August 2009

8/31 Quick hits: Call-ups, Soto, & Soriano

The Cubs begin play Monday 5 1/2 games behind the Rockies and Giants in the National League Wild Card race.

“There’s still time,” Lou Piniella said. “We’ll see what happens.”

* The Cubs will add three players on Tuesday, Sept. 1, when rosters expand. Expect to see Micah Hoffpauir, Andres Blanco and Justin Berg. On Wednesday, David Patton was expected to join the Cubs. They’ll add seven to eight players.

* Geovany Soto said he understands why Piniella has decided to lean more on Koyie Hill. Soto was batting .212 for the season, and Piniella said it’s a “mystery” as to why the young catcher is struggling in his sophomore season.

“I would’ve thought that coming into this season he’d have a solid season,” Piniella said of Soto, the 2008 Rookie of the Year. “Maybe not .280 like he hit last year, but certainly a solid Major League season.”

“It’s been surprising to me to see him struggle,” Piniella said.

* Alfonso Soriano may be ready to play Tuesday, but is more likely expected back in the lineup on Wednesday.

— Carrie Muskat

8/31 Lineups, Harden & Soto

Geovany Soto says he understands why Lou Piniella wants to go with Koyie Hill behind the plate. On Monday against the Astros, Hill was back there, catching for Rich Harden, who, obviously, is still a Cub. Harden was claimed on waivers by the Twins, but the Cubs pulled him back. The Cubs need the right-hander.

“We still feel we have a chance in the Wild Card race,” Piniella said, “and we’re going to go after it.”

Here’s the lineup:

SS Theriot

RF Bradley

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

CF Fukudome

LF Fox

2B Baker

C Hill

P Harden

— Carrie Muskat


8/31 "We Believe" the movie

“We Believe,” the documentary film that explores the love affair between the city of Chicago and the Cubs will run in select theaters in September prior to the DVD release slated for Sept. 22. In addition to the 104-minute feature length film, the DVD will be loaded with bonus extras including interviews and deleted scenes.

Cubs fans will love this movie. It followed the 2008 team for nine months, and features interviews with players, manager Lou Piniella, coaches, celebrity Chicagoans as well as people like Fred Washington who run the manual scoreboard at Wrigley Field. One of the best segments is on Steve Goodman, who wrote the song, “Go Cubs Go.”

Joe Amodei, president of Virgil Films & Entertainment, which will handle the distribution, called the film a “love letter not only to the city itself but the people that live there and in particular the always hopeful Cubs fans.”

Screenings will be held at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., on Sept. 17; at the Music Box Theater in Chicago on Sept. 20; and at Kerasotes theaters on Webster in Chicago and Kerasotes in suburban Skokie on Sept. 21.

We’ll pass along info on how to get the DVD when it’s available.

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Lou: Hill to catch more

Geovany Soto is in a funk, batting .128 in 15 games this month, and Lou Piniella says he’ll be using Koyie Hill more behind the plate.

“It’s been a struggle,” Piniella said of Soto, the 2008 National League Rookie of the Year, who has not looked like the same hitter in ’09. “I’ve tried to get him going.”

The Cubs are 33-21 when Hill starts, and need all the wins they can get in the final month of play.

“I’ll go out there any time [Piniella] tells me to,” Hill said. “I’m happy to do it.”

But Hill said you have to look beyond the numbers. For example, on Saturday, New York’s Brian Schneider notched a hit when a ball bounced off the lip of the grass.

“There’s not a whole lot of difference between what [Soto] is doing now and when he’s going good,” Hill said. “He’s hit the ball fine, honestly. I don’t know how many times he’s lined out and had good at-bats. He might have an 0-for-3 game but get a big walk. Results aren’t always what they appear to be.

“Geo works hard and he’s a good player and he’s swinging the bat good,” Hill said. “I don’t think anybody’s worried about that. I think it’s just a matter of time.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Soriano gets cortisone shot

Alfonso Soriano received a cortisone shot in his left knee Sunday, and was expected to miss at least one more game. Soriano was examined by team orthopedic specialist Stephen Gryzlo at Wrigley Field.

“Thank God, it’s nothing serious,” Soriano said. “The doctor said there was a little inflammation in my knee, so I can take two days and come back and see how I feel.”

It’s the first time Soriano has received a cortisone shot. Some of his teammates assured him that it will help alleviate the pain. The Cubs left fielder says his knee hasn’t bothered him at the plate.

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Harden rumors

Both Minnesota Twins officials and Cubs officials will not confirm or deny that the Twins are the team that placed a claim on pitcher Rich Harden, as has been reported.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, two people close to Harden say they doubt Harden will join the Twins. To their knowledge, the Cubs had yet to open a window for the Twins to negotiate a long-term deal with Harden, who is a pending free agent.

It’s possible the Twins would trade for Harden without a long-term extension. He will be a Type A free agent, which would assure them two compensation picks in the 2010 draft if he signed elsewhere.

Harden and Twins first baseman Justin Morneau were teammates on a British Columbia select team during their youth. Harden was a center fielder then and once opened Morneau’s lip with a long throw that bounced into his face. Harden’s father, Russ, who coached the team, brought Morneau to the hospital.

— Carrie Muskat


8/30 Quick hits

No update yet on Alfonso Soriano, who met with the team orthopedic specialist Sunday. Soriano was not expected back until Tuesday. Jake Fox will get the majority of playing time in left.

“We like the offense that Fox provides,” Lou Piniella said of Fox, who drove in a career-high five RBIs on Saturday.

The rap against Fox is that he’s a hitter with no place to play.

“I don’t call him a liability,” Piniella said. “He’s not a Gold Glover but, look, we don’t expect that. We expect this young man to go up and take his cuts at home plate and help us from the offensive side of things. If we get enough of a lead, we’ll put somebody out there with the other skills, and that’s Sammy [Fuld]. [Fox] works hard and he’s trying to get better at everything he does and it’s wonderful to see.”

* Jeff Baker, who injured the little finger on his right hand during batting practice Saturday, was available to pinch hit.

* Mike Fontenot has been working with hitting coach Von Joshua, and one thing Piniella has noticed is that the second baseman isn’t taking his offensive struggles out on the field with him.

“He’s done a nice job, to his credit, defensively,” Piniella said. “He’s plyaed very well. Usually when you see a fall off at home plate, you see a fall off with the glove. It’s good to see — that’s professional.”

* Piniella says he doesn’t look at the standings.

“I don’t pay attention to anything,” he said. “If nobody gives us a chance, let’s keep it that way.”

He also wasn’t going to comment on recent statements by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen or anybody else. Piniella has enough to think about.

“I do the best I can every day [to hold my tongue] and once in a whlie, when I go into the interview room after a tough loss, I saw a little prayer to God to give me the patience not to say anything that will cause any controversy,” he said.

A reporter quipped that the media is praying for the opposite to happen. PIniella laughed.

“I believe you,” he said. “I understand the nature of the beast.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/30 Lineup & Soriano

Alfonso Soriano was examined by team orthopedic specialist Stephen Gryzlo Sunday to determine whether the Cubs outfielder needs a cortisone shot in his left knee. Soriano had an MRI done Saturday, which showed inflammation. Jake Fox started in left for Sunday’s series finale vs. the Mets. Here’s the lineup:

SS Theriot

RF Bradley

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

CF Fukudome

LF Fox

2B Fontenot

C Soto

P Zambrano

— Carrie Muskat

8/29 Baker update

Jeff Baker does not have a fractured finger, and his status is day to day. Baker took a ball off the little finger of his right hand during batting practice on Saturday and was taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

— Carrie Muskat

8/29 Rumors & Harden

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday that the Twins and Cubs could be working on a deal which would send Rich Harden to the Minnesota club. The Twins reportedly claimed Harden on waivers Thursday, and the two teams have until noon Monday to make a deal. Harden is a free agent at season’s end, and could always play for the Twins for a month, then re-sign with the Cubs for 2010. Harden was scheduled to start Monday night.

— Carrie Muskat