July 2011

7/22 Marmol back as closer

Carlos Marmol needed one more tune-up on Friday, and now is back as the Cubs’ closer. He struck out both batters he faced in the eighth to help preserve the 4-2 win over the Astros.

“He’s a closer and he pitched like it today,” Mike Quade said.

Marmol was given a few days to work with pitching coach Mark Riggins to get his mechanics straightened out. Before the game, Quade said he hoped everything was back to normal. But Riggins wanted Marmol to be the set-up man before he pitched the ninth. Sean Marshall got the final three outs for his third save.

“I feel very good now,” Marmol said after the game. “I’ve got my confidence back.”

Carlos Zambrano gave his support to his teammate.

“Marmol’s a good pitcher and he’s a great closer,” Zambrano said. “But he’s human, too. The most important thing is he keeps his head up, like I told him the other day, and comes back ready.

“He has to try to be the same guy that he was last year and the year before and the year he went to the All-Star Game,” Zambrano said. “That’s what the game is about is making adjustments and come back stronger after a bad outing. Consistency is the most important thing in baseball.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/22 Minor League roundup

Marwin Gonzalez had three hits, including a double and a homer, and three RBIs but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost 8-7 to Nashville. Casey Coleman gave up six runs on eight hits over seven innings and struck out five. Tyler Colvin reached base three times, getting two hits, including a triple, and drove in his 32nd run. Bryan LaHair and Welington Castillo also had two hits each.

Ryan Searle gave up two runs on six hits over five innings in Tennessee’s 11-6 loss to Carolina. Josh Vitters hit his ninth homer, a three-run shot, and Jae-Hoon Ha and Steve Clevenger each had two hits.

Angel Guzman gave up two runs on three hits over two innings in Daytona’s 3-2 win over Palm Beach. Rafael Valdes had two hits, including a double.

Richard Jones extended his hitting streak to 15 games but it wasn’t enough as Peoria lost, 13-0, to Dayton. Starlin Peralta gave up nine runs on nine hits over two innings.

Austin Reed gave up one run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings in Boise’s 4-0 loss to Yakima. Zeke DeVoss had two hits, including a double.

Hunter Ackerman gave up one unearned run on five hits over five innings in Mesa’s 7-4 loss to the Indians.

— Carrie Muskat


7/22 Cubs lineup

Carlos Zambrano will open the Cubs’ series against the Astros on Friday. Here’s the lineup:

RF Fukudome

SS Castro

3B Ramirez

1B Pena

CF Byrd

C Soto

LF Soriano

2B Barney

P Zambrano

— Carrie Muskat

7/22 Garlin, Harry Potter & Man U

It’ll be a celebrity filled day at Wrigley Field on Friday for the Cubs game against the Astros. Comedian Jeff Garlin is singing the seventh inning stretch while Tom Felton, who stars as Draco in the “Harry Potter” movies, will throw out a first pitch. Also, two legends from Manchester United, Andrew Cole and Bryan Robson, will participate in a jersey exchange pre-game.

— Carrie Muskat

7/21 Report: Gretzky to play baseball

The Toronto Sun reported Trevor Gretzky, son of NHL Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, has signed with the Cubs. The team selected the first baseman in the seventh round of the First-Year Player Draft in June. The younger Gretzky had been considering playing for San Diego State University but its coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn told the Sun: “We heard he signed with the Cubs on Monday.” A Cubs official said there was currently nothing to announce.

— Carrie Muskat

7/20 Q: “Play with some freaking intensity”

Mike Quade was hot after Wednesday’s 9-1 loss to the Phillies and it wasn’t because of the weather. He was upset about Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney failing to catch Michael Martinez’s pop up in the first.

“We set a bad tone there,” Quade said. “A ball’s in the sun, they’re communicating, Cassie thought he had it all the way. I look back at this whole game and look at that play, and the sun’s been in the same [darn] spot for however long Wrigley Field has been here.

“Those are the kind of mistakes — there are certain ones you’ll accept but there are other ones that have to be taken care of,” he said. “Those are two talented kids in the middle of the diamond. We make enough mistakes that we need to clean them all up. It’s so important for those guys to play well in the middle. Everything goes through them, everything. If we’re going to be good pitching, we have to play good in the middle.”

Quade felt Dempster might have escaped the first if the ball had been caught. Instead, Martinez was credited with a single, Dempster walked the next batter and both eventually scored. The Cubs manager talked to both Castro and Barney after the game about the importance of defense. His message?

“Put the negativity behind us, play with some freaking intensity and continue to work on playing the game the way we need to play, and we’re not,” Quade said. “That’s what we’re looking for. It’s not universal. We have to clean up some specific areas.”

He spared the veterans, saying they were doing a darn good job.

“I just know the value of the middle of the diamond,” Quade said. “We have two talented kids there who need to get better. They’ve got 60-some games to prove that and to show that the rest of this season and go on from there.”

Barney said he wasn’t surprised that Quade was upset.

“I’m surprised it hasn’t happened earlier to be honest,” the second baseman said. “When it comes down to it, you’ve got to play better. We’re playing the best team in baseball. We want to be the best team in baseball and we’ve said many times we believe we can be. I guess it’s time to take a gut check and try to get better and come out and work hard in BP and get quality ground balls and turn this thing around. It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Barney didn’t want to comment on the play specifically. Quade did say the two communicated, and Castro thought he had it. The problem isn’t lack of experience.

“We’re here for a reason,” Barney said. “You don’t come to the big league level and have the excuse of being inexperienced. You have to get the job done. The way I look at it, Starlin’s 21 and I’m 25. If he wasn’t ready and he didn’t have what it takes, he wouldn’t be here and neither would I. We’ve got to do it, we’ve got to get the job done and we’ve got to get better.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/20 No talks with Gillick

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts denied a report he has spoken to longtime baseball exec Pat Gillick about a job with the team. Ricketts’ spokesman, Dennis Culloton, said in a statement: “While Tom respects Pat Gillick’s Hall of Fame career, reports of a conversation are unfounded.” Gillick will be inducted into Cooperstown this weekend.

Chicago’s WSCR-AM 670 cited “Major League sources” as saying Ricketts and Gillick had conversations as recently as last week. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com also reported speculation that Gillick could be named club president.

Last month, Ricketts said he had confidence in GM Jim Hendry and was not interested in hiring a baseball executive above Hendry to oversee the organization.

— Carrie Muskat

7/20 Extra bases

Shade and water were more important than a scorecard or peanuts on Wednesday because of oppressive heat. Neither the Cubs nor the Phillies took batting practice on the field to save their energy. The Cubs trainers were emphasizing the need to stay hydrated. The official game time temperature was 97 degrees, but the heat index made it feel like 108 degrees. An on-field thermometer registered 120 degrees.

Wrigley Field organist Gary Pressy tried to help fans cool off, playing “Jingle Bells” and “Let it Snow” pregame.

* Rodrigo Lopez has posted quality starts in each of his last three outings but the Cubs have decided to put him in the bullpen temporarily. After Thursday’s off day, the Cubs will have Carlos Zambrano (6-5, 4.78 ERA), Randy Wells (1-3, 6.71 ERA), and Matt Garza (4-7, 3.80 ERA) will go in the weekend series against the Astros, which opens Friday.

Wells has not won a start since April 4, his first outing of the season. He went on the disabled list the next day because of a strained right forearm and hasn’t found his groove since returning May 28.

“He needs to make progress and I’d like to see him pitch the way I’ve seen him in the past,” Mike Quade said of the right-hander, who had a solid spring and won the fourth spot in the rotation. “I’m hoping for as good an outing as I’ve seen from him in quite some time.”

* Carlos Marmol was available on Wednesday but Quade said he’s still gauging how he uses the right-hander each day, depending on the amount of work he does on the side. The Cubs are trying to get Marmol back on track. He’s given up eight runs on five hits and nine walks over 5 1/3 innings in his last eight games. The time off gives Marmol more than just a fresher arm.

“I’d like to think [the time off allows for] some self evaluation and spending some time to think about what you need to do to get people out,” Quade said. “I know the intensity which they’ve gone about it with both [pitching coach Mark Riggins] and he and Lester [Strode, bullpen coach] is important.”

* If you have a question about the Cubs, send it to CubsInbox@gmail.com. We’ll run an Inbox on Thursday.

— Carrie Muskat

7/20 Dempster Casino Night tonight

How would you like a chance to purchase a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth? How about a trip to Las Vegas? Or a Derrek Rose jersey? Maybe a Ron Santo autographed baseball is more to your taste?

Those are some of the items available at tonight’s Dempster Foundation Casino Night at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. Tickets are still available. Call 312-415-9846 for information.

Some of the auction items include a three-night stay at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas with a $500 airline voucher; a 2012 Ryder Cup package, including two weekly grounds passes at Medinah Country Club; a Patrick Kane autographed jersery and Blackhawks tickets; a Derrick Rose autographed jersey; a trip to Hollywood to see the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live Show; dinner with Dempster at Harry Caray’s restaurant; a trip to Disney World with a stay at Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort; a Ron Santo autographed baseball and more.

Proceeds benefit the Dempster Family Foundation Strike Out 22q campaign. The foundation assists charities and organizations supporting children with 22q11.2 deletion (DiGeorge syndrome).

The foundation raised about $400,000 last year at the event.

— Carrie Muskat

7/20 Hendry looking to the future

Cubs GM Jim Hendry told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday he’s open to making changes to help the team in the future but doesn’t see a need to overhaul the roster.  He was in Des Moines to watch the Triple-A Iowa team play for three games.

“Why would we trade anybody who we think is going to help us next year or the years after?” he said Tuesday.

“I would say if we move anyone it would be somebody we clearly knew wouldn’t be back,” Hendry said. “We’re not going to move people that we think are going to help us.”

 There’s no pressure to dump payroll via trade, he said. Hendry added he already has rejected several potential deals.

“Why would I trade Sean Marshall?” he said. “Why would I trade Darwin Barney? Those calls kind of stop quickly. It makes no sense.”

The GM hasn’t changed his approach this season compared to past seasons. 

“I haven’t changed any since we won 97 games in 2008,” he said. “I’ve worked just as hard.”

— Carrie Muskat