July 2013

7/31 Baez, Mota spark Smokies

Javier Baez hit a two-run homer to help Tennessee beat Birmingham, 3-2 on Wednesday. Jonathan Mota hit a game-winning RBI single in the seventh. Baez now has hit 28 home runs for the season between Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.

7/31 Hoyer: Not close to deal

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said they were never that close to making a deal at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

“The good thing is we feel we were incredibly productive this month,” Hoyer said. “We made a lot of deals and feel we got better as an organization this month.”

There was interest in Nate Schierholtz, David DeJesus, Kevin Gregg, James Russell, Dioner Navarro and Carlos Villanueva, but no deals were made.

“We’re happy with the players we kept, if you want to look at it that way,” Hoyer said. “We thought we had a high, but not unreasonably high price on some of the guys. A lot of the guys who were being asked about, we control going forward. We feel it makes our winter potentially easier. We didn’t have the value there to make any deals today. It’s fine. I think our July was really productive and we’re happy about it and now we can move forward.”

Hoyer said when teams make deals early in the month, they’re pretty specific about what they want.

“It was strategic to move early and we’re glad we did it,” he said.

The Cubs’ plan is to continue to acquire assets. That won’t change.

“One thing is obvious from today if you look around the league is that people hold really tight to their young players,” he said. “We need to get a lot more of them. That part won’t change. I’d love to be in a situation where we’re on the other side of the conversation next year and years going forward.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/31 Cubs stand pat

The non-waiver Trade Deadline passed, and the Cubs held onto outfielders Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus as well as relievers Kevin Gregg. The four players had been mentioned in trade rumors leading up to Wednesday’s 3 p.m. CT deadline.

Schierholtz was an attractive option for a team needing a left-handed bat and solid corner outfielder.

“It’s always a good thing, I think, to be in trade rumors or have the possibility to be traded,” Schierholtz said on Sunday of the positive talk, “but like I said, I’m happy here and I want to be part of the future here.”

FOX Sports and MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal predicted early Wednesday that the Cubs would move either DeJesus or Schierholtz. The Pirates, who have a 1 1/2 game lead in the National League Central over the Cardinals, were looking at improving their right field situation and considered adding a left-handed bat.

Pittsburgh was batting .241 against right-handed pitching compared to .251 against lefties. Schierholtz was batting .283 against right-handers with a career-high 14 home runs. DeJesus, who just returned from the DL, was batting .282 against right-handers.

Money-wise, DeJesus has a $6.5 million club option for 2014, while Schierholtz was only signed for this year and would be a less expensive option.

There also were reports that the Cardinals inquired about Dioner Navarro but nothing was done. The Cardinals are in need of a catcher after Yadier Molina was placed on the disabled list.

The Cubs got a head start on other teams when they sent Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the Orioles for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop; and dealt Carlos Marmol to the Dodgers for Matt Guerrier on July 2. Six days later, Scott Hairston was traded to the Nationals for Minor League pitcher Ivan Pineyro.

On July 22, the Cubs made the biggest splash, sending Matt Garza to the Rangers for four Minor League players, including C.J. Edwards and Mike Olt. Last Friday, veteran Alfonso Soriano was dealt to the Yankees for Class A pitcher Corey Black.

It’s all part of the rebuilding process that president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has proposed since taking over the Cubs prior to the 2012 season.

— Carrie Muskat

731 Minor matters

Tuesday’s games

Jae-Hoon Ha hit his third home run but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost 5-4 to Salt Lake. Yoanner Negrin started, and gave up five runs over 4 1/3 innings.

Justin Bour had three hits and one RBIs in Tennessee’s 9-6 loss to Birmingham in 13 innings. Rafael Lopez also had three hits and scored a run. Brett Jackson had two hits, a walk and drove in a run.

Anthony Giansanti hit his first home run in Daytona’s 5-2 loss to Fort Myers. Zach Cates started, and gave up two runs over two innings.

Reggie Golden hit a solo home run, his sixth, in Kane County’s 4-2 win over Wisconsin. Carlos Escobar had two hits and scored two runs.

Rob Zastryzny gave up one hit over two innings in Boise’s 5-3 win over Spokane. Kris Bryant had his first pro multi-hit game, including his third double. He’s hit in five straight games. Jacob Rogers and Cael Brockmeyer each had two hits.

Daury Torrez gave up six earned runs over four innings in Mesa’s 8-0 loss to the Angels.

* NOTES: Left-hander Jeff Antigua has been promoted from Daytona to Tennessee. Eric Jokisch has been placed on the disabled list, retroactive to Monday. Antigua will be available for the Smokies’ game Wednesday against Birmingham. Antigua, 23, returns for his second stint with the Smokies this season. The lefty appeared in only one game with the Smokies after joining the team on June 29. In that one outing on July 2, Antigua allowed two runs on two hits, walking two and struck out four in 2 2/3 innings. This season, the Dominican native holds a combined 6-2 record with a save and a 3.53 ERA in 26 outings.

7/31 Cubs vs. Dodgers

The Cubs play host to the Dodgers for a four-game series, starting Thursday. Here are the pitching matchups:

Thursday: LHP Chris Rusin (1-0, 2.93) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (6-9, 3.72)
Friday: LHP Travis Wood (7-7, 2.79) vs. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-3, 3.14)
Saturday: RHP Jeff Samardzija (6-9, 3.75) vs. LHP Chris Capuano (3-6, 4.54)
Sunday: RHP Carlos Villanueva (2-7, 4.33) vs. RHP Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.43)

7/31 Trade rumors

According to FOX Sports and MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are expected to move either David DeJesus or Nate Schierholtz today. The Pirates are interested in both. The Pirates, who have a 1 1/2 game lead in the NL Central over the Cardinals, could use a left-handed bat. They’re hitting .241 against right-handed pitching compared to .251 vs. lefties. Schierholtz was batting .283 against right-handers with a career-high 14 home runs. DeJesus, who just returned from the DL, was batting .282 against right-handers. Money-wise, DeJesus has a $6.5 million club option for 2014, while Schierholtz was only signed for this year and would be a less expensive option.

7/30 Brewers 3, Cubs 2 – 2nd game

The Cubs were swept in Tuesday’s doubleheader by the Brewers, losing the second game, 3-2. In his Cubs debut, Jake Arrieta posted a quality start, giving up two hits over six innings. He’s the 45th player to appear for the Cubs this year, eight shy of the franchise record of 53 set last season. As well as Arrieta did, he’s headed back to Triple-A Iowa. Michael Bowden struck out four over two innings of scoreless relief. The Brewers scored the game winning runs against Kevin Gregg. Chicago lost both games of the twinbill by one run, and now are 15-23 in one-run games, including a 4-11 mark at Wrigley. It’s the first time the Cubs were swept in a doubleheader since June 28, 2011, when the Giants took two. Also, Chicago now is 15-31 against NL Central teams.

7/30 Brewers 6, Cubs 5

It did not take long for Milwaukee’s John Axford to vent his anger at former teammate Carlos Villanueva. Unfortunately for the Cubs pitcher, the Brewers had the last laugh. Villanueva singled off Axford, one of four consecutive RBI hits by the Cubs in the fifth, but the Brewers rallied with four runs in the seventh to post a 6-5 win Tuesday in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader. Jean Segura hit a solo home run and a tie-breaking RBI double, and Khris Davis belted a game-tying three-run homer for the win.

“It’s heart breaking, it’s a heart breaking loss today,” Villanueva said of the defeat, which dropped the Cubs’ record to 15-22 in one-run games, and 15-30 against the National League Central.

“To say it’s frustrating — it’s baseball,” Villanueva said. “We all go out there and try to do our jobs and sometimes it doesn’t happen the way we want it to. When it happens more than once, more than twice — obviously, it’s difficult the day of. Maybe in five days, we’ll have a little better luck.”

In the first four innings, the Cubs couldn’t deliver a run-scoring hit, stranding seven baserunners and going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth against Yovani Gallardo, but he had to leave with a 1-2 count against Darwin Barney because of tightness in his left hamstring.

Barney greeted Axford with a two-run single to center to tie the game. Castillo, Villanueva and David DeJesus each followed with RBI singles to open a 5-2 lead. Villanueva’s hit resulted in the 24th RBI by a Cubs pitcher, the most in the National League, and that’s what prompted the angry message from Axford.

“I have no idea how I hit that ball,” Villanueva said. “He threw me the first fastball, and I saw 98 [mph] out there. I swung at the second one, and I didn’t even see it. I got a little short [on my grip].

“I already got a text from Axford — he yelled at me and called me a jerk,” Villanueva said of the good-natured message. “I deserve it. I’d probably do the same thing if it was the other way around. It was a fun inning. I wish we could’ve made it stand.”

But they couldn’t. Villanueva exited with one out in the seventh and two runners on. Davis launched the first pitch from James Russell into the right-field bleachers to tie the game at 5. Why Russell vs. Davis? For one, the Cubs’ bullpen was a little short-handed at the back end. The Brewers slugger was batting .214 against lefties, and in the Minor Leagues, had hit 11 of his 13 home runs off right-handers.

“We had the bullpen set up the way we wanted it today with some guys down, and obviously just couldn’t get it done,” said Sveum, who was a little short-handed at the back end of the ‘pen.

Said Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke: “You’re in a situation in a doubleheader that you do things you’re not usually accustomed to doing. So Dale, when he brings in his left hander, there’s a good reason for doing what he did. I don’t know what it is, but [Russell] is a guy he obviously trusts and likes.”

Segura added a RBI double off Russell, who had not given up a run over his last 12 appearances. It was the 21st blown save by the Cubs’ bullpen, most in the NL.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Cubs lineup – Game 2

Jake Arrieta makes his Cubs debut Tuesday night in the second game of the doubleheader. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF
Lake LF
Rizzo 1B
Navarro C
Valbuena 2B
Castro SS
Ransom 3B
Gillespie RF
Arrieta P

7/29 Junior Lake walkup music

Organist Gary Pressy has been playing “Smoke on the Water” when Junior Lake comes up to hit. Some in the Wrigley Field press box think it should be changed to “Lake Shore Drive.” Looking for water related music — “Under the Sea”? — and suggestions for Lake’s walk-up tune. Thanks.