April 2010

4/23 Welcome back

Good to have Ron Santo back in the WGN Radio booth. He missed the Cubs’ trip to New York on doctor’s orders and also because someone or something always reminds him of the ’69 season.

— Carrie Muskat

4/23 Big Z to 'pen; could pitch Saturday

Carlos Zambrano will be in the Cubs bullpen on Friday but it’s unlikely he’ll be called on to pitch. Lou Piniella said the right-hander most likely will be available Saturday.

“We’ll send him out there tonight but I think we’ll probably use him [Saturday],” Piniella said. “We’ll let him get a little acclimated tonight.”

Zambrano, the Cubs’ Opening Day starter who is switching to a set-up role after four starts, threw on the side Thursday. His last start was Tuesday in New York when he threw 119 pitches.

“I think all of us in the clubhouse care about whatever it takes to win a game,” Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly said. “We’re a team. Carlos is an important part of that team. He’s a very gifted pitcher and I think whatever role that we put him into, he’ll do well. I think he expects to do well.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/23 Rudy & Ramirez

Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo isn’t worried about Aramis Ramirez or any of the other Cubs hitters. Ramirez, who was batting .127, did not start Friday to give him more time to work with Jaramillo.

“He’s such a good hitter in the past,” Jaramillo said Friday. “I’ve never really seen him live but I am now. Right now, it’s just a timing issue. He’s just late. When you’re late, that comes from maybe trying too hard or trying to do too much. When you hit so well and then you get out of yourself a little bit and you start chasing pitches and start guessing and you make up your mind to swing — all those things happen when things aren’t going right.”

The Cubs were outscored 15-3 in the three losses in New York but Jaramillo sees lots of positives.

“We’re working the pitchers and getting a bunch of guys on base and we’re just two hits away from things breaking open,” Jaramillo said. “When that happens, everybody relaxes and things come together. I really believe in these guys, I really do. I care about them.”

— Carrie Muskat


4/23 Lilly a go to pitch, not run

One of the first things pitching coach Larry Rothschild probably told Ted Lilly was that the Cubs pitcher doesn’t have the green light on the base paths. The lefty tried to steal during his Minor League rehab start in Peoria and was thrown out at second. Lilly made a head-first slide. What was he doing?

“I was trying to steal second,” Lilly said Friday.


“They teach you when you’re going into the base, if there’s a play at the base, you should slide,” Lilly said.

But why, as a pitcher who is rehabbing from a shoulder injury, would you do that?

“I was trying to steal a base,” Lilly said. “I was trying to get a run for the team so our team could score more runs than the other team because if we do that, we’ll win.”

Isn’t that risky?

“Every day’s dangerous,” he said.

Lilly will be on the mound for the first time this season on Saturday in Game 2 against the Brewers. In his Minor League outing in Peoria, he threw 88 pitches over seven innings.

“The real test, I think, is going to come tomorrow,” Lilly said. “Obviously, we’ll get some questions answered. I feel good. I don’t have any reservations as to whether I should be going out there. I’m confident to go out there and I’m healthy and ready to contribute.”

Back to the stolen base. Was it a close play at second?

“It was pretty close,” Lilly said.

— Carrie Muskat

4/23 Lineup & Ramirez

Aramis Ramirez was given one more day off to work with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and Chad Tracy started at third base Friday night in the first game of the Cubs’ three-game series against the Brewers.

Ramirez went 0-for-2 on Thursday in New York, hitting into a fielder’s choice in the seventh and striking out in the ninth. He’s now batting .127.

“It’s so rare — I don’t think I’ve ever seen him struggle for so long,” Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee said of Ramirez. “He’s too good of a hitter and he’s going to come out of hit. You just have to tell yourself it’s a six-month season and we’ve played two weeks. You have four good months in a season and you have a good season. He’s going to be fine.”

Friday’s lineup is:

SS Theriot

RF Fukudome

1B Lee

3B Tracy

CF Byrd

LF Colvin

2B Fontenot

C Hill

P Dempster

— Carrie Muskat

4/23 Football at Wrigley

football.jpegHere’s a rendering of what Wrigley will look like Nov. 20 when Wildcats play host to Illini in Big Ten football game.

4/23 Minor matters

Starlin Castro is riding a nine-game hitting streak after collecting hits in both ends of a doubleheader on Thursday. Castro went 2-for-4 in Tennessee’s 7-3 win over Caroina in the opener and was 2-for-3 in the nightcap, an 8-1 victory. He’s now batting .452 and has 10 multi-hit games.

Welington Castillo homered and Brad Snyder extended his hitting streak to eight games in Iowa’s 6-5, 10-inning loss to Memphis. Snyder is batting .485 during his streak. Mike Parisi did not get a decision. He gave up two runs on four hits over six innings.

Josh Vitters hit two home runs to help Daytona beat Tampa, 9-6. Vitters finished with four RBIs.

Su-Min Jung improved to 3-0 for Peoria which beat Kane County, 6-4. Jung threw five scoreless innings, giving up three hits and two walks.

— Carrie Muskat

4/23 Are you ready for some football?

The Cubs and Northwestern University announced Friday the Wildcats will play host to Illinois on Nov. 20 in a Big Ten football game. It’s the first college football game at Wrigley since 1938 when DePaul played home games at the ballpark. It also will be the first football game of any kind at the Cubs’ home park since the Chicago Bears last played an NFL game there in December 1970.

Tickets will be available through the Northwestern ticket office. In order to purchase a ticket for the Nov. 20 contest, fans must purchase season tickets for Northwestern’s five home games at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. Season tickets are now on sale through Wildcat ticket outlets, including the Ryan Field Box Office or NUsports.com.

The field will run from the Cubs dugout to the right field bleachers. When the Chicago Bears called Wrigley home, the field ran from left field to the visitor’s dugout.

Northwestern and Illinois have played at Wrigley before. On Oct. 27, 1923, the two schools squared off at what was then called Cubs Park in front of 32,000 fans. The Nov. 20 game will mark the 104th game between the Big Ten rivals; they first played in 1892.

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Silva gets a little help from friends

The difference for Carlos Silva may have come in January when he showed up at the Cubs Convention. His agent told him that pitching coach Larry Rothschild wanted Silva to throw a bullpen session. Silva, acquired the month before from Seattle for Milton Bradley, agreed. He figured Rothschild wanted to see how strong the right-hander’s shoulder was.

“[Rothschild] said, ‘I want you to do this, this and this,'” Silva said Thursday of the immediate instruction Rothschild gave him. “I was like, ‘Whoa.’ It gave me a lot of confidence in him. I said, ‘Wow, this guy is ready to work with me.’ That means a lot to me.”

Silva and Rothschild have combined to create one of the nice surprises on the Cubs so far. The veteran pitcher, coming off two dreadful seasons in Seattle when he was a combined 5-18 and battled shoulder problems, heads into his next start Monday at 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA.

“For the last two years, I’ve been working so hard to get something good out of all this work,” Silva said. “This is a good start, but we have to keep working hard. There’s a long way to go. I can continue helping this team.”

Silva also decided he needed help with the mental part of the game and met with a counselor last year. He’s still in contact with him.

“The last two years, sometimes I put baseball before my family,” he said. “That’s how much baseball means to me — it’s my profession and what I love to do.”

Part of the counseling involves developing patience. Silva’s wife advises him that good things will happen but he admits he’s anxious. The pitcher also talked this spring to the Cubs’ new sports psychologist, Mark Strickland. Silva will call if he needs a little boost of confidence.

“Whatever is bothering me, I call the guy,” Silva said.

So far, he’s getting good advice.

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 It's all about the ring

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman delivered Xavier Nady’s 2009 World Series championship ring to him personally on Wednesday at Citi Field. Nady played for the Yankees in 2008-09, but appeared in just seven games last season before needing Tommy John surgery, again, on his right elbow. He still got a ring, which was his first.

“I didn’t expect that — it meant a lot,” Nady said Thursday of the diamond-studded ring. It’s really gorgeous.”

The white gold ring has a blue stone in the center and 119 diamonds totaling nearly 4 carats. And of course, there’s the trademark interlocking “NY.”

— Carrie Muskat