April 2012

4/27 Wood, Dempster updates

Reports out of Philadelphia are that Kerry Wood had a good bullpen session on Friday and will throw a simulated game Monday and should be ready to go without a Minor League rehab appearance. He’s on the DL with right shoulder fatigue and was eligible to be activated Sunday. Ryan Dempster, also sidelined with a strained right quad, was able to throw and run on Friday. He’s making progress.

— Carrie Muskat

4/27 Extra bases: Cubs vs. Phillies

The Cubs open a four-game series Friday against the Phillies. Cubs pitchers have compiled a 2.35 ERA in the last five games. The starters have a combined 2.64 ERA and the bullpen has a 1.76 ERA. This follows a stretch in which Cubs pitchers had a 6.67 ERA in seven games from April 13-20.

* The Cubs have gone 4-1 in five games against Phillies ace Roy Halladay since facing him in 2005 in Interleague play when he was with the Blue Jays. The Cubs are the only NL team to hand Halladay four career losses.

* Carlos Marmol needs four saves to reach 100 with the Cubs.

* Bryan LaHair has homered in his last two games. He also homered in consecutive games July 28-29, 2008, while with the Mariners. He has reached base safely in a team-high 15 straight games.

* Congrats to Cubs assistant athletic trainer Ed Halbur and wife Sara on the birth of son, Gabriel, on Friday.

* Here are the pitching matchups for the Phillies series:

Friday: Paul Maholm vs. Roy Halladay

Saturday: Randy Wells vs. Joe Blanton

Sunday: Matt Garza vs. Kyle Kendrick

Monday: Chris Volstad vs. Vance Worley

Note: Jeff Samardzija was to have started Monday, but is being given an extra day. Because of the off day Thursday, Volstad will be pitching on normal rest.

— Carrie Muskat

4/27 Minor League report

Frankie De La Cruz gave up one run on four hits over five innings in Iowa’s 7-1 win over Nashville on Thursday. Anthony Rizzo had two hits and two RBIs to raise his season total to 21. Adrian Cardenas had two hits and four RBIs. The Iowa Cubs announced they have activated Rodrigo Lopez, 36. He was designated for assignment on Monday and accepted the assignment to Iowa after clearing waviers.

Nick Struck gave up seven runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings in Tennessee’s 7-1 loss to Jackson. Justin Bour hit a solo homer. On Wednesday, Jim Adduci had three hits and scored a run in Tennessee’s 5-1 loss to Jackson.

Daytona lost 5-3 in 10 innings to Clearwater on Thursday. Austin Kirk gave up one earned run on six hits over six innings and struck out six. Nelson Perez hit a solo homer and Matt Szczur hit a triple, drove in a run, scored a run and stole his 11th base. Frank Del Valle gave up four runs on five hits over six innings in Daytona’s 6-4 win over Clearwater on Wednesday. Greg Rohan had two hits, including a home run, and three RBIs.

Wes Darvill hit his first homer in Peoria’s 7-6, 11-inning loss to Lake County. Paul Hoilman extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single. Darvill now has a 10-game hitting streak. In Peoria on Wednesday, Cuban pitcher Gerardo Concepcion gave up five runs on eight hits over five innings in the Chiefs 6-3 loss to Lake County. It was Concepcion’s first pro start. He struck out two and walked one. Zeke DeVoss had two hits, including a ninth inning home run.

— Carrie Muskat


4/25 Vote for LaHair

Bryan LaHair has been a Triple-A All-Star and a Texas League All-Star, but this year, he’s on the big league All-Star ballot, included among National League first basemen.

“It’s cool to see those things,” said the Cubs first baseman, who hit his fourth homer on Wednesday in a 5-1 loss to the Cardinals. “It’s just another new experience for me. Every time a new experience comes around, it’s always fun to see — my family was excited to see that.”

Did he pick up a ballot as a souvenir?

“No, but I may if it comes across,” LaHair said. “It’s not something I play for. I play to help the team win and if my numbers and the votes come my way, that’s a plus.”

Maybe he can get his friends to vote online for him on MLB.com and Cubs.com.

“I’m sure there’s a bunch of people back in my hometown or maybe in Chicago,” he said, hoping the folks in his hometown of Worcester, Mass., come through. “We’ll see.”

— Carrie Muskat 

4/25 Cardinals 5, Cubs 1

The Cubs missed a chance to sweep the Cardinals on Wednesday. Chris Volstad took the loss, extending his winless streak to 15 starts. He has not celebrated a victory since last July 10. The right-hander cruised through five innings and then missed his spots in the sixth. With the game tied at 1, Rafael Furcal singled and scored two outs later on Carlos Beltran’s double. David Freese followed with his fourth home run of the season and 22nd by the team off a 2-2 pitch.

“Two outs, you’ve got to be able to close those innings out,” Volstad said. “One swing of the bat put us in a big hole. I had been working him in the entire game and that one [pitch] wasn’t in as much as the other ones. He did a great job.”

Said Dale Sveum: “He threw the ball really well up to that point. He got the sinker in on Freese all day long and tried to come in and left it out over the plate and that was a backbreaker in that inning. … For the most part, it was a much more improved outing and he pitched more aggressively and used his sinker and did a good job.”

Rookie catcher Steve Clevenger noticed Volstad’s pitches started to trend up in the sixth. Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio want the Cubs catchers to monitor the pitchers to reduce visits to the mound.

“If [the pitchers] aren’t executing, we can go out and tell them,” Clevenger said.

Which is what he did in the sixth.

“[Volstad] pitched really good — just one bad inning, and I wouldn’t even say it was a bad inning,” Clevenger said. “The ball to Freese was in and Freese did a good job of getting to it. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe we went in there too much. Maybe we should have gone with something different. That was the game plan, we stuck with it, and Freese did a good job.”

* Cubs pitching has combined for a 2.35 ERA in the last five games. That includes a 1.76 ERA by the bullpen.

* Bryan LaHair has hit four of the Cubs seven home runs this season, and connected in back to back games.

“The first at-bat, [Lance Lynn] threw me a fastball away, fastball in and I fouled it back,” LaHair said. “My second at-bat, he threw me a fastball away and I hit that one. I made the adjustment.”

Sveum wants to see more home runs.

“Coming in, [LaHair] was one guy we needed to hit home runs,” Sveum said. “We definitely need those two corner guys [LaHair and Ian Stewart] to drive the ball out of the ballpark.”

Stewart is batting .175 for the season.

“I think sometimes when you don’t get results, guys start pressing a little and swinging out of the zone,” Sveum said. “We’ll get him going. He’s got too much bat speed. For the most part, he’s getting good pitches to hit. We just have to get him going swinging the bat.”

* The Cubs were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position Wednesday.

* After a day off Thursday, the Cubs travel to Philadelphia for a four-game series against the Phillies. Paul Maholm will get things started on Friday against Roy Halladay.

— Carrie Muskat 

4/25 Wood making progress

Kerry Wood, on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue, threw off the mound Tuesday and was continuing to make progress in his rehab.

“Everything’s going good,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Wednesday. “He feels a lot better. We’ll just keep building that up. We’re not putting any timetable on his return or anything. We’ll just make sure he’s ready to go when we activate him.”

Wood, 34, was placed on the disabled list last Friday, retroactive to April 14. Sveum said he wants to make sure the right-hander can throw all his pitches before he’s activated. Shawn Camp and Rafael Dolis will take over as the right-handed set-up pitchers while Wood is sidelined.

— Carrie Muskat

4/25 Extra bases

The Cubs pitching is set for the upcoming four-game series in Philadelphia, which starts Friday, but apparently the Phillies are still making decisions regarding games on Sunday and Monday. Chicago will start Paul Maholm on Friday followed on Saturday by Randy Wells, then Matt Garza on Sunday and Jeff Samardzija on Monday.

“They have a [2.93] ERA as a team,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the Phillies. “It’s going to be tough to score runs and put things together. That’s why they have one of the best pitching staffs over the last few years. Hopefully, getting into more of a hitters park, we can hit some home runs. You have to do that against those type of pitchers because it’s hard to string hits together. They don’t walk anybody either.”

The Cubs have been tested, having to play the Cardinals six times in the last 12 games.

“We knew going in, the first six weeks with the teams we were going to play and the pitching we were going to face would be a really tough stretch of games,” Sveum said. “That’s baseball. Every team is good, every team has more pitching than it had before. You see that by how runs are down in Major League Baseball.

“You take every game as if you’re playing the World Champions every day because baseball is baseball and you put your guard down and you’ll find yourself in a lot of trouble,” he said.

* Tony Campana has four stolen bases in four games. Sveum will keep him in the No. 2 spot for now because of Campana’s bunting ability. He can either bunt to advance a runner or bunt for a hit.

* You won’t see Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio making many trips to the mound. The Cubs are trying to have their catchers keep an eye on the pitchers.

“You’ll notice the catchers are going out more and doing that kind of thing,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “We’re leaving it up to them. When we need to, we’ll go out. For the most part, we leave it up to the catchers and see how that works out. So far, we’ve had some pretty good catchers meetings on the mound.”

* The Cubs posted walkoff wins over the Cardinals Monday and Tuesday night. The last time they had two consecutive walk off wins was last June 29-30 against the Giants.

— Carrie Muskat

4/25 Cubs lineup

Steve Clevenger is behind the plate for Wednesday’s series finale against the Cardinals. Chris Volstad is looking for his first win since July 17 last season. He’s gone 14 starts without a “W.” Here’s the lineup:

RF DeJesus

CF Campana

SS Castro

1B LaHair

LF Soriano

3B Stewart

C Clevenger

2B Barney

P Volstad

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Sticking with Soriano

Alfonso Soriano is in a little bit of a funk. He’s 0-for-11 in his last three games and batting .200 overall. But Cubs manager Dale Sveum isn’t ready to move the left fielder down in the order.

“I think he’s still a threat,” Sveum said. “I’m not going to move him down any time soon, that’s for sure. He’s a big threat. He’s in the five-spot and he’s got people around him who can do things. The media guide doesn’t lie. When it’s all said and done, he’ll end up with his 25 to 30 home runs and we’ll look back on this and laugh at it.”

Soriano still does not have an extra base hit this year.

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 About last night …

Joe Mather’s walkoff two-run single with two outs in the ninth Monday night was somewhat significant. According to Elias Sports Bureau, in the last 20 years, the Cubs had only one other home win against the Cardinals after trailing in the ninth inning or later. That was May 29, 1999, when Glenallen Hill hit a game-tying homer and Mark Grace delivered a walkoff double in the ninth.

* Mather also is the first former Cardinals player to have a walkoff RBI for the Cubs against St. Louis since Jerry Morales on Sept. 22, 1981.

“I have a lot of good friends over there,” Mather said of the Cardinals. “It does feel good. When it comes down to it, we won a big league game and the self satisfaction is secondary. The win is first, but it felt good to do it against those guys.”

— Carrie Muskat