June 2012

6/25 Extra bases – UPDATE

* Travis Wood has a 2.27 ERA in June after compiling a 5.94 ERA in May. He also has quality starts in four of his last five outings. How’s his confidence level?

“Good right now — absolutely high right now,” Wood said, smiling.

* The Cubs are 19-15 when scoring four or more runs and now 4-16 vs. left-handed starters after Monday’s 6-1 win over the Mets and Johan Santana.

* When Anthony Rizzo arrives Tuesday, he’ll take over as the Cubs every day first baseman, and bat either third or fourth. Said Alfonso Soriano: “I’d like to see him hit behind me.”

* Bryan LaHair is prepared for Rizzo’s arrival.

“It is what it is,” LaHair said Monday. “He’ll get the opportunity to play. He’s a first baseman and that’s the only position he plays. He’s got a big bat, so we have to have him. I’m comfortable in the outfield and I just want to hit. As long as I’m in the lineup, I don’t really care [where I play].”

* Ryan Dempster, on the disabled list with a sore right lat, was able to throw on flat ground Monday, the first time he’s done so since he was sidelined June 16, and reported no discomfort. However, Dempster was expected to miss at least two more starts.

* Third baseman Ian Stewart, on the DL since June 13 with soreness in his left wrist, was able to hit Monday and was making progress. There is no timetable for his return.

— Carrie Muskat

6/25 Rizzo: “There will be good times, bad times”

Here’s Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson’s story on Anthony Rizzo from Monday’s game:

DES MOINES, Iowa — Anthony Rizzo had a message for Chicago Cubs fans shortly before leaving the Iowa Cubs clubhouse for the final time Monday afternoon.

“I want to tell them that there’s going to be good times, and there will there be bad times,” Rizzo said after finally learning he’d been promoted to the Chicago Cubs.

“Hopefully there will be times I’m a hero, and there will be times that I’m the villain. “That’s the nature of the game, and that goes for every baseball player.”

Cubs fans have been clamoring for Rizzo’s promotion for a while, anxious to see the guy who hit 23 home runs in 60 Iowa Cubs games.

It finally happened Monday – after flying out to the center field fence against the wind, a ball that would have cleared the fence had the wind not been blowing in.

“You’re going to play in front of the greatest fans in baseball,” former teammate Chris Volstad told Rizzo in the clubhouse during the Iowa Cubs’ game against Round Rock. “You’ll do great.”

He left the Monday’s game after his second at-bat – after making the final out of the third inning.

“I had no idea before the game,” Rizzo said. “After that at-bat, I figured something was up because (manager Dave Bialas) usually comes out to get the helmet of whoever makes the final out.

“He didn’t do it that time. He told me to come on in. That’s when he told me I was going to Chicago.”


6/25 Iowa Cubs win

Brooks Raley gave up one run on four hits over seven innings to help Iowa beat Round Rock, 2-1, on Monday in Des Moines. It was Raley’s third straight quality start. Josh Vitters drove in both runs. He extended his hit streak to eight games with an RBI single in the first to score Alfredo Amezaga. Vitters added a solo homer as well. He was the only Iowa player with a multi-hit game. Rafael Dolis recorded the save with a scoreless ninth.

— Carrie Muskat 

6/25 Cubs lineup

Once again, the Cubs have to face a left-handed starter, and this one will be tough. On Monday, the Mets send Johan Santana against the Cubs in the series opener at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are 3-16 against lefty starters so far. Travis Wood has posted quality starts in three of his four starts this month, and has a 2.92 ERA in June. He is facing a Cy Young winner for the fourth time on Monday. So far, Wood has gone head to head against Barry Zito, Justin Verlander and Jake Peavy. Monday’s Mets starter, Johan Santana, is No. 4. Reed Johnson has a .520 career batting average against Santana, the highest for any player with at least 25 at-bats against him.

Here’s the lineup:

Johnson RF

Barney 2B

Castro SS

Soriano LF

Baker 1B

Soto C

Mather CF

Valbuena 3B

T. Wood P

— Carrie Muskat

6/25 Rizzo to join Cubs Tuesday

Anthony Rizzo is coming. The Cubs’ top prospect who was batting .342 at Triple-A Iowa and leading the Pacific Coast League with 23 home runs will join the big league team on Tuesday when they play host to the Mets at Wrigley Field.  The first baseman started for Iowa on Monday against Round Rock in Des Moines but was pulled in the fourth inning. He has 62 RBIs and an OPS of 1.101. This month, he’s hitting .316 with six homers and 16 RBIs. Only Alfonso Soriano has matched those numbers for the Cubs in June, hitting seven homers with 16 RBIs.

— Carrie Muskat

6/24 Pitching matchups

The Cubs return home Monday to open a six-game series against the Mets. Here are the pitching matchups:

Monday: LHP Travis Wood (1-3, 4.14) vs. LHP Johan Santana (5-3, 3.00)

Tuesday: RHP Randy Wells (1-2, 4.91) vs. RHP Dillion Gee (5-5, 4.27)

Wednesday: RHP Jeff Samardzija (5-6, 4.34) vs. LHP Jonathan Niese (5-3, 3.75)

— Carrie Muskat 

6/24 Minor League report

Brett Jackson hit a leadoff home run but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost 4-2 to Round Rock. Chris Volstad gave up four runs on six hits over six innings and took the loss. Jackson hit his 10th homer and is batting .259. Ty Wright was 2-for-4 with two doubles.

Michael Burgess hit his sixth homer and Nelson Perez hit his first in Tennessee’s 7-6 win over Jacksonville. Logan Watkins had two hits, including a double and a triple, and scored two runs.

Rob Whitenack threw five shutout innings, giving up three hits, in Daytona’s 7-2 loss to Clearwater. Clearwater scored all seven runs in the eighth. Chad Noble had two hits.

Gerardo Concepcion gave up three runs on five hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings in Peoria’s 4-2 loss to Quad Cities. Zeke DeVoss and Paul Hoilman each had two hits.

Ian Dickson gave up three runs on four hits over 3 2/3 innings in Boise’s 5-4 loss to Eugene. Marco Hernandez had two RBIs.

Mesa totaled 17 hits in a 13-2 win over the Royals. Timothy Saunders went 6-for-6 with three RBIs. Dan Vogelbach had two hits and four RBIs.

— Carrie Muskat

6/23 Minor League report

Friday’s games

Brett Jackson hit his ninth homer and Anthony Rizzo was a homer shy of the cycle in Iowa’s 12-2 win over Round Rock. Chris Rusin picked up the win, giving up two runs on seven hits over five innings. Rizzo had three hits and three RBIs and is batting .355. Jay Jackson gave up one hit over three innings of relief.

Dae-Eun Rhee gave up two runs on six hits over seven innings in Tennessee’s 2-0 loss to Jacksonville.

Frank Del Valle no-hit Clearwater over six innings in Daytona’s 3-1 win. Del Valle struck out 11, striking out seven in a row in one stretch, and did not walk a batter. Greg Rohan homered in the first, his 12th, and Rebel Ridling had two hits. Tony Zych picked up his sixth save.

Paul Hoilman hit his seventh home run in Peoria’s 5-3 loss to Quad Cities. Jose Rosario gave up four runs on six hits over 7 1/3 innings.

South African pitcher Tayler Scott gave up four runs on four hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings in Boise’s 6-4 win over Eugene. Jeimer Candelario is in a groove, hitting his third homer in as many games. Matthew Spencer got the win in relief. Gioskar Amaya was 4-for-4 with two RBI and two stolen bases.

Daniel Vogelbach had two hits in Mesa’s 7-5 win over the Diamondbacks. Brian Smith threw three shutout innings and Justin Marra had three hits, including a double.

— Carrie Muskat

6/23 Rizzo watch

In late April, I went to Des Moines to watch Triple-A Iowa play. I was talking to one of the Cubs coaches, and the topic was Anthony Rizzo. The first baseman was getting rave reviews on his defensive work, on his pre-game routine, on his hitting. Was Rizzo ready for the big leagues? The coach said: “The only problem will be you.”

He didn’t mean me personally, but the media. The hype surrounding Rizzo’s potential call-up has been off the charts. I’m surprised no one has interviewed his grade school teacher in Ft. Lauderdale, although that story could be coming Sunday. When Rizzo was promoted to the Padres last June, he was batting .365 at Triple-A Tucson. He struggled in the big leagues, batting .143 in 35 games, and was sent back to the Minor Leagues. When he was recalled in September, he batted .133 in 14 games. GM Jed Hoyer blamed himself, saying Rizzo faced high expectations when promoted, and still needed time to develop.

Moving Bryan LaHair to the outfield for the White Sox series was a sign that Rizzo is close. When? Theo Epstein wants to make sure the timing is right.

“You have to look at what happened last year,” Epstein said. “[Rizzo] had great numbers and was rushed a little bit and came up and struggled so its important to put players in position to succeed, and always put your Major League club in position to succeed. … Those things you don’t want to rush into, there’s more to development than numbers.”

Dale Sveum has been checking Rizzo’s stats and video all year. The first baseman has lowered his hands, and gotten better results. On Friday, Rizzo missed hitting for the cycle by home run, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs. He’s batting .355 overall, including .384 with runners in scoring position. Against lefties, he’s batting .338 (25-for-74), and against right-handers, he’s batting .362 (63-for-174). He has 23 homers, 18 doubles and 62 RBIs. Wouldn’t those numbers look good in the Cubs lineup?

Rizzo is very polished, very poised for a 22-year-old (he turns 23 Aug. 8). He’s going to be the center of attention, and every at-bat, every strikeout, every hit will be dissected and discussed. Nothing can prepare him for that. He’s not the savior; he’s a very talented first baseman with a ton of potential who could be one of the building blocks for Theo Epstein’s foundation for sustained success.

That’s Kerry Wood in the center of the media scrum at his retirement announcement above. I remember the build up surrounding Wood when he was promoted in ’98. The expectations soared after his 20-strikeout game in his fifth Major League start. The only Cubs player I can recall being more hyped than Rizzo was Mark Prior. Rizzo already has his first Major League hit and home run, collecting those firsts with the Padres last year. If he gets off to a slow start, will fans and the media be patient? Ryne Sandberg did not get a hit in his first six games with the Cubs.

When the Cubs call the first baseman up, they want it to be for good. Here’s hoping the timing is right, and I’m not a problem.

— Carrie Muskat

6/23 Minor League report: Wednesday & Thursday

Wednesday’s games

Brooks Raley gave up one unearned run on two hits over seven innings and struck out seven in Iowa’s 4-1 win over Round Rock. Ty Wright hit his fifth home run and Blake Lalli had two hits. Raley is holding opponents to a .207 batting average with runners in scoring position. Rafael Dolis picked up his second save.

Tennessee had Wednesday off.

Rubi Silva hit a two-out walkoff homer in the ninth to lift Daytona to a 3-2 win over Tampa. P.J. Francescon gave up one earned run on nine hits over six innings. It was his third quality start.

Peoria had Wednesday off.

Jeimer Candelario hit his first home run in Boise’s 7-4 loss to Eugene. Shawon Dunston Jr. and Xavier Batista each had multi hit games.

The Cubs’ Mesa Rookie League team opened its season Thursday with a 3-1 win over the Giants. Zach Cates gave up one run on four hits over 3 1/3 innings. Gregori Gonzalez had two hits and one RBIs.

Thursday’s games

Josh Vitters hit his 11th home run in Iowa’s 6-2 loss to Round Rock. Iowa totaled three hits, including a double by Brett Jackson, who is batting .257. Ty Wright hit a RBI double in the seventh.

Tennessee opened the second half with a 3-1 win over Jacksonville. Nick Struck gave up one run on two hits and struck out seven over six innings. Junior Lake had four hits, Justin Bour had three hits, and Marcus Hatley picked up the save.

Daytona opened the second half with a 3-0 win over Clearwater. Austin Kirk threw seven shutout innings and Roni Torreyes hit his second homer. Rebel Ridling had three hits. Jeffrey Lorick picked up his first save.

Peoria had Thursday off.

Jeimer Candelario hit his second homer in as many games in Boise’s 5-4 win over Eugnee. Hayden Simpson earned the win in relief, striking out seven over four innings.

Ben Carhart and Tim Saunders each had two hits in Mesa’s 5-1 loss to the Athletics.

 — Carrie Muskat