April 2012

4/24 Extra bases

* The Cubs enter Tuesday’s game without a home run since Bryan LaHair’s grand slam in the third inning April 13. That’s nine games ago. The last longest homerless streak was 10 games from June 30-July 13, 2007.

* Starlin Castro has reached base safely in 56 of his last 57 games starting last Aug. 15. He has a .362 on-base percentage and .314 batting average in that stretch.

* At least one Cubs hitter has reached base safely via an error in six straight games, dating to April 18 in Miami. Conversely, opponents have reached base because of a Cubs error 13 times this year, most in the Major Leagues.

* LaHair ranks fifth in the National League in pitches per plate appearance, averaging 4.20.

* The Cubs have not had a save situation in the last 14 games since April 8 against the Nationals. That’s the longest stretch since a 20-game streak July 25-Aug. 14, 2007.

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Cubs lineup – UPDATED

Forgot Starlin Castro. Don’t know why. Just brain cramp. Let’s try this lineup with Tony Campana in center field on Tuesday for the Cubs in the second game of a three-game series against the Cardinals. Jeff Samardzija will start. He beat the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright on April 13 in St. Louis, giving up five runs on 10 hits over five innings. The Cardinals batted around against him in a five-run fifth. Here’s the lineup:

RF DeJesus

CF Campana

SS Castro

1B LaHair

LF Soriano

3B Stewart

2B Barney

C Soto

P Samardzija

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Minor League report – UPDATED

On Tuesday, Paul Hoilman hit a walkoff grand slam to lead Class A Peoria to a 6-2 victory over Lansing. The game was a pitchers’ duel through eight innings as Kyler Burke and Ben Wells for the Chiefs and three Lugnuts kept the game scoreless. In his first game with the Chiefs, Yaniel Cabezas started the ninth inning rally with a single to left. Hoilman’s blast was the Chiefs first grand slam of the season and the first homer of the year for Hoilman. Burke, a converted outfielder who was the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year in 2009, gave up three singles over six shutout innings in his first start.

In Monday’s action, Jay Jackson gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over five innings in Iowa’s 6-2 loss to Memphis. Brett Jackson had two hits and stole a base and Anthony Rizzo reached safely three times with two hits.

Jonathan Mota homered in Tennessee’s 5-4, 12-inning win over Chattanooga. Eliot Soto reached base three times with a double and a triple.

Zach Cates gave up three runs on six hits over four innings in Daytona’s 7-2 loss to Lakeland.

Jose Rosario gave up five runs on nine hits over five innings in Peoria’s 7-3 loss Monday to Lansing. Zeke DeVoss reached base twice and stole a base. The Chiefs made some roster moves and added Cuban lefty Geraldo Concepcion and Cabezas, a catcher, to the roster. Concepcion was expected to start Wednesday.

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Cubs Social Media day May 16

The Cubs will host the inaugural Social Media Night in the Budweiser Bleachers at Wrigley Field on May 16 prior to the game against the Phillies. Fans will enjoy a pregame social media panel at Captain Morgan Club and a set of Cubs “Social Media Series” baseball cards. Many packs include a card personally autographed by a Cubs player on Twitter, such as Kerry Wood (@KerryWood), Ryan Dempster (@RyanDempsterFDN), Paul Maholm (@paul_maholm), David DeJesus (@David_DeJesus3) and Ian Stewart (@IAN_STEWART_9). Fans who purchase Special Event tickets for this event will also receive a gift package containing a T-shirt complements of Cubs.com, a copy of Vine Line Magazine, a classic Vienna Beef hot dog voucher from Levy Restaurants and the “Social Media Series” baseball cards. Throughout the game, @Cubs will encourage fans to use the Twitter-specific #CubsSocial hashtag.

The Captain Morgan Club pregame social media panel will feature Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould (@RobbieGould09), plus yours truly (@CarrieMuskat) and Cubs Public Relations and Marketing Specialist Kevin Saghy (@Cubs). The panel will share stories and discuss social media from an athlete, media and club perspective. Seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. The program will begin at 5:45 p.m. CT and conclude within an hour.

Tickets to the May 16 Social Media Night game are $27 before taxes and fees. Guests must purchase dedicated Social Media Night tickets through the Special Events page of Cubs.com at www.cubs.com/specialevents or in person at the Wrigley Field Box Office. Groups may order tickets by calling the Cubs Ticket Office at (773) 404-4242. These specific event tickets will have “Social Media” printed on the ticket. Fans who have already purchased Budweiser Bleacher tickets for the May 16 game may exchange their ticket to participate in Social Media Night by calling the Cubs Ticket Office at (773) 404-4242.

Questions may be directed to the official Cubs Twitter feed @Cubs or the Cubs Ticket Office at (773) 404-4242. See you there.

— Carrie Muskat

4/23 Baker gets start over LaHair

Jeff Baker started at first base Monday night against Cardinals lefty Jamie Garcia instead of left-handed hitting Bryan LaHair.

“Right now, I’d like to see better at-bats [by LaHair] against left-handers,” Dale Sveum said. “He’s obviously swung the bat great against right-handed pitchers but Spring Training through now, we’ve talked about some things to try to adjust his approach against left-handed pitching, especially big league left-handed pitching specialists. We have to give him some at-bats as well. When a guy like Baker is sitting on your bench who kills left-handed pitching, you’ve got to get him in the lineup somehow.”

So far this season, LaHair is 0-for-6 against left-handed pitchers and batting .433 (13-for-30) against right-handers. Baker has a career .310 average against lefties and is batting .237 against right-handed pitchers.

— Carrie Muskat 

4/23 Bowden joins Cubs

Michael Bowden grew up a Cubs fan, watching Ryne Sandberg, and when the Red Sox designated him for assignment, he started to imagine playing for his favorite team. Little did he know, Wrigley Field would become his new home. Bowden was acquired Saturday night from the Red Sox for Marlon Byrd. The Cubs, who will pay a significant amount of Byrd’s salary, also will receive a player to be named later. Bowden was in uniform at Wrigley Monday. Rodrigo Lopez was designated for assignment to make room for Bowden on the 25-man roster. The Cubs are hoping Lopez will stay with the organization if he clears waivers.

“This past week has felt like forever,” Bowden said. “Every single day since the day I was taken off [the roster], I was waiting for a phone call. Just the anticipation of that and then further in the week, I saw some articles and speculation of Marlon Byrd going to the Red Sox and I got my hopes up, and talking to my wife, I was just pretending. When we got the call, it was an awesome feeling.”

Bowden grew up in suburban Aurora and now lives in Oswego, which is a one-hour commute. It’s a lot shorter than the drive he made from Boston to Chicago after the Red Sox designated him on April 15. He appeared in three games with Boston. Did he feel he had a fair shot?

“That’s a tough question to answer,” Bowden said. “I never really got a level of comfort over there. I’d go up there and I didn’t know really what they wanted out of me and they threw me in a lot of different roles. I’m very grateful for it. It made me a very versatile pitcher. Now, throw anything at me, and I feel I’m prepared to tackle that. I’m grateful for the oppotunity they gave me over there. I’m excited to start my career over here.”

He’s been working out, throwing against a wall, and recently threw a bullpen to a friend. When Bowden got the call from the Cubs, it was tough to hide his enthusiasm.

“I think it was the most exciting time in my career, right up there with my debut and getting drafted,” he said. “This is a dream come true and I’m very blessed and extremely excited.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/23 Cubs lineup

The Cubs will face lefty Jamie Garcia on Monday, and Dale Sveum is getting as many right-handed hitters in the lineup as possible. Here’s the lineup:

RF DeJesus

2B Barney

SS Castro

LF Soriano

1B Baker

C Soto

CF Johnson

3B Mather

P Garza

— Carrie Muskat

4/23 Extra bases

Matt Garza opens the Cubs three-game series Monday night against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. If you’re coming, bundle up. It’ll be chilly. In his last 13 starts at Wrigley Field, dating to last June 27, Garza has given up 19 earned runs over 95 2/3 innings for a 1.79 ERA. He’s given up three or fewer earned runs in each of those games, and two or fewer runs nine times. His ERA in that stretch is second lowest in the Majors. Only the Angels’ Jered Weaver, who has a 1.47 ERA in that stretch, is better.

* Happy birthday, Wrigley. On this date 98 years ago — April 23, 1914 — Wrigley Field, which was then known as Weegham Park, hosted its first pro baseball game as the Chicago Federals beat Kansas City, 9-1. The first home run in the ballpark’s history was hit by Federals catcher Art Wilson, a two-run shot in the second off Chief Johnson. Four years ago today, on April 23, 2008, the Cubs won their 10,000th regular season game in franchise history, a 7-6, 10-inning win over the Rockies.

* Mr. 300: Starlin Castro’s next game will be No. 300 of his young career.

— Carrie Muskat

4/23 Minor League report

Chris Rusin threw eight shutout innings in Iowa’s 2-1 win over Memphis on Sunday. Rusin struck out four and did not walk a batter, giving up two hits. Adrian Cardenas had two hits, including a triple. Blake Parker converted his third save, pitching one inning.

Ryan Searle gave up four runs on seven hits over four innings in Tennessee’s 7-6 loss to Chattanooga. Logan Watkins, Rebel Ridling and Justin Bour each had two hits.

Rubi Silva had two hits, including a triple, and two RBIs in Daytona’s 6-2 win over Lakeland. Matt Szczur scored a run, drove in one, and stole three bases. Brian Schlitter picked up the win in relief.

P.J. Francescon gave up one hit over seven shutout innings in Peoria’s 2-0 win over Lansing. Francescon struck out five and walked one. Zeke DeVoss reached base three times, with two hits.

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Reds 4, Cubs 3

The Cubs’ season has been tough enough that they didn’t need to see Starlin Castro lying on the ground at home plate in pain after being hit by a pitch. Castro recovered — and hit a triple in the ninth and scored — but the Cubs came up short against the Reds, who took the series. Chicago stranded 12, while Johnny Cueto struck out seven, Joey Votto hit an RBI double, and the Reds took advantage of botched plays in the sixth inning to score the go-ahead runs.

Castro was Cueto’s last batter in the seventh when he was hit on the left elbow. The shortstop fell to the ground in pain.

“I felt like it broke my whole arm the first time he hit me,” Castro said. “But after I lay down [on the dirt] and ran the bases, the hurt was gone and I felt pretty good.”

Castro stayed in the game and wore a protective brace on his elbow in the ninth when he tripled off Sean Marshall.

“I think [Castro] was more shocked [after he was hit],” Dale Sveum said. “I don’t think it got him on the bone — it got him more on the flesh, thank God.”

Castro has been one of the few bright spots for the Cubs this season, reaching base safely in 55 of his last 56 games since last Aug. 15. He has a 10-game hitting streak and was batting .425 in that stretch.

“I’ll be ready for tomorrow,” Castro said. “If it’s up to me, I won’t [get hit again] ever.”

* Randy Wells did not get a decision in his substitute start in place of Ryan Dempster, on the disabled list with a strained right quad. A candidate for the Cubs’ rotation this spring, Wells opened the season at Triple-A Iowa, where he was 1-0 with a 9.42 ERA in three games. On Sunday, he gave up two runs on six hits and five walks over five innings.

“It’s always tough to watch your teammates on TV but we were down there [with Iowa] and it was what had to happen and you can’t sit there and dwell on it,” Wells said. “You have to do what you can do down there to help your team win. It’s good to be back up. The circumstances are rough. Hopefully, I can pitch better the next time out and we’ll see what happens.”

Dempster’s DL time was backdated to April 18 and he’s expected to miss two starts.

“He got some big outs when he had to,” Sveum said of Wells. “He made some pitches and did a good job for five innings and did a good job getting out of some jams.”

* The Cubs made two errors, both in the sixth. With the game tied at 2, Rodrigo Lopez (0-1) walked Ryan Hanigan and Cueto was safe on a throwing error by catcher Geovany Soto, who hit the pitcher in the back with his throw. Zack Cozart was safe on another error by Soto, whose throw pulled Blake DeWitt off first. Hanigan scored when Drew Stubbs hit into a fielder’s choice. Scott Maine took over for Lopez and hit Ryan Ludwick with a pitch to load the bases, then walked Jay Bruce to drive in a run.

“Walking the leadoff guy, it snowballed the whole inning as well as the bunts,” Sveum said. “They were giving us outs and we didn’t get outs on the bunts.”

Soto agreed.

“They were good bunts but that bunt play has got to be made, it’s got to be made,” Soto said.

What may have contributed to the problem was that Joe Mather was at first, not Bryan LaHair, in the sixth.

“We’re supposed to charge but I think [Mather] may not have read it properly where he thought Geo was going to be able to get there easily,” LaHair said of the plays. “Sometimes when you don’t play over there enough it’s hard to be perfect. He can handle the position. He’s going to be fine.”

* The Cubs and Reds combined for 14 errors in the three-game series, the most in a Cubs series since Chicago and San Diego committed 15 in a set, April 28-30, 1989.

* Castro has reached safely in 55 of his last 56 games starting Aug. 15. He also has a 10-game hitting streak, and was batting .425 in that stretch.

* Next up, the Cubs have a rematch with the Cardinals. Matt Garza faces Jamie Garcia on Monday night followed by a rematch between Jeff Samardzija and Adam Wainwright on Tuesday night. Chris Volstad faces Lance Lynn on Wednesday to close the homestand.

— Carrie Muskat