September 2011

9/23 Ramirez is day to day

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was not in the Cubs’ lineup Friday, needing another day to nurse a strained right quad.

“He’s as day to day as I can get,” Mike Quade said Friday. “I waited a long time today [to post the lineup] but it was more wishful thinking on my part than anything else. He’ll see. He’ll start with whether he can give us a pinch-hit at-bat and go from there.”

Ramirez began the day ranked seventh in the National League in batting average at .306. He had to leave Tuesday’s game with the leg injury, which has been bothering him for some time.

There’s been no talk about shutting Ramirez down for the final two series.

“Let’s keep him working, get his treatment,” Quade said. “Maybe he can’t go in this series, but maybe he can give us a pinch-hit. He hasn’t indicated to me that he’s interested in shutting it down.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/23 Cubs lineup vs. Cardinals

Aramis Ramirez is still sidelined with a sore quad and is not in Friday’s lineup for the Cubs’ first game of a three-game set against the Cardinals. Here’s the lineup:

Castro SS

Barney 2B

LaHair RF

Pena 1B

Soriano LF

Byrd CF

LeMahieu 3B

Hill C

Dempster P

— Carrie Muskat

9/23 Extra bases

Starlin Castro is one hit away from 200 this season. When he gets it, he’ll be the youngest player in franchise history to do so. Castro also will be the 10th player in 111 years of the modern era (since 1900) to reach 200 hits at 21 years or younger. Here’s the list and the years they reached 200:  Ty Cobb (1907), Lloyd Waner (1927), Hal Trosky (1934), Joe DiMaggio (1936) and Buddy Lewis (1937), Al Kaline (1955), Vada Pinson (1959), Garry Templeton (1977), and Alex Rodriguez (1995).

* If Castro gets on base Friday, it will extend his streak to 35 straight games, the best mark by a Cubs shortstop.

* The Cubs have 40 come from behind wins, tied for second most in the National League and third most in the Majors.

* Pitching for the Cubs series against the Cardinals:

Friday: Ryan Dempster (10-13, 4.63) vs. Chris Carpenter (10-9, 3.66)

Saturday: Rodrigo Lopez (6-6, 4.71) vs. Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.47)

Sunday: Randy Wells (7-5, 5.09) vs. Edwin Jackson (5-2, 3.73)

— Carrie Muskat

9/21 Castro collects hit No. 198

Starlin Castro said he wanted to get 200  hits at home and he is now two away from the magic number. He doubled to lead off the first inning Wednesday for his National League-leading 198th hit, but was thrown out at third trying to stretch his hit. He’s now has reached safely in 34 straight games, tying the longest stretch by a Cubs shortstop. Woody English, who reached in 34 straight in 1929. Castro is the first Cubs player to reach in 34 in a row since Jerome Walton had a 43-game streak in 1989. At 21, Castro will be the youngest Cubs player to total 200 hits. Billy Herman (206 hits in 1932) and Augie Galan (203 hits in 1935) were both 23 when they reached the milestone.

— Carrie Muskat

9/21 Ramirez’s agent to meet with Cubs

Aramis Ramirez says his agent will meet with interim GM Randy Bush on Wednesday, although he wasn’t sure if they were going to talk about the third baseman’s future. The Cubs have a $16 million option for next season on Ramirez, who has said he wants to stay with the team but also hinted he wants a multi-year deal. The Cubs don’t have a GM but Ricketts said chairman Tom Ricketts could make the call.

“He’s the boss,” Ramirez said. “If he wants to keep a player, he can. That’s the general manager’s job. [Ricketts] is the owner. If he wants somebody, he has the power to do it.”

Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer, also represents Starlin Castro, Geovany Soto, Carlos Marmol and John Grabow, so talks could be about the other players as well.

Technically, the Cubs do not have to make a decision regarding Ramirez until five days after the World Series ends. Ramirez made it sound as if he wants a decision sooner to decide whether to test the free agent market.

“I’ve never been through this process before,” he said. “I’ve never been a free agent. We’ve still got another month, they’ve got until five days after the World Series to decide what they’re going to do.”

But if the Cubs are in rebuilding mode, Ramirez said he didn’t feel he was a good fit.

“I can’t be here for a rebuilding process,” he said. “I’m not that kind of player. I’m 33, I don’t know how much longer I want to be playing. I know it’s hard to win but you have to be able to compete and that’s what I want to do.”

He cited how the team rebounded from a 96-loss season in 2006 to win the National League Central in 2007, saying it can be done. But the Cubs also went on a spending spree, spending $300 million that offseason.

“We have to wait and see what the Cubs want to do first,” Ramirez said about testing the market. “This is my priority to stay here. Like I said, they have to show me they’re going to be better. That’s the bottom line.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/21 Could Z return? Q: “It’d be tough”

One of the things on the new Cubs’ GM’s to do list will be to figure out what to do with Carlos Zambrano. He was placed on the disqualified list after his abrupt departure from the ballpark Aug. 12 in Atlanta.

“‘Z’ was a good pitcher in this mix and you miss that,” Mike Quade said Wednesday. “Again, the situation dictated how we handled it as far as I’m concerned and you move on past that. You can argue all day long on principle, or, ‘What are we going to do?’ I think what took place needed to be addressed and was, and whatever holes are left because of that, so be it.”

Zambrano does have another year remaining on his contract. Could he come back to the Cubs?

“I’m not calling the shots,” Quade said. “I never say never to anything and I think [Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts] is on record with what he said. That’s out of my hands and the least of my worries. We need to finish strong and see what happens this winter.”

Maybe the question is whether Quade thinks Zambrano could come back.

“I don’t know,” Quade said. “That’s a tough question for me to answer. I’d like his arm back if he fit into the mix. It would be tough for him to come back, for me. If he did, then you deal with it. It would be tough.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/21 Quade: “I’m going to be back”

Could Wednesday be Mike Quade’s last home game as the Cubs manager? It could depend on what the new general manager wants to do. Quade said he hasn’t thought about it.

“Why would I? We’re going to play today and I’m going to be back,” he said. “That’s the way I look at things. There’s no other way to look at it. Why would I look at it any other way?”

So the change in GM doesn’t affect him?

“There’s nothing I can do about that,” he said. “That’s the way i look at things. I’m not going to wax nostalgic thinking, ‘Oh, my God, what now?’ I plan to be back and I plan to do a good job next year.”

He has not talked to Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts about the future. The Cubs still have six games to play in St. Louis and San Diego, and Quade is focused on that.

“If they make a decision in a different direction, so be it,” Quade said. “The question is what do I think? That’s what I think.”

Asked how he would grade himself as manager, Quade said he was “disappointed in the record.”

“I’m not disappointed in myself at all,” he said. “We didn’t pitch as well as I’d hoped. I think our offense ends up being about what we thought. As I said numerous times, the game boils down to pitching and when we struggle with starters, it’s tough to overcome.”

Quade does have a contract for 2012 but said he doesn’t feel at ease because of that.

“I like doing this and I think I’m good at doing it and that’s the way I look at things,” he said. “Whether I had a one-year deal or a two-year deal or a five-year deal, that’s the way I feel.”

He’s hoping he’ll get a chance to convince the new GM that he deserves to stay.

“There’s so much speculation and nothing I can control,” Quade said. “There’s absolutely no reason for me to concern myself with anything but finishing as best we can and waiting to see what takes place.”

It isn’t just Quade who is on the hot seat. The Cubs coaches also don’t know what’s ahead.

“I look at this as a variety of things and no one escapes blame and you understand that going in,” Quade said, “but I also look at it as a realist and try to think about the things I could or couldn’t control, whether it’s the clubhouse or running the game. I evaluate it all.

“You sit here and take the blame, that’s what you do.”

The Cubs will finish last in the National League in defense.

“One disappointment, if I had one, that would be it,” Quade said about the play on the field. “It wasn’t for lack of work on it or concentration or emphasis, from the beginning of Spring Training.”

Is the job tougher than he expected?

“This year was, just because we had so much to deal with,” Quade said. “The job with you guys, with running the club, no. Big market city, Major League baseball, it’s fine. We had a ton of stuff to deal with and then not having success. Not tougher, but it was a tough year. That’s the way I am. I think all of us will be better for it. I’m happy with the way we’re finishing.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/21 No Ramirez in Cubs lineup

Has Aramis Ramirez played his last game as a Cub at Wrigley Field? He will not start Wednesday’s home finale against the Brewers. Ramirez came out of Tuesday’s game with a mild strain of his right quad and was listed as day to day. DJ LeMahieu will start at third. Although Ramirez said his agent had not spoken to anyone on the Cubs about next season, there were reports that Paul Kinzer will chat with Cubs interim GM Randy Bush on Thursday. The Cubs have a $16 million option for 2012. They have until five days after the World Series ends to pick it up.

Here’s the lineup for Wednesday:

Castro SS

LeMahieu 3B

Johnson RF

Baker 2B

Soto C

Byrd CF

Soriano LF

LaHair 1B

Garza P

— Carrie Muskat

9/20 Ramy: “I don’t know what’s going to happen”

Aramis Ramirez may have played his last home game in a Cubs uniform on Tuesday. The third baseman may test the free agent market after this season if the Cubs don’t pick up his $16 million option or offers him a multi-year deal. Whether he’ll play again in the final seven games is yet to be determined, too. He had to leave Tuesday’s game with a strained right quad, aggravated when he ran to first in the sixth inning against the Brewers. His status health-wise is day to day.

His status with the Cubs is the same. Was Tuesday his last home game with the team?

“Probably. There’s a good chance,” Ramirez said after the Cubs’ 5-1 loss to the Brewers. “I’m a free agent and right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen. It looks like I’m going to hit the market.”

He’d be the top third baseman available. Ramirez was batting .306 with 25 homers and 92 RBIs. He’s been with the Cubs since July 2003 when acquired from the Pirates. He wants to stay in Chicago.

“I’ve been saying that all along and it’s no secret to anybody,” Ramirez said. “It doesn’t look that way right now. We haven’t heard anything from the front office.”

That’s most likely because the Cubs’ general manager’s position is vacant following the dismissal last month of Jim Hendry. Ramirez said his agent, Paul Kinzer, was in Chicago but that he has not reached out to the Cubs front office.

“We don’t have a GM so I don’t know who to talk to,” Ramirez said.

Retirement doesn’t appear to be a consideration for the 33-year-old infielder.

“I think I can play three, four more years,” he said. “It’s just a matter of being in the right situation and we’ll see what happens.”

Wednesday is the Cubs final home game of the season.

“It’s going to be different,” Ramirez said. “It’s going to be the first time that I don’t know if I’m coming back. All the other times, I knew. I had my place here, I knew I’d have my locker here, the same locker at Wrigley field. Next year, I don’t know. It’s going to be different.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/20 Extra bases

Ryan Dempster will get two more starts. He’ll start Friday in the first game of the Cubs’ series against the Cardinals and also the last game of the season Sept. 28 against the Padres. Rodrigo Lopez and Randy Wells will pitch Saturday and Sunday, respectively, against the Cardinals, while Matt Garza and Casey Coleman will start next Monday and Tuesday against the Padres.

* Expect Tyler Colvin to get at least one more start this season. Colvin was batting .155 but Mike Quade said he’s seen no lingering effects from the freak accident one year ago on Sept. 19 when he suffered a collapsed lung after he was stabbed in the chest by a broken bat.

“He just has to keep working to get better,” Quade said of Colvin. “He has bat speed and power to play up here and be good up here. Now it’s a matter of making consistent contact, of improving his discipline at the plate. When he swings at strikes and gets pitches he can handle, he does a pretty good job.”

* Gary Hughes, who has been in baseball for 44 years and with the Cubs since 2002 as a special assistant, announced he will not be returning to the team next year.

— Carrie Muskat