June 2012

6/21 Ron Santo print

Are you a fan of Ron Santo? Artist John Hanley, in collaboration with Santo’s son, Ron Jr., have produced a commemorative print celebrating the former Cubs third baseman’s induction into the Hall of Fame.The 16” x 20” lithograph was created to honor Santo’s outstanding career. To further honor Ron Santo’s legacy, 10 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). For more info about Hanley and the Ron Santo print, please visit his website at www.johnhanleyartist.com or email him at johnhanleyartist@mac.com.

6/21 Cubs Inbox

We’ll do a quick Cubs Inbox here. Send your questions to CubsInbox@gmail.com, and please include your full name and hometown. Thanks.

Q: To follow up regarding Bryan LaHair and left-handed pitching, what were his stats in the Minors against lefties? I agree we cannot fully develop his talents if we don’t play him against lefties. — Tony H., Los Angeles, CA

A: In 2011, LaHair batted .284 (40-for-141) vs. left-handed pitchers. He had a .546 slugging percentage, .338 OBP, .884 OPS, with nine homers and 10 doubles. Against right-handers, LaHair batted .352 (111-for-315) with a .717 slugging percentage, .434 OBP, 1.151 OPS, 29 homers and 28 doubles. Dale Sveum was asked about LaHair vs. lefties this week.

“I think he’s got to get it out of his own head,” Sveum said. “There’s probably too much thinking, too much worrying about this pitch, guessing too much and not being aggressive enough early in the count, especially.”

Q: Did the Cubs sign Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler yet? I was really hoping for him to be a Cub. — Riley T., Dyersville, IA

A: Soler has not officially signed with the Cubs. There is still immigration paperwork to be processed, and he must pass a physical.

Q: Being that third base is our weakest offensive position, is it crazy to think LaHair or Anthony Rizzo could make that conversion? — Brian T., State College, PA

A: Yes, it’s crazy to think that.

Q: I have not heard anything about the progress of Wayne Gretzky’s son, who signed with the Cubs for a nice bonus. What’s his status? — John C., Hanford, CA

A: Trevor Gretzky, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2011 Draft, had a shoulder injury, and was rehabbing at the Cubs facility in Mesa, Ariz.

Q: I love the history of the Cubs uniform numbers. Has a Cub ever worn 00? I remember Turk Wendell and Todd Hundley wore No. 99. — Ed W., Terre Haute, IN

A: No one has worn “00” on a Cubs uniform or a single “0.” By the way, the last to wear No. 99 was So Taguchi in 2009. Hundley was the first in ’01.

— Carrie Muskat

6/20 Stewart tries comeback

Ian Stewart is hoping that this time, the cortisone shot works. The Cubs third baseman had his left wrist examined Monday at the Cleveland Clinic, and the doctors confirmed the Chicago medical staff’s diagnosis that there was nothing structurally wrong. But the doctors at the clinic did show Stewart that he has an impingment between a couple bones on his hand, which may be pinching the ligaments and causing the discomfort.

“My options now are just to see if this cortisone works and give it four, five days when I’m on the [disabled list] to really let it sink in and work and then slowly get a program going off the tee,” Stewart said Wednesday. “If the shot works, then it’ll carry me through the season and maybe get another one in another six weeks or so. If it doesn’t, then we may have to go the other route. We’re just going to see how it feels.”

The other route is one Stewart is hoping to avoid, which is surgery. The Cleveland Clinic doctors told Stewart that other ballplayers have had a procedure done, but he’d like to avoid it. Stewart injured his left wrist in 2006 on a defensive play, dealt with it, and then aggravated it last August while hitting.

This time, the cortisone was injected in a different spot than other doctors have tried, and Stewart is hoping that helps. He will not do any baseball activities until this weekend, when he hopes to resume hitting off a batting tee.

Will he have to deal with discomfort the rest of the year?

“Hopefully not,” Stewart said. “Hopefully, this works and I start playing again and hitting and it’s really a non-issue. If it gets to the point where it’s affecting my swing still, there are other options we can take, and hopefully we don’t have to take that route.”

— Carrie Muskat

6/20 Cubs sign more Draft picks

The Cubs’ have officially signed right-handed pitcher Pierce Johnson, who was the team’s second-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft, for the recommended slot of $1.196 million. The team announced the signing on Wednesday. Johnson of Arvada, Colo., got a head start on the signing, announcing it on June 11 on Twitter: “Just signed with the Chicago Cubs! Thanks to God, family, teammates, coaches, and friends. If it wasn’t for you guys I wouldn’t be here!” He was the 43rd overall pick in the Draft, selected in the supplemental round as compensation for the departure of free agent Aramis Ramirez. Johnson was selected out of high school by the Rays in the 15th round of the 2009 Draft, but opted to go to college and attended Missouri State. Johnson, 21, had a 2.53 ERA in 14 starts for Missouri State, recording a single-season school record 119 strikeouts to lead the Missouri Valley Conference. He helped lead the Bears to their first NCAA Regional appearance in nine years.

The Cubs also have signed four more pitchers and an outfielder who were selected in the Draft. The list includes left-hander Anthony Prieto (fifth round) for $200,000; right-hander Chad Martin (10th round) for $10,000; outfielder Bijan Rademacher (13th); right-hander Michael Hamann (16th) signed for $100,000; and right-hander Eduardo Orozco (22nd) signed for $1,000. The Cubs now have signed 21 of the players selected in the Draft.

— Carrie Muskat

6/20 Extra bases

* Matt Garza and Travis Wood were the winners in the first two games of the Cubs’ Interleague series against the White Sox, marking the first time since April 12-13 that Cubs starting pitchers have posted wins in back to back games. The last time the starters won three in a row was July 31-Aug. 3 last year.

* Major League Baseball has reversed the official scorer’s decision from the June 15 game against the Red Sox in which Alex Aviles’ ground ball to Darwin Barney was ruled an error. It’s now a hit, meaning Barney’s errorless streak is now at 55 games and covers 454 1/3 innings. It’s the longest for a Cubs middle infielder since Jeff Baker had a 56-game errorless streak from Sept. 3, 2009-June 28, 2011.

* Carlos Marmol picked up his 99th career save and fourth this season on Tuesday. He looks to become the fourth pitcher in franchise history with 100 saves, joining Lee Smith (180), Bruce Sutter (133) and Randy Myers (112).

* The Cubs are 5-9 in Interleague play.

* After an off day Thursday, the Cubs return to National League action, facing the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. Here are the matchups:

Friday: RHP Jeff Samardzija (5-5, 4.04) vs. LHP Joe Saunders (4-5, 3.44)

Saturday: RHP Matt Garza (3-5, 4.07) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (5-7, 4.13)

Sunday: RHP Paul Maholm (4-5, 4.88) vs. LHP Wade Miley (8-3, 2.30)

— Carrie Muskat

6/20 Cubs lineup

The Cubs close their intracity Interleague series against the White Sox on Wednesday night, sending Randy Wells to the mound against Gavin Floyd. Bryan LaHair is back at first base because Steve Clevenger is catching. Reed Johnson is starting in right. Can the Cubs complete the sweep? Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus CF

Castro SS

LaHair 1B

Soriano DH

Clevenger C

Barney 2B

Valbuena 3B

Johnson RF

Campana LF

Wells P

— Carrie Muskat

6/19 Extra bases

* With Tuesday’s win, the Cubs have won their first Interleague series since June 15-17, 2010, against the Athletics, and first on the road since May 21-23, 2010, against Texas. They also won their first series against the White Sox since June 2008, and first at U.S. Cellular Field since June 2007.

* The Cubs now have played 24 one-run games, and they are 8-17.

* Cubs starting pitchers have a 2.84 ERA in the last nine games. The bullpen has a 1.84 ERA in the last five games. Shawn Camp, James Russell, Manuel Corpas and Carlos Marmol combined for three hitless innings.

* Marmol had his third consecutive scoreless outing, and converted his third straight save, and second since getting the closer’s job back.

* Starlin Castro is 8-for-17 in his last four games with a double, triple, home run and four RBIs.

* Randy Wells (1-1, 4.50) will close the series Wednesday against Gavin Floyd (4-7, 5.63)

— Carrie Muskat

6/19 Soto makes key play

Starlin Castro may have made a great catch and Travis Wood may have pitched a solid game, but the key to Tuesday’s win was Geovany Soto’s baserunning. The Cubs trailed 1-0 in the third when Soto reached on third baseman Orlando Hudson’s errant throw that pulled Paul Konerko off the bag. He moved up on Tony Campana’s single that Peavy deflected, and both Soto and Campana advanced on a wild pitch. Both scored on David DeJesus’ single at the end of a nine-pitch at-bat to go ahead, 2-1.

Soto’s heads up baserunning gave the Cubs two runners in scoring position. The catcher was motivated by his error in the second.

“I felt, when I was running the bases, I needed to be aggressive,” Soto said. “I had the [throwing] error [in the second] and I was really [ticked] off at myself. I thought, ‘I have to be heads up here and do whatever I can to get in scoring position.'”

And he did. Hudson, on the other hand, felt terrible.

“I lost the game for the man [Jake Peavy] — that’s it,” Hudson said. “The man threw a [heck] of a game, I lost it for him. Point blank. Case closed.”

The Cubs won, 2-1.

— Carrie Muskat 

6/19 Stewart examined

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic confirmed what the Cubs medical staff diagnosed regarding third baseman Ian Stewart’s wrist, and that is that there is nothing structurally wrong.  Stewart received a cortisone injection on the top of his hand, and the Cubs hope that helps him deal with the discomfort.

“This kind of thing is lingering but hopefully the cortisone shot in a different area will make a difference,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

— Carrie Muskat

6/19 Minor League report

Iowa had Monday off, and opens a eight-game series against Round Rock in Texas on Tuesday. Rodrigo Lopez will start.

Tennessee is taking a breather at the All-Star break. Smokies first baseman Justin Bour will take part in the Home Run Derby Tuesday.

Rob Whitenack gave up four runs on five hits over three innings in Daytona’s 6-3 loss to Tampa. John Andreoli had two hits and a stolen base.

Peoria is in the middle of a four-day All-Star break, which takes place Tuesday in Geneva, IL.

Ian Dickson gave up three runs — two earned — on six hits over 4 1/3 innings in his first pro start for Boise and did not get a decision in the Hawks’ 6-4, 11th inning win over Salem-Keizer. Dong-Yub Kim hit his first homer and Justin Marra had three hits in his Boise debut.

— Carrie Muskat