May 2009

5/29 Cubs sale update

Tribune Co. chairman Sam Zell says the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family is not a sure thing. In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Zell said: “We’ve made it very public that the Cubs don’t fit into the long-term picture of the Tribune. So if the Ricketts deal doesn’t get done, I’m sure there will be other ones.”

Zell told Bloomberg the credit market slump has contributed to the delay. “These are very difficult times,” he said. “These are difficult times to arrange financing.”

One of the issues still to be resolved is the value of the TV and radio contracts to broadcast Cubs games. The Ricketts family made a bid of about $900 million in January, and has raised $400 million by selling some of its shares in TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.

– Carrie Muskat

5/28 No Lou

Lou Piniella chose not to meet with the media after Thursday’s game, a 2-1 loss to the Dodgers. It was the first time this season he’s done this. Part of the problem could have been his frustration over the lack of options he had. With Aramis Ramirez, Aaron Miles and Ryan Freel on the disabled list, the Cubs don’t have many choices at third.

We’ll have to wait until Friday to hear Piniella’s explanation for what happened in the eighth inning. The umpires felt Koyie Hill was in the game; Piniella apparently didn’t agree.

If the Cubs have to rely on Jake Fox at third, they could be in trouble. In fairness, Fox did handle a grounder hit to him in the ninth inning Thursday.

“It was nice to get the first one out of the way, Fox said. “My heart was pounding a little bit. Once I got that one out of the way, I felt my heart rate slow down a little bit. Hopefully, they have enough confidence to put me back out there.”

Some post-game notes:

* Derrek Lee has hit safely in eight of his last nine games, and was batting .412 in that stretch. Milton Bradley has reached base via a walk or hit in each of his last six games. Ryan Theriot is batting .448 in his last eight games.

* Randy Wells deserved better. He recorded his third straight quality start. He’s thrown six or more innings in each of his last three starts.

– Carrie Muskat

Crazy like a Fox

Give Jake Fox credit. He’ll outwork anybody. Fox was at third base with bench coach Alan Trammell before Thursday’s game. Lou Piniella was asked if he was comfortable putting Fox in a game at third.

“Alan told me not to get too excited just yet,” Piniella said. “He told me he was going to work with him. To Fox’s credit, he told Alan, it might not be pretty but he’ll get the job done. That’s a pretty darn good rebuttal. He’s going to work with him for a few more days and we’ll see.”

Fox did come through with a pinch-hit single in the eighth, and was pressed into duty at third in the ninth. The Cubs are short-handed with injuries to Ryan Freel and Aaron Miles. Koyie Hill, who has subbed at third, was on deck to pinch hit in the ninth, but Piniella changed his mind and decided on Kosuke Fukudome instead. Home plate umpire Mark Wegner signaled that Hill was in, and switching to Fukudome meant the Cubs lost Hill for the game.

– Carrie Muskat

 

5/28 Zambrano 6-game suspension & lineup

Carlos Zambrano received a six-game suspension for his “inappropriate and violent actions” on Wednesday, according to Major League Baseball. Zambrano has decided to serve the suspension now, and will be eligible to come back Thursday for the Cubs’ series finale in Atlanta.

“I think the ruling was fair, yes,” Lou Piniella said. “I think Carlos does also. He just took it too far. I think he realizes that.”

The Wrigley Field crowd definitely enjoyed Zambrano’s antics, prompted by an argument over a close call at home plate.

“Well, this is not the WWF. This is professional baseball,” Piniella said. “I understand the fans like a little — I don’t know hwat you call it — emotion, outburst. they’ve always liked that, especially about the seventh inning when they’ve had [a few beverages].

“Baseball has always been a sport where there’s been disagreements,” Piniella said, “but at the same time, you voice your disagreement and walk away from it and you get back to do what you’re getting paid to do which is pitch or hit or whatever it is.”

* Ryan Freel was placed on the 15-day disabled list and infielder Bobby Scales called back. Scales, who was optioned to Iowa on Wednesday, had not left Chicago when he got the call. He’s still a little under the weather with the flu but was available to pinch hit. 

* Thursday’s lineup will be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, RF Bradley, 1B Lee, CF Johnson, C Soto, 3B Fontenot, 2B Blanco, P Wells.

– Carrie Muskat

5/27 Postgame notes

Carlos Zambrano has been suspended twice in his career, and will wait for a ruling by Major League Baseball as to whether he’ll have to take another time out. Zambrano appeared to bump home plate umpire Mark Carlson briefly Wednesday as the two argued a close call at home plate in the eighth. Then he hurled the baseball to left center field, threw his glove and took a bat to the Gatorade dispenser in the dugout.

“That was pretty impressive,” Milton Bradley said of Big Z’s antics.

* Ryan Freel appears headed for the disabled list, one day after infielder Aaron Miles was placed on the 15-day DL. Freel strained his left hamstring running the bases in the fourth. If he does have to go on the DL, expect Bobby Scales to return. Scales was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday to make room for Andres Blanco.

* Speaking of Blanco, he apparently has quit switch-hitting. In his first at-bat, Blanco hit right-handed against Pittsburgh’s Zach Duke and grounded out. In his next at-bat, Blanco batted from the left side against the lefty. “It sort of surprised me,” Lou Piniella said. Blanco, now strictly a left-handed hitter, did deliver a RBI double in the eighth, followed by Jake Fox’s RBI double in the 5-2 win.

* Speaking of Fox, Piniella isn’t ready to start him at third even though the Cubs are desperately seeking some offensive help from that spot. Fox will workout with bench coach Alan Trammell at third so he’s not a defensive liability. “We’d love to have his bat in the lineup,” Piniella said of Fox. “Let’s see him over there for a few more days working with Alan and I’ll let Alan make that determination.”

* Besides hitting a tie-breaking homer in the eighth, Reed Johnson also made a great catch of Adam LaRoche’s fly ball to center to end the Pirates seventh. Johnson slammed into the center field wall.

“I knew it was coming up on me pretty quick,” he said, knowing there’s bricks behind the ivy. “I was at a point running back for that ball where I wasn’t running full out. I knew if I was going to hit it, it was going to hurt. I wasn’t running fast enough where I’d do permanent damage to myself. It worked, too. The fans appreciated it as well.”

* Bradley’s triple was his first since Sept. 26, and 15th of his career. Bradley has hit safely in four of his last five games.

* Pitching notes: Angel Guzman now has a 5 1/3 scoreless inning streak. … Kevin Gregg’s save Wednesday marked the first time he was in a save situation since May 10, a span of four outings. … Carlos Zambrano needs five strikeouts to pass Bill Hutchinson for sixth on the team’s all-time strikeout list.

– Carrie Muskat

5/27 Freel update

Ryan Freel had to leave Wednesday’s game because of a strained left hamstring. Freel may have injured it when he slid after he rounded first base fourth inning. Freel had singled, and headed for second but then slid when he saw the ball ahead of him.

– Carrie Muskat

5/27 Quick hits

Carlos Marmol rejoined the Cubs after going to New York to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. Marmol welcomed baby Caroline into the world on Tuesday.

* Catcher Steve Clevenger was promoted from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A on Wednesday.

* Happy birthday to Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes, 54 years young.

– Carrie Muskat

Making room for Fox

Neither Jake Fox nor Jason Waddell had anywhere to put their gear when they showed up Wednesday at Wrigley Field because there wasn’t an open locker. The Cubs need to make room for Fox, who was leading the Pacific Coast League in the triple crown categories: batting average (.423), home runs (17) and RBIs (50).

“Any time you start off like that, it’s a great surprise,” Fox said of his amazing numbers. “I feel like it’s carried over from the end of last season to Winter Ball and Spring Training. I’ve gotten my swing to where I need it to be. I feel very consistent at the plate. I feel I have a consistent appraoch every time.”

Even though his power numbers are impressive, what Lou Piniella liked to see was Fox’s 14 doubles. The Cubs rank 15th in the National League in doubles with 71. They simply haven’t been driving the ball. Now, they have to find a place for Fox to play.

“We’ll see how we can get him incorporated into our scheme of things,” Piniella said of Fox, who worked out at third and in the outfield on Wednesday. “He’ll try to catch a few ground balls at third, try to catch a few in the outfield, play at first base. If nothing else, he’ll be a nice bat off the bench. When we play against the American League, he comes into play DH-wise.”

Fox did admit he was getting antsy at not being called up but Iowa manager Bobby Dickerson advised him to focus on what he could control. That’s it. As for hitting, Fox credited Barbaro Garbey, who worked with him in Double-A, with giving him some tips about his swing and shortening it up.

“My focus is to show up and keep doing the same things I’ve been doing,” Fox said.

He knows Cubs fans have high expectations.

“That’s going to happen — it’s a big market team,” Fox said. “They’re always looking for answers, but they’re right here in the clubhouse. Maybe me coming in will give them a spark. They have a very talented team.”

– Carrie Muskat

 

5/27 Roster moves update & lineup

Jake Fox, Jason Waddell and Andres Blanco joined the Cubs on Wednesday, and Bobby Scales and Neal Cotts were sent to Triple-A Iowa, while Aaron Miles was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of his sore shoulder. Miles received a cortisone shot and will not do anything for four or five days, then go to the Cubs’ facility in Mesa, Ariz., to rehab.

Blanco, who can backup at shortstop and second, was in the lineup Wednesday for the series finale against the Pirates. It’ll be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, RF Bradley, 1B Lee, CF Johnson, C Soto, 3B Freel, 2B Blanco and P Zambrano.

Also, Carlos Marmol rejoined the Cubs after his wife gave birth to the couple’s second daughter, Caroline. Everyone is doing well.

– Carrie Muskat

Road to Wrigley, Part II

The Iowa Cubs will play Toronto’s Las Vegas 51s at Wrigley Field on Aug. 9 in an official PCL game — the second “Road to Wrigley” Minor League game to be played at the Cubs’ home park. Last July 29, the Class A Peoria Chiefs played the Kane County Cougars at Wrigley. Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg was the Chiefs manager, and that game marked his return. Tickets start as low as $5, and are available at cubs.com

– Carrie Muskat

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