May 2009

5/27 Roster moves

Expect some roster moves by the Cubs Wednesday. Aaron Miles has been bothered by a sore shoulder since Spring Training, and may be placed on the DL. That would open one spot. The Cubs have been trying to get another bat in the lineup and Jake Fox, who is leading the Pacific Coast League in average, home runs and RBIs, was spotted at Wrigley Field. Also, lefty Jason Waddell was seen at the ballpark as was infielder Andres Blanco. Lou Piniella has not been happy with lefty Neal Cotts, who still has options left, and could be sent to the Minors. Stay tuned.

— Carrie Muskat

5/26 Wrigley – the tarp is off

The tarp is being rolled up, and they could start on time.

— Carrie Muskat

5/26 Wrigley update – the tarp's back on

Well, the tarp is back on the field. No word yet.

— Carrie Muskat

5/26 Wrigley update

The grounds crew is taking the tarp off the field — it’s 6:14 p.m. CT. There could be baseball.

— Carrie Muskat

5/26 Quick hits

Rich Harden, who is on the DL with low back problems, has yet to start a throwing program, so he may not be ready to return when his 15-day stint is up. If Harden was healthy, Lou Piniella said he’d probably move Sean Marshall to the bullpen to give him another left-hander. Right now, Neal Cotts is the only option.

* Derrek Lee is feeling better, but still weak because of the flu. Bobby Scales, also bothered by the flu, was worse.

* Piniella didn’t think Ted Lilly would be penalized for jumping onto the field to argue with umpire Bob Davidson in the fifth inning Monday night. Lilly was ejected.

* How’s the Cubby swagger? “It’s not swaggering very much,” Piniella said. “But look, which team does swagger when they’re in an eight-game losing streak? One thing you can’t do is give in to this thing. You’ve got to keep fighting. You’ve got to believe you can get through it. Invariably, teams that do get through this thing, they’re tough and they’re capable of playing good baseball. We’re finding out some things now. I think we’ll get through it. I think this will turn out to be a fine baseball season, but right now, it’s a struggle. Is it totally unexpected? You really can’t have parts of your team not working well and think you can continue to win. … Right now, it’s not easy for us. We’ve just got to battle through it and can’t give in to it.”

There’s no easy way to get out of this funk.

“How do you eat a ‘*******?’ You eat it one bite at a time,” Piniella said. “You don’t swallow the [darn] thing. That’s how you come out of this thing baseball-wise. It’s one at-bat at a time, one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time. There’s no magic formula, no cure all. You’ve got to battle. I’m positive we will.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/26 Lineup & forecast

Derrek Lee was not in the Cubs’ lineup for the third straight game, but was feeling better. He’s been bothered by the flu. If the Cubs play Tuesday — and the forecast is not good — it’ll be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, CF Fukudome, RF Bradley, 1B Hoffpauir, 2B Fontenot, C Hill, 3B Freel and P Marshall. The tarp is on the field now at 5:05 p.m. CT — we’ll keep you posted.

— Carrie Muskat

A little help from his friends

Milton Bradley credited Hall of Famer Billy Williams with getting him back on track at the plate, and teammate Reed Johnson for helping him get his head straight.

Bradley went 2-for-5 Monday in the Cubs’ 10-8 loss to the Pirates, hitting a two-run double in the third and a two-run homer in the fourth. It’s the first time he’s had four RBIs in a game since setting a career-high of six on Aug. 24, 2007, at Philadelphia.

The Cubs outfielder, now batting .198, was quoted in a Chicago Tribune story as saying he felt umpires were expanding his strike zone after his argument in April with umpire Larry Vanover that resulted in Bradley’s ejection and subsequent suspension. Lou Piniella was not happy reading Bradley’s comments and said Monday nothing good could come from that.

“Reed put his foot in my [butt] today — figuratively, not literally,” Bradley said after Monday’s game. “He got me back to where I needed to be. I talked to Billy and he told me a few mechanical things he saw and it was a good night. It’s a long way to go.”

Johnson wasn’t available for comment and Bradley said the advice was “between teammates.” As for hitting, Williams apparently looked at some of Bradley’s swings on the video and talked to the outfielder about making a few adjustments.

Getting Bradley on track is one step to getting the Cubs back on track. The losing streak is now eight games.

“We just have to bear down and be professional and make it happen,” Bradley said. “Nobody’s going to hold your hand. It’s a man’s game.”

— Carrie Muskat


Fighting words

Ted Lilly was ejected from Monday’s game before the Chicago half of the fifth inning for arguing with home plate umpire Bob Davidson. Cubs starter Ryan Dempster appeared upset at some of the calls during his four innings against the Pirates and when Jose Ascanio took over in the fifth, the TV replays seemed to side with the Cubs pitcher, not Davidson, in terms of his calls. Lilly apparently said something from the dugout, and came onto the field to argue with Davidson between innings. Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild and manager Lou Piniella had to separate the pitcher from Davidson.

— Carrie Muskat 

Power drink

The drink dispenser in the Cubs’ dugout took a hit Monday night when pitcher Ryan Dempster punched it with his left hand — yes, left — as he came off the field after the third inning. The Pirates had loaded the bases and Dempster walked two batters to force in two runs and give Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead. Good thing Dempster is right-handed.

— Carrie Muskat

Nobody's perfect

The Cubs are hoping to put last week behind them.

“Every team in the Major Leagues has a bad week, bad month,” Alfonso Soriano said. “Everybody has some trouble during the season — it’s a long season, 162 games. We cannot be perfect. I just hope what happened last week does not happen again.”

What happened was the Cubs batted .160 on a winless six-game road trip to St. Louis and San Diego in which they scored five runs.

“I think when the team is doing bad, it’s contagious,” Soriano said. “I cannot be perfect 162 games. I think I had a bad week. Today’s Monday, start a new season today. Whatever happened last week, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

He got off to a good start in the first inning Monday against the Pirates with a 12-pitch at-bat to lead off, resulting in a walk. He scored on Ryan Theriot’s double.

Soriano knows Cubs fans expect perfection.

“That’s different — the fans don’t play the game,” Soriano said. “We can’t, every at-bat, hit a home run or get a big hit, every pitch strikeout every batter. We know we cannot be perfect.

“We play one week like champions,” he said, “and one week, we play like the worst team in the league.”

Theriot is taking a positive approach.

“Everybody’s spirits are up,” Theriot said, “and we have a ton of time to do what we need to do.”

— Carrie Muskat