April 2011

4/23 Extra bases

The sun is shining at Wrigley Field, which is a nice change.  It should be fun with Ryan Dempster facing former Cubs teammate and good buddy, Ted Lilly. Lilly even did his traditional warm-up jog in front of the bleachers.

“I had a lot of people who have been watching the weather and stuff and all of a sudden wanted to come see ‘Demp’ and Lilly,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “It  says a lot about those two guys and Lil’s time here. They’re best of friends and they won’t be today, which is also something I love about them. I love Lill to death but I hope he leaves here with a very unhappy face. It’s an interesting day for sure.”

* James Russell will likely start Tuesday against the Rockies, his third big league start. This time, the Cubs want to give Russell a side session rather than use him in relief in games. Right-handers are batting .469 off him.

* Jeff Stevens was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Saturday and Justin Berg recalled. Stevens threw 89 pitches in relief on Friday and most likely would not be available for two to three days. They needed a fresh arm in the bullpen.

* The Dodgers admitted someone did miss a sign when they were attempting a steal in the fifth inning on Friday with an 8-1 lead. Quade had said post-game that he needed to get the L.A. version of the unwritten rules to determine the etiquette.

* Saturday’s lineup is loaded with right-handers against Lilly as Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker both got starts.

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Thanks, everybody

The Cubs presented a check for $45,000 to the Ryan and Jenny Dempster Family Foundation from sales of the Chicago Cubs Cookbook during pregame ceremonies on Friday. The cookbook is still for sale on Cubs.com (check it out the Community section). Mike Quade has a great recipe for fish in there.

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Castro: ‘I’ll do my work’

Starlin Castro ranks among the NL leaders in hits, multi-hit games and batting average, and on Friday, he was in the No. 3 spot in the batting order for the second game for the Cubs. That’s asking a lot from a 21-year-old.

“I’ll do the same,” Castro said Friday. “Leadoff, second, anywhere. I’ll do my work.”

Castro batted third in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader but that was partly because manager Mike Quade gave Marlon Byrd the day off. On Friday, Byrd was dropped from third to sixth in the order.

“It’s just a function of a little bit of everything, a little performance, matchups, a lot of different stuff,” Quade said of his lineup, which he promised would change on Saturday.

Castro began the season in the No. 2 hole and btted .286 there, and was moved into the leadoff spot and thrived, hitting .463. On Wednesday in the No. 3 spot, he went 1-for-4.

“With ‘Cassie’ there, it’s just that I think he can handle it and he’s playing well enough to use him as an option in the three-hole,” Quade said. “I’m comfortable with him 1-2-3 right now.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 According to STATS …

According to STATS Inc., scoring has been on a steady decline over the last five seasons, dropping to 4.38 runs per game per team in 2010, the lowest average since 1992. Major League clubs are averaging just 4.31 runs a game so far in 2011. Is it the weather? Maybe. The current 2011 average is the lowest March-April mark going back to 1992.

Lowest Runs per Game Average per Team in March-April, 1992-2011
1992                   4.12
2011                   4.31
1993                   4.51
2008                   4.53
2007                   4.54
2010                   4.55

* The Cubs have posted a .351 average and .395 OBP leading off innings this spring, the highest team marks in the Majors. Capitalizing on leadoff baserunners hasn’t come as easy, as the Cubs are tied for 19th among the 30 teams with an average of 4.11 runs per game.

* When Carlos Zambrano homered in Houston last week, it was 22nd of his career. It moved him into the top 10 for home runs by pitchers in the modern era. He has more than twice as many homers as any active pitcher in the Majors. In fact, Big Z’s 22 homers are a solid total for any Major Leaguer with as few as 624 at-bats. Among the 307 active non-pitchers who meet that minimum, 51 have fewer home runs than Zambrano.

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Lineup & extra bases

Starlin Castro is back in the No. 3 spot for the second straight game for the Cubs. Here’s today’s lineup:

RF Fukudome
2B Barney
SS Castro
3B Ramirez
1B Pena
CF Byrd
LF Soriano
C Soto
P Coleman

* Pitching matchups for the Dodgers at Cubs series:
Today: Chad Billingsley (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Casey Coleman (1-0, 4.22 ERA)
Saturday: Ted Lilly (1-2, 4.09 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (1-2, 6.84 ERA)
Sunday: Hiroki Kuroda (2-2, 3.33 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (2-0, 4.21 ERA)

* Geovany Soto threw out three baserunners in Wednesday’s second game. He’s the first Cubs catcher in 15 years to throw out three in one game. Scott Servais last did that April 15, 1996, at Wrigley Field. Soto has thrown out seven of 25 runners.

* Today is 22q Awareness Day at Wrigley Field, hosted by Ryan Dempster. Fans coming to the game will receive a special Ryan Dempster photo card and support bracelets. Dempster has invited 175 kids, nurses and supporters to the game. Abby Oates, who is affected by the 22q deletion, will throw out the first pitch. The Ryan and Jenny Dempster Family Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness of 22q11.2 deletion, known as DiGeorge Syndrome, and reaching out to families with children with the disorder as well as charities that support them.

* Former Cubs catcher Randy Hundley was scheduled to sing the seventh inning stretch. … Kosuke Fukudome’s new daughter’s name is Haruka, which means “spring.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Minor League report

Jay Jackson gave up two runs on two hits over five innings in Iowa’s 9-4 win over Albuquerque on Thursday. Lou Montanez had four hits, including his second homer, a third-inning grand slam. He now has 19 RBIs, tops on the team.

Trey McNutt gave up three runs, two earned, on eight hits over four innings in Tennessee’s 5-3 loss to Carolina. Brett Jackson had two hits,including his third home run, and Blake Parker threw two scoreless innings in relief. This was McNutt’s first start since going on the disabled list because of a blister.

Michael Burgess homered for the second straight game to help Daytona beat Lakelnd, 5-3. Burgess also hit a double and drove in three runs. Brent Ebinger picked up the win in relief, throwing 4 2/3 innings.

Arismendy Alcantara and Elliot Soto each had two hits to help Peoria beat Beloit, 5-4, in a rain-shortened game. Alcantara drove in four runs, hitting a single and a triple.

— Carrie Muskat

4/21 Minor League report

Austin Bibens-Dirkx struck out nine and gave up one run on two hits over six innings in Iowa’s 3-1 win over Albuquerque in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday. In the second game, the Iowa Cubs were held to one hit — a double by Marquez Smith — and lost 3-0 to the Isotopes.

Brett Jackson, DJ LeMahieu and Steve Clevenger each homered to lead Tennessee to a 9-5 victory over Carolina. Jackson was a single shy of the cycle and drove in three runs.

Michael Burgess hit his team-leading fifth homer and drove in two runs to help Daytona beat Lakeland, 5-2. Kevin Rhoderick picked up the win in relief. Jae-Hoon Ha, Junior Lake, Michael Brenly and David Macias each had two hits.

Austin Kirk threw five scoreless innings in Peoria’s 4-0 win over Quad Cities in the first game of a doubleheader. Pierre LePage hit a solo homer for the Chiefs. In the second game, Dallas Beeler also threw five scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory for Peoria. Greg Rohan, Sergio Burruel and Arismendy Alcantara each had two hits.

— Carrie Muskat

4/21 Sing along & more

Former Cubs catcher Randy Hundley will lead the crowd in the seventh inning stretch on Friday when the team opens a three-game series against the Dodgers. Former Bulls star Bob Love will do the honors on Sunday.

* Friday will be “22Q Awareness Day” at Wrigley Field. The Dempster Family Foundation will have a booth at the main gate at Wrigley Field and fans are asked to help support Ryan Dempster’s efforts to raise awareness about 22q. The 22q11.1 Deletion Syndrome is a disorder caused by a missing section of chromosome 22 in a person’s body. The Ryan and Jenny Dempster Family Foundation assist charities and organizations supporting children with 22q, also referred to as DiGeorge syndrome.

— Carrie Muskat

4/20 Want tickets? See Dempster

Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster will surprise customers at select Bank of America centers around the city of Chicago on Thursday. Dempster will give away tickets to upcoming Cubs games along with baseball-themed items.  The visits will be unannounced. His appearances are part of a larger, national program that uses Bank of America’s sponsorship of Major League Baseball to demonstrate its gratitude to customers who also are baseball fans.

— Carrie Muskat

4/20 Cubs vs. Dodgers

Looking ahead to the Cubs’ weekend series against the Dodgers, it’ll be Casey Coleman on Friday, Ryan Dempster vs. Ted Lilly on Saturday, and Carlos Zambrano on Sunday. This will be Lilly’s first start at Wrigley since he was traded to the Dodgers last July. He and Dempster are good friends, so it should be interesting.

“We were looking forward to that, have been for a long time,” manager Mike Quade said of the Dempster-Lilly matchup. “They’ll probably have dinner together the night before. They like to compete. It could be some fun. It’ll be fun if we win it.”

— Carrie Muskat