September 2011

9/19 Clevenger, Dolis to join Cubs

The Cubs will add catcher Steve Clevenger and pitcher Rafael Dolis to the roster on Monday now that their season with Double-A Tennessee is over. Mobile beat Tennessee on Sunday to claim the Southern League Championship. Clevenger, a converted catcher, batted .295 with five homers, 27 doubles and 39 RBIs in 95 games, while Dolis was 8-5 with 17 saves in 19 opportunities and a 3.22 ERA in 51 games with the Smokies.

Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken said Monday he was proud of the fact that Clevenger is the 14th player the team has picked in the First-Year Player Draft since 2006 to reach the big leagues. A shortstop when he was tabbed in the seventh round in 2006, Clevenger switched to catching in 2007. Wilken joked that when selected, he told Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita that Clevenger “runs like a catcher” and not a middle infielder.

“The one thing that was constant was that [Clevenger] was a good hitter,” Wilken said.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has decided to keep the Cubs’ player development staff intact for 2012 while he searches for a new general manager. Fleita recently received a four-year contract extension while Wilken is under contract for next year and on Monday, was assured that the team wants him to stay.

“I definitely think they’re going in the right direction,” Wilken said. “I’d love to finish my career here. Tom has shown confidence in our department. He’s been real supportive.

“There’s a lot of good people over here still,” Wilken said of the Cubs staff. “Hopefully, we’ll find a general manager we can get behind as well and really start progressing foward. We need to get better.”

What Wilken is looking for now are some “roster changers” — middle of the order pitchers and hitters.

— Carrie Muskat


9/19 Smokies lose SLCS

Tennessee was unable to overcome a five-run deficit and lost 6-4 to Mobile Sunday in the Southern League Championship Series. With the win, the Bay Bears took the best of five series, 3-1. Tennessee ended the season 83-57. The Smokies’ Jae-Hoon Ha hit a solo homer in the first but the Bay Bears answered quickly as Josh Ford hit a two-run homer in the second. Mobile starter and Diamondbacks’ first-round pick Trevor Bauer gave up three hits over five innings.

Matt Davidson homered off Marcus Hatley to lead off the Mobile sixth, then Marc Krauss walked and Taylor Harbin singled to put two on. Ford singled to right, and an error by Jim Adduci enabled both runs to score. Jacob Elmore capped off the scoring with a sac fly to make it 6-1. Nelson Perez added a pinch-hit RBI single in the Smokies’ seventh and Ha hit a two-run double to close to 6-4.

— Carrie Muskat 

9/18 Castro reaches safely in 31st straight game

Starlin Castro doubled to lead off the first inning for the Cubs Sunday for his National League-leading 195th hit. He now has reached base safely in a career-high 31 straight games. Castro is the first Cubs shortstop to have a streak that long since Woody English had a 32-game run in 1930. Derrek Lee was the last Cubs player with a 30-plus streak, reaching safely in 31 consecutive games in 2009.

Castro is vying to become the youngest Cubs player ever to collect 200 hits in a single season. The last Cub to collect 200 hits was Juan Pierre, who had 204 in 2006.

— Carrie Muskat

9/18 Extra bases

* Mike Quade wants to see how Ryan Dempster fares Sunday and also how Casey Coleman pitches Monday before deciding the rotation for the upcoming road trip to St. Louis. The Cubs want to give Dempster enough starts in the final games so he can get to 200 innings.

* It’s been a long time since the Cubs have had any speed in the lineup and they are taking advantage of Tony Campana’s quickness. Campana has 22 steals, the most by a Cubs player since Ryan Theriot swiped 22 in 2008. He’s been thrown out once this season, and his 95.7 percent success rate is tops in the Major Leagues. Texas’ Ian Kinsler is second, having gone 25-for-27 in stolen bases.

As much as the Cubs like to see Campana run, Quade was happy that the outfielder has been more patient. He has a walk and a stolen base in each of the last two games. Obviously, being more patient at the plate will help the speedy outfielder get on base more.

“People are finding out and trying to make adjustments to him very quickly,” Quade said. “Every time we show up in a new city and he’s in the game or comes in late, I see shallower defenses or shallower outfielders.

“He’s not going to surprise anybody, that’s for sure,” Quade said. “You have to make a decision when he does get on or you use him late in the game how much you’re going to allow his speed to affect the quality of stuff you’re bringing to the plate. If you’re somebody like Enerio Del Rosario, who is normally that quick to the plate, OK, take your shot.”

* Aramis Ramirez was batting .308, which is 67 points higher than his .241 average last year. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the 67-point improvement is second-best for any player with 500 or more plate appearances each of the last two seasons. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp beat Ramirez for the top spot by one point. He’s batting .317 this season after hitting .249 last year.

* Here are the pitching matchups for the upcoming series vs. the Brewers:

Monday: Chris Narveson (10-7, 4.40) vs. Casey Coleman (2-8, 7.06)

Tuesday: Shaun Marcum (12-7, 3.40) vs. Randy Wells (7-4, 4.93)

Wednesday: Randy Wolf (13-9, 3.45) vs. Matt Garza (8-10, 3.51)

— Carrie Muskat

9/18 Cubs lineup

Bryan LaHair, DJ LeMahieu and Tony Campana are in the lineup Sunday for the Cubs series finale against the Astros. Here’s the lineup:

Castro SS

Campana RF

LaHair LF

Pena 1B

Byrd CF

DeWitt 2B

LeMahieu 3B

Hill C

Dempster P

— Carrie Muskat

9/18 Smokies win over Mobile

Nelson Perez homered in the eighth inning to spark a three-run rally and lead Tennessee to a 4-2 win over Mobile Saturday in Game 3 of the Southern League Championship Series.  With the win, the Smokies keep their playoff hopes alive, as Mobile now leads the best-of-five series 2-1.

Mobile took a quick 2-0 lead but Nate Samson hit a RBI double to close to 2-1.  In the eighth, Perez led off with a solo homer to tie the game. Jim Adduci and Blake Lalli both walked, and Rebel Ridling ripped an RBI single to go ahead, 3-2. An error allowed pinch runner David Macias to score, extending the lead to 4-2. Jeff Beliveau (1-0) got the win and Rafael Dolis picked up the save.

Game 4 will be played Sunday at Smokies Park. Trey McNutt is slated to start for Tennesse against Mobile right-hander Trevor Bauer.

— Carrie Muskat

9/17 Lopez, LaHair, Campy & Barney

Rodrigo Lopez hopes he’s doing enough to get a job next year. Lopez struck out a season-high seven batters over six innings, only the second time in his past 10 starts he’s lasted at least six innings, in the Cubs’ 2-1 win over the Astros on Saturday. When left fielder Alfonso Soriano caught Jimmy Paredes’ fly ball to end the Astros sixth, Lopez raised his arms touchdown-style as he came off the field.

“I didn’t know if I was going to get the win or not, but I was like, ‘OK, I made it,'” he said.

Said Houston’s Clint Barmes on Lopez: “He hit his spots, he attacked the zone and threw the ball pretty well. That’s nothing surprising out of him, but I mean he didn’t miss very many pitches over the heart of the plate and that made him pretty effective today.”

* Bryan LaHair hit a tie-breaking home run in the fourth that proved to be the game winner. He’s now hit safely in 10 of his 11 games with a plate appearance, and is 13-for-30 (.433).

“It’s part of my plan — I’m trying to get good pitches to hit and hit them hard like I’ve been doing all year,” LaHair said.

If you count the franchise-record 38 homers he hit at Triple-A Iowa, LaHair now has 40 for the season.

“When he squares it up, it’s pretty impressive,” Mike Quade said. “He’s a big strong kid. We like what we’ve seen so far, that’s for sure.”

* Tony Campana swiped his 22nd base of the year. That leads the Cubs and is the most by a Cubs player since Ryan Theriot stole 22 in 2008. It’s the most by a Cubs rookie since Ced Landrum’s 27 in 1991.

* Darwin Barney notched his 45th multi-hit game, tops among all rookies.

— Carrie Muskat

9/17 Cubs pick up 4,000th win

Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Astros was the Cubs’ 4,000th win at Wrigley Field. They are the third franchise in Major League history to win at least 4,000 in one ballpark, joining the Red Sox and Yankees. The Red Sox have 4,430 wins at Fenway Park while the Yankees won 4,133 at the original Yankee Stadium.

— Carrie Muskat

9/17 Q on lineup: “I’m mixing and matching”

Marlon Byrd got Saturday off and Mike Quade said he’s “99 percent sure” he’ll give Aramis Ramirez Sunday off. But Quade is keeping the veterans in the lineup as the season winds down.

“I’m mixing and matching,” Quade said Saturday. “They deserve an opportunity — they don’t deserve to be shelved. I don’t think we’ll be successful in a lot of areas if I shelve all thoseguys.”

DJ LeMahieu will likely start at third if Ramirez sits. Carlos Pena is getting at-bats as he aims for 30 homers. He’s reached that figure in three of the last four years, missing last season with the Rays when he hit 28.

“You got a guy driving toward 30 home runs who has been a huge part of this ballclub both on the field and off the field — we need him in the lineup to win ballgames and he’s been a big part of that this year,” Quade said of Pena.

The first baseman is hitting .278 with 14 doubles, two triples and eight homers i his last 39 games since Aug. 3.

Said Pena: “It’s kind of cool that he’s looking out for me. I respect that — that’s awesome.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/17 Is Sunday Dempster’s last home game?

Ryan Dempster will start in the series finale Sunday against the Astros. Could it be his last home start for the Cubs? Dempster, who is expected to squeeze in two more starts on the last road trip, has a $14 million player option for 2012.

“I never even thought about that,” Dempster said Saturday about the possibility that Sunday is his final home game at Wrigley Field. “I’m just trying to go out there and win a game tomorrow and let all those things handle themselves.”

The Cubs have a lot of decisions to make this offseason, such as selecting the next general manager. This is Dempster’s eighth season, and he’s gone from a rehabbing right-hander to the closer for three years to the rotation. He enters Sunday’s game 10-12 with a 4.66 ERA overall, and 6-7 with a 3.53 ERA in his last 18 starts.

“As a player, you just want to see where everything’s going and what direction they want to go and things like that more than anything,” Dempster said. “You know how much I love playing here. Hopefully, it’s not just about staying here for next year but staying past next year. I’ll worry about what’s on the field first.”

Dempster received a four-year, $52 million contract from the Cubs in November 2008.

“There’s a lot of factors that come into [the decision],” Dempster said. “I want to try to get win No. 11 tomorrow and go from there.”

— Carrie Muskat