May 2012

5/31 Cubs sign Lindsay

The Cubs signed free agent pitcher Shane Lindsay and assigned him to Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs also have released pitcher Nate Robertson, and he is now a free agent. In December, Lindsay signed with the Dodgers as a Minor League free agent and was a non-roster invite to Spring Training.  He was 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in eight games for the Albuquerque Isotopes from April 27-May 19, before getting released. Last season, Lindsay was 2-2 with a 1.98 ERA and four saves in 45 games for Triple-A Charlotte and was named to the International League All-Star team.  He was called up by the White Sox on Sept. 2 and made four appearances for his first big league action. Lindsay originally signed with the Rockies in 2003 as a non-drafted free agent out of his native Australia. He missed the entire 2007 season due to shoulder surgery.  Entering this season, Lindsay was 22-17 with a 3.37 ERA and six saves in 169 career Minor League games (46 starts) with the Rockies (2004-10), Yankees (’10), Indians (’10), and White Sox (’11). Robertson was 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA in 14 games with Iowa.

— Carrie Muskat 

5/30 Draft day homework

A short time after the Cubs completed their sweep of the Padres at Wrigley Field, Dale Sveum was back throwing batting practice Wednesday to a prospective Draft pick, Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa, who was being considered for Monday’s First-Year Player Draft. Sveum wasn’t the only one watching as Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod, Randy Bush, Tim Wilken and others in the Cubs front office were present. Also, California left-handed pitcher Max Fried, another top prospect, worked out at Wrigley. They are the first of possibly 40 players whom the Cubs will bring to Wrigley over the next few days leading up to the Draft. Epstein and McLeod did face to face interviews with players while together in Boston, and plan to do the same with the Cubs, who have the sixth pick overall and two supplemental round selections.

— Carrie Muskat

5/30 Cubs sweep Padres

* Darwin Barney’s two-run walk off homer was the first walk off blast of his career. He’s now hit safely in four straight, and is 6-for-13 in that streak.

“That was the first walk off home run I’ve ever had at any level,” Barney said. “I didn’t even see it go out. I was just running, running hard. It was crazy. It’s already gone and past and it happened so past.”

* With the win Wednesday, the Cubs posted their first series sweep of 2012, and have won three straight for the first time since Sept. 10-12 last year.

* Tony Campana gets an assist for the win. He entered as a pinch-runner in the eighth, stole second, then third and scored the game-tying run on Starlin Castro’s infield hit.

“He’s a huge monster asset to be able to use him in those situations,” Dale Sveum said of Campana. “He’s so fast. When you’re losing by one run, you don’t want to leave him on the bench. When anybody gets on base you have to get him in there, even if there are two outs. You hope he steals a base early. It worked out perfectly the way you want it to — it’s not always going to happen that way. You can’t say, ‘Let’s wait until the ninth if one of those guys gets on.’ Well, what if nobody gets on — you just left a great asset on the bench.”

* Ryan Dempster did not get a decision, and gave up three homers, the most he’s served up since April 23, 2011. He’s now winless in his last 18 starts and has a 3.95 ERA in that stretch. Dempster is the first Cubs starter to go winless in 18 starts since Danny Jackson did so in 1991-92. Dempster did get his first hit since Sept. 23, when he singled in the second.

“It upset me today just for the fact that I feel like I didn’t do my job,” Dempster said of his outing. “It’s one thing to go out there and do your job and you don’t get the win, but more important than that, we came back and fought our way back to sweep a series. I really don’t care about [my record] today, just the fact we did such a great job and battle all the way back and have a huge win like that is awesome.”

* Carlos Quentin is 7-for-12 in his first three games with the Padres.

“With Carlos Quentin, I probably should’ve just drilled him or something,” Dempster said. “Looking back at it, holy cow. A fastball in on the black and he hits a homer and a fastball three balls outside and he hits a homer. Maybe I shouldn’t have pitched to him and just worked on the next guy. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Going into the game, winning two in a row, we wanted to try to sweep today. I felt I didn’t do my job very well but the guys picked me up and picked the team up in a big way.”

— Carrie Muskat    

5/30 Minor League report

Josh Vitters hit his seventh homer to help Iowa win its fifth straight, beating Omaha 5-4 on Tuesday. Vitters is batting .281 this season. Chris Rusin started and gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings. Jeff Beliveau, just activated from the disabled list, picked up the win in relief.

Nick Struck threw six shutout innings in Tennessee’s 3-2 win over Huntsville. Struck struck out nine. Junior Lake had two hits and scored two runs.

Rob Whitenack gave up three earned runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings in Daytona’s 4-1 loss to Brevard County in the first game of a doubleheader. Richard Jones had two hits and scored a run.

In the second game, P.J. Francescon gave up five runs on eight hits over six innings in a 5-2 loss. Greg Rohan hit his ninth home run.

Kyler Burke gaveup two runs, one earned, on one hit and five walks over five innings in Peoria’s 4-3 win over Wisconsin in 14 innings. Ryan Cuneo had two hits, including his fourth home run.

— Carrie Muskat


5/30 Father and son

Cubs lefty James Russell recorded the first save of his Major-League career in the Cubs’ 5-3 win Tuesday over the Padres. Russell’s father, Jeff, saved 186 games during a 14-season career (1983-1996), leading the AL with 38 saves in 1989 and ranking among the league’s top 10 in every season from 1991 through 1995. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Russells are the fourth father and son combo who each saved at least one game in the majors. The others were Julio and Jaime Navarro, Pedro Borbon Sr. and Jr., and Steve and Jason Grilli.
— Carrie Muskat

5/30 Cubs prep for Monday’s Draft

Wednesday was day three of the Cubs amateur scouts discussions on who to pick in Monday’s First-Year Player Draft.

“It can get contentious in there as we start debating,” said Jason McLeod, director of scouting and player development. “It’s a great thing — we don’t want to agree all the time.”

The Cubs have the sixth pick overall plus two supplemental round selections. They will invite some players to Chicago to meet them face to face for interviews, which is something McLeod and Theo Epstein did with the Red Sox.

“Any time you make a selection, it’s a significant investment, not only in money but in the organization,” McLeod said. “You only get one chance per round. When you’re picking as high as we are this year, you want to be right, and feel good about that decision.”

McLeod said there seems to be a lot of depth in the high school pitching ranks this year and the Cubs want to improve the pitching in the system, but that doesn’t mean they will select a pitcher.

“Pitching will definitely be a focus in this draft,” he said. “It won’t be a need-based pick, especially with our first pick. It is something we’re going to try to address, it is a need for the organization. We’re not going to overdraft pitching because we need it — it’s got to fit the criteria we’re looking for. I’d be surprised if the Draft is over next week and we don’t feel good about the pitching we took.”

They are studying video, scouting reports, medical records and more. Scouting director Tim Wilken leads the player discussions and McLeod handles the framework of the meetings ongoing at the Cubs new offices. Who has the last word? Epstein.

What are the Cubs looking for?

“The buzz word we use is impact,” McLeod said. “That’s the direction we’ll go with that pick.”

He’s seen the Cubs farm system and recognizes there are needs.

“We definitely feel there’s a need for impact in the organization,” McLeod said. “One thing we know is we’re seeing it first-hand, you need power pitching, you need impact players to get into the post-season and go deep in the postseason. It takes a little bit of time to find those guys through different avenues whether it be trade, Major League free agency, the Draft and through the international market.”

This is prime time for McLeod and his scouts.

“Every Draft is our Super Bowl,” he said.

— Carrie Muskat

5/30 All you can be

Kerry Wood shares lessons he’s learned in life in a new book, “All You Can Be: Learning and Growing through Sports.” Art students from Chicago Public Schools helped illustrate the book. Anyone can benefit from the valuable principles Wood learned, such as staying positive, working with teammates, and the importance of family, even if you don’t want to be a Major League pitcher. The book also has photos of Wood growing up and from his days with the Cubs. Published by Triumph Books, the list price is $16.95, and proceeds go to the Wood Family Foundation. Wood, 34, retired on May 18 after 14 seasons. On Wednesday, Wood was at Wrigley Field to introduce the book and meet the artists who did the drawings. This is Wood’s story, but yours truly did the writing.

— Carrie Muskat

5/30 New Kerry Wood book

5/30 McLeod on Rizzo: “It shouldn’t be long”

Jason McLeod has heard buzz about Anthony Rizzo before. McLeod, now the senior vice president of scouting and player development for the Cubs, heard the same hype last year when Rizzo was in the Padres Minor League system.

“It’s deja vu, Jed [Hoyer] and I have been saying,” McLeod said Wednesday. “We went through the exact same thing last year. What I’m more happy about is not the numbers he’s putting up but the development we talked about. He has been working on some things mechancially and his approach and his day to day routine, and that’s what I’m most happy about for Anthony. He’s got a routine that’s working, he’s been successful, and I think because of what he went through with the anticipation of San Diego and the struggles when he got up, it’s made him a better player mentally. He’s much stronger coming out of that. He’s in his finishing stages now. It shouldn’t be too long before he’s up here. I think he’ll be a better player for going through that last year.”

Rizzo has not played since Sunday because of soreness in his right wrist. McLeod said he expected the first baseman to be back in Iowa’s lineup either Wednesday or Thursday.

— Carrie Muskat 

5/30 Lineup & extra bases

Wednesday’s Cubs lineup:

DeJesus RF

Castro SS

Mather CF

LaHair 1B

Soriano LF

Stewart 3B

Barney 2B

Clevenger C

Dempster P

* Ryan Dempster will try for his first win of the season Wednesday as the Cubs close their quick homestand against the Padres. Dempster enters the game with a 2.14 ERA in eight starts, but owns a 0-3 record. His 2.14 ERA is the lowest for a pitcher winless in his first eight starts to a season since earned runs became an official statistic in 1912, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

* Dempster’s 2.14 ERA ranks fourth in the National League. The Cubs have scored an average of 1.98 runs per nine innings pitched for Dempster this season, second-lowest in the majors (San Diego’s Edinson Volquez, 1.66).  Since his most recent victory, Aug. 11 vs. Washington, Dempster has gone winless in his last 17 starts despite pitching to a 3.61 ERA. The Cubs have averaged 2.25 runs per nine innings pitched in those games.

* After an off day Thursday, the Cubs head west to San Francisco. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: LHP Paul Maholm (4-3, 4.62) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (5-4, 3.14)

Saturday: RHP Matt Garza (2-3, 4.22) vs. RHP Matt Cain (5-2, 2.79)

Sunday: LHP Travis Wood (0-1, 5.94) vs. LHP Barry Zito (4-2, 3.41)

Monday: RHP Jeff Samardzija (5-3, 3.09) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (3-2, 2.36)

— Carrie Muskat