May 2009

Maybe it's the bat

Mike Fontenot isn’t putting his left sock on his right foot, or walking backwards, but he did decide to switch bats on Tuesday, and borrowed one of Aaron Miles. Fontenot is trying to find a way out of his funk.

He entered Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals batting .204 overall, and 1-for-29 in his last nine games. He was 0-for-16 in his last five.

“If you want to look at at-bats that are worrisome, it’s Fontenot’s at-bats,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “We haven’t seen the better approach. Gerald [Perry, hitting coach] and I talked and suggested a couple things to him. One, make sure he’s balanced up at home plate. Balance has a lot to do with it.”

The Cubs are counting on Fontenot, especially with Aramis Ramirez out four to six weeks because of a dislocated left shoulder.

Fontenot does have five home runs, but none since May 3. He has two extra base hits this month, as his average has dropped from .250 on May 1 to .204.

“Everyone says it’s a long season,” Fontenot said. “You try not to put too much pressure on yourself so if you have an 0-for-4 game, you get too down in the dumps. That’s going to be a long season if you do that all the time. It’s a little disappointing but you get over it, forget about it and come to the field the next day.”

He tested one of Miles bats on Tuesday in the cage, and decided to use that during the game.

“I don’t feel like they’re doing anything different [pitching-wise],” Fontenot said. “I’m just missing fastballs — not that they’re right down the middle but I’m fouling them off and things like that. I don’t feel like they’ve figured me out or anything.

“I’m getting pitches to hit and I’m just fouling them off,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty decent at the plate, I’m just trying to maybe get on top of the ball a little more. I’ve noticed I’ve been swinging under a lot of pitches so I’m fouling them off instead of putting them in play.”

He admits to being a little frustrated.

“A little frustrated but I’m here coming to work every day, trying to figure things out, watching the film, get input from other guys and going from there,” he said.

One thing Fontenot is trying to avoid is putting too much thought into his at-bats.

“Sometimes [thinking too much] can hurt you,” he said. “I don’t think I’m thinking too much, I don’t think.”

Think about that.

“When it comes down to it,” he said, “you get here and work early on your swing but once you get into the game, if you’re still thinking about ‘Well, my hands are here, my foot’s here,’ that can hurt you. You just have to get up there and compete.”

— Carrie Muskat

Minor matters – Snyder update

Iowa Cubs outfielder Brad Snyder injured his left wrist in the sixth inning Monday as he fell back to third base to avoid a tag.

On Tuesday, Jeff Samardzija gave up one run on four hits over five innings in Iowa’s 3-2 win over Salt Lake. Jake Fox had two hits, and was batting .431. Jason Dubois also had two hits, both doubles.

— Carrie Muskat

Minor matters – Snyder out

Iowa Cubs outfielder Brad Snyder broke his hand on Monday, and will be sidelined indefinitely. Snyder was batting .317 with 12 homers and 35 RBIs in 35 games. Am trying to get more details and information.

— Carrie Muskat

5/19 More quick hits

Randy Wells has impressed the Cubs in his two starts and will be in the bullpen through the weekend series in San Diego. Sean Marshall will start Thursday, and with Carlos Zambrano coming back on Friday, the next opening in the rotation will be May 26 vs. Pittsburgh. No word yet on who would make that start and it may depend on who is used the most in the next few days.

* More on Mike Fontenot, who entered Tuesday’s game 1-for-29 over his last nine games:

“If you want to look at at-bats that are worrisome, it’s Fontenot’s at-bats,” Lou PIniella said. “We haven’t seen a better approach. Gerald [Perry, hitting coach] and I talked and suggested a couple things to him. One, make sure he’s balanced up at home plate. Balance has a lot to do with it. We need for Fontenot to hit. We counted on this young man coming out of Spring Training.

“He started the season well and he’s gotten into a little bit of a funk and it’s lasted more than Fontenot would want it to last, or us.”

The Cubs began the season without much depth at third base, and with Aramis Ramirez out four to six weeks because of a dislocated shoulder, it shows.

“Our best option is for him to hit because he can hit with a little more power than the rest of these kids,” Piniella said. “We’re hoping he gets started and starts showing a propensity for better at-bats. Usually when you start seeing that, the average and production even out.”

* Something to watch Tuesday night with Ted Lilly on the mound: Left-handers are batting .174 (4-for-23) against him.

— Carrie Muskat


5/19 Lineup & quick hits

For Tuesday’s series opener vs. the Cardinals, it’ll be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, CF Fukudome, 1B Lee, RF Bradley, 3B Fontenot, C Soto, 2B Miles and P Lilly.

* Mike Fontenot is hitless in his last five games, and Lou Piniella, obviously, would like to see a better approach at the plate from the infielder. Geovany Soto is batting .204, but Piniella said he’s seen better at-bats from the catcher.

* Carlos Zambrano passed all the tests in his Minor League rehab assignment Sunday for Class A Daytona. “He said he threw only fastballs and was just trying to build up arm strength,” Piniella said. Zambrano is still on schedule to start Friday in San Diego.

— Carrie Muskat

Big money Cubs fans

Tom Ricketts, who is trying to buy the Cubs, has reportedly talked to actor and longtime Cubs fan Bill Murray about investing in the team. Ricketts apparently also has contacted actors Jim Belushi and John Cusack about investing as well, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday.

Three banks have agreed to lend the Ricketts family $450 million to help finance its purchase of the Cubs, Wrigley Field and 25 percent share in Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The family also has raised money by selling some of its shares in TD Ameritrade. One of the holdups in finalizing the deal, however, is determining the value of the existing television and radio contracts to broadcast Cubs games, according to the Tribune’s story source. Industry observers have questioned whether the Cubs have received market value for the broadcast rights because the team and the TV and radio stations are owned by the same company.

— Carrie Muskat

5/18 Odds and ins

A new Inbox will be posted later Monday — I know the hirejimessian people will be happy to read that. I get a lot of repeat mailbag questions so will try to address some here: The Cubs abandoned the high tech batting helmets they used last year because they were always breaking. They also have dumped the red-billed caps because it’s easier to deal with one. There’s nothing I can do to get more games on WGN or to realign the divisions. And Matt P. of Tampa will be happy to know the equipment guys are working on straightening out the crooked “C” on some of the batting helmets.

— Carrie Muskat

5/17 Postgame notes

Sunday’s loss snapped Rich Harden’s season-high four-game winning streak as well as the team’s five-game win streak.

“I’m not pitching anywhere near what I’m capable of,” Harden said. “I expect more out of myself. I haven’t been pitching like I want to. Today’s the best I’ve felt in a while. The big thing for me is being consistent and throwing my offspeed for strikes. Those are the pitches that have been hurting me. When I’m not throwing them for strikes, [hitters] are sitting fastball and putting good swings on them.”

The good news is Harden feels strong.

“Every time out, I feel better and better,” he said. “I have to eliminate those innings. If I can come out of it giving up one run, it’ll save me some pitches, too.”

* Harden has struck out seven or more in five starts, and gone six innings or more in six of his starts, including the last three.

* The four runs he served up in the fourth Sunday marked the most he’s given up in one inning since surrendering five on Aug. 9, 2005, vs. the Angels.

— Carrie Muskat


5/17 Zambrano update

Carlos Zambrano gave up four runs on five hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings Sunday in a rehab start for Class A Daytona against Dunedin. Zambrano, who has been on the DL with a strained hamstring, struck out one. He was expected to join the Cubs in St. Louis this week, and return to the Cubs rotation Friday in San Diego.

— Carrie Muskat 

Day runner

Late night talk show host Conan O’Brien was at Wrigley Field on Sunday to be filmed as he dashed across the field before the game — part of a promotion linked to his moving from New York to Los Angeles. The ballpark security guards were notified so they wouldn’t tackle O’Brien as he was to sprint across the grass.

— Carrie Muskat