March 2009

Gregg vs. Marmol

Lou Piniella has said he’ll name the Cubs closer on Sunday. Carlos Marmol has eight career saves, and last year was named to the National League All-Star team. This spring, he’s pitched in seven games, given up six hits, walked one, and struck out 10 in eight innings. He’s also hit five batters. Kevin Gregg has appeared in nine games, given up four hits, walked two, struck out 10 over 8 1/3 innings. He also has a track record with 61 saves in the last two seasons combined.

In a poll of Chicago beat writers, the vote was split — two for Marmol, two for Gregg. Who would you pick?

— Carrie Muskat

3/28 Tucson

Kosuke Fukudome is in the Cubs’ lineup Saturday and batting second. SS Aaron Miles is leading off, followed by Fukudome, 1B Micah Hoffpauir, C Geovany Soto, 3B Mike Fontenot, RF Reed Johnson, 2B Andres Blanco, LF Joey Gathright, P Ryan Dempster.

Manager Lou Piniella will not make the trip down Interstate 10. He was not feeling well.

— Carrie Muskat

Bragging rights

Friday’s Cubs-White Sox game drew 13,327 fans to HoHoKam Park, a single-game Cactus League record, which broke the old mark set six days ago at Camelback Ranch in Glendale. That also was a Cubs-White Sox game, and drew 13,311 fans. This spring, the Cubs have topped 13,000 eight times and lead the Majors in spring attendance.

There are still tickets remaining for the final two home games in Mesa on Tuesday against the Angels and Thursday against Cleveland.

— Carrie Muskat 

3/27 Quick hits

Here’s Friday’s Cubs lineup vs. the White Sox: LF Alfonso Soriano, CF Kosuke Fukudome, 1B Derrek Lee, RF Milton Bradley, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 2B Aaron Miles, SS Ryan Theriot, C Koyie Hill, and P Carlos Zambrano.

Zambrano is batting .667 this spring. “I was thinking of asking Ozzie [Guillen] if they wanted to use the DH today,” Lou Piniella said, “but I realized Carlos was pitching and I would’ve had a nightmare on my hands. I wanted to get Reed Johnson in there against the left-hander pitching. With Carlos, we made the right decision.”

Other notes:

  • The umpires asked both managers if they could stop Thursday’s night game in Scottsdale because of the high winds. The game was eventually called after 6 1/2 innings. “It was really windy, the hitters couldn’t see the ball very well,” Piniella said. “Why get somebody hurt?” And the Giants agreed? “They agreed,” Piniella said. “They were ahead.”
  • The Cubs outrighted outfielder Brad Snyder to Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs’ 40-man roster is now at 37.
  • Because of the conditions, Piniella is discounting Carlos Marmol’s outing on Thursday. The right-hander gave up two runs on two hits and hit a batter. It was a tough night to grip the ball. “They went to their mouth more than any time I’ve ever seen,” Piniella said of the pitchers. “They might as well as put a laboratory on the mound and let them wet their hands. They couldn’t grip the ball. … It was a combination of Wrigley Field at times and Candlestick Park.”
  • Milton Bradley went 2-for-2 on Thursday, including his third home run. He also argued with the second base umpire who called him out on a close play at second. Did Piniella like to see that intensity? “He was intense all night last night,” Piniella said. “I like intensity, what can I say? I’m sure he’s going to bring a lot of that to the party.”

— Carrie Muskat

Cajun connection

We’ve been trying to research as to whether Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot are the first infielders to have played together on a College World Series championship team — Go Tigers! — and again in the Major Leagues. Baseball historian Ed Hartig did some probing, and checked with SABR, etc., and so far it looks like the Cubs’ Cajun connection are not the first CWS champion teammates to start together in the same infield of a ML game. According to Hartig, that distinction belongs to Tom Satriano (3B) and Dan Ardel (1B) who played together on Sept. 27, 1961, for the Angels. Both played on the 1961 USC national championship team. Satriano was the Trojans starting third baseman, while Ardel was normally a back-up infielder.

— Carrie Muskat


Windy city

The wind was gusting up to 30 mph Thursday night at Scottsdale Stadium, which reminded a few of the Cubs how weird the conditions can be at Wrigley Field.

“It’s weird how it goes from 90 degrees one day to this,” Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee said. “I guess it’s good preparation for April.”

Lee crushed a ball to left in the fourth inning but the wind knocked it down. Chicago pitcher Sean Marshall had a tough time keeping his balance on the mound.

“The first couple pitches, I had to adjust to the wind a little bit,” Marshall said. “I got some work in and threw a lot of pitches — it wasn’t exactly the way I was looking to do it.”

The lefty, who will be the fifth starter for the Cubs, walked five and gave up four hits in four innings against the Giants. At least he got some work in pitching out of the stretch.

“I definitely put myself in some jams,” Marshall said. “I was just a little bit off. I don’t know if my mechanics were off or it was the wind pushing the ball around. I’m not too happy about this outing but I can take some positives with getting my arm stretched out and being able to work out of a couple jams, couple first and third situations. We’ll go from here.”

It was dark, too. One pop up landed in foul territory near the Giants’ on-deck circle. Lee and Marshall watched the ball go above the lights — and then it disappeared.

“It was tough conditions to play baseball,” Marshall said. “It was like a really windy day at Wrigley Field.”

— Carrie Muskat

New York, New York

Here are the pitching matchups for the Cubs’ exhibition games at new Yankee Stadium:

April 3: Ted Lilly vs. Chien-Ming Wang

April 4: Rich Harden vs. A.J. Burnett (Andy Pettitte is scheduled to pitch, too)

— Carrie Muskat

Sweet 16 tweak

In the Sweet 16 item posted Wednesday, there was a minor error. Here’s the correct item:

3. Sixteen Cubs players have won BBWAA Awards: eight MVP Awards — Ernie Banks (1958, 1959), Phil Cavaretta (1945), Andre Dawson (1987) , Gabby Hartnett (1935), Ryne Sandberg (1984), Hank Sauer (1952), Sammy Sosa (1998); three Cy Young Awards — Ferguson Jenkins (1971), Greg Maddux (1992), Bruce Sutter (1979), Rick Sutcliffe (1984); and five Rookie of the Year Awards: Ken Hubbs (1962), Geovany Soto (2008), Jerome Walton (1989), Billy Williams (1961), Kerry Wood (1998).

Direct all questions to’s Marty Noble, who did the research.

— Carrie Muskat

3/26 Quick hits

We’ll find out who the Cubs closer is on Sunday. Lou Piniella said he’d announce it then. Kevin Gregg has pitched in back to back games already, and Carlos Marmol was to go Thursday night and Friday in his final test. In an unofficial poll of Chicago beat writers, the vote was two for Gregg and two for Marmol. We’ll see.

Other notes:

  • The Cubs will have one lefty in the bullpen, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild says that’ll be enough. “Whoever’s the set-up guy, you’re not going to bring him out to get a lefty, so you’re talking about a lefty to get somebody out in the sixth or seventh innings,” Rothschild said. “If you have two of them, you’re talking about the fifth inning. Right now, I think we’re OK.” Plus, the Cubs will have two lefties in the rotation in Ted Lilly and Sean Marshall, which will affect how opposing teams set up their lineups.
  • Rothschild wasn’t worried about Jeff Samardzija’s most recent outings. “There’s a lot of positives for him this spring,” Rothschild said. “The numbers aren’t one of them.”
  • Expect Kosuke Fukudome in the Cubs’ lineup on Friday when they play host to the White Sox. Carlos Zambrano is slated to start.
  • The Cubs have switched to the old model batting helmets after a one-year experiment with Cool-Flo models. They just didn’t hold up and the team went through 40-50 helmets last year. Also, their road caps are all blue — no more red bill.
  • Micah Hoffpauir and Mike Fontenot both enjoyed their acting experience with the “My Boys” crew on Tuesday and Wednesday. “I’d do it again,” Hoffpauir said. “Then I can be as popular as [Ryan] Dempster.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/26 Lineup

Kosuke Fukudome will get his first Cactus League start on Friday when the Cubs play host to the White Sox. On Thursday night, Reed Johnson is in the lineup in center field. Here’s the rest of the Cubs’ lineup vs. the Giants: LF Alfonso Soriano, 2B Mike Fontenot, 1B Derrek Lee, RF Milton Bradley, 3B Aramis Ramirez, CF Johnson, C Geovany Soto, SS Ryan Theriot, and P Sean Marshall.

— Carrie Muskat