April 2011

4/26 Minor League report

Robert Coello gave up six runs on seven hits and five walks over five innings in Iowa’s 12-8 win over Memphis. Lou Montanez had four hits, including three doubles and his third home run, and four RBIs and Brad Snyder hit his first homer. Welington Castillo, back behind the plate after being slowed this spring with a sore index finger, went 2-for-5, and Scott Moore had two hits.

Rafael Dolis gve up four runs, three earned, on six hits and two walks over 4 1/3 innings in Tennessee’s 8-4 loss to Jacksonville. Rebel Ridling had three hits, including his fifth home run, a two-run shot, and three RBIs.

Daytona’s game at Dunedin was postponed because of wet grounds.

Hayden Simpson, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in last year’s Draft, gave up two runs on five hits and one walk over four innings in Peoria’s 14-3 win over Clinton. Simpson struck out three. Pierre LePage, Greg Rohan and Arismendy Alcantara each had two hits and three RBIs. With the win, the Chiefs climbed above .500 for the first time this season.

— Carrie Muskat

4/26 Cubs donate more than $1 million

The Cubs teamed up with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to announce more than $1 million in donations to 47 non-profit organizations serving those in need in the Chicago area. This marks the seventh consecutive year more than $1 million has been donated to the community through Cubs Care, a McCormick Foundation Fund.

The 2011 grants include $304,000 to the Chicago Park District to provide funding for more than 13,000 low-income and special needs youth to play baseball this summer. A donation to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago ($65,000) will provide access to physical activity programs and wheelchair softball for nearly 1,500 individuals with physical disabilities. A contribution to the Chicago Public Library Foundation ($50,000) supports the Family Summer Reading program, a high-impact summer reading initiative which aims to keep 50,000 Chicago children reading and learning over the summer.

— Carrie Muskat 

4/25 Ramirez gets day off

Mike Quade has tried to give everyone a day off and Monday was Aramis Ramirez day of rest.

“Ramy needs a day — I think he needs a day,” Quade said. “I could’ve given it to him [Sunday]. I thought [Sunday] was a more offensive conducive day. It’s a good thing when you have a guy playing so well like [Jeff Baker] is, it makes it a lot easier.”

Plus, Quade wants Ramirez to be fresh for the upcoming West Coast trip to Arizona and Los Angeles. Baker has never faced Rockies starter Esmil Rogers. In fact, only Blake DeWitt (0-for-3) and Reed Johnson (0-for-3) have.

— Carrie Muskat

4/25 Cubs lineup vs Rockies

Aramis Ramirez is not in the lineup Monday night for the Cubs against the Rockies. This was a planned day off for Ramirez, who has reached base safely in his first 21 games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he’s one of three players to reach via a hit, walk or hit by pitch in each of his team’s games this season. The other two are Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto.

Jeff Baker is starting at third base and batting fourth for the Cubs against right-hander Esmil Rogers. Here’s the lineup:

RF Fukudome

2B Barney

SS Castro

3B Baker

1B Pena

CF Byrd

LF Soriano

C Soto

P Garza

— Carrie Muskat

4/25 Cubs tidbits

Did you know the Cubs are the only Major League team to have neither a winning streak or a losing streak longer than two games this year? A win Monday night over the Rockies would put them back at .500 at 11-11. The team is 8-2 after losses this year.

* Aramis Ramirez has reached base safely in the first 21 games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he’s one of three players to reach via a hit, walk or hit by pitch in each of his team’s games this season. The other two are also in the NL Central: Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto. Ramirez’s streak is the longest by a Cubs player since 2007 when Derrek Lee reached safely in each of the first 32 games of the season. Alfonso Soriano did reach base safely in his first 31 games of ’07 but missed time because of a strained hamstring.

* The Cubs are batting .282, second best in the Majors behind the Cardinals. But Chicago’s .243 average with runners in scoring position ranks 11th in the NL.

* Matt Garza leads the Majors with 12.41 strikeouts per nine innings. He has 34 Ks in 24 2/3 innings. He also posted the team’s last quality start on April 20 against the Padres. The Cubs have five quality starts, fewest in the Majors.

* The average game time temperature at Wrigley Field so far has been 47 degrees.

— Carrie Muskat

4/25 Minor League roundup

Thomas Diamond gave up six runs — five earned — on seven hits over three innings in Iowa’s 7-1 loss to Memphis Sunday. Diamond now is 0-2 with a 9.92 ERA.

Ryan Flaherty and Rebel Ridling each homered to lift Tennessee to a 4-3 victory over Jacksonville. Ridling had three hits. Marco Carillo picked up the win in relief, striking out two over two scoreless innings, and Blake Parker earned the save.

Aaron Kurcz gave up one run on four hits over four innings but did not get a decision in Daytona’s 5-3 win over Dunedin. Jae-Hoon Ha hit his third homer and Evan Crawford had three hits and an RBI. Kevin Rhoderick picked up the win in relief, striking out three over three innings.

Peoria had Sunday off but did make some roster moves on Monday. Marcus Hatley was activated from the DL while Casey Harman added to Peoria’s roster from extended Spring Training. Pitcher Eduardo Figueroa promoted to Class A Daytona and catcher Chad Noble sent to Mesa. Hatley was on the DL because of a bone bruise on his right hand. Harman was a 29th round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Clemson and last summer helped the Tigers to the College World Series.

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Extra bases

The Cubs’ lineup continues to evolve. On Saturday, Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney each had at least three hits and three RBIs, marking the first time since Aug. 13, 1959, the Cubs’ Nos. 1-2 hitters did that, according to Elias Sports Bureau. In ’59, it was Tony Taylor and George Altman. But on Sunday, Kosuke Fukudome was leading off and Castro was batting third.

“If I mix and mtach the first three guys, I don’t care where [they are],” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “It’s a credit to all the kids and all the guys that they’ve handled the flexibility and done the job I’ve asked them.”

* Quade also isn’t afraid to go against the so-called book and did so Saturday when he stayed with Jeff Baker against Dodgers right-hander Matt Guerrier even though he had three left-handers on the bench.

“The book matters to me,” he said, “but it ain’t the Bible.”

* Despite being only 21 and not having played a full Major League season, Starlin Castro is showing a lot of maturity at the plate this season. He ranks second in the National League in fewest strikeouts per plate appearances with 18.6, trailing only the Phillies’ Placido Polanco (21.8). Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez is tied for fourth at 14.2.

In 20 games this year, Castro has struck out five times. In his first 23 games of his Major League career last season, he had fanned 11 times. How does he do it?

“If I knew that definitively, I would like to think I would use it to help myself hit,” Quade said. “I don’t know if it’s a combination of hand-eye coordinatiuon and the bat speed you need to combine with that to allow you to do that.

“The other thing that’s amazing to me is guys like him that do all that, he’ll foul a lot of balls off that are out of the strike zone,” Quade said. “I don’t think that’s something you teach, it’s just a part of your swing and who you are.”

* Minor League roving catching instructor Marty Pevey was with the big league team. “Even though he’s not a part of this staff on a regular basis, I want to make him part of the staff on a regular basis,” Quade said.

* Catcher Geovany Soto has thrown out eight of 27 runners, and the eight caught steals leads Major League catchers.

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Minor League report

Ramon Ortiz gaveup three runs, two earned, on five hits over seven innings in Iowa’s 3-2 loss to Memphis on Saturday. With a runner on third, Adron Chambers dropped a bunt in the seventh which Ortiz fielded and threw to first. The run scored to break a 2-2 tie. Ortiz struck out five. Matt Camp had three hits and Marquez Smith hit his first homer.

Nate Samson and Josh Vitters each hit two-run homers to lift Tennessee to a 7-3 victory over Jacksonville. Marwin Gonzalez had three hits and one RBI and Samson drove in three runs.

Junior Lake went 4-for-5 with a double and a homer to lead Daytona over Dunedin. Lake also had three RBIs. Jake Optiz had three hits, all doubles.

Greg Rohan hit a walkoff two-run single in the seventh to give Peoria a 3-2 win in the second game of a doubleheader over Beloit. Beloit won the opener, 5-2, as Cam Greathouse gave up five runs, two earned, on five hits over 4 1/3 innings.

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Cubs lineup

Starlin Castro is in the No. 3 spot in the lineup for Sunday’s Cubs series finale against the Dodgers. Castro leads the Major Leagues with 35 hits and is batting .452 in his last seven games:

RF Fukudome

2B Barney

SS Castro

3B Ramirez

1B Pena

CF Byrd

LF Soriano

C Soto

P Zambrano

— Carrie Muskat

4/23 Cubs post-game tidbits

Manager Mike Quade opened the post-game news conference Saturday with some actual news:

“I’ve got an announcement to make,” Quade said. “Kerry Wood’s week vacation is over. I will start him tomorrow ahead of Zambrano to get him some work. I said I was 90 percent sure I would pitch him today. When I got him up to pitch the ninth, I thought, man, I like him but I hope he doesn’t pitch.”

Wood has not pitched since April 15 in Colorado. And, just to be clear, Quade was joking about having him start. Carlos Zambrano will finish the series on Sunday.

* This wasn’t the type of welcome Ted Lilly wanted back at Wrigley Field.

“It’s especially disappointing given the fact our offense battled back from a deficit, took the lead and I wasn’t able today to get it done so we could go up 2-0 in the series,” Lilly said after the Cubs’ 10-8 come from behind win over the Dodgers on Satuday. “I wasn’t making quality pitches. I put us in a tough spot going to the bullpen early. I didn’t want to and [manager Don Mattingly] didn’t want to.

“I don’t know the conditions had anything to do with it,” he said. “I don’t know if I can really find any excuses. It’s just a matter of making the pitches when I had to. I felt my performance wasn’t good enough.”

* Rather than call on Tyler Colvin, Carlos Pena or Blake DeWitt, Quade stuck with Jeff Baker against right-hander Matt Guerrier in the eighth. Baker delivered the game-winning two-run double.

“We’ve got all sorts of left-handed people on the bench but he’s been in the game,” Quade said of Baker. “He’s had some good at-bats against right-handers this year. It’s a decision you make and you say, ‘The guy’s been doing a heck of a job for us and let’s give him a shot to win this thing’ and he did it.”

Baker began the day batting .464 in 19 at-bats vs. left-handers and .167 in 12 at-bats against right-handers.

“It’s always frustrating when you get labled,” Baker said. “You want to go out there and you want to play, whether it’s lefty, righty. I know I can hit them both ways.

“You keep battling and hopefully you get time against righties and instill a little more confidence in the managers and coaches and they let you do it,” he said.

* Starlin Castro matched his career high with four hits, his second four-hit game of the season. … The 1-2-3 hitters Saturday combined to go 9-for-15 with four runs, three stolen bases, two doubles and six RBIs. … Ryan Dempster now has an 11.30 ERA in his last six home starts, dating back to Aug. 31.

— Carrie Muskat