September 2012

9/27 Cubs lineup

Chris Volstad will close the Cubs series in Colorado on Thursday. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus RF

Barney 2B

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Castro SS

Valbuena 3B

Clevenger C

Jackson CF

Volstad P

— Carrie Muskat

9/27 Pitching matchups

The Cubs close the road portion of their schedule this weekend in Arizona. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Travis Wood (6-12, 4.23) vs. Ian Kennedy (14-11, 4.14)

Saturday: Justin Germano (2-9, 6.18) vs. Trevor Cahill (12-12, 3.86)

Sunday: Chris Rusin (1-3, 7.30) vs. Josh Collmenter (5-3, 3.80)


9/27 Greenberg to get an at-bat

The Marlins have signed Adam Greenberg to a one-day Major League contract, effective Tuesday. He will appear in the Marlins game against the Mets in Miami. Marlins owner Jeffrey H. Loria made the announcement. Greenberg, 31, made his ML debut on July 9, 2005, with the Cubs against the Marlins but was hit in the back of his head by a pitch from Valerio De Los Santos in his only ML plate appearance. He is currently one of only two players ever to be hit by a pitch in his first-and-only ML plate appearance and never take the field, along with Fred Van Dusen (Philadelphia, 1955). After spending the remainder of the 2005 season on the disabled list, Greenberg, who suffered from vertigo following the incident, played in the Minors and independent baseball from 2006-2009.

Greenberg has agreed to donate his one-day salary to the Marlins Foundation, which will then make a donation to the Sports Legacy Institute, an organization that advances the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups.

He was originally drafted by the Cubs in 2001 out of the University of North Carolina. Greenberg recently played for Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifying round in Jupiter, Sept. 19-23, and walked in his only plate appearance.

— Carrie Muskat


9/26 Barney at 140 error-free games

Darwin Barney is now one game away from tying the Major League record for consecutive error-less games by a second baseman. On Wednesday at Coors Field, Barney played in his 140th error-free game, and is one away from matching the Major League mark of 141 games, set in 2007 by Placido Polanco. Barney is rewriting the National League mark each game as he surpassed the old record of 123 games, held by Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who was Barney’s former Minor League manager. Barney leads all NL second basemen in fielding percentage and has made one error this season. His error-less streak is now 1,139 1/3 innings.

Don’t expect Barney to get a day off.

“Barney has the whole winter to rest,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

— Carrie Muskat

9/26 Bone-head plays

For the second time in two weeks, the Cubs made a base-running gaffe that was unexplainable. They stranded runners at third in the second, third and fifth innings against the Rockies on Wednesday, and had runners at second and third in the seventh with one out when Dave Sappelt hit a fly ball to left. Joe Mather, who was at second, tried to advance as Josh Vitters headed home but Mather was easily thrown out to end the inning. Luis Valbuena did the same thing in Houston earlier this month.

“I went 30 years without seeing it, and unfortunately, I’ve seen it twice in the last two weeks and in pretty relevant situations, which is the odd thing about it,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “I might have come across it when maybe my team was up two or three and it was a irrelevant play.”

Mather’s decision to go left Sveum scratching his head.

“It’s bone-head plays,” Sveum said. “[The players] know they are. It’s just not thinking ahead, and Joe has good instincts.  … For whatever reason, they forget what the score is and the situation. They can’t slow the game down to go over all the scenarios before the next play happens.”

Mather’s explanation?

“I thought I could make it,” he said. “I shouldn’t have gone. it was bad baserunning. We’re down 6-0, I took an RBI away from [Sappelt]. It was just bad baseball.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/26 Volstad sets goals

Chris Volstad has two starts remaining, including Thursday in the series finale against the Rockies. The right-hander has set specific goals for those games, although he wouldn’t reveal them.

“There are goals I’ve set for myself and things I want to accomplish,” he said.

His record may not show it, but Volstad (3-10, 6.22 ERA) says this has been a good year for him.

“This is the year when I’ve learned the most as far as how to use my stuff individually, how to attack hitters, how to study that type of thing, as opposed to just relying on other people to do it or guide me along,” Volstad said Wednesday. “It’s definitely a learning process and it’s taken a little bit of time but this is the year when I’ve grown the most.”

He has been busy studying video to learn the best way he can use his pitches to be most effective.

“It also gives you added confidence knowing you have something you’re going to do and you’re the one in control of what you’re doing and not the other way around,” he said. “It’s ‘All right, this is what I’m doing here,’ and you go out and do it.”

 — Carrie Muskat

9/26 Hoyer: “We have to get better”

At this point in the season, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer would prefer to be sweating over last-minute postseason travel plans than scheduling meetings to evaluate the roster and coaching staff.

“When you’re not in the playoffs — you hate when you’re not — but when you’re not in the playoffs it’s a really good planning time,” Hoyer said.

For example, Josh Vitters started at third Wednesday. He’s one of the many prospects being looked at for next season. The results so far have been mixed.

“Some have shown a lot and some have done enough to not earn a position with the team but strong consideration for the winter,” Hoyer said. “Some have indicated they need more seasoning and starting next year [at Triple-A Iowa] would be the best. It is a mixed bag. Every guy who’s come up hasn’t shown we need to reserve a spot for him next season but that’s to be expected. We need to get better next year and having depth at Triple-A is important. A lot of those guys may feel they’re ready but if they start the year at Iowa, that’s probably a positive for our roster.”

Hoyer knows first-hand that some players take a little longer. He promoted Anthony Rizzo to the big leagues last season with the Padres, and watched the first baseman struggle to hit .141.

“That first time in the big leagues, I think it’s really difficult to evaluate,” Hoyer said. “I’ve had a number of players tell me the butterflies don’t go away that first time up, they’re nervous all the time, they have a hard time calming themselves down. Maybe the second time, the third time they come up, it’s like, ‘OK, I belong here.’ It’s hard to evaluate a guy when he’s nervous. It’s hard to blame them sometimes. This is their dream, they’re up for the first time, the game is faster. Sometimes those things can snowball. It did with Rizzo last year.”

The Cubs do have a significant amount of money coming off the books and it could be a busy offseason.

“We will have financial flexibility,” Hoyer said. “We’ve been diligent to make sure we do have flexibility and we’re efficient going forward. We’ll obviously be active in the free agent market. That’s a big part of our research and work now is evaluating free agents. We have some money to spend and we’ll focus on it heavily.”

Hoyer isn’t looking at the Cubs record this year.

“People in every walk of life focus on round numbers,” Hoyer said. “One hundred losses is a round number. I’m not going to feel any better about a 96-loss season or a 98-loss season or a 100-loss season. In any way, shape or form, we have to get better. I don’t want to lose 100 games either. That’s something people talk about and it’s a round number we clearly want to avoid. If we avoid it, it doesn’t mean I’ll feel better about our season. We have to get better. That’s the focus.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/26 Stewart gets checkup, but will he be back?

Ian Stewart, who underwent surgery on his left wrist in June, was examined on Tuesday, and whether the Cubs re-sign the third baseman for 2013 will likely be determined by doctors’ reports.

“Obviously, we’ll spend a lot of time getting to the bottom of how it looks going forward before making a decision on his future with us,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Wednesday. “It is a year that’s hard to evaluate given the wrist. It’s challenging. … He’s got a lot of ability, the same ability that we saw when we traded for him. He’s got big power, he’s left-handed, he’s a really good defensive third baseman. There are a lot of pluses there. we need to figure out what part was the wrist and what part wasn’t.”

Stewart, acquired from the Rockies in a deal for Tyler Colvin, batted .201 in 55 games with the Cubs before he had to be shutdown because of the wrist. He is arbitration eligible. If not Stewart, then who would be the Cubs’ Opening Day third baseman? Luis Valbuena has impressed the Cubs with his defense. Josh Vitters is likely headed to Venezuela this winter to play and challenge for a spot next year, too.

“[Valbuena] is a guy, you look up and see .215, and you think it should be at least .260-ish or something,” Dale Sveum said. “It doesn’t seem like his average should be that bad. He’s given us so many quality at-bats late in games and walks. He’s done a really good job — a great job — except for that one glaring number, .215, for a batting average.”

But is Valbuena good enough to be a regular at third?

“I see him on the team,” Sveum said. “He’s definitely a quality guy, a left-handed quality utility player who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, give you quality at-bats all the time, catch the ball where he’s at. If we don’t sign somebody, you could definitely see him [at third on Opening Day]. He’s done a heck of a job.”

— Carrie Muskat

9/26 Cubs lineup

The Cubs face another lefty on Wednesday in the Rockies’ Drew Pomeranz. Here’s the lineup:

Sappelt RF

Barney 2B

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Castro SS

Castillo C

Vitters 3B

Mather CF

Berken P

— Carrie Muskat

9/26 About last night …

Following Tuesday’s loss to the Rockies, the Cubs now are 0-14 on the road against National League West teams.

“It’s always tough to win in the west,” Dale Sveum said. “The bottom line is we haven’t been able to get anybody out, either. … Tonight, to score that many runs early and then give just give it right back, you’re not going to win many road games when you’re giving up that many hard hit balls or balls hit out of the ballpark.”

The Rockies pounded 15 hits — six for extra bases — in the abbreviated game, called after 6 1/2 innings because of rain.

“We came out swinging the bats really well,” Sveum said. “We couldn’t get them to make any soft contact, that’s for sure. There were some balls hit pretty hard on their side. Even the outs we got, we’re lucky they were at people.”

* Rookie Chris Rusin has one more start to go this season, closing the series against the Diamondbacks on Sunday in the Cubs’ final road game.

“It’s been a learning experience, a good experience to get your feet wet,” said Rusin, who spent most of this season at Triple-A Iowa. “At the same time, you try to do well. You just take whatever you can get from it and learn from it, and figure out what you have to work on next year. [I’ve got] one more — try to end solid and end on a good note.”

* Tuesday’s game was played in a constant rain. Sveum said the field had become unplayable.

“It just rained too hard for too long a period of time,” Sveum said.

The game was called after a 48-minute delay.

“It was terrible — I thought I was on ice skates,” Sappelt said of the field conditions. “Every time I tried to throw the ball, I thought I was going to slide.”

* The Cubs’ magic number is four. They need four wins in the remaining eight games to avoid a 100-loss season, which would be the team’s first since the 1966 Cubs lost 103 games.

* Starlin Castro hit his 14th home run in the third. He now has 52 extra-base hits this season, three shy of his career high of 55, set last year.

* Darwin Barney’s NL-record errorless streak at second base is now at 139 consecutive games. He is closing in on the Major League record of 141 set by Placido Polanco in 2007 with the Tigers.

— Carrie Muskat