May 2010

5/28 Guess who's coming to dinner

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal is in town for Saturday’s broadcast of the Cubs’ game against the Cardinals. He shouldn’t expect an invitation to dinner from Lou Piniella.

“I haven’t seen my little buddy,” Piniella said before Friday’s game.

In mid May, Rosenthal wrote that the Cubs should fire Piniella. At that point, the team had three wins in 12 games and they were 16-22 overall.

“When a person doesn’t see your team play, I think he should at least see the team play before you make comments,” Piniella said Friday. “He has no bearing at all on whether I have a job here or not.”

Piniella and Rosenthal worked together on Fox broadcasts in 2006.

“Are we friends? Am I looking forward to having dinner with him tonight? Absolutely not,” Piniella said. “We both do things in the public eye. The amazing thing about it is when you manage a baseball team, you take it more than you give it. That’s the way it’s always been. When a team’s not playing well, it’s the manager who takes the brunt of it whether it’s justified or not justified.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/28 Wells rough start

Randy Wells was pulled Friday after failing to retire a single batter. He gave up six straight hits to the Cardinals, including a two-run single by Albert Pujols. St. Louis scored five runs in the first. On May 6, the Pirates also scored five runs in the first against Wells. He lasted two innings in that game.

“You don’t want a guy like Pujols to beat you,” Lou Piniella said before the game. “He’s the one guy in that lineup if you can stay away from that situation, you’re better off, over the short term or long term for sure.”

It’s his shortest start ever. Wells had trouble from the beginning, giving up a single to Felipe Lopez, a double to Ryan Ludwick, a two-run single to Pujols, a single to Matt Holliday, a RBI single to Colby Rasmus, and a two-run double to Yadier Molina. James Russell came in and retired the next three. Wells threw 16 pitches, 11 for strikes.

— Carrie Muskat

5/28 Baker OK after ocular migraine

Jeff Baker’s vision was fine on Friday after suffering an ocular migraine during Thursday’s game which caused him to temporarily lose his sight in his right eye. Baker left Thursday’s game in the eighth inning after the Dodgers’ Russell Martin bounced a single past him and the third baseman didn’t move to get the ball. He actually started having troubles in the bottom of the seventh when he was putting his batting helmet on.

“Instead of getting pain and a headache, it just knocked out the vision in my right eye,” Baker said Friday. “It started when I was in the dugout. I wear glasses in day games and I thought I had a scratch on my glasses. I took them off and it wasn’t going away. It progressively got worse and I couldn’t see out of there.

“I was hoping it would go away real quick, and it didn’t go away and that’s when I came out of the game,” he said.

Baker said he never got migraines before.

“I do now,” he said.

Did he see Martin’s single to left?

“I heard it, I saw it for a second barely,” Baker said. “I didn’t move. I don’t know why, to be honest. I didn’t see it very well. I didn’t pick it up. I looked in the dugout at [athletic trainer] Ed [Halbur] and he asked me if I was OK, and I said, ‘It’s not getting better.'”

— Carrie Muskat

5/28 Zambrano update

Carlos Zambrano was able to take grounders at shortstop on Friday, one day after being hospitalized because of pain in his lower right side. Zambrano had “appendicitis symptoms” which he felt prior to Thursday’s game, and was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for tests. The right-hander, who will return to the rotation this week, said he ate something that didn’t agree with him. He was available out of the bullpen Friday for the first game of the Cubs’ series against the Cardinals.

“I’m ready,” Zambrano said. “I’m ready to pitch against St. Louis in the eighth.”

The grounders at short were done just for fun during batting practice. Zambrano also took his turn in the cage to hit with the other Cubs starters. He was to have a side session on Saturday as his final tuneup before he rejoins the rotation, which is expected to happen in the Cubs’ upcoming series against the Pirates, Monday through Wednesday.

— Carrie Muskat

5/28 Lineup & Ramirez

Aramis Ramirez was back in the Cubs lineup Friday, his first start since last Saturday in Texas. The third baseman has been bothered by a sore left thumb. Also, Jeff Baker is OK. He had an ocular migraine. More on that later. Carlos Zambrano is fine, too. He ate something that didn’t agree with him. Here’s the lineup:

RF Fukudome

2B Theriot

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

LF Soriano

CF Byrd

C Soto

SS Castro

P Wells

— Carrie Muskat

5/27 Cashner relief outing

Andrew Cashner pitched one inning in relief Thursday in the Iowa Cubs’ 8-5 loss to Salt Lake City. Cashner has been switched to the ‘pen temporarily to get accustomed to that role just in case he’s needed on the big league team. He gave up a double to the first batter he faced and that hitter eventually scored on an error by Micah Hoffpauir. Cashner gave up two more hits but struck out the last two batters to end the inning.

— Carrie Muskat

5/27 Baker examined for eye problems

Jeff Baker was pulled from Thursday’s game because he lost vision in his right eye. He was taken to the team’s eye specialist to be examined. Baker didn’t react when the Dodgers’ Russell Martin lined a single past him to lead off the eighth. Lou Piniella went onto the field to talk to the infielder and then replaced him with Mike Fontenot.

“Baker had vision problems and couldn’t see out of his right eye,” Piniella said. “It was a little scary.”

Baker was examined by Dr. Jon Rosin, the team opthamalogist. The team expected to know more on Friday.

“We had to get him out of there,” Piniella said of Baker.

Fontenot led off the Chicago eighth with a triple and scored the game-winning run on Tyler Colvin’s double in the Cubs’ 1-0 victory.

— Carrie Muskat

5/27 Big Z hospitalized

Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano was hospitalized Thursday because of pain in his lower right side. Lou Piniella said Zambrano had “appendicitis-type symptoms” but the Cubs later reported that tests were negative and the problem was pain in his side. Zambrano reported the problem to the athletic trainers shortly before Thursday’s game started and he was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to be examined. There’s no word on his availability this weekend.

— Carrie Muskat

5/27 The Redbirds are coming

It’s almost June and the Cubs have yet to play their Central rivals, the Cardinals. St. Louis comes to town on Friday. Chicago entered Thursday’s game five games back.

“We’ve hung around,” Lou Piniella said. “Four or five games [back in the standings] isn’t much. It’s a question now of consistency. It’s a question of winning with a little more regularity and getting to .500 and over. Until that happens, there’s no sense worrying about the Cardinals or anybody else.

“If we can get ourselves to the point where we stabilize at .500 and slowly creep up from there, we can look to make some noise,” he said. “We have an uphill climb still. We have to keep playing and playing hard. We’re starting to swing the bats a little better. On defense, we’re second to last in National League on defense. We need to improve on that. The bottom line, we need to win more games.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/27 Cashner now in 'pen for Iowa

First-round pick Andrew Cashner is now in the bullpen for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. Cashner is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts at the Minor League team. The Cubs want Cashner to be prepared just in case he’s called up to the big league team to help in the bullpen. The Cubs already have six starters. The thinking is that it’s unfair to throw a young pitcher into a relief situation in the Majors without knowing what it’s like to sit in the ‘pen or warm up on short notice.

“It surprised me when I first heard about it,” Cashner told the Des Moines Register on Wednesday. “I talked [to the Cubs] about going to relief awhile back but it was always their thought that I was going to start. Working out of the bullpen is something that excites me.”

The Cubs did the same thing with Jay Jackson. He was back in the rotation Thursday and started.

“Jackson passed,” Iowa pitching coach Mike Mason told the Register. “Now it’s Cashner’s turn to see if he can acclimate to the bullpen.”

So far, Cashner has started 33 of his 35 pro appearances since he was the Cubs’ first-round pick in 2008.

— Carrie Muskat