July 2012

7/30 Garza makes progress

Matt Garza, who came out of his last start July 21 because of cramping in his right elbow, threw a bullpen session on Monday, and could start this weekend against the Dodgers. Garza’s workout Monday “went extremely well,” Dale Sveum said.

“It was better than I imagined,” Sveum said. “It was a normal bullpen. He threw all his pitches, [had] velocity, extended himself with his slider and curveball and changeups. It went extremely, extremely well.”

Because of Thursday’s off day, the Cubs have some flexibility as far as the pitching rotation.

“We’ll see how he feels in the morning or tomorrow afternoon,” Sveum said of Garza. “Hopefully, we can schedule him in three, four, five days.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Dempster: I control what I can do

Ryan Dempster did the same pre-game prep work he normally does before a start except the right-hander isn’t quite sure he’ll be taking the mound Tuesday night for the Cubs. Dale Sveum said the team will have a contingency plan. Would Sveum be surprised if Dempster is still a Cub after the Traded Deadline?

“Yeah, I’d be surprised, I guess,” Sveum said. “There’s too many teams and he’s too good a pitcher for people to not want him these last two months.”

Dempster, 35, rumored to be dealt by Tuesday’s 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline, said Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have kept him up to date when necessary. The Braves thought they had a deal last week but the Dodgers appear to have the most interest.

“If they have anything that comes to fruition, [I asked them to] just let me know and we’ll make a decision from there,” Dempster said. “Nothing’s been said in a little while.”

Dempster (5-5, 2.25 ERA) has control over where he would go because he has 10-and-5 rights (10 years in the big leagues, five with the same team). Even though he’ll make the final call, all the rumors have become a little tiring.

“I’m human, so it’s an emotional roller coaster sometimes,” he said, “but at the same time, I can control what I do, and I’m going to try to do the best job of that. I have a job to do [Tuesday] and that’s to go out there and pitch, and I”m trying to prepare for that.”

Asked if he had a gut feeling about what might happen, Dempster said, “I have all kind of gut feelings right now.”

In 1996, when Dempster was in the Rangers’ Minor League system, he was traded to the Marlins, and in 2002, he was dealt to the Reds. Getting traded isn’t a first, but it’s still been strange to hear his name mentioned so often on the clubhouse television.

“There’s tons of rumors and tons of speculation all the time,” Dempster said. “This is something I’ve tried to keep close to me so it can get handled the best it can. Sometimes there are rumors that are true, and sometimes there are rumors that aren’t. I can’t control that, I can just control what I can do and that’s go out there and prepare to do my job the best I can.”

What if the Cubs don’t make a deal?

“It’s a great place to play,” Dempster said of Chicago. “I’ve enjoyed every moment I’ve played here, and I’m super proud to be a Chicago Cub and I understand that’s always a possibility and if that’s the case, I’m going to give everything I have starting [Tuesday] night. Whatever ends up happening in 24 hours or 23 hours from now, we’ll find out then. It could be sooner, it could be wearing my uniform and going out and pitching [Tuesday].”

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Cubs lineup

Justin Germano makes his first start for the Cubs Monday night as they open a three-game series against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. This will be Germano’s 37th Major League start and first since 2010 with Cleveland. Germano has never faced the Pirates, and last pitched at Wrigley Field in 2008 while a reliever with the Padres. Lefty Erik Bedard will start for the Pirates. Here’s the lineup:

Johnson CF

Castro SS

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Baker RF

Soto C

Barney 2B

Mather 3B

Germano P

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Minor League report

Rodrigo Lopez gave up one earned run over five innings in Iowa’s 6-3, 10-inning loss Sunday to New Orleans. Rob Brantley hit a walkoff three-run homer for the win. Welington Castillo forced extra innings with a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh.

Tennessee had Sunday off, and returns to action Monday against Pensacola with a doubleheader.

Matt Loosen improved to 10-3 with a victory in Daytona’s 12-7 win over Bradenton. Loosen gave up four earned runs over five innings and now has a 3.03 ERA. Rafael Lopez hit his second homer, Roni Torreyes had three hits and two RBIs and Elieser Bonne had three hits and one RBIs.

Dustin Geiger hit his 11th home run in Peoria’s 10-6 victory over Beloit. Geiger drove in four runs, also hitting a double. Pin-Chieh Chen was 3-for-3 with two RBIs and Javier Baez drove in two runs.

Ian Dickson threw five shutout innings in Boise’s 1-0 win over Tri-City. Dickson struck out four. Gioskar Amaya hit a solo home run, his fifth. Rock Shoulders had two hits. Dickson has not given up a run in his last two starts.

Dillon Maples made his first start in Mesa’s 7-3 loss to the Reds. Jorge Soler hit a double and scored two runs and Trevor Gretzky had his second two-hit game. Gretzky also stole a base.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Countdown to Deadline

Will Ryan Dempster make his start Tuesday night for the Cubs? Or will he be in another uniform? Will a team take a chance on Matt Garza, who has not pitched in one week?

The Trade Deadline is a little more than 24 hours away, and the Cubs’ roster is still intact. Dempster has drawn interest from the Braves and Dodgers, and although the Braves have said they’ve moved on, the Cubs may come back to them if they can’t work out a deal with the Dodgers. FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal points out that under the new CBA, there is no longer a required 24-hour waiting period for 10-and-5 players to approve a trade. That would mean any deals can go right to the deadline as long as the player gives consent. That applies to Dempster, who has 10 years in the big leagues and five with the same team.

Garza is in a different situation in that he would be under team control through 2013. But Garza’s elbow cramp came at a bad time for the Cubs. He had to leave his July 21 start after three innings. An MRI confirmed the cramping, and a little fluid in the elbow, but it’s not serious. The Cubs have X-rays to prove it. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen on Monday at Wrigley Field. Expect a few early bird scouts there to watch.

Paul Maholm may draw interest from teams, too. He’s 5-0 with a 1.02 ERA in his last six starts.

“As a manager, you’d be upset if anybody is gone as far as starting pitchers,” Dale Sveum said Sunday. “But that’s part of the game. Whatever happens, that’s part of what happens with organizations trying to do things different and trying to build for the future.”

The Cubs pitchers aren’t the only ones drawing interest. Teams looking for another bat for the bench are focusing on Reed Johnson, David DeJesus and Jeff Baker. Johnson and Baker are well suited to their roles as bench players; DeJesus has been a starter. The Pirates were believed to be keeping an eye on Johnson and DeJesus.

Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, and general manager Jed Hoyer have been working the phones rather than talking to the media in the last few days. The deadline is Tuesday at 3 p.m. CT.

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Iowa Cubs moves

The Cubs have signed outfielder Jeff Frazier to a Minor League contract, and assigned him to Triple-A Iowa. Also, infielder Blake DeWitt and pitcher Rafael Dolis were placed on Iowa’s disabled list. DeWitt has a lower back strain and Dolis has a sore left knee. Both were sent to the Cubs complex in Mesa, Ariz., to rehab.
Frazer, 29, began the season with Reynosa in the Mexican League and hit .273 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 34 games.  He also played in 23 games with Triple-A Toledo from May 3-June 16 this year and hit .190 with a homer and five RBIs before he was released.  It was his third stint with the Tigers’ organization.  The Tigers drafted Frazier in the third round of the 2004 Draft out of Rutgers University, and he was rated the Tigers‘ seventh-best prospect in 2005. Frazier made his Major League debut with the Tigers in 2010 and was 5-for-23 (.217) in nine games.  Last year, Frazier played at Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals organization and batted .226 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs in 118 games.  Frazier hails from Toms River, NJ and was part of the city’s Little League World Series team in 1995.  His younger brother, Todd, plays for the Reds.
— Carrie Muskat

7/29 Extra bases

* Darwin Barney had his fourth three-hit game of the season, coming after he did not start Saturday.

“He gets tomorrow off, too,” Dale Sveum said.

He was joking.

“If he gives me the day off, and the next day, I get three hits, I’ll do it,” Barney said.

* Since making his debut June 26, Anthony Rizzo leads all NL rookies with a .333 batting average, seven home runs and 17 RBIs.

* Starlin Castro was hitting .328 (19-for-58) against the Cardinals this year.

* With Sunday’s win, the Cubs are 12-3 in their last 15 home games. The Cubs are 6-8 against the Cardinals this year.

“We can’t be playing well and come in here and lose to the Cubs,” St. Louis’ Matt Holliday said. “We can’t lose this series. But we did. The only way to get better is to play better. We didn’t get the result we were looking for.”

They’ll meet one more time at Wrigley Field, Sept. 21-23.

— Carrie Muskat 

7/29 Rizzo gets 1st walkoff

There’s a first time for everything, and rookie Anthony Rizzo now has his first walkoff home run. Rizzo launched a two-run opposite field home run in the 10th inning Sunday to power the Cubs to a 4-2 win over the Cardinals and take the series.

“This is the best,” Rizzo said. “This is something I’ve always dreamed of doing since I was a little kid — I’ve never done it before, not in the Minors, not in Little League, not ever. This is awesome.”

He connected off Trevor Rosenthal, hitting an 0-1 pitch into the left field bleachers.

“It’s nice this early in his career to get his first walkoff in big time fashion, and a home run, too,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Rizzo. “It was nice, especially off a guy throwing 97, 98 miles an hour, to take that pitch opposite field and not try to do too much. It was awesome.”

In 49 games last year with the Padres, Rizzo batted .141 with one home run. In 27 games since he was called up June 26, he’s hitting .333 with seven home runs. Sveum had heard that Rizzo had problems with fastballs. Not now.

“As soon as he got here, the lineup got deeper and got better,” Cubs starter Paul Maholm said of Rizzo. “He’s not up there just hacking. He’s working the counts and goes the other way and just hitting what they give him. They tried to go away from him in the 10th and [Rosenthal] got it up. He’s come up with some huge hits.”

Did the rookie take a deep breath in the 10th?

“Over my Minor League career and last year and this year, later innings, sometimes guys press a little harder and I see veteran hitters relax at the plate and take pitches and not be too aggressive,” Rizzo said. “That’s something I took into this at-bat. I’ve always come up a little over-anxious in situations like that and I took a clean swing and let the rest take care of itself.”

His plan: Keep it simple.

“Just hit the ball hard,” Rizzo said of his approach. “I’m not really trying to move him over there. I’m trying to do some damage.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/29 Maholm’s milestone

Paul Maholm is the first Cubs pitcher in modern day history to post six consecutive starts of at least six innings with one or no runs allowed.  Lefty Rube Kroh did put together a five-game stretch of at least six innings with one or no runs allowed in 1909. In his last six starts, Maholm has given up five earned runs over 44 innings for a 1.02 ERA.

“Paulie is arguably the best pitcher the last month in all of baseball,” Dale Sveum said.

He didn’t get a win Sunday, as the Cardinals rallied.

“He kept us off balance,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We had the one opportunity in the seventh to really make something happen but we couldn’t get that big hit we’ve been talking about. He did a nice job pitching. He kept us off-balance and mixed up everything. We just couldn’t get a lot going.”

Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger said Maholm had everything working.

“They’ve got a tough lineup, one through eight,” Clevenger said. “Paulie did a good job mixing the ball in and out of the strike zone and made them hit his pitch.”

Travis Wood, another lefty, served up five home runs on Friday to the Cardinals.

“That’s the best lineup in the National League, and by far the best right-handed hitting lineup, too, and he did a heck of a job against the best,” Sveum said of Maholm. “That’s when you know [he’s good], when you can do it against the best right-handed hitting lineup in the National League.”

Will Maholm still be on the Cubs after Tuesday’s Trade Deadline? Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney will be — they’re players the Cubs will build around. They need pitching, too.

“There was a reason I signed here,” Maholm said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing here throughout my career. There’s an option [for next year]. I finished last year hurt, and they gave me a chance to come in and prove I’m healthy and I am. Hopefully, we can turn this into a long term thing. We’ll see how everything unfolds and go from there.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/29 Minor League report

Brooks Raley gave up two runs and struck out eight over six innings in Iowa’s 2-1 loss to New Orleans on Saturday. Brett Jackson hit a solo homer, his 15th, but that was all the offense.

Justin Bour had two hits, including a grand slam, and five RBIs, in Tennessee’s 8-5 loss to Jacksonville. Bour was 2-for4, and the home run was his 11th this season. Nick Struck took the loss, giving up four runs over four innings.

Roni Torreyes hit a three-run homer in the sixth to tie the game but it wasn’t enough as Daytona lost, 9-7, to Bradenton.

Starling Peralta gave up five runs and struck out six over five innings in Peoria’s 10-4 loss to Beloit.

South African pitcher Tayler Scott threw five shutout innings in Boise’s 1-0 win over Tri-City. Scott now is 3-1 with a 1.71 ERA. He struck out four and walked three, giving up four hits. Hayden Simpson was credited with a hold, giving up one hit over three innings.

— Carrie Muskat