May 2011

5/24 Injury update

The Cubs lost another starting pitcher as Matt Garza went on the disabled list Tuesday but they got good news on Andrew Cashner and expect Randy Wells back this weekend in the rotation. Garza was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 18, with a right elbow bone contusion. It wasn’t a specific pitch that caused the problem, Garza said, but something that’s been nagging him for some time. There is no structural damage. If all goes well, Garza (2-4, 3.72 ERA) could be ready for the Cubs’ series in St. Louis, which starts June 3.

* Cashner has been on the DL since April 6 with a strained right rotator cuff and was examined on Monday by orthopedic specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum, who confirmed what the Cubs team doctor reported, which was aggravation of the shoulder. Cashner felt some discomfort before he was to pitch in an extended Spring Training game in Mesa last week.

* Wells, on the DL since April 5 with a strained right forearm, pitched four innings in his second rehab start Sunday with Triple-A Iowa. He was back at Wrigley Field Tuesday and will start Saturday in the second game of the Cubs’ series against the Pirates.

* Geovany Soto will play in an extended Spring Training game on Wednesday, then join Double-A Tennessee for two games. If all goes well, he could be activated from the DL this weekend. He’s been out with a strained left groin.

* Jeff Baker, who injured his groin on Sunday, was available to pinch-hit.

* Marlon Byrd saw a specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He will be limited to walking for the next one to two weeks after suffering multiple facial fractures when he was hit by a pitch Saturday night. There’s no timetable for his return.

— Carrie Muskat

5/24 Monday’s Minor League report

Austin Bibens-Dirkx gave up eight runs on 10 hits over 3 1/3 innings in Iowa’s 10-5 loss to Las Vegas. Tyler Colvin, Bryan LaHair and Marquez Smith all homered for Iowa. Colvin went 2-for-4 and was batting .350 with Iowa. Smith finished with two RBIs.

Trey McNutt gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits over five innings in Tennessee’s 6-5 come from behind win over Mobile. McNutt struck out four and is 1-2 with a 2.93 ERA. Luis Flores and Rebel Ridling each homered. Chris Carpenter, recently sent down to the Smokies from Iowa, converted his first save, giving up one hit and striking out two in one inning.

Aaron Kurcz gave up one run on two hits and struck out five over four innings in Daytona’s 8-3 win over St. Lucie. Justin Bour had three hits, including his 11th home run, and two RBIs. He also stole a base.

Matt Szczur extended his hitting streak to nine games with three hits to help Peoria beat Clinton, 9-4. Szczur was batting .339 and also swiped his 12th stolen base. Elliot Soto had three hits and two RBIs.

— Carrie Muskat

5/23 Montanez to Cubs — finally

It’s been a long, curious route to Wrigley Field for Lou Montanez, who has reportedly been called up to the Cubs for Tuesday’s game against the Mets. Montanez was the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft.  He never made it to the big leagues after seven years in the Minors with the Cubs and was declared a Minor League free agent after the ’06 season. He signed with the Orioles, and made his Major League debut 2008. That season, he won the Eastern League batting crown with a .335 average and was promoted on Aug. 5.

But he opened ’09 at Triple-A Norfolk, and missed more than three months because of torn ligaments in his right thumb suffered in early May. He began last season at Norfolk again and was called up to the Orioles in April. He appeared in 26 games, batting .140, before he was sidelined with a strained left oblique June 21-Aug. 13.

Montanez, 29, signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs on Jan. 12 this year and was in Spring Training camp as a non-roster invitee.

The Des Moines Register reported that Iowa manager Bill Dancy confirmed Montanez’s call-up. The Cubs need an extra outfielder with Marlon Byrd out for an indefinite period of time after suffering facial fractures Saturday night when he was hit by a pitch. Montanez was batting .369 with five homers, 11 doubles, three triples and 43 RBIs in 42 games with Iowa.

— Carrie Muskat

5/24 Sunday’s Minor League report

Randy Wells gave up seven runs, six earned, on six hits and three walks over four innings in Iowa’s 16-7 loss to Tucson. Jonathon Mota hit his second homer and drove in two runs and Tyler Colvin was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle with three hits and one RBI.

Wells said the outing was a success.

“No matter how much you want to win or pitch well, you’ve got a job to do and that’s to get healthy and get back in game shape,” he told the Des Moines Register after Sunday’s game. “And that’s what these games are all about, is to get back out there, with the intensity, and make pitches. If I can’t locate fastballs, then it doesn’t matter how good the changeup is. And the sinker is going to be there for me. It really wasn’t today but hopefully next time it is.

“It was a good test,” he said. “I tried not to get frustrated. I think I’m close, so we’ll see.”

The Cubs hoped that Wells would pass all the tests so he could be inserted into the rotation for the upcoming series against the Pirates.

* Rob Whitenack gave up two runs on eight hits over five innings in Tennessee’s 4-2 win over Mobile. It was the Smokies’ sixth straight win. Ryan Flaherty homered to extend his hitting streak to seven games. He also had three RBIs. DJ LeMahieu had three hits.

* Jeff Lorick gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings in Daytona’s 8-4 win over St. Lucie. Junior Lake had three hits, including his fourth homer, and two rBIs. Evan Crawford had four hits and one RBI.

* Austin Kirk celebrated his 21st birthday with a win. He gave up three runs on eight hits over six innings in Peoria’s 8-3 win over Clinton. Ryan Cuneo and Richard Jones each homered.

— Carrie Muskat

5/23 Whitenack, Flaherty win awards

Tennessee’s Ryan Flaherty and Rob Whitenack were named the Southern League Players of the Week for May 16-22. Flaherty leads the league with 46 RBIs and is second in home runs with 10. He entered Monday with a 10-game hitting streak. Whitenack is 4-0 with a 2.57 ERA since joining the Smokies on April 27. He struck out eight over two starts last week.

— Carrie Muskat

5/22 Injury update

The Cubs need an off day. They’re running out of players. Marlon Byrd went on the DL Sunday, Jeff Baker had to leave the game with a strained left groin, and Matt Garza is day to day because of tightness in his right elbow. They already have Randy Wells (forearm), Andrew Cashner (shoulder) and Geovany Soto (groin) on the DL.

— Carrie Muskat

5/22 Abbreviated outings

James Russell is the seventh Cubs starting pitcher since 1910 to fail to get through five innings in five consecutive games started.  The others:

Hank Borowy (1948)

Bob Chipman (1949)

Dick Drott (1959-1960)

Dave Hillman (1957)

Glen Hobbie (1963)

Geoff Zahn (1975)

Note: Zahn is the only Cubs starter since 1910 to have a streak longer than five.  He failed to get through five in six consecutive starts in 1975. Thanks to Cubs historian Ed Hartig for the info.

— Carrie Muskat

5/22 The good news is Byrd is hungry

Marlon Byrd will fly back to Chicago with his teammates Sunday night but when he’ll be able to play with them is still unknown. The Cubs outfielder has multiple facial fractures after being hit by a pitch on Saturday night. Carlos Pena visited his teammate at the hospital Saturday.

“You’re worrying, ‘Man, is he going to be able to see?'” Pena said. “One of the things he was yelling is, ‘I can’t see out of my left eye.’ All I’m thinking about is a couple guys I know who have similar injuries very recently.”

The good news is that Byrd could see Pena when he stopped by to visit, even though he said his vision was still fuzzy. Even better, Byrd was hungry and eating pizza in the hospital.

“He’s doing well,” Pena said. “He’s a tough kid. When you see an injury like that, you want to be as optimistic as possible but all you think is the worst. I was very fearful for his vision, for his eye, for damage to his head.”

Byrd will see specialists this week in Chicago to get a better feel for the severity of his injury.

— Carrie Muskat

5/22 Red Sox nation worries about Byrd

Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves tried to get in touch with Marlon Byrd after an errant fastball hit the Cubs outfielder in the face Saturday night. Byrd suffered multiple facial fractures.

“I tried,” Aceves said. “I called the doctors a few times and I never got any answer. I wanted to talk to him to see if he was OK. I was worried.”

Had he ever let one get that far away before?

“No,” Aceves said.

“It’s definitely scary,” Boston’s Kevin Youkilis said. “It didn’t sound good. I thought it hit him in the helmet until I heard today where it hit him. I mean, it’s definitely one of those things where it could be career ending. You never want to see that. So it was tough.

“Marlon’s a good guy and he’s played a lot of ball and probably never had that happen to him,” Youkilis said. “Hopefully, he can rebound and play and be OK.”

Said Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron: “You just pray for him. That’s the biggest thing. His face will heal up, his fractures will heal up. He’s always been tough. It’ll impact him a little bit when he first comes back, but you just pray that everything stays in there together so he has baseball vision. Not only vision in itself, but baseball vision because that’s what the man does.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/22 Cubs lineup

Jeff Baker is in left field on Sunday and Alfonso Soriano is the DH in the series finale against the Red Sox. Here’s the lineup:

RF Fukudome

2B Barney

SS Castro

3B Ramirez

1B Pena

LF Baker

DH Soriano

C Castillo

CF Johnson

— Carrie Muskat