geovany Soto will begin a rehab assignment at Double-A Tennessee on Monday in hopes of returning for the Cubs’ series next weekend in Colorado. Sidelined with a strained left oblique, Soto was to be the DH on Saturday in Mesa, Ariz., then travel on Sunday to join the Minor League team. He was to play Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Cubs have an off day Thursday when Soto could travel to Denver.

* Newly acquired left-hander Tom Gorzelanny will join the Cubs on Saturday in Florida and throw a bullpen session. Gorzelanny is scheduled to make his debut Tuesday, starting Game 2 of the three-game series at Cincinnati. Adding Gorzelanny gives Ted Lilly a little more cushion as far as his rehab goes.

“The one thing with Ted is we don’t want to rush this situation,” Lou Piniella said of Lilly, sidelined with inflammation in his left shoulder. “We want to make sure he’s properly healed. If we have to send [Lilly] out for rehab, we can do that, too. With [Ryan] Dempster, we didn’t have that opportunity.”

* John Grabow joined the Cubs Friday, and was given No. 43. He wore No. 34 with the Pirates. The Cubs apparently didn’t want to give him No. 34, last worn by Kerry Wood.

“It gives us another lefty, and it gives us an experienced pitcher at the end of the ballgame,” Piniella said of the newest addition. “Grabow gets right-handed hitters out very well, also. He’s got a real nice changeup. It gives us another dependable, reliable pitcher with experience at the end of the ballgame and we don’t have to go to our guys three days in a row like we have had to.”

* Alfonso Soriano got Friday off, part of Piniella’s grand plan to rest his regulars. The one player he’d like to give a breather to is shortstop Ryan Theriot, who leads the team in games played with 99.

* Sam Fuld was recalled from Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs had optioned right-hander Mitch Atkins to the Minor League team after Thursday’s game.

* Piniella heard about the White Sox getting Jake Peavy. The Cubs had been in hot pursuit of the right-hander this offseason.

“That’s a nice acquisition for the White Sox,” Piniella said. “I think he’ll be ready for the stretch run for them. They’re in the pennant race and they’re a couple games out of first place. It’s good to have that guy added to your arsenal toward the tail end of the baseball season.”

What if Peavy is ready on Sept. 3 when the Cubs and White Sox play a makeup Interleague game?

“Let’s not look that far ahead,” Piniella said.

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Lineup

Alfonso Soriano is getting a day off, and Jake Fox is starting in left field for the Cubs vs. the Marlins. Here’s the lineup:

CF Fukudome

SS Theriot

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

RF Bradley

LF Fox

2B Fontenot

C Hill

P Harden

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Gorzelanny expected to start Tuesday

We’ll get official word from Lou Piniella pregame, but newly acquired lefty Tom Gorzelanny could start Tuesday for the Cubs vs. the Reds. Gorzelanny was acquired Thursday from the Pirates along with lefty reliever John Grabow, who joined the Cubs in Florida. Gorzelanny had been pitching at Triple-A Indianapolis, and was 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three games in June, and 1-2 with a 1.11 ERA in five games in July. In his last eight starts, he’s given up six earned runs over 46 1/3 innings. Overall, he was 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 15 starts for the Minor League team. As of now, Gorzelanny was assigned to the Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa team. His last start was Monday.

* Minor matters: Brett Jackson, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in the June Draft, was promoted to Class A Peoria. Jackson was batting .330 with one homer and 15 RBIs in 24 games at Boise.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Marshall law & more

Sean Marshall pitched another perfect inning on Thursday in the Cubs’ 12-3 win over the Astros, and extended his scoreless innings streak at home to 13 innings over 15 games. But he’s probably the happiest player on the flight to Florida because he’s getting some relief. With the addition of John Grabow, the Cubs added a veteran lefty who can handle late inning duties.

“It gives us options as a lefty, and a pretty good one,” Kevin Gregg said of Grabow. “He’s been around, he knows how to pitch late in games with the game on the line. It’ll be good for Sean to be able to take a breather every now and then. It seems like he’s been pitching every day. It’ll be nice to use each other to get some rest.”

Gregg has helped Marshall learn how to warm up in the bullpen. Relievers don’t need as many pitches as starters do.

“It’s a common mistake,” Gregg said of warm up routines. “I think when you first start in the bullpen, you don’t realize what it takes to get ready, especially for him. It’s a new aspect for him. A starter throws 30 or 40 pitches warming up. Some of us can throw 10 pitches before they get in a game.

“He’s taken to it well, and he gets ready real quick, if you watch him,” Gregg said.

Hart did the Cubs’ bullpen a favor by going six innings on Thursday.

“What he did today for us was that it put us all fresh,” Gregg said. “We’re all ready, we’re all 100 percent. We’re 100 percent in the bullpen now and to go on a road trip, that’s nice.”

* B.J. Ryan was to make his second Minor League outing on Thursday night for Triple-A Iowa. Ryan threw 11 pitches in one inning on Tuesday, and the radar guns registered 86-87 mph on his fastball.

“It’s way too early to tell when or if he’ll be ready to help us in the near future,” Cubs GM Jim Hendry said.

* No word yet on who will replace Hart in the rotation. The Cubs will need a starter on Tuesday in Cincinnati. Tom Gorzelanny, acquired in the five-player deal, could get the call. He last pitched on Monday for Triple-A Indianapolis, and gave up two runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings.

* Mitch Atkins was optioned to Iowa after Thursday’s game. No corresponding move was made, but outfielder Sam Fuld was on the team charter to Florida and was expected to be activated before Friday’s game against the Marlins.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Cubs talking to Pirates

The Cubs and Pirates are discussing a possible deal that would send lefty reliever John Grabow to Chicago. The Cubs have just one lefty in the pen in Sean Marshall, and have been looking for help. Grabow is 3-0 with 16 holds in 45 games, and has 41 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings. Right-handed hitters are batting .234 against him.

Numerous reports say the discussions have increased. The Cubs also are believed to be talking to the Pirates about lefty Tom Gorzelanny, who is 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 15 starts at Triple-A Indianapolis. In his last start Monday, Gorzelanny gave up two runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings.

GM Jim Hendry said prior to Thursday’s game that the number of calls he’s received from teams has intensified since Wednesday night.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Minor matters

Chris Carpenter, the Cubs’ third-round pick in 2008, was promoted from Class A Daytona to Double-A Tennessee on Thursday. Carpenter was 6-4 with a 2.19 ERA in 20 games combined for Class A Peoria and Daytona this year. He has 93 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Soto update & more

Catcher Geovany Soto, on the disabled list since July 11 because of a left oblique strain, could begin playing in some Minor League games as early as Friday. GM Jim Hendry said the medical staff got an update on Wednesday. Soto has been rehabbing in Mesa, Ariz., at the team’s Spring Training facility, but has yet to get in a game.

“Optimistically, we hope he’s back in the lineup here no later than Colorado, maybe a chance a little before that, the couple games in Cincy,” Hendry said.

The Cubs will be in Cincinnati next Monday for a three-game series, and follow that with a four-game set in Colorado Aug. 7-10.

That means Koyie Hill could start 26 games in a row before Soto returns if he doesn’t come back until the Rockies series. It’s either that or insert Jake Fox behind the plate.

“I’m not opposed to it,” Lou Piniella said of Fox catching. “I’m comfortable enough that we can do that. We’ve been playing teams that have a little more speed and Hill does a nice job with that.”

* Jeff Stevens was optioned to Triple-A Iowa Wednesday, said his goodbyes to the Cubs, and was to spend the night in Chicago before catching a flight Thursday to join the Minor League team. But he got a phone call saying he needed to stick around. Stevens was added to the roster after Reed Johnson was placed on the disabled list.

Can he play center and sub for Johnson?

“I can play center field, I think,” he said

The Cubs would rather have him on the mound.

“It’s good to be back,” Stevens said. “I’m very happy to get another opportunity up here.”

* Jeff Baker’s pinch-hit home run on Friday against the Reds has ignited the Cubs bench. The pinch-hitters have gone 4-for-11 with two homers, five RBIs and three walks since then. Prior to that, Cubs pinch-hitters were 2-for-22.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Trade winds – Thursday update

With outfielder Reed Johnson sidelined for at least three weeks with a fractured foot, the Cubs are in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder. Maybe. GM Jim Hendry says they don’t want to commit to someone long-term who could get in Johnson’s way upon his return. If nothing is done by Friday’s deadline, the Cubs will likely recall left-handed hitting Sam Fuld from Triple-A Iowa.

The Cubs’ primary goal heading into the deadline was to find another lefty who could help in the bullpen. That was before Johnson was hurt. Hendry said his cell phone has been ringing more than usual in the last 12 hours.

“[Wednesday night], some of the people I’d been calling all of a sudden called back and maybe they were looking at things a little differently,” Hendry said. “So, from an optimistic side, we might be able to do something by [Friday]. Some of the people we inquired about, unfortunately, are people other people also want. So we’ll see.”

There isn’t a push to find someone to help in the outfield.

“The way we’re going, Reed was starting less than 25 percent of the time anyways,” Hendry said. “To be honest with you, off the top of your head, name me all the right-handed hitting center fielders who can really help who would be better than what we have right now who are available? Willie [Mays] is not playing anymore.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Lineup & roster move

Reed Johnson was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a non-displaced fracture in his left foot, and pitcher Jeff Stevens was recalled from Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs are going to stick with 13 pitchers for Thursday, and were expected to add an outfielder Friday, most likely Sam Fuld. Stevens was optioned to Iowa on Wednesday to make room for Mitch Atkins. Players are required to stay in the Minors 10 days, but because of the injury to Johnson, the Cubs could recall Stevens right away. Good thing he didn’t leave town.

Jake Fox was starting at third Thursday. The lineup is:

CF Fukudome

SS Theriot

1B Lee

3B Fox

RF Bradley

LF Soriano

2B Fontenot

C Hill

P Hart

— Carrie Muskat