March 2009

Did you know …

… the batter who was the last to hit a home run for the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in a World Series game could be leading off the first game ever played at new Yankee Stadium? Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth inning in Game 2 of the 2003 World Series off Rick Helling, which opened a 6-0 lead. The Yankees won, 6-1.

Soriano would be the leadoff man on Friday for the Cubs when they help the Yankees open their new home ballpark with an exhibition game.

– Carrie Muskat

Underway

The Under Armour logos will be back on the outfield doors at Wrigley Field. The Cubs announced Tuesday they have agreed to continue their partnership with Under Armour, and now have a multi-million dollar multi-year deal. The Cubs have dismissed their lawsuit against the company, which was filed in January after Under Armour failed to pay the team.

– Carrie Muskat

3/31 Quick hits

Sean Marshall, who was starting Tuesday for the Cubs, will stay behind in Arizona to pitch five to six innings on Sunday. The fifth starter in the rotation, he will be skipped in the first turn and isn’t needed until April 16. The Cubs also are considering flip-flopping Marshall and Rich Harden for the April 15 game if Harden needs more time. Ted Lilly is scheduled to pitch Friday in New York but the Cubs may have him stay behind in Mesa if the weather forecast isn’t good.

Other notes:

  • Derrek Lee insisted on getting at-bats Tuesday but the Cubs want him to be careful with his right leg and not run 100 percent. “His bat is starting to come alive and he’s hitting the ball the way we’re expecting him to hit it and he doesn’t want to sit too long to lose his edge,” Lou Piniella said.
  • Kosuke Fukudome’s home run on Monday was a good sign as was a ball he hit sharply at the Royals’ first baseman. “We need this young man to hit,” Piniella said. “We’re going to get him as many at-bats as we can between now and the start of the season. Since he’s been here, he hasn’t gone the other way with the ball yet, which is something he’ll have to do. I don’t care where they go as long as he’s on base and as long as he hits the ball reasonably well. I’m going to give him every opportunity to hit second in the lineup and it’s going to be up to him. I hope he does well. We could use a good contribution from him.”
  • Koyie Hill and Micah Hoffpauir spent most of Monday night returning congratulatory calls from family and friends about making the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. And yes, someone did finally tell Hoffpauir — assistant general manager Randy Bush delivered the news.
  • No player will be assigned Kerry Wood’s locker in the Cubs clubhouse at Wrigley Field — it will remain empty.
  • A reminder: MLB Network will televise Friday’s game at new Yankee Stadium and Comcast Sports Net will handle Saturday’s game.

– Carrie Muskat

3/31 Lineup

Derrek Lee is in the lineup Tuesday for the Cubs’ game against the Angels at HoHoKam Park, but he’s been told to keep his running in check to avoid re-injuring his right leg. Lee asked to play to get some at-bats. Here’s the lineup: LF Alfonso Soriano, CF Kosuke Fukudome, 1B Lee, RF Micah Hoffpauir, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 2B Mike Fontenot, C Geovany Soto, SS Ryan Theriot, P Sean Marshall.

– Carrie Muskat

Relief work

There are five relievers batting for two spots with five games to go, and the Cubs may not make the final roster decisions until this weekend in New York. The list includes Angel Guzman, David Patton, Chad Fox, Chad Gaudin and Jeff Samardzija — all right-handers. Guzman is out of options. Patton is a Rule 5 pick who has complicated matters because he’s pitched so well, and has one of the best curveballs this spring. The Cubs were not expected to put either on waivers, which means they will either keep them or trade them.

Samardzija has options and could go to Triple-A Iowa. Fox, whose career has been interrupted by elbow problems, also could go to the Minors as insurance. What do to with Gaudin? He hasn’t looked sharp — he has a 10.54 ERA this spring and has given up 20 hits and walked nine in 13 2/3 innings. And he’s owed $2 million.

– Carrie Muskat

Fukudome update

Kosuke Fukudome hit his first homer this spring with one on and one out in the ninth inning Monday to pull within 8-7 of the Royals. The Cubs then tied the game on Kyle Reynolds’ RBI double, and that was the final score, 8-8. But Fukudome also was charged with an error that led to two Kansas City runs in the bottom of the eighth. He told the Japanese writers that right fielder Reed Johnson was having trouble with the sun, which could have led to the confusion. Both had converged on the ball. We’ll find out more on Tuesday. Fukudome is batting .167.

– Carrie Muskat

Closure with Marmol

Carlos Marmol was disappointed he didn’t get the Cubs’ closer job. Lou Piniella did talk to the right-hander shortly before Monday’s game.

“It was all about competition, that I can tell you,” said Piniella, who picked Kevin Gregg to be the closer on Sunday. “I don’t know how many innings Gregg has pitched but he hasn’t given up a run all spring. I’ve said all along that either way we went, we’d be making the right choice.”

Gregg has pitched 8 1/3 innings this spring, Marmol has totaled eight. Gregg has not given up a run; Marmol has served up four and also hit five batters.

“I’m sure he’s disappointed, or he is disapointed,” Piniella said. “He needs to get over it and pitch and help us win baseball games. I know he will. He’s a good young man and he competes well and today he’ll get the ball and we’ll go from there.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/30 Quick hits

Lou Piniella said it was a tough decision to pick a backup catcher. Koyie Hill was chosen over Paul Bako on Monday.

“First of all, Hill’s had a good spring,” Piniella said. “Outside of that, we talked about it long and hard and the decision was made. It wasn’t easy. The important thing is hopefully Paul can get a Major League job. He’s a capable Major League catcher. If he can get a Major League job, I’ll be happy.”

Some notes:

  • No one has shook Micah Hoffpauir’s hand yet to tell him he’s made the Opening Day roster, but Piniella did say the position players are set. That means Hoffpauir is in. “I thought I was doing what I had to do,” said Hoffpauir, who was tied for the ML lead this spring with 22 RBIs. “As far as sweating it out, no. I have no control over that. They’ll make their decision on performance. That’s the end of it.”
  • What’s left to do? The Cubs have five relievers still in camp battling for two spots. The list includes Chad Gaudin, Angel Guzman, Jeff Samardzija, David Patton and Chad Fox. Piniella said he hopes to finalize that decision before the team breaks camp on Thursday.
  • The Cubs have signed Korean high school outfielder Dong-Yub Kim to a contract and given him a $550,000 bonus. This was believed to be the first Major League signing from Korea this offseason.

– Carrie Muskat

3/30 Surprise lineup

Here’s the lineup for Cubs vs. Royals in Surprise: LF Alfonso Soriano, CF Kosuke Fukudome, 1B Micah Hoffpauir, DH Milton Bradley, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 2B Mike Fontenot, RF Reed Johnson, C Koyie Hill, SS Aaron Miles.

Among the pitchers slated to pitch are Rich Harden, Aaron Heilman, Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman and Jeff Samardzija.

– Carrie Muskat

3/30 Bako, Stanton released; Hill named backup catcher

The Cubs released Paul Bako and Mike Stanton on Monday, naming Koyie Hill the backup catcher.

Bako, 36, had signed a free agent contract with the Cubs on Jan. 30, and was batting .364 this spring. That was helped by a 4-for-4 game on March 23 at Oakland. He was hitting .231 prior to that game.

This was Bako’s second turn with the Cubs, having played for them in 2003-04. He was behind the plate when Greg Maddux won his 300th game in August 2004. Last year, Bako batted .217 in 99 games with the Cincinnati Reds. An 11-year veteran, he has a career .231 average.

Stanton, 41, was out of baseball in 2008 after being released by the Reds on April 10, 2008. The left-hander has a career 68-63 record, 3.92 ERA in 1,178 games.

Hill, 30, was batting .381 this spring. He spent the majority of last season at Triple-A Iowa, coming back from a horrific hand injury suffered after the 2007 season in which he severed three of his fingers with a chain saw. The fingers were reattached, and he hit .275 at Iowa with 17 homers and 64 RBIs.

The move trims the Cubs’ spring roster to 28,and also means the position players are set and Micah Hoffpauir has made the Opening Day roster. The team now has 15 pitchers, two catchers, six infielders and five outfielders in camp.

– Carrie Muskat

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