April 2009

4/26 Lineup – third base

Sorry — listed both Miles and Fontenot at 2B. Fontenot is at 3B, Miles at 2B.

— Carrie Muskat

4/26 Lineup & Soriano

Guess who’s back in the leadoff spot? Alfonso Soriano was at the top of the Cubs’ order on Sunday for the series finale against the Cardinals. “We said we’d try it and we did,” Lou Piniella said of Soriano, who struck out three times on Saturday. “We’ll just put him in the leadoff spot. That’s where he feels comfortable, and that’s where we’ll leave him.”

Here’s the lineup: LF Soriano, SS Theriot, RF Fukudome, 1B Lee, CF Johnson, 2B Fontenot, C Soto, 2B Miles, P Harden.

— Carrie Muskat

4/25 Quick hits

The Cubs won’t use the injuries to Aramis Ramirez, Milton Bradley or Carlos Marmol as excuses. “It doesn’t help when you lose two-thirds of your middle [of the lineup],” Lou Piniella said about the absence of Ramirez and Bradley. “That’s why it’s called a team and that’s why you have a bench. You’ve got to tough it up and get the job done. Every team has injuries. You can’t make excuses for injuries — they’re part of the equation.”

* Pitcher Marco Mateo was promoted from Class A Daytona to Double-A Tennessee. Lefty Jayson Ruhlman was promoted from Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa.

* Alfonso Soriano is hoping he isn’t called on to play second base. He doesn’t have an infielder’s glove. Kosuke Fukudome played shortstop for two seasons in Japan but he wasn’t lobbying to switch from outfield to infield any time soon.

* Correction: The Cubs were not the only Major League team to open the season with no one on the disabled list. The Reds also were injury free.

* The Cardinals are batting .322 with runners in scoring position; the Cubs are hitting .222. Chicago also ranks 11th in batting average. “We’re not going to finish in the bottom tier hitting-wise, or we shouldn’t,” Piniella said. “I don’t think we will. That means we have some catching up to do, hitting-wise.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/25 Lineup & injury update

Carlos Zambrano was taking grounders at third and shortstop during batting practice Saturday in St. Louis. The Cubs hope it doesn’t come to that. The injuries to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Marmol are not serious enough to warrant putting them on the DL, so the team will play short-handed. Saturday’s lineup was SS Ryan Theriot, RF Kosuke Fukudome, LF Alfonso Soriano, 1B Derrek Lee, 3B Mike Fontenot, CF Reed Johnson, C Geovany Soto, 2B Aaron Miles and P Sean Marshall.

Ramirez’s left calf was no worse on Saturday than it was Friday, and he could return this week. Marmol had an MRI on his left knee, which revealed a Grade 1 sprain. He is expected to throw a bullpen on Monday, and could be back as early as Tuesday. In the meantime, though, with Milton Bradley also limited, the Cubs were considering some strange backup options. Koyie Hill was a third baseman in college, and took grounders there Saturday. Soriano did play second, but said he’d need to borrow someone’s glove if needed. And then there’s Zambrano, who could be used to pinch-hit.

— Carrie Muskat

4/25 Ramirez & Marmol

Don’t expect Aramis Ramirez to be available for Saturday’s Cubs game vs. the Cardinals — and he also could miss Sunday’s series finale. He had to leave Friday’s game with a strained left calf. The Cubs’ 40-man roster is at 34, so they have room to make moves but first need to assess how serious Ramirez’s injury is. As for Carlos Marmol, who had to leave Friday’s game with a sore left knee, he also will be re-evaluated Saturday. Chad Fox and Jose Ascanio have pitched well at Triple-A Iowa. Fox has given up two runs in 7 1/3 innings over seven games, both of those coming in his last two outings. Ascanio has an 0.71 ERA in three starts, striking out 10 over 12 2/3 innings. We’ll have more prior to first pitch.

— Carrie Muskat

Injury update

Carlos Marmol apparently strained a muscle on the inside of his left knee when he tried to field Albert Pujols’ line drive single in the eighth inning, and Aramis Ramirez strained his left calf when he hit a double in the second. Both will be re-examined on Saturday, and the Cubs will have a better idea as to how much time they could miss. Marmol scoffed at the idea of going on the DL; Ramirez said his leg was sore.

“It was a game of missed opportunities,” Lou Piniella said of the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Cardinals, “but more important than that it was a game where we lost two big components.”

The team already is playing one man short with Milton Bradley hampered by a sore groin. He can pinch-hit, but can’t run. If Ramirez is sidelined, that leaves Piniella with Derrek Lee, Mike Fontenot, Aaron Miles and Ryan Theriot for the infield and that’s it.

“We’ve got no bench,” Piniella said. “We’re going to have to get somebody in here.”

Check in Saturday.

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Quick hits

Aramis Ramirez had to leave the game in the fifth inning because of a strained left calf. His status was day to day. The Cubs already are shorthanded with Milton Bradley bothered by a groin injury.

* Aaron Miles received a nice round of applause from the Busch Stadium crowd when he made his first plate appearance in the sixth. However, the Cardinals fans cheered even louder when he hit into an inning-ending double play.

* For trivia buffs, the last time Alfonso Soriano batted third was May 20, 2007, vs. the White Sox. He was subbing for Derrek Lee, who was bothered by neck spasms.

* Saturday’s game will be on FOX TV with former Cubs first baseman Eric Karros teaming with Thom Brennaman. They should have plenty to talk about, what with the lineup changes.

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 More on the lineup changes

Lou Piniella tweaked the Cubs lineup Friday, moving leadoff man Alfonso Soriano into the No. 3 spot, inserting Ryan Theriot at the top of the order, and dropping Derrek Lee to fifth.

“We’ll take a look at it and see how it works,” Piniella said before the Cubs’ opened a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. “We’ve struggled a little bit scoring runs. We moved Theriot to the leadoff spot. We’ve got [Kosuke] Fukudome in the two-hole, Soriano in the three-hole and [Aramis] Ramirez in the four-hole. Those have been our best hitters.”

Soriano, who entered the weekend series riding a 10-game hitting streak and batting .350 in that stretch, got the news from hitting coach Gerald Perry.

“Whatever they want to do to try to make the team better, I’m open,” Soriano said. “If [Piniella] thinks he wants to do something to win, I want to win. If he changed the lineup today because he thinks with that lineup we have a better chance to win [it’s OK].”

How long will it last?

“If we win, it stays,” Soriano said, smiling. “If we lose, I know he’ll make some more changes. It depends on what happens in the game.”

Soriano has been the Cubs’ No. 1 man in the lineup the last two seasons as well as this year, and ranks third among active players with 51 career leadoff homers, including two this year. He did bat third for seven games in 2007, but went 5-for-28 (.179) with one RBIs and was switched back to the leadoff spot.

Lee batted .303 (10-for-33) on the just completed eight-game homestand, but was batting .207 overall. Theriot ranks among the National League leaders with a .365 average.

The one player missing from the equation is Milton Bradley, who is sidelined with a nagging groin injury. Piniella repeated that he would likely put Bradley in the sixth spot when he returns.

“We’ll see how it works, that’s all,” Piniella said.

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Lineup

Lou Piniella has tweaked the lineup big time. SS Ryan Theriot is leading off, LF Alfonso Soriano is batting third, and 1B Derrek Lee is fifth vs. the Cardinals. It’ll be Theriot, CF Kosuke Fukudome, Soriano, 3B Aramis Ramirez, Lee, 2B Mike Fontenot, C Geovany Soto, CF Reed Johnson and P Ryan Dempster.

More later on the main site.

— Carrie Muskat

Fun in the sun

The Cubs took advantage of 85 degree sunshine in St. Louis on Friday and took extra batting practice. Even Lou Piniella got a little workout in, throwing a frisbee in the outfield to some of the players.

— Carrie Muskat