July 2010

7/31 Z says he's ready to start

Carlos Zambrano is ready to start. Now. Not next season, but now.

Alan Trammell, subbing for Lou Piniella, who was attending the funeral of his uncle in Tampa, Fla., was able to get Zambrano back in action for the first time since he was reinstated from the restricted list on Saturday night.

“I was trying to pick the right spot,” Trammell said. “He got himself in a little bit of trouble but got out of it which was nice to see. Hopefully, that will gie him some confidence and get him back into the team.”

Zambrano entered in the seventh. Carlos Gonzalez had hit a sacrifice fly to give the Rockies a 5-2 lead and there was one on and one out. Zambrano walked Troy Tulowitzki, then gave up a single to Melvin Mora to load the bases. Zambrano struck out Seth Smith and got Brad Hawpe to pop up and end the inning.

“It’s just another game for me,” Zambrano said. “I just want to get hitters out.”

He’d also like to be considered for the Cubs rotation. There’s a vacancy following the trade of Ted Lilly.

“I’m ready,” Zambrano said. “I’m ready to pitch Tuesday, Thursday.”

We’ll wait until Piniella comes back to make that call. As of now, Thomas Diamond is scheduled to start Tuesday in Lilly’s spot and make his Major League debut.

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Minor matters

The Iowa Cubs scored four runs in the first on Friday but rain halted play. The game will be made up Aug. 31 in Albuquerque.

Matt Spencer hit a solo homer, his 11th, to help Tennessee beat West Tenn, 5-4. Jake Muyco picked up the win in relief and Marcos Mateo converted his third save.

Alberto Cabrera threw six shutout innings to help Daytona beat Palm Beach, 11-2. It was the Cubs’ 12th consecutive win. Rebel Ridling had four hits and four RBIs, while Michael Brenly and Kyler Burke each had three hits.

Frank Batista gave up two runs on five hits over five innings and struck out six in Peoria’s 5-2 win over Wisconsin. Matt Szczur was hitless in five at-bats to end his hitting streak at 21 games.

Brent Ebinger threw five scoreless innings but it wasn’t enough as Boise lost 3-2 to Vancouver. Anthony Giansanti hit his second homer in Mesa’s 4-0 win over the Royals

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Tough to say goodbye

Koyie Hill and Ted Lilly spent the off day together Thursday, fly fishing in Colorado. They sat next to each other in the dugout for most of Friday’s game. And on Saturday, they said goodbye.

Lilly was dealt to the Dodgers along with Ryan Theriot for infielder Blake DeWitt and two Minor League pitchers. The Cubs lost a key player in the clubhouse in Lilly.

“He’ll tell you as much as I will that he’s a little behind some guys but his mind and the way he competes is his best attribute,” Hill said of Lilly. “You don’t have to throw 96 [mph] or hit .330 and hit a bunch of homers to inspire guys.”

The left-hander led the Major Leagues in the least amount of run support but never blamed the offense for not backing him up.

“There’s so many things you can take from his game, mentally, physically and heart-wise,” HIll said. “You can take so much from what he offers as a player, as a teammate, as a friend. I consider him one of my best friends and teammates I’ve played with. It’s a bad day for all of us in here who respected him so much. Life goes on.”

They did chat during Friday’s game about how Lilly may be leaving.

“A little bit,” Hill said. “We spent our off day driving down to North Fork Ranch to go fly fishing. We were buddies. He’s right up there, all time. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so, not down but just a weird feeling when you lose somebody like that. Goodbyes are never easy.”

— Carrie Muskat


7/31 Fontenot starts, but how long?

Mike Fontenot’s best friend and college teammate, Ryan Theriot, was traded on Saturday to the Dodgers. It was a weird day in the Cubs clubhouse as Theriot said goodbye.

“We’ve been together for a long time and I’ve known him for a long time,” Fontenot said. “I’ve been there where I’ve been traded before. It’s something different. Hopefully it’ll bring out the best in both of us.”

However, the Cubs acquired Blake DeWitt in the deal. Fontenot lost playing time when Theriot moved from second to short to make room for rookie Starlin Castro. Now, there will be someone new on the Cubs for him to compete with as far as playing time.
“Blake’s a good ballplayer,” Fontenot said. “We’ll be glad to have him.”

Saturday was Fontenot’s first start since July 9.

“I’m glad to get a chance to get in there,” he said. “I just come to the ballpark every day and try to do some stuff.”

Cubs GM Jim Hendry has said they now are evaluating players for next season.

“I feel I’ve done a good job every time I’ve been in there,” Fontenot said. “Some things you can’t control but I try to play hard every time I’m in there.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Lineup vs Rockies

Mike Fontenot started at second base Saturday night now that Ryan Theriot is headed to the Dodgers. Here’s the lineup:

RF Colvin

SS Castro

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

CF Byrd

LF Soriano

C Soto

2B Fontenot

P Gorzelanny

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Theriot says goodbye

Ryan Theriot thought he’d be a Cubs player for life.

“You never want to go,” Theriot said Saturday. “In the same breath, it’s exciting. I’m going to a place that has a wonderful tradition and is obviously all about winning.”

Theriot was dealt with Ted Lilly to the Dodgers on Saturday in exchange for Blake DeWitt and two Minor League pitchers. He stopped by Coors Field to pick up his gear and say goodbye to his teammates.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre called Theriot Saturday morning.

“He said, I could be No. 99 if I wanted to,” Theriot said. “He was very excited and just congratulated me and welcomed me. I thought that was very cool, especially coming from a man of his stature. We talked for a few minutes. He said, ‘I want you to get here as soon as you can.’ It makes you feel good when you get a call from a guy like that.”

He was selected in the third round of the 2001 Draft by the Cubs and thought he’d stay in the organization his entire career.

“It was wishful thinking,” Theriot said. “I guess things happen. It’s a business. Everything can change in a heartbeat but everything happens for a reason. This is something I’m excited about.”

He’d started getting word Friday from “credible sources” that a deal was possible. Theriot was batting .284 and was 5-for-14 on this road trip. Did the move from short to second in early May affect him?

“I don’t think it was the move as much as the way the season played out,” he said. “Obviously, we’re not where we want to be. The Cubs are a proud organization and one that’s set up to win. Nobody was happy with what happened. That stuff all rolls downhill and affects people in different ways.”

Theriot helped Starlin Castro adjust to the big leagues.

“That’s what you’re supposed to do,” Theriot said. “This game has been around for a long time and you help your teammates. Anybody would’ve done the same thing.”

Now that he’s leaving, how does he feel about the Cubs’ curse?

“No, I don’t [believe in it],” he said. “I think when the streak is broken, it will be broken many times in a row. Guys come in and play hard and just hope for the best. It has been a long time, though. I don’t believe in curses or anything, but yeah, it has been a long time.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Lilly says goodbye

Ted Lilly said he thought perhaps the trade deadline would pass and he would stay with the Cubs. But he found out Saturday he was headed to the Dodgers along with infielder Ryan Theriot in exchange for Blake DeWitt and two Minor League pitchers.

“I think I’m going to a really good place and to a team that has aspirations of winning the World Series and that’s a fortunate thing for me to be a part of,” Lilly said.

He will be returning to the team that originally drafted him back in 1996.

“You look at it like that and it’s pretty special,” Lilly said.

He talked to the Dodgers equipment manager on Saturday, and the lefty said it’s the same person who handed him his first uniform during Spring Training games.

“It’s pretty amazing how this has come full circle,” he said.

Chicago was special, too.

“I couldn’t ask for a better place to play, teammates to play with, fans to play for,” he said. “All the way from the coaching staff to the front office, I can’t say enough.”

Still, he didn’t want to leave the Cubs.

“It’s not something I’m overly excited about,” Lilly said. “I’m going to miss a lot. But when I go over there and I put a Dodgers uniform on and I meet my new teammates and start competing with them, I’ll really enjoy it.”

This is the last year of Lilly’s contract. He said he’d consider coming back but there apparently have been no talks between the Cubs and the lefty about extending his contract.

“I think I voiced my opinion as to what I’d prefer but there are reasons that go into it,” Lilly said. “I would imagine money is one of them.”

The two sides never exchanged dollar figures.

“Obviously, this organization is commited to win,” he said. “I would imagine they’ll do what’s necessary to put this club in that position again in 2011. One thing I’ve learned is you can’t get too far ahead of yourself and try to predict what’s going to happen down the road. I seem to benefit from just trying to keep my mind focused on one thing at a time and my next start kind of thing.”

The Cubs began play Saturday 11 games back in the NL Central. The Dodgers are seven games behind the Padres in the NL West.

“I don’t think this is how any of us would’ve drawn it up,” Lilly said. “[GM Jim Hendry] didn’t have a lot of choices. We would all prefer to be buyers and to be acquiring pieces but this is what it’s come to.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Diamond will start – UPDATED

With Ted Lilly being dealt to the Dodgers Saturday, the Cubs needed a starter for Monday. They will move Randy Wells to Monday’s game and call up right-hander Thomas Diamond from Triple-A Iowa for Tuesday’s game. Diamond was pulled after throwing 64 pitches in four innings in his last start Thursday for the Iowa Cubs. He was the Rangers first-round Draft pick in 2004 but slowed after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2007.

This season at Iowa, Diamond is 5-4 with a 3.16 ERA in 21 starts and has struck out 104 in 108 1/3 innings. Opposing teams were batting .218 off the right-hander.

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Lilly, Theriot dealt to Dodgers

The Cubs dealt Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers Saturday in exchange for infielder Blake DeWitt and two Minor League pitching prospects.

The Dodgers also will receive cash in the trade, reportedly around $2.5 million.

Lilly was 3-8 with a 3.69 ERA in 18 starts with the Cubs and in the last year of a four-year contract with the team. He was scheduled to start Monday against Milwaukee but the Cubs may call up right-hander Thomas Diamond, who was pulled after throwing four innings on Thursday for Triple-A Iowa.

Theriot lost his starting shortstop job to rookie Starlin Castro and was moved to second this year. He was batting .284 with 10 doubles, two triples, one home run and 21 RBIs in 96 games.

DeWitt, 24, is a career .262 hitter with 31 doubles, six triples and 12 home runs in 230 games covering the last three seasons with the Dodgers. He’s played second, third and shortstop.

The Cubs also receive right-handed pitchers Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach from the Dodgers.
Smit has reached the Double-A level this season at the age of 22, combining to go 5-3 with six saves and a 2.35 ERA in 37 appearances between Single-A Inland Empire and Double-A Chattanooga.

Wallach, 21, was 6-0 with a 3.72 ERA in 17 starts for Class A Great Lakes, striking out 92 batters in only 84 2/3 innings pitched. He’s the son of former Dodger player and current Dodger Triple-A Manager Tim Wallach.

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Big Z & no-trade clause

Carlos Zambrano says he would waive his no-trade clause if the Cubs asked. There are reports that the Mets have inquired about the right-hander, who wants to get back in the rotation. However, FoxSports.com reported Saturday the Mets offer of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo for Zambrano never had a chance and said Big Z will not be moved Saturday.

“I want to stay [with the Cubs] but I understand this is a business and whatever the Cubs want me to do — if they think I’m a problem here and they want to move me, it’s sad that I would move if they think I’m the problem,” Zambrano said Friday.

What if GM Jim Hendry asked Zambrano to waive his no-trade clause?

“If they come to me and say they want to trade me, I would say, ‘Yes,'” Zambrano said. “If they ask me, ‘Hey, we want to trade you,’ I wouldn’t say no. I would say ‘yes’ because obviously when they put something on the table, it’s because they don’t want you or they think there are better players and they need to move you.”

Does Zambrano need a fresh start somewhere else?

“It’s up to me,” he said. “It’s up to me to behave myself to be good on the field to be smart and to change things around.”

— Carrie Muskat