May 2010

5/29 Big Z expected to start Wednesday

Saturday was Carlos Zambrano’s last day as a reliever. He entered the game with two on and one out in the Cardinals’ eighth and got pinch-hitter Nick Stavinoha to ground into a double play.

“We’ll put him in the rotation I would think at the tail end of the Pittsburgh series,” Piniella said.

Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild will go over the rotation on Sunday and make official announcement regarding the rotation.

– Carrie Muskat

5/29 A perfect start for Silva

Carlos Silva set a career-high with 11 strikeouts on Saturday. If he gets the win — and am posting this before Saturday’s game ends — he’ll be first Cubs pitcher to begin the season 7-0 since Ken Holtzman opened 1967 at 9-0. (There’s been some confusion on this — the Cubs PR folk say Holtzman is correct).

Silva, whom the Cubs acquired in December from Seattle for Milton Bradley, topped his previous strikeout high, which was eight, set June 12, 2004. He gave up two hits, both by Matt Holliday, who singled in the second and doubled in the seventh. It’s been quite a turnaround for Silva, who was 5-18 in two seasons with the Mariners. He did not walk a batter and was pulled after throwing a season-high 100 pitches.

– Carrie Muskat

 

5/29 All-Star shortstop

If you’ve got an All-Star ballot, you might want to write Starlin Castro’s name in there. When the ballots were released, Ryan Theriot was listed as the Cubs shortstop and Mike Fontenot was the second baseman. Now, Theriot is starting at second, Fontenot was subbing at third, and Castro is at short. The last Cubs shortstop to make the All-Star team was Shawon Dunston in 1990.

“He does a nice job at shortstop, he makes the play in the hole,” Lou Piniella said of Castro. “We’ve been pleased with him. Just let him play. He works with Alan Trammell every day at the shortstop position. I write his name every day in the lineup and we let the young man play and gain experience. He’s a good looking young player.”

Is he an All-Star? That’s up to the fans.

– Carrie Muskat

5/29 Hard to squeeze Colvin into mix

Rookie Tyler Colvin is batting .353 in his last 24 games. Wasn’t Lou Piniella tempted to put the outfielder in Saturday’s lineup?

“The kid’s playing,” Piniella said.

The problem is, the Cubs’ other outfielders are doing well. It’s hard to bump Alfonso Soriano (.307), Marlon Byrd (.299) or Kosuke Fukudome (.304).

“If [Colvin] continues to do these things, he’s forcing it,” Piniella said. “I have three veteran outfielders — actually four with [Xavier] Nady. Basically, they’re playing well also. It’s not like they’re struggling. I was looking at some of the numbers today.”

Colvin is 2-for-9 off the bench, and in his last 24 games, he has five doubles, a triple, four homers and 11 RBIs.

“He’s done a nice job off the bench and he’s helped us win a few games off the bench,” Piniella said of the young outfielder. “If he continues, we’ll get him in there more.”

– Carrie Muskat

5/29 Zambrano news on horizon

Lou Piniella wants to see who he needs Saturday against the Cardinals before announcing who will be bumped from the rotation to make room for Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano will be in the ‘pen Saturday, which could be his last relief appearance. The right-hander made four starts, then switched to a relief role April 22 to make room for Ted Lilly in the rotation and try to fill the set-up spot in the bullpen. But Zambrano asked to start again, and he’ll get his first game either Monday or Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

The Cubs needed the bullpen to help out Friday after starter Randy Wells was knocked out in the first inning without retiring a batter. Wells will be on call in the ‘pen Saturday for Game 2 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“After today, we’ll have it for you,” Lou Piniella said Saturday of his rotation in Pittsburgh. “After today, it’ll sort itself out and we’ll have some word on the rotation.”

Lilly will start Tuesday. Monday would be Tom Gorzelanny’s turn in the rotation and he has appeared to be the odd man out when Zambrano returns.

– Carrie Muskat

5/29 Lineup change – no Soto

Geovany Soto was scratched from the Cubs lineup Saturday because he’s feeling under the weather. Koyie Hill will start at catcher and Starlin Castro will move up to the 7th spot. So, here’s new lineup:

RF Fukudome

2B Theriot

1B Lee

LF Soriano

CF Byrd

3B Fontenot

SS Castro

C Hill

P Silva

– Carrie Muskat

5/29 Lineup & Ramirez update

Aramis Ramirez did not start Saturday but spent batting practice testing some new tweaks made to his bat in an attempt to alleviate whatever is aggravating his left thumb. Ramirez started on Friday for the first time since May 22, but the at-bats bothered his thumb, which is tender at the base.

“We put a little donut on it and we put some padding on the bat,” Lou Piniella said. “He’s going to change his grip a little bit and he’s going to try some things in [batting practice] here so we can get him to the point where it doesn’t bother him when he swings.”

The adjustments are “minor, nothing major,” Piniella said.

There’s no word on whether Ramirez would be available Sunday for the series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s batting .164, and has been struggling with the thumb injury for quite a while. The Cubs are trying to find a more permanent cure so they can keep the third baseman in the lineup.

Here’s the lineup for Saturday:

RF Fukudome

2B Theriot

1B Lee

LF Soriano

CF Byrd

3B Fontenot

C Soto

SS Castro

P Silva

– Carrie Muskat

5/29 Marmol's K count

Carlos Marmol is currently at 49 strikeouts with 103 batters faced, which is a 47.57 percent. Stats Inc. did the research, and here are the all-time highest percentages with at least  50 innings pitched and a 33 percent strikeout rate. The top 10:

Year    Name              Team      SO      BFP     K% of BFP     
2003    Gagne, Eric     LA          137     306        44.77%
1999    Wagner, Billy   Hou       124     286        43.36%
2004    Lidge, Brad      Hou       157     369        42.55%
1999    Benitez, Armando/NYM  128     312        41.03%
1998    Wagner, Billy   Hou         97      247        39.27%
1992    Dibble, Rob      Cin        110     286        38.46%
1997    Wagner, Billy   Hou       106     277        38.27%
2009    Broxton, Jonathan/LAD  114     300        38.00%
2007    Papelbon, Jonathan/Bos  84     224        37.50%
1999    Martinez, Pedro/Bos      313     835        37.49%

The last player to have a strikeout percentage higher than Marmol — with no innings limit — was Houston’s Travis Driskill in 2005. Driskill struck out two of the four batters (50 percent) that he faced that year. No one who’s exceeded Marmol’s rate has had significant innings pitched whatsoever. The most of any of them was K-Rod for the 2002 Angels, who struck out 13 of the 21 batters he’d faced that year (61.9 percent) in 5 2/3 innings.

Thanks for Jeff Chernow at Stats Inc.

– Carrie Muskat

5/28 Wells' bad day

Randy Wells had a lot of friends and family watching Friday’s game. He grew up in Belleville, IL, which is Cardinals country. Wells failed to retire a batter and was pulled after serving up six hits in the Cubs’ 7-1 loss to the Redbirds.

“There’s not a whole lot to say about today,” Wells said. “Like the baseball gods say, I was ambushed today.”

Wells called it “embarrassing.” This was the second time this season Wells has been tagged for five runs in the first. On May 6, the Pirates took a 5-0 lead in the opening frame but in that game, Wells lasted two innings. On Friday, he lasted 16 pitches.

“I feel a little different about this game than the Pittsburgh game,” Wells said. “In the Pittsburgh game, I walked the first two hitters of the game and it wasn’t even close. I didn’t have the mindset to try to limit the damage. Here, I felt like I didn’t beat myself today like I did in Pittsburgh. They came out swinging the bats and swung the bats hard and put the ball in play and good things happened for them.”

The Cubs used five different relievers after Wells and Lou Piniella said the right-hander could be in the bullpen on Sunday to help out.

“I could throw tomorrow,” Wells said. “I don’t feel like I got any work done, it happened so fast.”

– Carrie Muskat

5/28 Minor matters

Jay Jackson gave up two runs on four hits over four innings in Iowa’s 8-5 loss to Salt Lake. Brad Snyder hit a solo homer and Chad Tracy had two hits. He’s batting .458 since joining the Iowa Cubs. Andrew Cashner made his first relief appearance and gave up one run on three hits in one inning. He struck out two.

Matt Spencer hit a two-run homer but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee lost, 7-2, to Montgomery. Craig Muschko took the loss, giving up 10 hits and five runs on 4 1/3 innings.

Rafael Dolis gave up three runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings in Daytona’s 8-3 win over Jupiter. Ryan Flaherty now has a 10-game hit streak and is batting .375.

Jeff Antigua gave up three runs on seven hits over five innings in Peoria’s 3-1 loss to Cedar Rapids. The Chiefs now are 3 1/2 games out of first.

– Carrie Muskat

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