August 2009

8/26 Lineup

The tarp is on the field and rain is in the forecast, but here’s the lineup for Wednesday’s game vs. the Nationals:

SS Theriot

RF Bradley

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

CF Fukudome

LF Soriano

2B Baker

C HIll

P Harden

— Carrie Muskat

8/26 Kenney to stay

Cubs chairman Crane Kenney will continue with the team after the sale to the Ricketts family is completed. WGN-TV also will continue as the primary over-the-air broadcaster of Cubs games.

Those moves were confirmed in court documents filed by Tribune Co. Kenney, now in his 16th season in the Cubs organization, will return, but his role was not spelled out.

The contract also says the Cubs will continue to broadcast games on WGN through 2022, though the Cubs are likely to shift more games to Comcast SportsNet. The Ricketts also received 25 percent of CSN in the deal to buy the Cubs and Wrigley Field.

— Carrie Muskat

8/25 Quick hits

GM Jim Hendry wasn’t concerned about Carlos Zambrano’s recent back problems or rumors about where he’s been tuning up for his return on Tuesday.

“He does his work,” Hendry said of Zambrano, activated from the DL Tuesday. “It’s not like we’re not on top of his work. He’s been on the DL very few times in his life. He’s had a lot of innings over his career of a guy 28-years-old. He’s been a very durable guy — you couldn’t do that without good conditioning. He’s getting to the point where he probably has to do more.”

Zambrano did take batting practice. It’s part of the prep work.

“You play in the National League and you have to hit,” Hendry said.

Apparently, there were rumors that Zambrano was playing softball while the Cubs were on the West Coast. That was news to Hendry.

“When you’re not winning, all of a sudden the things that used to be positive and great, like ‘Oh, Big Z, he’s out playing soccer in the community’ a couple years ago and ‘Isn’t that awesome,'” Hendry said. “When you’re winning 18 games and a division title, those things are great. I don’t know if those [rumors] are true — I didn’t ask him today. I’m assuming he’s ready to pitch. I think he knows how to take care of himself off the field.”

* Expect the Cubs to call up eight players on Sept. 1 when rosters expand, including pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Most of the youngsters who will be called up have been with the big league team already this season.

* Reed Johnson was able to take batting practice, but is not able to run at all on his fractured left foot. It’s been difficult being sidelined.

“Watching is tough,” Johnson said. “When you’re not there and not a part of it, you know there’s nothing you can do sitting at home on the couch. It’s definitely frustrating to watch.”

* The Cubs Wives will host a food drive Saturday at Wrigley Field. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable items.

— Carrie Muskat

8/25 Welcome back

Jim Riggleman was back in the Wrigley Field dugout on Tuesday night, but he was on the visitor’s side. Riggleman, who managed the Cubs from 1995-99, now is the interim skipper for the Nationals.

“There’s a lot of good memories here,” Riggleman said before the game. “Five years here, that’s a long time. I wish I could’ve made it 10.”

He understands how tough Chicago can be if f things aren’t going well. Lou Piniella has heard his share of criticism.

“It’s a major market and passionate fans,” Riggleman said. “Lou’s a very smart guy and knows it comes with the territory. A couple things happen — you get Carlos [Zambrano] on the DL, a couple guys struggle with the bat, one club in the division gets hot and the next thing you know you’re looking up at somebody else. When you’ve gone through years of that in Chicago, when you’re the current guy, and manager of the club, you’re the one who’s going to catch the heat.

“Fortunately for Lou, he’s got a couple years in the playoffs here back to back that nobody else has done in a long time and that kind of speaks for itself and how good he is. Lou will survive it.”

Does Riggleman believe the Cubs are cursed?

“I never believed in that,” he said. “It’s a combination of things. Sometimes people forget the other team is trying to win, too.

“Money doesn’t play, players play,” he said. “Sometimes the guys making the money aren’t playing. You see that in New York. Jerry [Manuel] catches [heck] in New York but his top three players are on the disabled list.

“They’re not cursed,” he said of the Cubs. “It hasn’t all lined up just perfect yet. It looked like it was in ’03 and it got away from them. Anything can happen. Once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/25 Lineup & Soriano update

Alfonso Soriano was a late scratch Tuesday because of a sore left knee, and the Cubs outfielder says he’d like to get an MRI to determine what’s wrong. Soriano took early batting practice Tuesday, and felt some discomfort then. He thought it would feel better after treatment but it didn’t.

“It’s been tight for three or four days,” Soriano said.

The left fielder would like to be healthy for the stretch, and planned on talking to the team medical staff.

“I’ve been playing with a bad knee for four months,” Soriano said. “One week feels good, two weeks bad. Sometimes it’s 80 percent, sometimes 90. It depends on the weather and the treatment. The more important is to see if they can do a MRI today or tomorrow to clear my mind. It’s more mental — I don’t know what I have in my knee.”

Carlos Zambrano was activated from the DL before the game, and Esmail Caridad optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Here’s the lineup vs. the Nationals:

SS Theriot

RF Bradley

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

CF Fukudome

LF Fox

C Soto

2B Fontenot

P Zambrano

— Carrie Muskat

8/25 Arizona Fall League

Andrew Cashner, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in the 2008 Draft, and third baseman Josh Vitters, the top pick in 2007, will play for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.

Cashner, who is pitching for Double-A Tennessee, will be joined by lefties John Gaub and James Russell, right-hander Blake Parker, who were all pitching for Triple-A Iowa. Cubs Minor League pitching coach Dennis Lewellyn will be the Mesa team’s pitching coach.

Vitters, catcher Welington Castillo, and shortstop Starlin Castro also will play for the Solar Sox. Castro, 19, will be the youngest player in the league. He’s hit .300 at every level since he was signed by the Cubs in October 2006.

The 18th annual Arizona Fall League season begins Oct. 13 and runs through Nov. 19 with the Rising Stars game on Nov. 7 and the championship game set for Nov. 21.

— Carrie Muskat

8/25 Sing along

Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Logan Pause and John Thorrington of the Chicago Fire will lead the Wrigley Field crowd in the seventh inning stretch on Wednesday. Chicago Bears great Gale Sayers will do so Thursday, followed by the Plain White T’s on Friday.

Former Notre Dame coach and college basketball analyst Digger Phelps will lead the crowd on Saturday. Sunday is to be determined. On Aug. 31, Hall of Famer Billy Williams will sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” followed the next day by Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. On Sept. 2, it will be former Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas and Ron Santo will close the homestand on Sept. 3.

— Carrie Muskat

8/23 Minor matters

Jeremy Papelbon gave up four hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Tennessee’s 3-2 win over Carolina on Sunday. … Peoria pounded 11 hits, including a triple by Brett Jackson, but it wasn’t enough as Clinton topped the Chiefs, 4-1. … Iowa and New Orleans split a doubleheader Sunday. New Orleans won, 6-0, in the first game as Jeff Samardzija gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits over four innings. Casey Fossum struck out eight in five innings to get the win in Iowa’s 2-1 decision in the second game.

— Carrie Muskat

8/23 Pep talk

Lou PIniella talked to the Cubs players after Saturday’s loss to the Dodgers, although he downplayed the chat, delivered as he walked through the clubhouse.

“[It was] nothing formal,” Piniella said Sunday.

The Cubs began play Sunday trailing the Cardinals by eight games in the NL Central. It’s St. Louis’ largest lead since they ended the 2005 season 11 games up.

“We’ve got an 11-game homestand and we need to get hot,” Piniella said of the upcoming stretch against Washington, New York, Houston and the White Sox, which begins Tuesday. “We need to have a really, really good homestand.”

The Cubs are batting .269 in 57 road games compared to .239 on the road.

It can be done. The Rockies trailed by six games in the NL West on Sept. 1 in 2007, and went 20-8 in September to win the Wild Card.

Asked if there was one thing the Cubs need to do, Piniella said: “We need to start scoring runs. Getting [Carlos] Zambrano will help. You’ve got to score runs, c’mon. I think, like I told the team last night after the game, it’s got to turn, it’s got to get better. Just relax and don’t give in to it.”

Scoring runs has been a struggle. The Cubs have been outscored 21-7 in the five losses on this road trip.

— Carrie Muskat

8/23 LIneup & update

Alfonso Soriano did not start Sunday because of a sore left knee that has been bothering him for a few days. It’ll be the “F Troop” lineup vs. the Dodgers — Fuld, Fukudome, Fox and Fontenot:

SS Theriot

CF Fuld

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

RF Fukudome

LF Fox

2B Fontenot

C Hill

P Dempster

The semi-shakeup of the lineup comes despite Lou Piniella saying before Sunday’s game that the Cubs need the veteran players to step up in the final 41 games.

* X-rays of Reed Johnson’s foot show it is not healing as quickly as hoped, and he most likely will not be available until early September.

— Carrie Muskat