April 2009

Be like Micah

Micah Hoffpauir hit his first homer of the season off the Reds’ Micah Owings. It’s believed to be the first time one Micah has homered off another.

— Carrie Muskat

4/21 Quick hits

How bad is it at Wrigley?

“It’s miserable out there right now,” Lou Piniella said prior to Tuesday’s game. “It’s like Opening Day almost, except it’s night. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the game but it’s certainly not good weather.”

For the home opener April 13, it was 36 degrees with gusty winds. The gates to the ballpark are open.

* Piniella on the Cubs’ 7-4 start:

“I think anybody would take a 7-4 start,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of close games. We’ve won a lot of games late. We’ve lost a few games late. We’ve got some things to sort out here, just like every other team. If we win seven of the next 11, we’ll be happy, too.”

* Geovany Soto was to receive his Players Choice Award for being the National League Rookie of the Year in 2008 prior to Tuesday’s game. Soto is 1-for-13 in the last three games. “We asked him to try to stay up the middle and right center field for the time being, get your swing down, stay on the ball a little longer,” Piniella said of Soto. “Hopefully, he’ll do that. It’ll help him.”

Soto has drawn more walks, which shows he’s being more selective. They want him to stop trying to pull the ball.

— Carrie Muskat

4/21 Lineup

Milton Bradley was not in the Cubs’ lineup for Tuesday’s game vs. the Reds. The cold weather and wet grounds are not conducive to someone coming off a groin injury. Here’s the lineup: LF Alfonso Soriano, CF Kosuke Fukudome, 1B Derrek Lee, RF Micah Hoffpauir, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 2B Mike Fontenot, C Geovany Soto, SS Ryan Theriot and P Rich Harden.

— Carrie Muskat

Walkoff blasts

Aramis Ramirez’s walkoff homer on Saturday was the fourth of his career. According to stats guru David Vincent, here’s a list of players and their career walkoff home run totals at the end of the 2008 season:

11 – Jim Thome

9 – Vladimir Guerrero and David Ortiz

7 – Moises Alou, Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Adam Dunn

6 – Jim Edmonds, Andruw Jones, Nomar Garciaparra, Aaron Boone and Adrian Beltre

5 – Luis Gonzalez, Ken Griffey, Jeff Kent, Matt Stairs, Carlos Delgado, Todd Helton, Troy Glaus, Richie Sexson, Carlos Pena, Joe Crede, Miguel Tejada and Carlos Beltran

4 –  Gary Sheffield, Frank Thomas, Mike Cameron, Raul Ibanez, Cliff Floyd, Carlos Lee, Orlando Cabrera, Jason Giambi, Casey Blake, Justin Morneau and Ryan Zimmerman

— Carrie Muskat

4/21 The tarp is on the field …

… and the forecast calls for temps in the low 40s and light precip for Tuesday’s game between the Cubs and Reds, but they will try to get it in. Last season, the Cubs posted a .714 winning percentage under the lights, going 20-8. It was the fourth-highest mark for home night games.

Tuesday’s game also will mark the debut of the Cubs’ Spanish-language broadcasts on WRTO 1200 AM. Elio Benitez and Hector Fabregas will call the games.

— Carrie Muskat


The great wall

Micah Hoffpauir has decided to err on the side of aggressiveness when he plays right field. He’s still learning about the funky richochets, the well, and the weird hops that can happen at Wrigley.

“When there’s no ivy on it, it’s a brick wall and the ball is going to come off hard and for me, I’m going to stand back a few steps and try to play it that way,” Hoffpauir says. “Other than that, it plays pretty much like a normal ballpark other than the wind and the sun and all that stuff.”

Sure, other than the wind and the sun.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Hoffpauir said of his first games in right.

The bleacher fans have treated him OK so far.

“We’re having a good time out there,” Hoffpauir said. “As long as you don’t drop any, they’re pretty easy on you.”

* In Minor League news, Andrew Cashner should be joining Class A Daytona soon. He’s been in Arizona rehabbing from a left oblique strain. Mitch Atkins struck out six and gave up two runs on four hits over 7 1/3 innings in Iowa’s 8-2 win over Round Rock. Jake Fox keeps on hitting. He belted his seventh home run, and was batting .478 with 22 RBIs in 11 games. Chris Robinson went 3-for-3 and was hitting .381.

— Carrie Muskat

4/19 Game ppd.

Sunday’s game between the Cubs and Cardinals has been postponed and will be made up July 12 as part of a day-night doubleheader.

— Carrie Muskat

4/19 Rain, rain, go away

The tarp is on the field at Wrigley, and the forecast isn’t good but ESPN is in town, the game is sold out, and the Cardinals only come in to Chicago one more time. Both teams do have Monday off, but that’s their last off day before beginning a stretch of 20 straight games, so they don’t want to give that up. We’ll keep you posted.

— Carrie Muskat

Close call

Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright said the pitch was “too close to take.” Milton Bradley disagreed.

“It’s right there,” Wainwright said of the called third strike in the sixth that Bradley objected to. “I’m sure the TV strike zone thing would have had it crossing the plate.”

Bradley didn’t have the chance to check. He objected to home plate umpire Larry Vanover’s call, and was quickly ejected. It probably wasn’t the way Bradley planned for his Wrigley Field debut. This was his first at-bat, the bases were loaded, and the Cardinals had just taken the lead. St. Louis won, 7-4.

“I like it,” Derrek Lee said of Bradley’s outburst. “He said what he had to say and walked off. That’s him. He’s intense. It’s a big situation, he wants to do well, and he got upset. It’s OK. He didn’t do anything malicious. He was coming out of the game anyway and now he just has to pay 500 bucks.”

Lou Piniella wasn’t sure if Bradley would be in the lineup Friday. The outfielder has been rehabbing a strained groin, and not started since last Sunday in Milwaukee.

— Carrie Muskat

Good karma

On Saturday during the Cubs’ game in Milwaukee, Larry Rothschild went to the mound and made a pitching change. After the game, Lou Piniella said he asked the pitching coach to do it to try and change the team’s karma. On Thursday against the Cardinals, Rothschild made all the pitching changes. Was it another effort to help the Cubs’ karma?

“I said it was karma in Milwaukee,” Piniella said. “We’ll call it something else tomorrow. What’s the difference in who makes pitching changes? Does it really matter if I have to go out there and double switch, if I have to go out there and talk to the pitcher if I’m undecided? What’s the difference if it’s the pitching coach, the manager, the hitting coach, or the third base coach? What’s the difference who makes the pitching changes?”

Piniella was asked if he was trying to make a point.

“I’m not trying to make a point about anything,” he said.

This isn’t the first time in Piniella’s tenure that Rothschild has been asked to signal to the pen.

“It doesn’t matter,” Piniella said. “What matters is when the pitcher comes in the ballgame, he gets some outs.”

— Carrie Muskat