June 2011

6/22 Cubs lineup

Aramis Ramirez is the designated hitter for the Cubs’ series finale against the White Sox on Wednesday. Doug Davis will be on the mound, going for his second win with the Cubs. Kosuke Fukudome is leading off. His .397 on-base percentage is the highest OBP for any leadoff hitter in baseball. Here’s the lineup:

RF Fukudome

SS Castro

DH Ramirez

1B Pena

CF Johnson

LF Soriano

2B DeWitt

3B Baker

C Hill

— Carrie Muskat

6/22 Kasper signs 5-year extension

Len Kasper signed a five-year extension to remain as the Cubs’ TV play by play man through 2016, according to the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald. Kasper, 40, was in the final year of his current deal. This is Kasper’s seventh season with the Cubs.

— Carrie Muskat

6/22 Cubs vs. Royals – UPDATED

The Cubs tweaked the rotation, so Carlos Zambrano will stay on schedule and Randy Wells will get an extra day of rest. Z now will start Saturday, Wells on Sunday. The Cubs will be facing the Royals for the first time since 2001 when they travel to Kansas City for a weekend Interleague series, starting Friday. It’s their first trip to Kauffman Stadium since July 16-18, 2000. The Cubs are 9-6 against the Royals since Interleague play began in 1997. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Ryan Dempster (5-6, 5.46 ERA) vs. Bruce Chen (4-1, 3.59 ERA)

Saturday: Carlos Zambrano (6-4, 4.50 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (1-2, 5.03 ERA)

Sunday: Randy Wells (1-1, 5.70 ERA)  vs. Luke Hochevar (4-7, 4.97 ERA)

— Carrie Muskat

6/22 Minor League report

Scott Moore went 4-for-4 and Casey Coleman gave up three runs, two earned, on seven hits and four walks over six innings in Iowa’s 13-3 loss to Memphis. Tyler Colvin tripled and scored a run.

Daytona lost its fourth straight as Lakeland scored twice in the ninth for a 4-3 win. Michael Burgess hda two hits and Logan Watkins drove in a run and stole a base.

Luis Liria gave up four runs on five hits over 4 1/3 innings and struck out six in Boise’s 11-6 win over Eugene. Paul Hoilman had two hits, including his second homer, and four RBIs. Kyler Burke, who is switching from outfield to pitcher, picked up his first win, throwing 1 2/3 innings in relief.

Hunter Ackerman gave up three runs on thre hits and three walks and struck out five over three innings in Mesa’s 8-5 win over the Athletics. Kenny Socorro had three hits and three RBIs. Patrick Francescon converted his first save, throwing two scoreless innings.

Here are the Cubs’ Draft picks who are playing in the Minors:

19th round: 1B Paul Hoilman
20th round: OF Ben Klafczynski
42nd round: IF Brad Zapenas
44th round: IF Kenny Socorro
16th round: C Rafael Lopez
18th round: RHP James Pugliese
32nd round: RHP Pete Levitt
36th round: IF Travis Garcia
40th round: RHP Patrick Francescon
46th round: RHP Scott Weismann

— Carrie Muskat

6/21 Extra bases

Jeff Baker was the DH on Tuesday and Aramis Ramirez will do so on Wednesday, which will give him a two-day break with the off day Thursday. Baker is batting .460 against left-handed pitching so it makes sense to get him in the lineup. What’s the key?

“I just close my eyes and swing real hard,” Baker said.

* Geovany Soto has seen the replay of Ozzie Guillen kicking his mask about 80 times and it still makes him laugh.

“He was just angry,” Soto said. “I know it wasn’t anything personal toward me.”

Said Reed Johnson: “Ozzie kicking the mask is one thing. To see Geo’s reaction was great.”

* Darwin Barney took batting practice on the field Tuesday. Once he gets a brace for his left knee, he’ll be able to do more activities.

* Marlon Byrd is expected to begin a rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A Iowa.

— Carrie Muskat

6/21 Ozzie picks Cubs in Central

Ozzie Guillen certainly likes what he sees of the Cubs and thinks there’s potential for the team to win the NL Central.

“I look at their lineup yesterday,” said Guillen, who then paused for effect, “and I think they have a chance to win the division. Look at the lineup. I don’t follow them, but look at that lineup. That lineup is pretty good. You see a lot of guys .280, .284, .270, around there.

“If those guys get hot at the same time, they’re going to be dangerous,” he said. “They’re going to compete because I think the lineup is good enough. Now it’s a little hotter here, and I hope that helps them. But that lineup is pretty good. Talk about man-by-man, that’s a pretty strong lineup. When they get Marlon Byrd back, that lineup’s going to be better.”

And Mike Quade’s response?

“There’s a lot of things we have to get straightened out,” the Cubs manager said. “Our pitching hasn’t been what we thought it would be. I think this lineup will be OK as the summer goes along. I still think we’re a club like most clubs that need solid pitching. We like the back end of our bullpen, especially when we get [Kerry Wood] back, and our starters are starting to do what we expect them to do to give us an opportunity to win every day.

“There’s a lot of things that can turn around and if we can stay healthy, you can turn things around very quickly. Whether Ozzie’s handicapping or not, that’s what I’m hoping for.”

— Carrie Muskat

6/21 Cubs Inbox

The Inbox will return Thursday, June 23. Got a question about the Cubs? Send it to cubsinbox@gmail.com. Let’s avoid questions about Alfonso Soriano playing second base (it’s not happening).

— Carrie Muskat

6/21 Cubs lineup

Mike Quade said he was going to have Aramis Ramirez be the DH on Tuesday but changed his mind. Jeff Baker gets the DH duties on Tuesday for Game 2 against the White Sox, and Ramirez will start at third base. Here’s the lineup against Mark Buerhle and their numbers vs. the White Sox lefty:

CF Johnson (10-for-27, .370)

SS Castro (0-for-3)

DH Baker (1-for-3)

3B Ramirez (3-for-13, .231)

C Soto (2-for-8)

LF Soriano (7-for-35, .200)

1B Pena (11-for-41, .268)

RF Montanez (never faced)

2B LeMahieu (never faced)

— Carrie Muskat

6/21 Minor League report

Ramon Ortiz gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits over seven innings and struck out eight in Iowa’s 3-4 loss to Albuquerque on Monday. Fernando Perez had two hits and stole his 16th base. Tyler Colvin had two hits and was batting .270.

Angel Guzman is now pitching for Daytona and gave up one unearned run on three hits over 1 2/3 innings in a 3-1 loss to Lakeland. Guzman struck out two. Rafael Valdes had three hits.

Willengton Cruz struck out seven over four shutout innings in Boise’s 9-4 loss to Eugene. In Mesa’s home opener, the Cubs scored five runs on 13 hits but lost to the Giants. James Pugliese, an 18th round pick, threw two perfect innings of relief. 

Four of the Cubs’ 50 Draft picks are on the roster of the Mesa rookie team, including 16th-round selection Rafael Lopez, a catcher out of Florida State. Right-handed pitcher Pugliese, infielder Travis Garcia, the 36th-round pick, and infielder Kenny Socorro, who was taken in the 44th round, also are in Mesa.

Tennessee and Peoria are at their respective leagues All-Star breaks.

— Carrie Muskat

6/20 Pena on Z: He’s a quality teammate

Give Carlos Zambrano credit. He could’ve imploded again after giving up three runs in the first against the White Sox Monday night. But Big Z settled down, and struck out five over eight innings in the Cubs’ 6-3 win.

“So much has been made about his emotional stuff, and he was relaxed, he felt good and he handled himself great and then really went to work,” Mike Quade said of Zambrano. “That’s what you need, and good for him.”

It was Zambrano’s first win since May 26, and an important one both physically and emotionally.

“The most important thing is to realize you made a mistake and apologize and be a better person and be a better teammate and be a better player with what you do on the field,” Zambrano said. “That’s what I want to do this year — focus on baseball and let everything else go away.”

Carlos Pena knows all about Zambrano’s volatility. He also sees another side of the right-hander.

“I’ve been very impressed with him as a human being,” Pena said. “It’s very easy to pass judgement very quickly just seeing how intense he is on the mound. He’s a quality man and a quality teamate. I’ve been impressed with him off the field.”

— Carrie Muskat