September 2011

9/29 Z back on 40-man; Berg, Schlitter DFA

Pitchers Justin Berg and Brian Schlitter were designated for assignment by the Cubs on Thursday, and pitcher Carlos Zambrano was added to the 40-man roster. Zambrano was taken off the 40-man roster when the Cubs determined that he would not be returning to the team for the final month. On Sept. 2, the Cubs announced Zambrano would not return after his 30-day suspension ended but that they would resume paying his salary. The suspension ran through Sept. 11. Zambrano was taken off the 40-man roster at that time so the Cubs weren’t limited in the number of players they had available.

The right-hander was suspended after his early exit from Turner Field on Aug. 12. In that game against the Braves, he gave up five home runs, then was ejected because umpire Tim Timmons felt Zambrano was trying to hit Chipper Jones. Zambrano packed his gear and left the ballpark, telling teammates he was retiring. The Cubs placed Zambrano on the disqualified list on Aug. 13. He finished 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA in 24 starts.

The Major League Players Association filed a grievance on Zambrano’s behalf, which is still unresolved. Major League Baseball, the Players Association and the Cubs will process the grievance this offseason.

Schlitter was first activated from the 60-day disabled list before he was designated. He missed the 2011 season because of a right elbow injury. Berg underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in late September.

— Carrie Muskat

9/28 Castro leads NL in hits with 207

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro ended the season as the youngest player ever to lead the National League in hits, finishing with 207.
Castro was hitless until the eighth inning Wednesday when he led off with a double to left, extending his streak of reaching safely to 40 straight games. Prior to this season, the youngest hits champion was the Cubs’ Charlie Hollocher in 1918, who was 22 years 83 days old. Castro, who closes with a .307 average, is 21 years 188 days old. He finished tied for 10th on the Cubs’ all-time single season hit list with Heinie Zimmerman, who had 207 hits in 1912.

— Carrie Muskat

9/28 Looking ahead to 2012

The Cubs’ new GM will have some interesting decisions to make. Here’s a breakdown of the team’s financial/contract commitments for 2012:

Who’s under contract for 2012:

Alfonso Soriano ($18 million)
Carlos Zambrano ($18 million)
Marlon Byrd ($6.5 million)
Carlos Marmol ($7 million)
Sean Marshall ($3.1 million)

To be determined:

Ryan Dempster ($14 million player option)
Carlos Pena (owed $5 million, deferred from 2011 contract to January 2012)
John Grabow (free agent)
Jeff Samardzija (club option)
Kerry Wood (free agent, but says will retire if doesn’t re-sign with Cubs)
Rodrigo Lopez (free agent)
Ramon Ortiz (free agent)
Reed Johnson (free agent)

Arbitration eligible:

Matt Garza
Geovany Soto
Jeff Baker
Koyie Hill
Randy Wells
Blake DeWitt

Expected to leave:

Aramis Ramirez ($16 million club option; $2 million buyout)

Note: Players such as Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, Tyler Colvin, and Tony Campana are under club control. They don’t have enough service time to qualify for free agency/arbitration.

— Carrie Muskat

9/28 Game No. 162

After Wednesday’s season finale, Starlin Castro will close as the National League’s hits leader with 200 plus. He has 206 going into the game and is tied with Joe DiMaggio and Hal Trosky for fifth on the all-time list of most hits in a single season 21 years or younger since 1900. Castro won’t be able to catch Lloyd Waner, who totaled 223 hits in 1927 and is the all-time leader. 

* Ryan Dempster enters Wednesday’s game 3 1/3 innings shy of his fourth straight year with 200. With 10 wins, he’s tied for the team lead with Matt Garza.

* Sean Marshall set the single-season franchise record with 34 holds.

* The Cubs have not hit a grand slam in 161 games. This could be their first season without one since 1997.

* Darwin Barney has 146 hits, the most by a Cubs rokie since Ryne Sandberg had 172 in 1982.

* Tony Campana can finish with the second-highest single-season stolen base percentage in Cubs history. He’s at 92.3 percent (24-for-26), which trails only Bob Dernier (93.1 percent in 1986).

* The Cubs have three players with at least 25 homers in Carlos Pena (28), Aramis Ramirez (26) and Alfonso Soriano (26). It’s the first time since four Cubs did so in 2004: Moises Alou (39), Aramis Ramirez (36), Sammy Sosa (35) and Derrek Lee (32).

— Carrie Muskat

9/27 Cashner begins next phase in AFL

The Cubs’ season may end on Wednesday but Andrew Cashner will begin the second phase of his 2011 season next week when he joins the Arizona Fall League as a reliever. Cashner has been sidelined most of the year because of a strained right rotator cuff, felt after his first start April 5. He has been limited to a relief role since coming off the disabled list Sept. 5.

The plan in the AFL, which gets underway Oct. 4, is for Cashner to continue to pitch in relief. He will be limited as far as his pitch count but also may throw up to two innings per outing, Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins said Tuesday. Can Cashner start again?

“I think he can,” Riggins said. “If he does start, we have to watch the number of innings. Medically, there is a certain amount of innings that you can jump up to before you run into some danger with stress on the arm so you kind of have to build up from year to year the number of innings.”

Where Cashner fits in the Cubs’ pitching plans in 2012 is still to be determined. He has a 1.86 ERA in six games. Maybe he’s better suited to pitching in relief? Maybe he could be the closer some day?

“Eventually, he could be,” Riggins said. “He has the ability for that plus his stuff, his composure on the mound, he throws strikes, he has command of three pitches. It’s not out of the question that he could do that at some point in his career. The thing about a closer is they don’t step in there and be a closer right away. It’s an earned spot on a staff. That’s in the future for us.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/27 Cubs lineup

Aramis Ramirez is back in the lineup after being sidelined one week with a strained right quad. Here’s the Cubs lineup for Tuesday’s game vs. the Padres:

Castro SS

Barney 2B

Ramirez 3B

Pena 1B

LaHair RF

Soriano LF

Byrd CF

Soto C

Garza P

— Carrie Muskat

9/27 Extra bases

Matt Garza, who is making his last start of the season Tuesday, has the seventh-best ERA in all of baseball since the All-Star break at 2.44. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is tops with a 1.31 ERA.

* Garza is 9-10 in 30 starts this season despite a 3.35 ERA. He’s one of four pitchers in the NL’s Top 14 in ERA with as few as nine wins this season, joining the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann (eight wins, 3.18 ERA) and the Mets’ R.A. Dickey (eight wins, 3.28 ERA).

* Garza endured an eight-start stretch from July 2-Aug. 9 during which he was supported with run tallies of 0, 0, 2, 2, 3, 1, 1, 0, going 1-3 with a 3.38 ERA in those games. This year, he has left seven starts with a lead and not factored in the decision, plus a complete-game, 1-0 setback July 2 vs. the White Sox.

* Carlos Peña drew his 100th walk of the year Monday. It’s the 12th such campaign by a Cubs player in the 136-season history of the franchise. Peña is only the 10th different Cub to ever reach the mark, the first since Sammy Sosa did so in 2002 (103) and 2001 (116). In the last 80 years, only four Cubs have reached 100 walks in a season: Peña, Sosa, Gary Matthews (103 in 1984) and Richie Ashburn (116 in 1960). Pena’s career high in walks is 103 in 2007. However, Pena also has struck out 160 times this season. His career high is 166 Ks in ’08.

* In the season finale Wednesday, Ryan Dempster (10-13, 4.53 ERA) will face lefty Wade LeBlanc (4-6, 4.83 ERA). Dempster is 8-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 21 games (12 starts) against the Padres. The Cubs are batting .264 vs. lefties, .254 vs. right-handers this season. Dempster is 0-3 with a 3.34 ERA in five starts in September. He has not won since Aug. 11.

* Sean Marshall has 33 holds, the most by a Cubs pitcher since Carlos Marmol totaled 30 in 2008.

— Carrie Muskat

9/27 Jackson, Beliveau start Team USA workouts

Cubs prospects Brett Jackson and Jeff Beliveau will begin workouts Tuesday with Team USA at the complex in Cary, N.C.  They are two of 24 players named to the U.S. roster on Sept. 15 for the team that will compete in both the IBAF Baseball World Cup in Panama City, Panama, Oct. 2-15, and the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, Oct. 20-25. Jackson was a member of last year’s Pan-Am Qualifying team that finished 10-1 and tied for third in the tournament.  Beliveau was recently named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year.  The right-hander was 6-2 with a 1.57 ERA and five saves between Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. Also, Iowa Cubs catcher Chris Robinson will not play in the World Cup tournament, but will join Team Canada for the Pan-Am Games in Mexico.  A native of London, Ontario, Canada, Robinson has played in several international tournaments including the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
— Carrie Muskat

9/27 Lou last manager to be traded

In 2002, Lou Piniella guided the Mariners to a 93-69 record. It was the team’s seventh winning season under Piniella since he took over in Seattle in 1993. But Seattle is 2,530 miles from Tampa Bay, which was home for Piniella. His father was ill, and he needed to be there.

“I’d been in Seattle 10 years,” Piniella said Tuesday from his Tampa, Fla., home. “I needed to get home.”

He had one year left on his contract with the Mariners, but the team made a deal with the fledgling Rays, and let Piniella go home in exchange for outfielder Randy Winn and infielder Antonio Perez.

“Seattle allowed me to come here,” Piniella said. “Tampa Bay is where I had to go. That was fine with me. In Seattle, I was too far from home.”

It wasn’t the first time Piniella had ever been dealt. On Aug. 4, 1964, he was the player to be named later, completing a transaction between the Senators and Orioles, in which he went to Baltimore for Buster Narum. On March 10, 1966, Piniella was traded by the Orioles to the Indians for Cam Carreon. That October, he was selected in the 1968 expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots, then traded the following April to the Royals for John Gelnar and Steve Whitaker.His life changed Dec. 7, 1973, when the Royals sent him to the Yankees for Lindy McDaniel.

“That’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Piniella said. “It’s the biggest break I ever got in my career. I played in Kansas City five years and got traded to New York. When I first learned about the trade, I actualy cried. I was living in Kansas City and we had a young team and we were close knit.

“I spent the next 17 years of my life in the Yankee organization and was able to play with some really great players,” he said.

Piniella was not the first manager to be “traded.” In 1960, Cubs owner Phillip K. Wrigley switched his manager, Charlie Grimm, for announcer Lou Boudreau, who was with the team’s flagship station, WGN. At the end of the season, Wrigley traded Boudreau back to WGN for Grimm, who wasn’t reinstated but became part of the infamous “college of coaches.”

In November 1976, the Pirates dealt catcher Manny Sanguillen to the Athletics for $100,000 and their manager, Chuck Tanner.

This also wasn’t the first time Piniella put his family first. In 2010, he decided to retire from managing and leave the Cubs in August so he could return to Tampa to take care of his mother. She has good days and bad days, Piniella said Tuesday, but is doing well.

“I asked to come home,” Piniella said of the Mariners-Rays deal. “I asked to get closer to home and had a year left on my contract and Seattle wasn’t interested in letting me go and, at the same time, they understood my situation. They said, ‘All right, if you want to go home, then Tampa Bay is where you’re going.’ That was fine with me.”

With manager Ozzie Guillen’s abrupt exit from the White Sox Monday night and possible move to the Marlins, Piniella’s switch is talked about again.

“It’s a unique thing when you get traded,” Piniella said. “I spent three years in Tampa Bay and enjoyed it. I was told when I came here we would increase the payroll. I said, if they gave me a payroll of $45 to $50 million, we could win. Unfortunately, we never got over $24 million. I got sort of beat up a little bit. It was a learning experience.”

In three years with the Rays, Piniella compiled a .412 winning percentage (200-285).

He watched some of Guillen’s news conference on Monday.

“For Ozzie, it’s a new start if it happens,” Piniella said. “They have a new ballpark in Miami. Ozzie is very familiar with that organization because he was there as a coach. My understanding and talking to baseball people, the owner, Jeff Loria, likes him a lot.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/26 Cubs lineup

It’s Kids Day for the Cubs as Mike Quade starts young players, although he’s keeping Carlos Pena in the mix. Pena has a chance at 30 homers this season, and with a lefty in the season finale, Monday and Tuesday may be his best chances. Starlin Castro is batting third — a preview of things to come? Steve Clevenger will be making his Major League debut, catching Casey Coleman. Here’s the lineup:

CF Campana

2B Barney

SS Castro

1B Pena

LF LaHair

C Clevenger

3B LeMahieu

RF Colvin

P Coleman

— Carrie Muskat