June 2012

6/30 Minor League report

Rodrigo Lopez threw six shutout innings in Iowa’s 7-0 win over Oklahoma City. Josh Vitters hit his 13th home run and drove in three runs, Brett Jackson had two hits and stole a base.

Dallas Beeler gave up two runs on six hits over five innings in Tennessee’s 10-8 win over Birmingham. Justin Bour hit his seventh home run and Frank Batista converted his 13th save.

Roni Torreyes had three hits, including his fourth home run, in Daytona’s 11-10 loss to Dunedin. Matt Szczur had two hits and scored three runs, and Greg Rohan drove in a run to raise his league-leading total to 65.

Anthony Giansanti and Javier Baez each had two hits in Peoria’s 8-7 loss to Wisconsin.

Willengton Cruz gave up one run on three hits over five innings in Boise’s 4-1 loss to Spokane. Stephen Bruno had two hits.

— Carrie Muskat

6/30 Extra bases

* Ryan Dempster, on the DL with a sore right lat, threw flat ground on Saturday and will throw off a mound in a bullpen session on Monday.

* Chris Volstad will start Tuesday for the Cubs in Atlanta, taking Randy Wells spot.

“His last outing and even the outing before were pretty positive,” Dale Sveum said of Volstad. “It’s logical — it’s his day and he’s done a good job his last couple outings. It’s a logical thing to do.”

Volstad has been pitching at Triple-A Iowa since his 0-6 start with the Cubs.

* Sveum went with his regular lineup against lefty J.A. Happ. Lefties are batting .275 against Happ.

“You try to solidify the lineup a little bit,” Sveum said. “Happ’s numbers against left-handers are the same. He doesn’t really dominate left-handed hitters so we’re trying to get [Bryan] LaHair and [David] DeJesus at-bats. Sometimes you have to let them go because They’ll have to face left-handers in a game out of the bullpen in big situations sometimes. You have to give them some at-bats on a regular basis.”

* Ian Stewart may have to make a decision soon on whether to have surgery on his left wrist. It’s not making progress since he had a cortisone shot in mid June.

“They haven’t made a complete decision,” Svem said. “There’s some calcification on the bone that’s causing some of the problem.”

— Carrie Muskat 

6/30 Cubs to finalize Soler deal

The Cubs have finalized their deal with Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, who reportedly agreed to a nine-year, $30 million contract with the team earlier this month. GM Jed Hoyer was to meet with the media later today to announce the deal. Soler, 20, a right-handed hitter with power, is considered the next big Cuban prospect on the scene after outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who signed with the Athletics for $36 million over four years. Soler had to sign with a Major League club before Tuesday’s deadline or be subjected to new Basic Agreement guidelines, which will limit spending on international prospects to $2.9 million per team without penalty. Cubs manager Dale Sveum has watched Soler on video, and likes what he has seen. “He’s pretty strong,” Sveum said. “On video, he looks pretty impressive.” Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, and Hoyer did watch Soler work out in the Dominican Republic in the offseason. Soler defected from Cuba last year.

“The body type and everything like that is like Glenn Braggs,” Sveum said of his former Brewers teammate. “You see [Soler’s] body and the size and strength, that kind of strength at a young age is pretty impressive. Hopefully it all translates into a huge productive player at this level.”

— Carrie Muskat

6/30 Cubs lineup

Dale Sveum is sticking with left-handed hitting David DeJesus and Bryan LaHair against Astros lefty J.A. Happ on Saturday in Game 2 of this series. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF

Castro SS

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

LaHair RF

Soto C

Barney 2B

Valbuena 3B

Garza P

— Carrie Muskat

6/29 Extra bases

* In his 200th career start, Paul Maholm gave up four hits over 8 1/3 innings, walked one and struck out six. He’s 5-1 in nine games in which he’s gone at least six innings.

* Steve Clevenger hit his first Major League home run, a two-run shot to right.

* The Cubs have won five straight series opening games at Wrigley Field. They also are 21-15 when scoring four or more runs.

— Carrie Muskat

6/29 Confident Maholm gets “W”

Paul Maholm won for the first time in eight starts, and the secret may have been rookie catcher Steve Clevenger. The two meshed well on Friday in the 4-0 win. It also helped that Maholm got some offense as the Cubs hit three home runs.

“He was outstanding,” Dale Sveum said of Maholm. “All of his pitches — curveball, changeup — he kept them down. I think he had as good a sink as he’s had in a while. That was about as good as you could get. I wish he would’ve kept the ball down the last inning and finish it.”

Maholm held the Astros to two hits over eight innings, then gave up a single to Brian Bixler to start the ninth, and one out later, Carlos Lee doubled. That was enough, and Maholm was lifted for Carlos Marmol, who finished for his sixth save. Clevenger hit his first Major League home run, a two-run shot in the fourth, and Luis Valbuena hit an opposite-field home run in the second to back Maholm (4-7), who earned his first victory since May 9 in what was his 200th career start.

“I wanted it,” Maholm said of the chance for a complete game. “I understand the situation. I gave up two hits. After the last outing, I’ll take what I got.”

In his last outing, he gave up seven runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks.

“Confidence is a huge factor, whether you’re hitting or pitching,” Maholm said. “You have to go out there confident with your game plan and keep the ball down and be aggressive. If you’re doubting your pitches, you’re doubting whatever, they won’t be as crisp. … I’ve faced [the Astros] a decent amount so I kind of know their tendencies. I go in there knowing them and am able to be confident and aggressive and keep it down.”

What was the difference?

“The rain, the delay — who knows?” Sveum said. “Some guys, just the way they feel in the bullpen, their sides, you never know. [It would’ve been the] confidence level they feel with the ball coming out of their hand in the bullpen. He was really good today.”

— Carrie Muskat 

6/29 Minor League report

Chris Volstad gave up two earned runs on six hits over seven innings and struck out seven in Iowa’s 3-1 loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday. Matt Tolbert was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle, going 4-for-5 with a double, triple and stolen base. Adrian Cardenas had two hits and a stolen base. Ty Wright and Blake Lalli had two hits apiece.

Michael Brenly hit his third homer and Nelson Perez hit his second but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee lost 13-6 to Birmingham. Jae-Hoon Ha, who will play in the All-Star Futures game, had two hits and was batting .253. Junior Lake also had two hits. Trey McNutt took the loss, giving up eight runs (four earned) on six hits over two-thirds of an inning.

Robert Whitenack gave up one earned run on six hits over four innings in Daytona’s 14-4 win over Dunedin. Arismendy Alcantara, Roni Torreyes and Rebel Ridling each homered. Matt Szczur was 3-for-3 with three stolen bases and two RBIs. Alcantara and Rubi Silva each had three hits.

Gerardo Concepcion gave up five runs on six hits over six innings in Peoria’s 7-3 loss to Wisconsin. Dustin Geiger extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a double.

Ian Dickson picked up his first win in Boise’s 12-2 win over Spokane. Dickson gave up one earned run on four hits and struck out six over 3 1/3 innings. Dong-Yub Kim homered and drove in four runs.

Jacob Rogers hit two home runs in Mesa’s 11-2 win over the Diamondbacks. Rogers went 4-for-4 with four RBIs.

— Carrie Muskat

6/29 Dempster making progress

Ryan Dempster played catch Friday, and could throw off the mound Saturday or Sunday, but he will not be ready until sometime after the All-Star break. Dempster, on the disabled list since June 16 with a sore right lat, said Friday he’s making progress.

“It won’t take me long once I get going,” Dempster said. “I haven’t said, ‘This date’ because if I feel good, it could be sooner than that. I’m completely pain free. I just don’t know how I’m going to feel throwing.”

Randy Wells subbed for Dempster for two starts but he was designated for assignment on Wednesday. The Cubs need another starter Tuesday against the Braves and manager Dale Sveum said the options include Casey Coleman, who was currently in the bullpen, and Chris Volstad, who was pitching for Triple-A Iowa. Volstad was sent to Iowa after opening the season 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA in eight starts with the Cubs. In eight starts at Iowa, Volstad was 2-3 with a 4.44 ERA, giving up 25 earned runs on 59 hits and 12 walks while striking out 41 over 50 2/3 innings.

— Carrie Muskat

6/29 Cubs lineup

Bryan LaHair is in right field and Steve Clevenger catching on Friday as the Cubs open a three-game series against the Astros. This is the Cubs last home series before the All-Star break. Paul Maholm makes the start. He’s looking for his first win in eight starts. The lefty is 11-6 with a 3.31 ERA in 20 starts against Houston. The Astros may be a little jet lagged. They had a late game at home Thursday against the Padres. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF

Castro SS

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

LaHair RF

Clevenger C

Barney 2B

Valbuena 3B

Maholm P

— Carrie Muskat

6/28 Minor League report & All-Star Vitters

Chris Rusin gave up eight runs on eight hits over four innings in Iowa’s 10-6 loss to Oklahoma City. Josh Vitters was 2-for-4 with a double and triple, and now has a 10-game hitting streak. Vitters was named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team, selected as a reserve for the 25th annual game, to be held July 11. Ty Wright drove in three runs.

Tennessee lost, 11-0, to Birmingham. Dae-Eun Rhee gave up six runs on seven hits over four innings and took the loss. The Smokies made some roster moves. Catcher Juan Apodaca will rejoin the team, right-handed pitcher Alberto Cabrera was promoted to Iowa, and catcher Luis Flores announced his retirement from baseball.

Austin Kirk threw six shutout innings and Greg Rohan went 5-for-5 in Daytona’s 12-1 win over St. Lucie. Matt Szczur hit his second home run, a grand slam in the fifth, and finished with three hits. Rohan hit two doubles and drove in two runs. He leads the Florida State League with 63 RBIs.

Jose Rosario gave up three runs on nine hits over five innings in Peoria’s 8-3 loss to Clinton. Dustin Geiger extended his hitting streak to 12 games and Paul Hoilman hit a RBI double.

Tayler Scott gave up five runs, none earned, on six hits over 3 1/3 innings in Boise’s 6-2 loss to Spokane. Marco Hernandez and Shawon Dunston Jr. each had two hits.

David Bote hit his first pro home run in Mesa’s 5-4 win over the Angels. Bote finished with three RBIs.

— Carrie Muskat