June 2009

6/25 Geovany Soto

Cubs catcher Geovany Soto tested positive for marijuana use during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, and is ineligible to compete in international play for two years. The positive test does not affect his playing time in Major League Baseball with the Cubs.

“I am embarrassed by my lapse in judgement,” Soto said in a statement Thursday.

Why the test results were being released now is not clear. Soto has undergone drug testing regularly in his career, and this is the only positive test at any point.

Soto has “assured the Cubs this was an isolated incident and a misstep in judgement that will not be repeated,” the team said in a statement.

“While I fully acknowledge my inappropriate behavior, I want to assure my fans and my family that this was an isolated incident,” Soto said in his statement. “I do not say this to minimize or deflect from my conduct and I fully understand the ramifications of my actions. I have and will accept any and all consequences.”

Soto, the 2008 National League Rookie of the Year, played for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. He was not in the Cubs’ lineup Thursday.

— Carrie Muskat

Jake Fox & home run calls

Jake Fox is making a case to stay when Aramis Ramirez returns. Fox hit his first Major League home run in the first inning Thursday, a three-run shot. The Cubs also got a break in the first when Miguel Cabrera’s fly ball to right hit the top of the wall, and should’ve been ruled a home run. The Tigers didn’t challenge second base umpire Tim McClelland’s call, although it appeared that players watching in the clubhouse saw the replay and then told manager Jim Leyland. It was too late. That’s a break for the Cubs.

— Carrie Muskat

6/25 Johnson on DL; Freel activated

Ryan Freel has arrived at Comerica Park. Reed Johnson was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday, retroactive to June 21. Ryan Freel was activated from the DL. Freel had been sidelined with a strained hamstring. The move was delayed until Freel arrived in Detroit. His flight was delayed.

— Carrie Muskat

6/25 Quick hits

Reed Johnson won’t officially be placed on the disabled list until Ryan Freel arrives at Comerica Park on Thursday. Freel apparently got on a 6 a.m. flight to Detroit, but mechanical problems delayed his flight. No, it’s not another Cubby occurrence.

Lou Piniella, by the way, has had enough of all the freak things.

“I’m done with the Cubby occurrences,” Piniella said. “They were funny at first, but they’re not funny any more.”

* Aaron Miles was originally in Thursday’s lineup but scratched because he hyperextended his elbow hitting in the cage the day before. He will be examined Friday in Chicago.

* Milton Bradley is getting a two-day breather. Bradley, who is 0-for-6 in his last three games, will be back Saturday and Sunday, Piniella said.

“Let’s call it a day off for today,” Piniella said about Thursday.

— Carrie Muskat

6/25 Lineup

Milton Bradley is getting a day off Thursday, and most likely will not play until Saturday, Lou Piniella said. The lineup for the series finale vs. the Tigers will be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, 1B Lee, RF Hoffpauir, DH Fox, 3B Fontenot, CF Fukudome, C Hill and 2B Blanco.

— Carrie Muskat

Go Tigers

DJ LeMahieu went 2-for-4 and scored two runs in LSU’s 11-4 win over Texas to clinch the College World Series championship Wednesday night. LeMahieu, the Cubs’ second-round draft pick, batted .350 in the tournament, played in Omaha. It’s LSU’s sixth national title.

— Carrie Muskat

6/24 Quick hits

Kevin Gregg’s blown save Tuesday was the 11th by a Cubs reliever this year. Lou Piniella isn’t happy, obviously, when his closers give up home runs.

“You don’t really like to see that our of your closer, to be honest,” Piniella said. “Usually when you give up ones like that, they end games.”

The Cubs pen is 15-for-26 in save situations, and Gregg is 11-for-14. But he’s still the Cubs closer.

“I didn’t say we were going to make any changes, I didn’t say we were contemplating making any changes,” Piniella said, “but I am saying, late in the game, you have to keep the ball in the ballpark if you want to have a lot of success in these shorter roles.”

He noted that when Carlos Marmol gets himself in trouble with his command, he’s usually able to work out of the mess.

“It’s not the easiest thing in the world to save a one-run game,” Piniella said.

* Jake Fox was back at third base Wednesday.

“We’re looking for offense any where we can get it,” Piniella said. “If we were scoring more runs, we probably wouldn’t be as liberal. We’ve got [Aramis] Ramirez coming back in a couple weeks. If Fox wants to make a statement to stay here for the rest of the summer, it’s OK with me.”

* Piniella on Kosuke Fukudome: “He needs to use the whole field to hit with, that’s what he needs to do to be successful,” Piniella said. “He hit one ball hard [Tuesday] night and that was to left field. It makes him stay on the ball longer, it gives him better plate coverage, it gives him better recognition of offspeed pitches.”

* Piniella was asked if it was easier to manage in the American League.

“You want to see how easy these jobs are, put on a uniform and try it,” Piniella said. “I think the manager is more involved without the DH. If you have a good set lineup in the American League and have pretty good hitting, you don’t have to worry too much from an offensive standpoint. The one danger in the American League with the DH is you can forget your bullpen sometimes and go too long with your starting pitching and sometimes the bullpen doesn’t get as much work. I think the manager is much more involved in the National League than the American League.”

— Carrie Muskat

6/24 Johnson to DL

Reed Johnson was expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday, and Ryan Freel called up from Triple-A Iowa. Johnson has been sidelined with back problems, and has not played since Saturday.

“We can’t continue to play short,” Lou Piniella said.

Johnson’s injury comes at an inopportune time. He had four home runs and 10 RBIs in his last 18 games, and he provides some energy.

“Every time it seems like we have a little something going here, we suffer a little setback — [Angel] Guzman in the bullpen and now Reed Johnson,” Piniella said. “We’ve got to fight through it, what can I say? We need to get [Aramis] Ramirez back in the lineup and then we can set up the lineup the way we want and I think we’ll get a lot more consistent offensively.”

Ramirez, out since May 9 with a dislocated left shoulder, had a good workout Wednesday at Comerica Park. He’ll start taking batting practice Friday in Chicago. Once Ramirez passes that test, he’ll be ready for a Minor League rehab assignment.

“Depending on how he feels, the next thing will be to go out and get some at-bats,” Piniella said.

— Carrie Muskat


6/24 Lineup

Derrek Lee, riding a 20-game hitting streak, is the designated hitter Wednesday night for Game 2 of the Cubs-Tigers series. It’ll be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, DH Lee, 1B Hoffpauir, RF Bradley, 3B Fox, CF Fukudome, C Soto, 2B Fontenot.

— Carrie Muskat

Hitting machine

Derrek Lee extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a double in the sixth inning Tuesday against the Tigers’ Edwin Jackson. Lee’s previous best was an 18 game streak, April 17-May 7, 2005. With his hit Tuesday, Lee has posted the 22nd hitting streak of at least 20 games in Cubs history, and first since Alfonso Soriano had a 20-game streak in 2007.

— Carrie Muskat