July 2015

Castro happy to stay with #Cubs; collects 2 RBI

As much as Starlin Castro tried to tune out all the rumors leading up to the Trade Deadline, it wasn’t easy. He got frustrated and had to reprimand some family members who called to ask about the gossip.

“I didn’t really watch TV or watch rumors,” Castro said after driving in two runs in the Cubs’ 4-1 victory Friday night over the Brewers. “Sometimes people, even family, would call me and tell me, ‘We see you in the news,’ and I say, ‘Don’t call me for that.’

“I don’t even use my Instagram any more,” Castro said. “[If I did], maybe the fans would text me or something, ‘Hey, you might be traded.’ I don’t want to see this. It’s over now. I just have to keep fighting in there and try to finish strong.”

Manager Joe Maddon had tried to get the shortstop to relax earlier this week, telling him that he wasn’t sitting on Wednesday because of a potential deal. Now that the deadline has passed, Maddon noticed a difference.

“More than anything, I thought Starlin was more relaxed,” Maddon said. “I noticed that pre-game.”

Castro delivered a game-tying RBI single in the second. In the fourth, Anthony Rizzo scored from third when Castro hit into a fielder’s choice. It was his 11th multi-RBI game of the season.

All he needs to do now is take a deep breath.

“That’s the kind of thing that kills me — I go too fast,” Castro said of his at-bats. “I can’t even breathe. That’s what I try to do now is go in there, pitch by pitch. Don’t try to do too much with one pitch. They have to throw me one pitch to hit. I just go in there to hit and try to put the ball in play.”

Last season, Castro batted .378 in August. Maddon would love to see that again this year.

“Things can change in one month,” Castro said. “In one month, the season can be great. I have to keep positive, keep fighting.”

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs lineup vs Brewers: Hammel to start

Jason Hammel starts Friday for the Cubs in Game 2 of their four-game series against the Brewers at Miller Park. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Schwarber C

Coghlan LF

Rizzo 1B

Bryant 3B

Soler RF

Castro SS

Hammel P

Russell 2B

* Kris Bryant is batting fifth for the second time this season. He’s batting .174 this month.

#Cubs get Tommy Hunter

The Cubs added another arm to their bullpen with the acquisition of Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter for outfielder Junior Lake.

Hunter, 29, had a 3.63 ERA in 39 games this season with the Orioles, striking out 32 and walking 11 over 44 2/3 innings.
He was the Rangers’ first round pick in 2007, and then dealt to the Orioles in July 2011 along with Chili Davis for Koji Uehara.
He also can help the Cubs next year as Hunter will be a free agent after the 2016 season.

Lake, 25, was batting .315 at Triple-A Iowa with seven home runs, 10 doubles and 31 RBIs. Lake was called up to the big leagues for 21 games, and batting .224 with one homer.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs get Haren from Marlins

It’s official. The Cubs, keen on adding another starting pitcher, have acquired right-hander Dan Haren from the
Marlins for two Minor Leaguers.

The Cubs began the day in third place in the Wild Card race, and have had a revolving door in the fifth starter spot.
Haren, 34, provides some much needed depth. He’s 7-7 with a 3.42 ERA in 21 starts with the Marlins, striking out 88 over 129 innings.

The Marlins will get Minor Leaguers Elliott Soto and Ivan Pineyro in exchange. Pineyro, 23, was 7-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 19 starts for Double-A Tennessee with one complete game. He’s struck out 92 over 107 1/3 innings while walking 30. Soto, 25, an Elgin, Ill., native, was batting .275 in 88 games at Tennessee with 10 doubles and one triple.

The plus side to the deal is that the Cubs did not have to part with any of their highly coveted prospects. Neither Pineyro
nor Soto were ranked among the top 30 Cubs prospects by MLB.com.

Haren has pitched for the Cardinals, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Angels, Nationals, Dodgers, and Marlins, and has a career
149-129 record and 3.75 ERA in 380 games (369 starts).

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs Minor League report: Penalver walk-off HR

Thursday’s games

Christian Villanueva had two hits and one RBI in Iowa’s 5-4, 12-inning win over Nashville. Javier Baez was 1-for-5 with a double and scored two runs. He’s scored five runs in three games with Iowa. Frank Batista picked up the win in relief.

Tennessee lost 4-3 to Montgomery as Tyler Goeddel hit three solo home runs. Rob Zastryzny gave up two runs over 5 1/3 innings, and now has a 2.25 ERA in his last three starts.

Carlos Penalver hit a two-run, walk-off homer in the ninth to give Myrtle Beach a 4-3 win over Potomac. Jeremy Null started and gave up two earned runs over five innings. Penalver’s homer was his first since May 31 of last season with Kane County. Chesny Young had two hits, including a triple.

South Bend gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth to los, 3-2, to Great Lakes. Jesse Hodges hit his fifth home run and Gleyber Torres had two hits.

Donnie Dewees hit his fourth homer and finished with three RBI in Eugene’s 6-4 win over Spokane. Adbert Alzolay gave up zero hits over six innings in relief.

Varonex Cuevas was 3-for-3 with two stolen bases in Mesa’s 4-2 win over the Angels. Trey McNutt picked up the win in relief.

#Cubs lineup vs Brewers: Arrieta to start

Jake Arrieta will open the Cubs’ four-game series in Milwaukee against the Brewers on Thursday night. Kris Bryant gets the day off. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Schwarber LF

Coghlan 3B

Rizzo 1B

Soler RF

Castro SS

Ross C

Arrieta P

Russell 2B

* The Cubs’ pen has posted a 6.38 ERA (17 ER/24 IP) over the last six games.

* Jake Arrieta is 5-1 with a 1.37 ERA (8 ER/52 2/3 IP) in his last seven starts. The right-hander is 2-3 with a 3.22 ERA (13 ER/36 1/3 IP) in six career starts against the Brewers. In his only start against Milwaukee this season, Arrieta took a loss after giving up four runs over five innings.

* Jorge Soler is batting .417 (5-for-12) with three doubles and a home run in his career against Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson.

#Cubs Minor League report

Wednesday’s games

Rubi Silva hit his 11th home run in Iowa’s 6-4 loss to Nashville. Felipe Paulino struck out 12 and posted a quality start, giving up two runs over six innings.

Pierce Johnson gave up one run over seven innings in Tennessee’s 5-2 win over Montgomery. Elliot Soto and Billy McKinney each had two hits. Tommy La Stella went 1-for-2 in a rehab outing.

Daury Torrez gave up two runs over six innings in Myrtle Beach’s 8-5 win over Potomac. Trey Martin had two hits, including a three-run homer.

South Bend totaled four hits in a 5-0 loss to Great Lakes. Trevor Clifton gave up three runs over five innings.

Richardo Marcano had three hits and two RBI in Eugene’s 4-3 win over Spokane.

#Cubs Minor League report: Baez hits 2 HRs

Tuesday’s games

Javier Baez hit two home runs and Junior Lake added another to back Clayton Richard in Iowa’s 9-0 win over Nashville. Richard scattered three hits over seven shutout innings, striking out four. The lefty most likely will fill the Cubs’ fifth starter spot. Baez, playing his first game with Iowa since June 7, went 2-for-5 with two solo home runs. It was his third two-homer game of the season. Lake had two hits, including a two-run homer.

Ivan Pineyro gave up five hits over seven innings in Tennessee’s 8-0 win over Montgomery. Wilson Contreras had three hits, including a grand slam, and Albert Almora had two hits, including a two-run homer.

Jonathan Martinez gave up three hits over eight scoreless innings to help Myrtle Beach beat Potomac, 4-3. Jason Vosler hit two home runs and drove in three runs to back Martinez, who struck out four and did not walk a batter. Trey Martin had two hits and one RBI.

Jeffrey Baez hit his sixth home run in South Bend’s 4-1 loss to Great Lakes. Erick Leal gave up three runs over six innings.

Eugene lost, 5-1, to Boise. Alex Bautista hit a solo home run and Jose Paulino took the loss, giving up two runs over six innings while striking out seven.

Mesa swept a doublehaeder against the D-Backs, winning 12-1 and 8-4. P.J. Higgins had three hits, including a home run, in the first game, and Jose Paniagua had three hits, including two doubles and a triple. Paniagua then completed his cycle with a three-run homer in the second game.

#Cubs Castro assured he won’t be traded

Starlin Castro met with Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who assured the shortstop that he wasn’t being traded. Castro was lifted in the seventh inning on Tuesday night, and then told he wasn’t starting on Wednesday. The shortstop wanted — and got — an explanation.

“I just asked him, ‘Why did you take me out of the game?'” Castro said prior to the Cubs game against the Rockies. “He said, ‘It’s nothing serious. We wanted to put [Chris] Coghlan in the game.’ I didn’t want the day off [Wednesday], and he told me, ‘Take it, relax, we want you here, you’re not going nowhere.'”

Castro’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors, and the shortstop says he’s tried to ignore the talk. He didn’t ask Maddon if he was going to be moved by Friday’s deadline.

“No, he did not [ask],” Maddon said. “I said, ‘Listen, you’re not getting traded. Just relax and play and don’t worry about this stuff.'”

“It’s difficult sometimes,” Castro said. “We’re not supposed to think about this. Sometimes, when we’re not doing good, those kind of rumors run in your mind. It’s not supposed to. I felt free to go talk to him. I said, ‘The season’s not over yet, I’m not putting my head down. I’m going to keep working hard to help my team win. I want to be here, I want to stay here.'”

It’s been a difficult season for Castro, a three-time All-Star, who was batting .163 in July and .237 overall.

“It’s really tough,” Castro said. “Like I say all the time, my swing doesn’t go away. I feel healthy. I know things are going to change. I’ve been through this before and I know how it feels. There’s still two months of the season and I think I can finish strong.”

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs notes: Ramirez, Schwarber, Rowen & more

* Neil Ramirez sneeze on Sunday, and felt a sharp pain on his left side. The right-hander now is on the disabled list because of what’s being described as abdominal soreness, which he felt warming up Tuesday night.

“Abdominal soreness via the sneeze — I don’t know where it’s all at,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday.

Ramirez felt good warming up Tuesday night, but threw a slider, felt some pain and had to stop.

“I couldn’t fight through it,” Ramirez said. “With everything I do to stay healthy and strong, it’s baffling that it’s an oblique.”

The right-hander was sidelined from April 17-June 28 with inflammation in his right shoulder, and has only pitched in 13 games this year.

“It’s been a tough year — I’m not going to lie and say it hasn’t,” Ramirez said. “I’m not going to say it’s the end of the world. Hopefuly, it’s something quick.”

* The Cubs added two fresh arms to the bullpen on Wednesday, recalling right-handed pitcher Yoervis Medina and selecting the contract of right-handed pitcher Ben Rowen from Triple-A Iowa. To make room for Rowen on the 40-man roster, infielder/outfielder Mike Baxter was designated for assignment. Right-hander Dallas Beeler, who started on Tuesday night, was optioned to Iowa.

Rowen, 26, joins the Cubs after combining to go 4-0 with one save and a 1.93 ERA in 34 relief outings for three affiliates between the Orioles and Cubs organizations. He was a non-roster invitee this spring with the Dodgers before being acquired by the Orioles as part of a four-player deal on April 9.

A sinkerball pitcher, Rowen was surprised to get the call Tuesday night.

“It’s been interesting,” the right-hander said of his season. “I think this is my fourth or fifth team now. It’s been a fun year.”

“It’s nice to have the guy who can come in middle innings, get the ball on the ground, get two outs with one pitch,” Maddon said.

Plus, the Cubs manager likes the idea of having a side-arm pitcher in the mix.

“I love funk,” Maddon said. “I’ve always been a funk guy. The funk’s good.”

* Rookie Kyle Schwarber made his first start in the outfield on Wednesday. He felt the switch from catcher to outfield wouldn’t be a problem, especially after doing some early work with coach Dave Martinez.

“You have to get to know your steps and your breaks and make sure there’s no back pedals and things like that,” Schwarber said. “I’m trying to get the new things out of the way.”

Maddon wants to get the rookie’s bat in the lineup somehow, and said Schwarber, the Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2014, isn’t quite ready to handle all of the Cubs pitchers.

Is he ready for the brick outfield wall?

“There’s going to be some bounces,” Schwarber said.

* Left-hander Clayton Richard gave up three hits over seven scoreless innings for Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday, and was expected to be added to the Cubs roster and fill the fifth starter spot in the rotation. The Cubs have been rumored to be looking for a fifth starter by Friday’s Trade Deadline.

“I know our guys are hunkered down in the war room going over the different options,” Maddon said of the front office. “We have options regarding the fifth starter in-house. We’ll see how it plays out.”

* Infielder Tommy La Stella was headed to Double-A Tennessee to begin a rehab assignment. He’s been sidelined since April 9 with right rib cage inflammation.

— Carrie Muskat