May 2012

5/29 Extra bases & lineup

* The Cubs now have made 15 moves on the 25-man roster in the last 14 days, beginning May 16 when Lendy Castillo was placed on the disabled list. On Tuesday, catcher Steve Clevenger was activated from the DL and Blake Lalli optioned to Triple-A Iowa. When asked how he’ll use Clevenger, Dale Sveum told reporters Tuesday: “A lot.”

* The Cubs were 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Monday after going 3-for-36 in their previous five games.

* Here’s Tuesday’s lineup on Jeff Samardzija bobblehead day:

DeJesus RF

Castro SS

Mather 3B

Soriano LF

Baker 1B

Johnson CF

Barney 2B

Hill C

Samardzija P

— Carrie Muskat 

5/29 Minor League report

Josh Vitters had two hits, including his sixth home run, to back Brooks Raley and lift Iowa to an 8-2 win over Memphis on Monday. Raley gave up two runs on six hits over five innings. Brett Jackson had two hits, including a triple, and was batting .243.

Dae-Eun Rhee gave up seven runs on nine hits over 2 1/3 innings in Tennessee’s 8-4 loss to Huntsville. Rebel Ridling hit his sixth homer for the Smokies.

Daytona had Monday off and will play a doubleheader Tuesday against Brevard County. Rob Whitenack and P.J. Francescon were scheduled to start for the Cubs.

Jose Rosario gave up one run on three hits and struck out seven over seven innings in Peoria’s 3-1 loss to Wisconsin. Javier Baez, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in 2011, had two hits in his debut with the Chiefs.

“I was relaxed,” Baez told the Peoria Journal Star. “I wanted to play my game, get a base hit, and hit the ball hard.”

— Carrie Muskat


5/28 Minor League report

Chris Volstad gave up one run on nine hits over seven innings in Iowa’s 5-1 win over Memphis. Josh Vitters had two hits, and Luis Valbuena had two hits and one RBI. Carlos Marmol pitched one inning in relief, walking one, striking out three and throwing a wild pitch. He was activated from the disabled list on Monday and Rafael Dolis sent to Triple-A Iowa.

* Anthony Rizzo was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth because of soreness in his right wrist. His status was day-to-day.

Tennessee had Sunday off and was scheduled to face Huntsville on Monday.

Tropical Storm Beryl forced the cancellation of Daytona’s game against Clearwater. Monday is an off day for the Daytona Cubs.

Michael Jensen gave up one run on four hits over six innings and struck out eight in Peoria’s 3-2 loss to Wisconsin. Taiwan Easterling had three hits, including a double and triple, and two stolen bases.

— Carrie Muskat

5/28 Sleepless nights

Cubs fans upset at the team’s 12-game losing streak should know they’re not alone.

“It’s frustrating,” GM Jed Hoyer said. “You never want to go through this, and when you do, you don’t get a lot of sleep.”

But despite the streak, the Cubs are sticking to their game plan.

“It’s important for us to stay disciplined and for us to take a step back, too, and realize that what we’re trying to accomplish here requires some time and some changes and some growth as an organization,” Theo Epstein told reporters at Wrigley Field Monday. “And to make sure that, even as we’re scuffling badly during this period, that we don’t lose sight of where we’re trying to get.”

Epstein said the Cubs are better than the current streak.

“I don’t think this is indicative of the type of team we are. I think we’re clearly better than this and we’ll get back to that level,” Epstein said. “When you’re not the most talented team on the field on a regular basis, you have to play well to compete. And if you don’t play well, you run the risk of stretches like this.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/27 Dolis out as closer

Rookie Rafael Dolis is out for now as the Cubs closer and James Russell and possibly Shawn Camp will share the role, manager Dale Sveum said Sunday. Dolis, who had taken over for Carlos Marmol, hit a batter with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Sunday to force in the Pirates’ game-winning run in a 3-2 win over the Cubs.

“That’s the frustrating thing with the back end of the bullpen is giving it up because of walks and hit batters,” Sveum said Sunday. “Nobody is hitting the ball and doing things. We’re imploding by walking guys and hitting guys.”

Dolis, 22, gave up a single and walked two batters before he hit Matt Hague with a pitch.

“It’s a combination of youth and being put in a situation he probably shouldn’t be put in, for obvious reasons,” Sveum said of Dolis, who was projected to be one of the Cubs set-up pitchers this season but was switched after Marmol struggled. “It’s funny because he started out doing a nice job. Now it’s a combination of making sure you repeat the mechanics that he has in the bullpen. He’s throwing great bullpens and he gets on the mound and wants to recoil and fall off and do these things. It’s a matter of being able to get on the mound, no matter what inning it is or how many outs, and repeat your delivery and throw back to back quality pitches.”

Russell has four career saves, none this year. Camp is 10-for-23 in save opportunities in his career.

“We’ll see how it all pans out,” Sveum said. “Hopefully, [Matt] Garza throws nine innings and we won’t have to worry about it.”

Marmol, currently on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, will make his second rehab outing Sunday for Triple-A Iowa and could join the Cubs Monday or Tuesday when they open a brief three-game homestand against the Padres.

— Carrie Muskat

5/27 Cubs lineup

Jeff Baker and Joe Mather are starting against lefty Erik Bedard in the Cubs’ series finale against the Pirates. The Cubs are 1-8 against left-handed starters this year and batting .231, sixth lowest in the National League. Last year, they hit .263, fourth best.

Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus RF

Castro SS

Mather 3B

Soriano LF

Baker 1B

Johnson CF

Barney 2B

Hill C

Garza P

— Carrie Muskat

5/27 Extra bases

* The Cubs’ 11-game skid is one of 10 losing streaks in franchise history to reach at least 11 games, and the 15th double-digit losing streak in club history. It’s the longest since they opened the 1997 season 0-14. This stretch has featured six one-run losses, seven games in which the Cubs have scored two runs or less, and four games in which they’ve given up three or less.

* In the five games so far on this trip, the Cubs are batting .114 (5-for-44) with RISP, and .295 (38-for-129) in other situations.

* They were 12-9 in 21 games from April 21-May 14 but are now 2-13 in the last 15 games.

* Pitching probables vs. the Padres:

Monday: Travis Wood vs. Jeff Suppan

Tuesday: Jeff Samardzija vs. Eric Stults

Wednesday: Ryan Dempster vs. Anthony Bass

— Carrie Muskat


5/27 Minor League report

Steve Clevenger, Brett Jackson, Anthony Rizzo and Josh Vitters each homered to power Iowa to a 6-4 win over Memphis Saturday night. Clevenger was 3-for-3 with his first inning homer and a double as he continues to rehab from a strained oblique and rib cage injury. If all goes well, Clevenger could join the Cubs in San Francisco on Friday. Rizzo belted his PCL-leading 17th homer in the eighth. Jackson was 2-for-4 with a triple, his fifth homer and two RBIs. Chris Volstad starts Sunday for the Iowa Cubs.

Trey McNutt gave up two runs on five hits over four innings in Tennessee’s 3-0 loss to Mobile. Michael Burgess had two of the Smokies’ five hits. Tyrelle Harris, making his first appearance since being promoted from Daytona, threw two shutout innings.

Matt Loosen gave up one run on four hits over six innings in Daytona’s 3-1 win over Clearwater. Loosen struck out seven. Rubi Silva had two hits.

Gerardo Concepcion gave up eight runs — five earned — on 12 hits over 4 2/3 innings in Peoria’s 11-3 loss to Wisconsin. Marco Hernandez hit a solo homer and a triple, and scored two runs.

* Javier Baez, the Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick last year, was expected to be assigned to Peoria. He has been playing in extended Spring Training in Mesa, Ariz.

— Carrie Muskat

5/26 Cubs lineup & homecoming

Blake Lalli gets the start Saturday night for the Cubs against his former favorite team, the Pirates as the Cubs try to snap a 10-game losing streak. Lalli grew up in nearby Gibsonia, Pa., and went to games at Three Rivers Stadium and PNC Park as a kid. He was a teammate of Pirates second baseman Neal Walker at Pine-Richland High School. Walker was a catcher and Lalli was a pitcher and shortstop. He’d play short on days he wasn’t pitching. Walker would catch him.

In 2004, Walker was drafted out of high school in the first round but Lalli wasn’t and couldn’t get a college baseball scholarship. He played for Gardner-Webb in North Carolina, and was not drafted until his junior year.

When he was called up May 18, Walker sent Lalli a text to congratulate him.

“That meant a lot,” Lalli said. “It means a lot from everyone — a lot of people congratulated me. But Neil, we played together in high school, and he was always a great guy. He’s had so much success up here. It meant a lot.”

Paul Maholm gets the start against his former team, the Pirates. He has the most wins at PNC Park of any pitcher.

“He’s a polished pro,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “At the end of the day, we just felt we needed to go in a different direction. But I’m glad he’s in a good place; we’ll do everything we can to get him to a bad place. It’ll be kinda neat for someone who was a Pirate for such a long period to come back on the other side and compete against a lot of his old teammates.”

One thing Hurdle has to do is get an autographed ball from Maholm for his daughter, who is a big fan.

Here’s Saturday’s lineup:

DeJesus RF

Castro SS

Mather CF

LaHair 1B

Soriano LF

Stewart 3B

Barney 2B

Lalli C

Maholm P

— Carrie Muskat

5/26 Draft picks

With the First-Year Player Draft coming up June 4, here’s a look at recent Cubs picks:

2007: 3B Josh Vitters

Vitters was batting .263 in 44 games with Triple-A Iowa. He has 11 doubles, four homers, 21 RBIs and one stolen base.

2008: RHP Andrew Cashner

Traded to the Padres in January for first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

2009: OF Brett Jackson

Jackson was batting .232 in 43 games at Triple-A Iowa with four homers, 10 doubles, five triples, 15 RBIs and seven stolen bases. He has a .325 on-base percentage, and has struck out 61 times in 168 at-bats. He has 22 walks. Jackson has played all three outfield positions, but primarily center field. He’s been hitting sixth in five games and was 6-for-18 (.333) compared to hitting .202 in the leadoff spot.

2010: RHP Hayden Simpson

The right-hander, whose career was slowed after a bout with mononucleosis, is at Class A Daytona and has been pitching in relief in the last six games after going 0-3 with a 7.94 ERA (15 earned runs in 17 innings) in his first four starts. So far, he’s given up 10 earned runs on 18 hits and 12 walks over 15 1/3 innings in six relief appearances.

2011: SS Javier Baez

Baez has been playing in Mesa at extended Spring Training with several other Draft picks from last year. He has yet to be assigned to a Minor League team.

— Carrie Muskat