May 2009

Milton Bradley's strike zone

Milton Bradley feels his incident with umpire Larry Vanover may have had a carryover effect. Vanover ejected Bradley in April, the two argued, and the result was a two-game suspension, which was reduced to one. Bradley told the Chicago Tribune he has been forced to chase pitches he normally doesn’t swing at because he feels his strike zone has been widened.

“There’s nothing good that come out of it,” Lou Piniella said of Bradley’s comments. “What we need Milton to do is get to the point where he hits the ball the way he has in the past. Getting on umpires is not a good solution.”

Bradley entered Monday’s game batting .188. He hit .321 last year with the Rangers.

“He’s a much better hitter than what he’s shown here early in the season,” Piniella said. “You look at his career and he’s hit everywhere he’s been. There’s no reason to assume he’s not going to hit here. He’s just gotten off to a slow start. I’m sure he’s a little frustrated about it. He’s a kid who wants to do well — a young man who wants to do well. He’s probably put a little undue pressure on himself. He just needs to relax and play and let his natural abilities take over and I think everything will be fine.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/25 Lineup & quick hits

Derrek Lee was scratched from Monday’s lineup because he’s sick with the flu. Lee was sent home. Bobby Scales also was in the original lineup, but was benched because he’s feeling ill, too. Scales was available.

Here’s the lineup: LF Soriano, SS Theriot, RF Bradley, CF Johnson, C Soto, 1B Hoffpauir, 3B Freel, 2B Miles and P Dempster.

* Carlos Marmol was in New York to be with his wife, who is expecting the couple’s second child. Marmol was expected back in Chicago on Wednesday.

* The Cubs batted .160 on the six-game road trip, scoring five runs. They did face some pretty good pitchers but Lou Piniella is the first to admit they struggled. “Until our batting average gets close to the .250 mark collectively and a few others higher, you’re going to continue to struggle offensively,” Piniella said.

“If we can get through this thing here, it’ll make us better as a team down the road — that’s the positive spin to it,” he said. “It’s been challenging for us all year. We’ve had stretches where we’ve hit well. But basically, the first 40 games or so, the first quarter of this year, it’s been a challenge for us offensively.”

* During his team meeting on Sunday, Piniella told the players to look at video replays of good swings, not bad ones. “I want to see a good picture when I use visualization,” Piniella said.

Maybe the players shouldn’t use the video room. Piniella said they’ve talked about that. “If we have to, we’ll close it down for the players, at least during the game,” he said. “Visualization is a great tool, but at the same time, visualize good things. Don’t keep putting bad pictures in your mind.”

Piniella said what players should do is watch the guy on the mound and see what his approach is to the hitters. “See what he’s getting people out with,” Piniella said. “There are a lot of things you can focus on during the ballgame watching the opposing pitcher that give you clues on how you’ll be approached as a hitter. If you’re watching tape, you miss a lot of things that can help you.”

* The Cubs will be wearing red caps in honor of Memorial Day.

— Carrie Muskat


My Boys sneak peek


My Boys

The TBS “My Boys” episode which features Mike Fontenot and Micah Hoffpauir will air Tuesday night. Check your TV listings for the time. “It’s pretty funny,” Hoffpauir said.

Ryan Theriot got a sneak peak at the show. His review?

“Micah was good,” Theriot said. “‘Font’ was horrible.”

— Carrie Muskat

Soriano at 2B?

The Cubs don’t have many backup options at third base with Aramis Ramirez out for four to six weeks because of a dislocated shoulder.

“The only other option we would have — and you all are going to like this one — is move [Alfonso] Soriano to second and [Micah] Hoffpauir to left,” Lou Piniella said. “Hopefully, it doesn’t get to that. That, again, is a measure of last resort.”

What has to happen for the Cubs to do that?

“We’ll explore all our other options [first],” Piniella said. “I feel very comfortable with our outfield with Soriano in left field. I want to get Hoffpauir in the lineup, I want to give everybody else the opportunity to swing the bats the way they’re capable. I’ve talked about it with Alan [Trammell]. I would think it’s a very remote possibility, but we’ll see.”

Has he talked about it with Soriano?

“Very briefly, in a passing nature,” Piniella said. “We haven’t had a prolonged conversation about it.”

Soriano didn’t laugh when Piniella discussed it. He did play second for six years.

“Let’s just keep that in the back of our heads, nothing more, nothing less,” Piniella said. “Maybe that was a 3:30 in the morning thought last night.”

— Carrie Muskat


5/21 Lineup

Ryan Freel is starting at third base Thursday in the Cubs’ series finale against the Cardinals. Lou Piniella said maybe one of the reasons for Mike Fontenot’s struggles at the plate is because he’s been switched to third. Fontenot was batting .213 when he plays, .197 when playing third. It’s LF Soriano, SS Theriot, CF Fukudome, 1B Lee, RF Bradley, 2B Fontenot, C Soto, 3B Freel and P Marshall.

— Carrie Muskat

Peavy update #1

Looks like Jake Peavy will be starting Friday night against the Cubs, and not pitching for the White Sox. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, a Peavy-to-White Sox deal is not imminent. The right-hander’s next start is scheduled for Friday night vs. Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs in San Diego.

The Padres and White Sox reportedly discussed a 4-for-1 deal, and needed Peavy’s consent to complete the deal. The Union-Tribune said the process had not gotten to that point.

White Sox pitcher Scott Linebrink told Chicago reporters Thursday he had spoken with Peavy on Wednesday about a possible trade. Peavy’s agent, Barry Axelrod, told that the pitcher has a “strong preference” to stay in the National League.

“If I had to make a bet on it, I would guess that Jake would say he’s not ready to take that step today,” Axelrod said. “But he wouldn’t necessarily preclude it at any time in the future.

“We aren’t hiding anything from anybody,” Axelrod said told “Jake has a strong preference to stay in the National League. He has a comfort zone there, he’s been successful, and he’s won a Cy Young Award. I don’t know that on May 21, that preference has eroded very much. From our point of view, we may say, ‘Let’s give [the Padres] more time and see if a National League team might step up over the next six weeks.”

— Carrie Muskat


Peavy to Chicago?

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports a Chicago team is interested in Jake Peavy but it’s not the Cubs. It’s the White Sox. According to the report, Peavy met with Padres manager Bud Black late Wednesday to discuss a possible trade to the White Sox. The 2007 Cy Young award winner has a no-trade clause, and would have to give his consent.

The Cubs and Padres discussed a deal for Peavy in December, but Cubs GM Jim Hendry decided to end talks when he determined the price, in terms of personnel, was too high. Peavy’s contract will pay him $11 million this year, and he’s owed $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011, and $17 million in 2012. There is a $22 million option for 2013, with a $4 million buyout.

Peavy is 3-5 with a 3.82 ERA this year for the Padres. Starting pitching hasn’t been the Cubs problem; it’s been inconsistent hitting.

— Carrie Muskat

5/20 Lineup & quick hits

Bobby Scales is starting at second base Wednesday in Game 2 of the Cubs’ three-game series vs. the Cardinals. It’ll be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, CF Fukudome, 1B Lee, RF Bradley, 3B Fontenot, C Soto, 2B Scales and P Dempster.

* Several of the Cubs took early hitting at Busch Stadium. They’re averaging seven runs in their 21 wins, and 2.3 runs a game in their 16 losses this year.

“Look, until we get some of these batting averages up, forget how many runs we’re averaging,” Lou Piniella said. “You don’t score runs with smoke and mirrors. Basically, you’ve got to get these averages up and on-base percentages up, and then you can start looking at how many runs you score and don’t score.”

The Cubs were a good hitting team last year.

“You always have a few people struggling but not four or five in a lineup,” Piniella said. “When that improves, then you’ll see our offense pick up and do things with a lot more consistency.”

Milton Bradley is one of those who are struggling. He’s batting .188. Piniella did talk to hitting coach Gerald Perry about Bradley.

“These guys are working,” Piniella said. “Extra work is not a problem. It’s just a question of taking it on the field and doing it there. Like me, I hit the ball on the practice range pretty well. I can’t wait to play a round of golf and I always shoot 90. You’ve got to take it on the course.”

* Aaron Miles is trying to change his luck. He was clean shaven on Wednesday, the first time in two years he does not have a mustache or goatee. “That’s what we’re looking for — a superstitious change,” Miles said.

* Iowa outfielder Brad Snyder will be out four to six weeks with a fractured left wrist.

— Carrie Muskat


Lilly vs. Pineiro

Tuesday’s loss snapped Ted Lilly’s four-game winning streak against the Cardinals. His last loss to St. Louis was Aug. 20, 2007, when Joel Pineiro was on the mound — yes, the same Joel Pineiro who held the Cubs to three hits Tuesday.

“I felt like I came in second place,” said Lilly, who gave up three runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings. “I had an opportunity to try to keep up, which would’ve been a lot of fun. It’s an opportunity to do something pretty special if you get two guys going at it like that and putting up zeroes nine innings, matching each other. That’s what I would’ve liked to have done.

“I feel like ultimately, that’s what you’re supposed to do as a starting pitcher is do whatever you can to give up fewer runs than the other guy,” he said. “Unfortunately, I had my hands full.”

The Cubs didn’t take many pitches. Derrek Lee said that’s because the Cardinals’ right-hander was throwing strikes, and if they tried to be patient, they’d be down 0-2 in the count.

“When we had our meetings, we kind of knew,” Pineiro said of the Cubs. “They’re a very aggressive team. They want to try to knock the pitcher out and get him out of the game early. If you make your pitches down in the zone, they’ll be on the ground like they were today.”

The Cubs made only three fly ball outs in the game, and struck out five times. It was Pineiro’s fourth career shutout and the three hits matched his career low-hit game. He had two three-ball counts and totaled 21 first-pitch strikes.

— Carrie Muskat