July 2010

7/31 Lilly, Riot & Z update

It’s decision day for the Cubs. The trading deadline is 2 p.m. MT. FoxSports.com says there are still four teams — the Dodgers, Twins, Tigers and Yankees — who are pursuing Ted Lilly. However, ESPN.com reported Saturday morning that the Yankees are out.

On Friday, Lilly prepped as he normally would for his next start, which would be Monday at Wrigley Field.

“Teddy wants to stay here but he knows the game of baseball and he knows that something could happen,” Lou Piniella said. “It’s good to see they want to stay here. That speaks well.”

Lilly is trying to focus on pitching.

“We’re near the end of July and I only have three wins,” said the lefty, who is 3-8 with a 3.69 ERA. “I really want more than that.

“It doesn’t settle so well,” he said. “I’ve got 18 starts and I’ve got three wins. It’s bothersome. That’s what I’m here for is to go out and try to win.”

There’s also been some interest in Ryan Theriot, whose phone was loaded with messages from people, including his agent, wondering if he was pulled from Friday’s game because a deal had been made. It was simply a double switch. The Denver Post reported the D-backs have talked to the Cubs about a possible Theriot for Kelly Johnson swap.

Less than 24 hours after he was activated from the restricted list, Carlos Zambrano also is getting some action. Big Z told reporters Friday in Denver that he would consider waiving his no trade clause if the Cubs wanted to move him. According to SI.com, the Mets offered Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo for Zambrano but the Cubs said no. Big Z still has a lot of money remaining on his contract ($6.4 million this year; $17.9 million in 2011; $18 million in 2012).

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Crazy eighth

What a night. The 17 runs and 21 hits allowed by the Cubs in a 17-2 loss to the Rockies were both season highs. The last time they gave up 17 runs was July 3, 1999, at Philly when they gave up 21 runs. The Rockies rattled off a Major League record 11 straight hits.

“It’s a fluke thing,” Chicago pitcher Ryan Dempster said. “You can’t do that very often — that’s the reason it’s never been done before.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 More on Big Z's return

Carlos Zambrano addressed a variety of topics Friday, his first day back on the job.

* There have been rumors that the Cubs are trying to move the right-hander, who was the team’s Opening Day starter.

“To play for the Cubs, believe me, is a privilege,” Zambrano said. “Every player wants to play for the Cubs and be part of the Cubs. Once you play for the Cubs, you don’t want to play for another team. I want to stay but I understand this is a business and whatever the Cubs want me to do — if they think I’m a problem here and they want to move me, it’s sad but I will move.”

Right now, he has to work his way back into the rotation. This will be his second turn in the bullpen, and he made it clear he expects to start again.

“I’m a starting pitcher,” Zambrano said. “I don’t want to be in the bullpen. Obviously, if they decide to put me in the bullpen, I accept it.”

“I see him as a starter, too,” Lou Piniella said. “He’s a starting pitcher. I agree with him 100 percent.”

* As for the incident June 25 at U.S. Cellular, Zambrano said he was trying to fire up the Cubs after falling behind to the White Sox. Three of the White Sox’s runs that inning came on Carlos Quentin’s three-run homer off an 0-2 pitch from Zambrano.

“I mixed some frustration for the first time in my career with trying to pump up my teammates,” Zambrano said. “When I touched the bag and D-Lee threw me the ball, I thought it was the right way to say something. The frustration put some words that I never use and that I never say — I don’t like to say bad words. Sometimes I say them, but I don’t like to curse. That day, it was bad. It was a moment of frustration. I just want to move on and forget about what happened.”

* Zambrano did give an interview to ESPN and said if the Cubs beat writers had shown up in Des Moines on July 22, he would’ve talked to them first. Instead, he did not meet with the media and was escorted out of the ballpark by two police officers after the game.

“I was ready to talk to the media in Iowa,” he said. “They escorted me to the exit.”

He said the Cubs told him they would prefer he not talk to the media before he talked to the players. Zambrano felt he had to do the ESPN interview because he wasn’t happy about some critical stories in Chicago.

* As for his dinner with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen after the incident, Zambrano said he had made the commitment to Guillen’s wife, who works for Pepsi in Venezuela. Zambrano has represented the company for five years. He called it a business dinner.

“Imagine you have dinner with your boss and people you do business with and something happens in your job and your work, you still have to have the meeting because it’s important,” he said.

* How will fans treat him when the Cubs return home to Wrigley Field Monday?

“They have the right to throw me in the trash or curse me,” Zambrano said. “They have the right because they pay to see a good show. They’re the fans and they like to see the Cubs do good. Obviously, I haven’t performed as well.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Zambrano apologizes

Carlos Zambrano apologized to his teammates and Lou Piniella on Friday, saying he was embarrassed by his behavior and that it’s time to move on. The response was hugs from the Cubs players.

“I knew I had to come in front of my teammates to apologize,” Zambrano said. “I knew from the first moment, June 25, when I was upstairs [in the clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field] thinking about it that I had to come to my teammates and say something.

“It was unacceptable and not good and embarrassing to the organization and myself and the fans,” he said. “I apologize to the fans, too. I just want to move on and be at peace with everybody.”

On June 25, Zambrano threw a tantrum in the dugout after giving up four runs in the first inning against the White Sox. He was sent home and suspended for three days before being placed on the restricted list.

Zambrano did all the talking during the meeting.

“It was great,” Derrek Lee said. “He did a good job. I’m sure it was hard to do and I’m glad it’s over with. It’s all over with and behind us.”

“He explained what he did and apologized to the team,” said Alfonso Soriano, who admitted Zambrano’s tirade hasn’t been something he’s thought about much in the month since it happened.

Piniella met privately with Zambrano for 10-12 minutes.

“I thought he was very sincere with his talk in the clubhouse and very contrite,” Piniella said. “He promised to be the best teammate he could possibly be and help us win as many games as he could. We welcome him back and he’ll be in the bullpen starting tonight.”

The anger management sessions have helped, Zambrano said. He has eight or nine more sessions to go.

“So far, they’ve done a good job,” Zambrano said of the doctors he’s met with. “Obviously, I went there and I had to do it and it was good. The sessions have been a lot of exercises and very interesting.”

The Cubs had hoped to have Zambrano return on the road to ease his transition back.

“I feel bad,” Zambrano said. “I feel embarrassed and I feel bad about my conduct on June 25. I’m human and I know when I make a mistake. I know when I do things that are not right. … I have to build my way back to what I was. I promised myself and promise to the Cubs fans I will do anything possible to come back and be the same or better.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Lou to miss games

Lou Piniella will fly back to Tampa, Fla., on Saturday and miss three games so he can attend the funeral of his uncle, Joseph Magadan, who is former big league infielder Dave Magadan’s father. Joseph Magadan was 92 and passed away Thursday. He was Piniella’s mother’s brother and very close to the Cubs manager.

Bench coach Alan Trammell will be the Cubs interim manager and special assistant Matt Sinatro will take over as bench coach for the three games, Saturday, Sunday and Monday at Wrigley Field when the Cubs open a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Lilly focuses on pitching, not rumors

For Ted Lilly, it’s business as usual. The lefty did his side work on Friday at Coors Field in preparation for Monday’s scheduled start against the Milwaukee Brewers. Lilly will know Saturday afternoon whether he’ll be pitching for the Cubs. The trading deadline is 3 p.m. CT.

“Teddy wants to stay here but he knows the game of baseball and he knows that something could happen,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Friday. “It’s good to see they want to stay here. That speaks well.”

Lilly has been linked to the Dodgers with the Tigers as another possibility, according to reports. But the sticking point apparently is how much of the more than $4 million still owed the left-hander the next team will pick up. Lilly is trying not to think about all of that.

“We’re near the end of July and I only have three wins,” said the lefty, who is 3-8 with a 3.69 ERA. “I really want more than that.

“It doesn’t settle so well,” he said. “I’ve got 18 starts and I’ve got three wins. It’s bothersome. That’s what I’m here for is to go out and try to win.”

One thing that has worked against Lilly is he has gotten the least amount of run support in the Major Leagues.

He hasn’t gotten any updates from Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, just friendly razzing from his teammates.

“I don’t know what goes into that and what they have to consider,” Lilly said. “A lot of that is over my head. There are things that go into making these kinds of decisions. It’s not my job to try to keep up with them and what they’re doing.”

So, he’s focused on pitching.

“I’m focused on doing whatever will help me be a better pitcher,” he said.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Cubs release Howry

The Cubs have reinstated Carlos Zambrano from the restricted list and released right-handed reliever Bob Howry. Howry, who turns 37 on Aug. 4, was 1-3 with a 7.71 ERA in 38 games and scuffled in July, posting a 12.46 ERA in 10 games. He gave up 12 earned runs on 19 hits over 8 2/3 innings this month. He was released by the Diamondbacks on May 17 and signed with the Cubs on May 21 for his second stint with the team. He also pitched for the Cubs in 2006-08.

Zambrano has not pitched for the Cubs since June 25 when he threw a tantrum in the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field. He was suspended for three days then placed on the restricted list to undergo treatment for anger issues. Zambrano was to meet with the Cubs Friday.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Parker to Tennessee

Blake Parker was transferred from Triple-A Iowa to Double-A Tennessee on Friday. Parker was 1-4 with a 4.74 ERA in 35 games in relief with the Smokies, giving up 52 hits and walking 28 over 49 1/3 innings. He had two saves.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Minor matters

The Iowa Cubs scored four runs in the eighth to beat Albuquerque, 4-2, on Thursday. Bryan LaHair had two RBIs and Mitch Atkins earned the win in relief, throwing three innings of one-run, three hit ball. Jeff Stevens picked up the save.

Craig Muschko gave up two runs on four hits over six innings in Tennessee’s 9-3 win over West Tenn. The Smokies scored five runs in the fifth. Russ Canzler had two home runs and drove in three. Tony Thomas had two RBIs.

Dae-Eun Rhee gave up three runs on eight hits over five innings in Daytona’s 8-3 win over Palm Beach, its 11th straight win. Michael Brenly reached base safely in his 27th straight game with a single.

Matt Szczur drove in runs in the first and ninth innings, including a game-winning walkoff RBI single with the bases loaded, to help Peoria beat Wisconsin, 3-2. Szczur, who hit a RBI triple in the first and added a double in the game, now has hit safely in 21 straight games. However, he’s scheduled to report to Villanova for football practice next week.

Alvaro Ramirez had two hits in Boise’s 3-1 loss to Vancouver. Mesa’s game against the Reds was postponed because of rain.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Lilly & Theriot rumors

Could Ted Lilly go back to the Dodgers? According to Fox Sports, the Dodgers and Cubs have talked about Lilly and Ryan Theriot, but the catch is that the Dodgers want the Cubs to add cash in the deal. Lilly has $4.3 million remaining, Theriot $933,000.

The Cubs and Dodgers have confirmed the talks are ongoing. The catch is the money. The Cubs are trying to trim payroll, and the Dodgers don’t want to add. The trading deadline is Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.

Lilly actually was drafted by the Dodgers in 1996 in the 23rd round but traded in July 31, 1998, to the Montreal Expos in a six-player swap. This season, he’s 3-8 with a 3.69 ERA in 18 starts, and has received the least amount of run support in the Major Leagues. If he went to the Dodgers, the lefty would join a rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla.

The Twins were interested in Lilly but chose to add to the bullpen, acquiring Matt Capps from the Nationals on Thursday. A Mets official told the New York Post it’s “very doubtful” they’ll get Lilly because they do not want to take on the money remaining and give up prospects.

Theriot received a $2.6 million salary for 2010 after losing an arbitration case to the Cubs. He’s under team control through 2012. The Fox report said Theriot could take over at second, sending Blake DeWitt to Triple-A. But DeWitt was batting .272 with one homer, 15 doubles, four triples and a .352 on-base percentage. Theriot is hitting .285 with one homer, 10 doubles, two triples and a .321 on-base percentage. The Padres had looked at Theriot but instead traded for Orioles third baseman Miguel Tejada.

— Carrie Muskat