May 2011

5/29 Ramirez home run

Remember the last time Aramis Ramirez homered? It was on April 6 against Arizona’s Armando Galarraga. On Sunday, he led off the second inning with No.  2 for the season, hitting the first pitch from Pittsburgh’s Jeff Karstens into the left field bleacher seats. It was only Ramirez’s second hit in his last 14 at-bats. He’s now nine homers shy of 300 in his career.

— Carrie Muskat

5/29 Minor League report

Tyler Colvin hit a RBI single in the ninth and another run scored on an error to lift Iowa to a 6-4 victory over Round Rock. Jonathon Mota had three hits and three RBIs. Bobby Scales hit his second homer.

Geovany Soto was behind the plate for nine innings Saturday night in Tennessee’s 3-0 loss to Mississippi. “I’m comfortable,” Soto told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I caught a guy stealing. I got to run the bases a little bit. I’m feeling great out here. I’m a little surprised how good I feel. The leg didn’t budge at any point.” Soto arrived in Chicago Sunday morning and was activated from the DL. He went 0-for-7 in the two games. Trey McNutt threw seven shutout innings Saturday but did not get a decision in the Smokies’ loss. Marwin Gonzalez had two hits.

Evan Crawford had three hits in Daytona’s 4-3 win over Bradenton. The team won its 11th straight game and has a 38-12 record, best in pro baseball.

Matt Szczur had four hits, including two doubles, and an RBIs in Peoria’s 6-5 loss to Cedar Rapids. Szczur also stole a base, his 13th.

— Carrie Muskat

5/29 Pesky Pirates

You know that the Pirates beat the Cubs, 10-0, at Wrigley Field, on Saturday. Did you know that was the 25th time in 96 seasons there that the Cubs have fallen victim to a double-digit shutout in The Friendly Confines? According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Pirates have accounted for five of those 25 shutouts, more than any other team, and they also administered the mother of all double-digit shutouts, a 22-0 drubbing of the Cubs on Sept. 16, 1975. In that game, Pittsburgh second baseman Rennie Stennett went 7-for-7. That’s the largest shutout score in modern major-league history. The Indians tied that mark with a 22-0 victory at Yankee Stadium in 2004.

* Heading into Sunday’s game, the Pirates are 16-6 against the Cubs since Sept. 30, 2009.

“They’re athletic, and they’re better [than they were a few years ago],” Mike Quade said. “That doesn’t give me any solace. We should be able to compete with them. Clint (Hurdle) has given them some leadership, which maybe they needed.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/29 Cubs roster moves

The Cubs made some changes Sunday to the roster:

* Catcher Geovany Soto was activated from the disabled list. He went 0-for-7 in two rehab starts with Double-A Tennessee. He’d been sidelined with a strained groin.

* Welington Castillo was optioned to Triple-A Iowa to make room for Soto.

* Reed Johnson was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 26, because of back spasms.

* Outfielder Brad Snyder’s contract was purchased fromIowa and he was in Chicago on Sunday.

* To make room for Snyder on the 40-man roster, Andrew Cashner was transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL.

— Carrie Muskat

5/28 Maholm 10, Cubs 0

Randy Wells admitted he was a little anxious in his first start since April 4. The Cubs pitcher served up five runs on five hits and three walks over four innings in a 10-0 loss to the Pirates Saturday. He did strike out seven. But the guy who stole the show was Pirates lefty Paul Maholm, who threw a three-hit complete game.

“The guy’s a good pitcher,” Wells said of Maholm, who had received a total of 13 runs in his previous 10 starts. “He attacked, attacked, attacked and when we went on the attack, he started pitching out of the zone and we started chasing. That’s how you get guys to chase pitches and not from the start.”
 The good news for Wells is that he finished his outing healthy.

“Ninety pitches — see you in five days,” manager Mike Quade said.

But Maholm was the story.

“I think he’s the kind of guy who you have to capitalize on early because he’s throwing a lot of strikes,” Chicago’s Darwin Barney said. “When you get behind, it’s tough to be patient because he’ll pound the strike zone. His pitch count was so low because he’s in the zone. You’re trying to be aggressive in the game and make something happen and then you’re playing from behind, and it’s just a matter of trying to be patient and get his pitch count up and we couldn’t because he was throwing so many strikes.”

The Cubs dropped to 1-4 against the Pirates this year, 2-3 on the homestand.

“Guys are still confident and we still can turn this thing around,” Barney said. “We’re not pulling that flag yet. We’re going to come out tomorrow and hustle and work hard and hope we get to them early.”

 And after that, Barney headed to the batting cage for some extra hitting.

Extra bases:

* Alfonso Soriano has hit safely in his last nine games. He’s 12-for-34 (.353) in that run. … The Cubs gave up five runs in the fourth and now have served up five or more runs in one inning nine times this year. … The Cubs have been out-homered at home, 25-14. … Ryan Dempster (3-4, 6.29 ERA) closes the series Sunday against Jeff Karstens (3-3, 3.57 ERA).

— Carrie Muskat

5/28 Lopez to start


When Rodrigo Lopez starts on Monday for the Cubs, he will be the seventh Mexican-born player to play for the team. The list includes:

P Daniel Garibay (2000)
P Ismael Valdez (2000)
P Horacio Pina (1974)
IF Hector Torres (1971)
P Marcelino Solis (1958)
P Jesse Flores (1942)

— Carrie Muskat

5/28 Minor League report & Soto update

Bobby Scales hit a leadoff homer but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost, 3-1, to Round Rock. Jay Jackson gave up three runs on six hits over five innings. Scales is batting .297 this season.

Geovany Soto went 0-for-3 for Tennessee in the first game of a doubleheader, a 3-2 loss to Mississippi. Soto is rehabbing from a strained left groin and was to play Saturday. If all goes well, he could be back with the Cubs on Sunday. Chris Rusin gave up one run on three hits over five innings. In the second game, Luis Flores hit his fifth home run to spark a 7-2 win. Rob Whitenack gave up one hit over 2 2/3 innings and was lifted because of discomfort in his right arm.

Junior Lake hit his sixth home run to help Daytona win its 10th straight game, a 9-5 victory over Bradenton. Matt Cerda and Logan Watkins each had three hits.

Austin Kirk gave up two runs on four hits over six innings but took the loss in Peoria’s 2-0 loss to Cedar Rapids.

 — Carrie Muskat

5/28 Byrd update

Marlon Byrd stopped by Wrigley Field on Friday and reports are that the swelling has gone down in his face and he looks much better. Byrd has spent the week with specialists dealing with the multiple facial fractures he suffered one week ago in Boston when he was hit by a pitch. Byrd has been limited as far as activity goes and can only walk. There is no timetable for his return.

— Carrie Muskat

5/28 Johnson, Baker updates

Reed Johnson is 7-for-11 against the Pirates’ Paul Maholm. Jeff Baker is 7-for-14 against the lefty. But neither was in the starting lineup Saturday as both Cubs are battling injuries. Johnson is sidelined with back issues while Baker has a strained left groin, injured on Sunday in Boston. Baker did pinch-hit Friday but wasn’t ready to start in the field.

“Reed, I’m most concerned about,” manager Mike Quade said. “We’ll be really careful with him. ‘Bake’ needs a day or so before we can cut him loose on the field. It might have been a day to give Carlos [Pena] a day off and have [Baker] at first but one or two explosive moves to his left or right and we’re back into a two-, three-week potentially dangerous situation with his groin.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/28 Cubs pitching moves

Randy Wells was officially activated from the disabled list on Saturday and  Casey Coleman optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Wells had been out with a strained right forearm and started for the first time since April 4.

Coleman was 2-4 with a 7.25 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) for the Cubs this season. “He’s got the ability,” pitching coach Mark Riggins said. “He just has to find the consistency. All he needs is a game or two to get it back.”

* Manager Mike Quade also confirmed Rodrigo Lopez will make his first start for the Cubs on Monday. He was acquired from the Braves’ Triple-A Gwinnett team in exchange for a Minor League pitcher. He’ll be the ninth starter for Chicago this season.

* Matt Garza, on the disabled list with a bone contusion in his right elbow, was to throw a side session on Sunday. It will be the first time he can throw since he was sidelined. Riggins said Garza can still be ready for the Cubs series in St. Louis, which starts this Friday.

— Carrie Muskat