March 2009

3/22 Quick hits

Lou Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild want to see how Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg do in back to back games before announcing who will be the closer. Marmol went one inning on Sunday, and continued to have trouble with his breaking pitches in the dry Arizona weather.

Other notes:

  • Carlos Zambrano went six innings on Sunday, and will have one more long outing of 80-85 pitches before a shorter one to prepare for Opening Day April 6.
  • Derrek Lee still can’t run full speed because of his leg injury. Geovany Soto may catch Rich Harden on Wednesday in the Minor League camp so he can get more work.
  • Expect roster moves Tuesday. The Cubs have 42 players in camp.

— Carrie Muskat

Patriotic plea

Derrek Lee played in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, and enjoyed the experience. He was on Team USA’s roster this year, but opted not to go when told he would be a backup to Kevin Youkilis at first base. When Youkilis injured his ankle, the U.S. team realized they needed Lee, but he has not played all week because of a leg injury.

On Sunday, Lee said Major League Baseball officials contacted him and tried to get him to join Team USA for the semifinal and possibly final games. Lee felt it was “disrespectful.”

“If I felt well, it’s a different story,” Lee said. “It’s not fair if I miss a week here and go play for them. They knew I was injured. Obviously, everyone knows it’s not a serious injury but everyone knows it was enough to keep me out of the games.”

— Carrie Muskat

Run, Alfonso, run

The extra month of work Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano did this offseason in the Dominican Republic has paid off. He feels comfortable running on the bases this spring and may try to steal more this season.

“It’s in my head, I want to be the same guy I was in 2001, 2002,” said Soriano, who swiped 43 and 41, respectively, in those years. “I feel good, my body feels good, my legs feel good. I think I’ll be a little more aggressive on the bases this year.”

He has stolen 19 each of the last two seasons with the Cubs. How many can he steal this year — 30? Forty?

“I don’t want to put that pressure on myself,” Soriano said. “I want to play 150, 155 games. That’s my goal right now.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/22 Lineup

Derrek Lee is back in the Cubs’ lineup for Sunday’s game against the Mariners. It’s Lee’s first game since last Monday — he’s been out with a sore right quad. Here’s the rest: LF Alfonso Soriano, 2B Aaron Miles, 1B Lee, RF Milton Bradley, 3B Aramis Ramirez, C Geovany Soto, SS Andres Blanco, CF Joey Gathright and P Carlos Zambrano.

Besides Zambrano, Angel Guzman, Carlos Marmol, David Patton and Randy Wells could see action on the mound today.

— Carrie Muskat

3/21 Quick hits

Rich Harden, who was scratched from Friday’s game, will throw 70-75 pitches in the Cubs’ Minor League camp on Wednesday. That’s an off day for the rest of the team. If Harden needs more time, Lou Piniella said they could flip flop the right-hander with Sean Marshall in the rotation. The Cubs don’t need a fifth starter until April 16 vs. St. Louis.

Other noteworthy items:

  • Ted Lilly is not scheduled to start for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, but is staying with the team in case a game goes extra innings. Lilly was expected back in Arizona on Tuesday, and will throw a simulated game that day.
  • Piniella said Geovany Soto appears to be a little behind the others in camp. Soto was with the Puerto Rican team in the Classic. The catcher stayed back on Saturday to work on his hitting — and he may have to get back on his diet. Piniella said Soto appeared to have gained some weight. “This hot weather, especially catching back to back, it shouldn’t be a problem at all,” Piniella said.
  • Derrek Lee is on track to return to the lineup Sunday. Team USA apparently contacted the Cubs to try and get Lee to play in the semifinal Sunday night. Lee has not played since last Monday because of a sore right thigh.

— Carrie Muskat

Reality check

There are two weeks to go in Spring Training, and David Patton, the red-headed right-hander, is still in the Cubs camp and still impressing Lou Piniella. The Rule 5 pick has given up two runs in 8 2/3 innings this spring, including one run to Team Japan in an exhibition game. He has a chance at one of the two openings in the bullpen.

“I can’t really look ahead,” Patton said Saturday. “I came in not looking ahead to anything. I was coming in a Rule 5 draft pick that nobody knew and nobody heard about. I came in and showed what I’m capable of doing and my ability. Things have gone well but I’m not done yet. I’ve got some more innings to pitch down here and some more things I’d like to do. I just want to leave a good impression on Lou and the organization.”

One thing Piniella likes about Patton is that he has “no fear.” Patton can’t put a finger on that.

“I go out there with conviction,” Patton said. “I try as hard as I can to do the objective, which is to get outs, and get outs quick, and get my guys off the field.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/21 Lineup

Here’s the Cubs lineup vs. the White Sox: LF Alfonso Soriano, SS Ryan Theriot, CF Reed Johnson, DH Milton Bradley, 1B Jake Fox, 3B Mike Fontenot, 2B Aaron Miles, C Koyie Hill, RF So Taguchi. Sean Marshall will be on the mound.

— Carrie Muskat

Corey Koskie to retire

Saying it wasn’t worth the risk, Corey Koskie announced Saturday he is retiring from baseball. Koskie was trying to make a comeback after spending the last 2 1/2 years in what he called his “personal jail” because of a concussion suffered in July 2006. The third baseman, who played for the Twins, Blue Jays and Brewers, had signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs this spring.

“You get caught up in what if I came back — it’d be a great story,” he said. “The big story is I had the opportunity to play. But is it really worth it to play?”

Koskie has three young children, ages 8, 6 and 3, that he wants to be able to spend time with.

“Look at the facts — I’m 35,” he said. “I still can play. But if I play, I want to be 100 percent. I don’t want the ‘what if I dive, what if I do this.’ Really, what am I trying to do to squeeze out two more years?”

— Carrie Muskat

Lights, camera, action

Cubs second baseman Mike Fontenot will do what only he can do and that is play himself in the TBS series “My Boys.” The shooting is to be done this week in Arizona. The show centers on a Chicago female sports columnist, but the storyline for Fontenot’s episode focuses on him. Apparently one of the male characters in the show starts up a flirtatious conversation with a young woman, only to find out she’s dating Fontenot. According to the publicity release, Fontenot becomes jealous and there is a confrontation with a surprising result. The show premieres March 31 for its third season.

— Carrie Muskat


3/20 Quick hits

Rich Harden was scratched from Friday’s game because of the flu, and was so sick, he couldn’t throw a side sesson on the back field. Harden was sent home to recuperate. If he recovers, he could start Tuesday when the Cubs play host to the Rockies. That would’ve been Ted Lilly’s spot, but he’s still with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Lou Piniella said he felt Harden still has enough time to prepare for the regular season.

Other news and notes:

  • Derrek Lee had been expected to be ready by Friday, but now most likely will not see any game action until Sunday. He’s been out with a sore right quad.
  • Both Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg will pitch on Friday, and Piniella said he will likely announce the closer by the middle of next week. “I’m not leaning one way or the other,” Piniella said. “We’ll let it play itself out here over the next couple appearances and then we’ll make a decision on that.”
  • Sean Marshall found out from a friend who sent a text message that he won the fifth starter spot. “I know there’s room for me to improve and I’ll take this opportunity and do the best of it,” Marshall said.

— Carrie Muskat