August 2010

8/22 Minor matters

Micah Hoffpauir scored on a wild pitch in the eighth to give Iowa a 4-3 win over Nashville on Saturday. Jeff Samardzija did not get a decision, giving up three runs on four hits and three walks over six innings. Marquez Smith hit his 13th home run, extending his hitting streak to 10 games.

Chris Archer gave up two runs on four hits over six innings in Tennessee’s 7-2 win over Mississippi. Steve Clevenger went 5-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs. Archer now is 8-1 with a 1.45 ERA.

Dae-Eun Rhee gave up six runs on four hits and one walk over one-third of an inning in Daytona’s 15-2 loss to Brevard County. Brevard County scored 12 runs in the first inning.

Justin Bour had three hits, including a grand slam, and a seven-high seven RBIs in Peoria’s 11-10 win over Clinton.

Cam Greathouse threw six shutout innings in Boise’s 9-3 win over Vancouver. Albert Hernandez had two hits and two RBIs in Mesa’s 4-3 win over the Giants.

— Carrie Muskat

8/22 Saying goodbye

It was an emotional day Sunday at Wrigley Field as Lou Piniella bid farewell to the Cubs and to the game. After more than 3,500 games and 23 years as manager and nearly 1,800 games as a player, he is beginning his retirement early. Piniella heads home to Tampa, Fla., because family comes first over baseball. His 90-year-old mother is ill.

Said catcher Koyie Hill: “I think we all know that’s where he should be.”

Piniella’s career ended the same way the season started, with a 16-5 loss to the Braves. That was the Cubs’ Opening Day score as well, also a loss.

“Today’s game wasn’t pretty but I’d rather reflect on the good times I’ve had here,” Piniella said. “Lot of good times, lot of good people. It’s been a lot of fun. The pregame with Bobby Cox was special. He’s been a good friend for a long time. I appreciate my four years here with the Cubs organization. The city’s special, the people here are special. I’m appreciative.

“I cried a little bit after the game,” he said. “I get emotional — I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be. This will be the last time I put on a uniform. It’s been very special to me.”

He broke down for a few seconds, then collected himself. The players couldn’t help but shed a tear or two, too.

“That’s the human factor is the man deserves a lot better than that,” Hill said. “Same old story [in the game] — it’s not lack of effort or anything like that. It’s just the way it goes. I don’t know if you could’ve scripted it any worse.

“He’s given his life to the game,” Hill said. “We all appreciate that. We appreciate the opportunity we had to play for him and we’re going to miss him.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/22 Silva & Soto update

Carlos Silva threw 30 pitches over two innings in a simulated game Sunday at Wrigley Field. The Cubs want to see how he feels Monday before deciding the next step in his rehab. Silva has been sidelined since undergoing a procedure to correct an abnormal heart rate.

* Geovany Soto was expected to be activated on Monday. He’s been sidelined since Aug. 7 with a sprained ligament in his right shoulder.

— Carrie Muskat

8/22 Who's next as Cubs manager?

There has been speculation that Triple-A Iowa manager Ryne Sandberg is the front runner to take over for Lou Piniella next season. The Iowa Cubs are in first place in their division.

“I don’t have a front runner and haven’t had a front runner,” GM Jim Hendry said. “I’ve said from the day Lou announced his retirement [July 20] that I would take a long, extensive time to do what I thought was best for the organization in the future.

“It’s a very important decision,” Hendry said of the next Cubs manager, which will be his third hire, following Dusty Baker and Piniella. “There has never been a leading candidate and there isn’t one as I sit here today in the month of August.”

Hendry said Mike Quade, who will take over starting Monday, deserved the opportunity to manage the team for the remaining five weeks or so and will “be a strong candidate for the future.”

“To label anyone as the favorite would be absolutely foolish,” Hendry said.

— Carrie Muskat

8/22 "Q" takes over on Monday

Third base coach Mike Quade takes over as the Cubs interim manager, starting Monday. He’s a candidate for the job. It was quite the day Sunday as Quade took part in a coaching clinic at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, then a simulated game with pitcher Carlos Silva at 10 a.m., and then batting practice.

GM Jim Hendry picked the third base coach known as “Q” over bench coach Alan Trammell because Trammell apparently is not a candidate for the job next season.

“Alan’s a tremendous human being, quality person, outstanding coach,” Hendry said Sunday. “I spoke to Alan this morning and basically told Alan over the last few weeks, I’ve made a decision in the process moving forward that Alan would not be considered for the managerial job after this year.”

Quade, 53, a Chicago native, who has managed in the Minor Leagues for 17 seasons, has spent the last four on Piniella’s coaching staff.

“It’s probably not the way you envisioned it,” Quade said about his first big league gig.

Piniella met with the coaching staff prior to Sunday’s game to tell them he was going to retire early to go home and be with his mother, who was ill.

“I’m proud to be a part of this,” Quade said of the Cubs. “We’ll work hard to do a good job and finish up these six weeks and see where it takes us.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/22 Lou's last lineup

Lou Piniella will take the lineup card out one more time Sunday, his last game in a Cubs uniform. He is retiring to go home and take care of his mother in Tampa. Here’s the lineup:

2B Barney
SS Castro
CF Byrd
3B Ramirez
LF Soriano
RF Baker
1B Nady
C Hill
P Wells

— Carrie Muskat

8/22 Lou is headed home

Family comes first, and Lou Piniella is headed home to take care of his mother. When Piniella announced on July 20 that he was retiring at the end of this season, he fully intended to finish the year with the Cubs. But his mother’s health prompted him to retire early. Sunday’s Cubs game against the Braves will be Piniella’s last as manager. He will take off the uniform for the last time to go home.

“I didn’t think my career would end this way,” Piniella said prior to the game. “My mom needs me home. She hasn’t gotten better since I’ve been here. In fact, she’s had a couple complications.

“Rather than continue to go home and come back, it’s not fair to the team and it’s not fair to the players,” he said. “The best thing is to step down and go home and take care of my mother.”

Piniella left the team Aug. 9-12 to be with his 90-year-old mother, Margaret, in Tampa, Fla., and set up in-home care. He calls her every morning, and when he called Sunday to tell her he was headed home, she cried.

“I’ve enjoyed it here,” Piniella said. “Four wonderful years and I’ve made a lot of friends. We’ve had some success here and this year has been a little bit of a struggle. Family is important, and comes first and my mom needs me home and that’s where I’m going.”

Piniella, who turns 67 on Aug. 28, compiled a 316-392 record with the club over three-plus seasons. He guided the team to the National League Central title in his first and second years in 2007-08, and the Cubs posted the best record in the NL in ’08 at 97-64.

Piniella met with the Cubs coaches and players prior to batting practice on Sunday to give them the news.

“It’s been a very tough day for him and very emotional,” GM Jim Hendry said. “It’s to the point now where he needs to be home with his family.”

After all the years playing, managing, broadcasting, Piniella is done.

“I haven’t had time to reflect on it,” he said of his career. “I’m going to try to enjoy today as much as possible. It’s been a long time and I’ve been blessed. God’s given me the health and ability to do this job and I’m appreciative. It’s been a long time.

“When I announced my retirement earlier in the season, I thought I’d finish the year and go from there,” he said. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. I’ll have plenty of time to reflect.”

Piniella was to exchange lineup cards with Atlanta manager Bobby Cox prior to Sunday’s game and then head to Tampa on Monday.

“This is a nice job but it’s a tough job,” Piniella said of the Cubs. “They’re going to win here. They’ve got a family-owned business now. The Ricketts family will do what they need to do to get this thing to where it can win. They’ll give it the care it deserves.

“When I took this job, I didn’t call anybody [for advice],” he said. “I came here and did the best I could for as long as I could.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/22 D-Lee note

Derrek Lee played his first game for the Braves on Friday at Wrigley. He had played 924 games for the Cubs prior to that. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last player who appeared in at least 900 games for the Cubs and then played his first game as an ex-Cub at Wrigley was Andy Pafko. Pafko played 960 games for the Cubs from 1943-51. He was traded to Brooklyn as part of an eight-player deal on June 15, 1951, and made his Dodgers debut at Wrigley the next day. He homered in the Dodgers’ 6-4 loss.

— Carrie Muskat

8/20 A little Cubs history at 1st

Cubs historian Ed Hartig did a little research on outfielders who have made the switch to first base. How recently has an outfielder done so? Phil Cavarretta, Bill Buckner and Leon Durham played both  But how many were “true” outfielders that got moved to first?

* Billy Williams played first base for the Cubs from 1972-74 though he hadn’t played 1B in organized ball since his Minor League days in San Antonio in 1959. Otherwise, Billy was exclusively an outfielder from 1959-71.

* Rick Monday played considerable time at first for the Cubs in 1976 though he had never played 1B in the Minors or Majors prior to that year.

* Rafael Palmeiro was originally an outfielder with the Cubs having played a total of nine games at first in the Minors (all in 1987). While he didn’t stick around with the Cubs, he was Texas’ everyday first baseman in 1989.

* Early in Jim Hickman’s career he was truly an outfielder. After playing some games at first in the Minors in 1956, he didn’t appear at first in the Majors until 1965 with the Mets. He was an outfielder with the Cubs from 1968-69 and then an OF/1B from 1970-73.

— Carrie Muskat

8/20 Colvin expected at 1st next week

Expect Tyler Colvin to make his ML debut at first next week during the Cubs’ three-game series against the Nationals. Colvin took grounders at first on Friday for the second day. He hasn’t played first since his sophomore year of college at Clemson and been used strictly as an outfielder with the Cubs. But he’s being eased into the position following the departure of Derrek Lee.

“He’s got good hands and he likes it,” Lou Piniella said of Colvin, who leads all National League rookies with 18 home runs. “It’s just a question of the game speed. You can take all the pregame you want and the game will speed up for you. He’s done it before. It’ll give us a chance to play him over there from time to time.”

Piniella said Colvin, who was 8-for-50 in August and has not started since Aug. 14, can play some outfield still as well as first. Right now, there’s a need at first.

“We’ll make that transition for him as easy as we can,” Piniella said.

— Carrie Muskat