June 2009

Motor city reunion

Alan Trammell stopped by Tiger Stadium on Tuesday to get one more look at the ballpark before it’s totally demolished. Now the Cubs bench coach, Trammell spent 20 years playing for the Tigers and also was the team’s manager. He’s a little grayer since he was last in Detroit and has a new hip following replacement surgery in 2006. He wasn’t sad about seeing the demolition — he’ll always have his memories.

“I’m happy to be on a baseball field,” Trammell said. “That’s where I feel most comfortable.”

Lou Piniella described his bench coach as a “good baseball man.” What’s surprised Piniella about Trammell?

“He’s more intense than I thought he was,” Piniella said. “I didn’t realize that. He likes competing and he likes to win. He does a great job with our infielders. During the course of the ballgame, I’ll ask him numerous questions, soliciting what he would do. I utilize my coaches. The intensity factor surprised me. He’s an intense young man.”

Told that Trammell always wants to be in uniform, Piniella concurred.

“He belongs in uniform,” Piniella said. “He’s a baseball guy, he loves talking baseball. I really enjoy having him on my staff and he’s been very helpful. And hopefully he’ll get another opportunity to manage at the big league level.”

— Carrie Muskat

6/23 Lineups & quick hits

Micah Hoffpauir is the DH for Tuesday’s game vs. the Tigers. It’ll be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, RF Bradley, 1B Lee, DH Hoffpauir, C Soto, CF Fukudome, 3B Fontenot, 2B Blanco.

Don’t think Carlos Zambrano was happy about the DH on the day he pitches.

“He wanted to hit today,” Lou Piniella said. “He said, ‘I’ve got my bat.'”

Zambrano looked at the lineup on the clubhouse door and harrumphed.

“No DH — no respect,” he said.

* Aramis Ramirez was not expected to take live batting practice until Friday. Ramirez is rehabbing from a dislocated left shoulder. He will have to play in the Minors before he’s activated.

* The Cubs have agreed to terms with outfielder Brett Jackson, their No. 1 pick in the June Draft. Jackson, who starred at UC Berkeley, will undergo a physical on Thursday and if all goes well, will join Class A Boise.

— Carrie Muskat

One last look

Tiger Stadium is slowly being demolished, and driving by Tuesday, there were a few folks taking photos of what’s left of the old ballpark. It’s a sad sight. As Alan Trammell said, you can’t take away the memories. Do you keep lists of ballparks you’ve been to? I started to think about the ones I’ve been to that now are gone, like Three Rivers, Metropolitan Stadium, Riverfront, Comiskey Park, Yankee Stadium, and Shea (good riddance). Candlestick and Qualcomm no longer host baseball. Makes you appreciate Wrigley’s longevity even more.

— Carrie Muskat 

6/23 CWS update

DJ LeMahieu, the Cubs’ second-round pick in the June First-Year Player Draft, helped LSU beat top-seed Texas, 7-6, in 11 innings Monday in the College World Series. LeMahieu homered in the seventh and hit a two-out, two-run double in the ninth to tie the score and force extra innings. He then scored the game-winning run on Mikie Mathook’s single with two outs in the 11th. This was the opening game of the best-of-three championship final in Omaha. The two teams meet again Tuesday night.

— Carrie Muskat

How many fingers?

Yes, Angel Guzman was wearing glasses when he pitched Saturday for the Cubs. The right-hander is the third Cubs reliever to wear glasses, joining Kevin Gregg and Jose Ascanio. Guzman is still getting used to them but has seen improvement.

“With the signs, it’s way better,” Guzman said. “It seems to work.”

Being able to see the catcher’s signs would help. Guzman was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday because of a right triceps strain. He planned on not throwing at all for five days, and would then resume his workouts.

— Carrie Muskat

Father's day

Ryan Dempster treated some military families to Sunday’s Cubs game, part of his annual Father’s Day celebration. He invites families whose fathers are serving overseas.

“It’s a holiday that means something to a family like that,” Dempster said. “We want to give them a little break in the day so they can go out and enjoy a Cubbie win.”

Sunday was special for Dempster, who now is the father of two. Daughter Riley was born April 1 this year, but has a rare form of DiGeorge Syndrome, which, in this instance, means missing part of a chromosome that disrupts her natural swallowing reflex. She’s been receiving care in a Chicago children’s hospital.

“[Today] was really special,” Dempster said. “My first Father’s day as father of two was really cool.”

Dempster will start Monday night in Atlanta, then return to Chicago to bring Riley home on Tuesday. That will be even more special.

— Carrie Muskat

6/21 LIneup & early quick hits

Jake Fox is back at third base for Sunday’s series finale vs. the Indians. It’ll be LF Soriano, SS Theriot, RF Bradley, 1B Lee, C Soto, 3B Fox, CF Fukudome, 2B Blanco and P Wells.

* The Cubs placed pitcher Angel Guzman on the 15-day disabled list because of soreness in his right triceps, and recalled right-hander Kevin Hart from Triple-A Iowa. Hart was in Chicago Sunday.

* Reed Johnson was not available. His back has stiffened up, and Lou Piniella says Johnson may be sidelined a few days.

— Carrie Muskat

Rude homecoming

Kerry Wood didn’t expect to pick up two blown save opportunities in his return to Chicago. The Indians closer took the loss Saturday in the Cubs’ 6-5, 13-inning win.

“You have mixed feelings about that,” Lou Piniella said about watching Wood. “Obviously, you’d like to beat the Cleveland club. Woody did a lot of nice things here in the two years I was here and for this organization in the past. Whoever is out there, we’re trying to win a baseball game.”

Said Ted Lilly: “Certainly, you don’t want to see that happen. Those two guys [Wood and Mark DeRosa] were a special part of our team the last couple years and you hope they have great healthy years. When we’re playing them, if they’re going to have a rough day it might as well be here.”

Derrek Lee hit a game-tying homer off Wood in the ninth inning on Friday. He watched as Wood took the loss Saturday.

“It’s tough, but that’s the life of a closer,” Lee said. “He’s out there with the game on the line. He’s either going to get all the praise or he’s the last guy getting the loss. He’s going to be fine. He’s definitely going to close out more of those than he loses.”

Kevin Gregg replaced Wood as the Cubs closer this year. He knows exactly what Wood is going through.

“We’re all baseball players, we all can relate,” Gregg said. “There’s a lot of pressure on him coming back here, coming to Chicago. That’s some weird stuff that’s happened to him the last couple days. He’s head strong, he’s going to be fine. He’ll put his nose down and get through it, I’m sure.”

— Carrie Muskat

You can't see me

John Cena of the WWE had a chance to chat with Alfonso Soriano before Saturday’s game. Soriano has borrowed Cena’s trademark wave — “You can’t see me” — and the wrestler didn’t challenge him. “As long as he keeps hitting home runs, it’s OK,” Cena said.

— Carrie Muskat

6/20 Arms update

Rich Harden wasn’t sharp on Friday in his second start since coming off the disabled list. He lasted five innings, and had trouble with his command.

“He didn’t have very good location with his fastball and that’s where he got hurt,” Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Saturday. “He couldn’t locate his fastball even in the strike zone. The first home run was a missed pitch with the fastball and so was the second. It wasn’t only the walks, it was missing the strike zone that hurt him.”

Rothschild felt Harden was throwing better before he was sidelined with low back pain and wasn’t sure what happened Friday.

“He certainly wasn’t himself yesterday,” Rothschild said.

What about Carlos Marmol? He also hasn’t been as untouchable.

“He’ll be sharp and then he’ll throw a couple bad pitches and it’ll leak into a couple more,” Rothschild said. “Instead of stopping it, he’s letting it go on. In the past, even when he’s gotten behind, he’s been able to come back. I think it’s more location with the breaking ball than anything else.”

Is the problem a little lapse in concentration?

“I think a little bit,” Rothschild said. “The aggressiveness with him has always been something that he brings to the table all the time. He’s got to get back to that.”

One pitcher who had an impressive outing Friday was Rule 5 Draft pick David Patton, who threw two scoreless innings. He mixed in a couple changeups, a pitch he’s been working on. Patton needs a third pitch.

“He’s worked hard and he’ll keep working hard,” Rothschild said.

— Carrie Muskat