April 2013

4/29 Learning the Cubs Way

Jorge Soler was expected back in the lineup Monday night for Class A Daytona after being benched Sunday for not running out two balls. Daytona manager Dave Keller made the decision.

“[Soler] sat because within the philosophy and the work ethic that we are trying to create in this organization — and that we are trying to get our players to understand — work ethic, energy, determination, playing hard and running hard is part of the whole program,” Keller told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “When you don’t do that, then you don’t get to play. That’s something that has really been emphasized over the last two years.”

In 15 games, Soler was batting .276 with two home runs, three doubles and seven RBIs. He already has served a five-game suspension for charging the opponent’s dugout, carrying a bat. On Saturday, he was 0-for-4.

“As a coaching staff, we’re required to stay on top of it,” Keller said. “And we’re doing it because work habits create the player, period. When you work, you get better.”

4/29 Lee Elia

Lee Elia was picked by Dallas Green to manage the Cubs in 1982, and most likely would’ve been the skipper in ’84 if not for some poorly chosen words following a game 30 years ago today. Monday marks the 30-year anniversary of Elia’s tirade after a Cubs loss to the Dodgers (do a search and you’ll find it, just be prepared for the profanities). Here’s his explanation of what happened from my book, “Banks to Sandberg to Grace.” He wanted to talk about it and give his explanation. Just imagine how different it would be today with Twitter and social media and cameras everywhere:

“We were coming off the field, and in those days we had to go down the left field line to get in the locker room, which made it even tougher at times. As we’re walking down the field, Keith Moreland, our right field-catcher kind of guy, got into an argument with a fan, and the next thing I know, Redhead’s in the stands having an altercation. So, we had to pull him off this guy, and this is in a Major League Baseball game. We walked down a little farther after we pulled him off, and Bowa was by the tarp in the bullpen and somebody hit him in the back with something. He goes over the tarp and they’re physically hitting each other. So, me and Vukovich, my dugout coach, we go pull him off.

“So now we’d had these two things on top of the wild pitch by Lee Smith [that let the winning run score] and I go into the clubhouse and had a quick five-minute thing with the club. I told them, ‘Hey, look, we got off slow but we have a bunch of people here and it’s a long season.’ Then I walked into my office and it was packed with the mighty Dodger entourage [of media] so to speak.

“They were asking me questions, and they were not the kind of questions you should ask me after a tough loss. … I asked them, ‘Please, let’s talk about the game.’ It was a tough loss and I’m still hot about going into the stands, and for some reason for that one moment — I never dreamed it would leave the locker room. Some fellow had a little tape recorder and he ran out of the locker room, and next thing I know it’s on the radio, and now it’s part of Chicago trivia. Who’s the manager who said this and that?

“I did say some things I really feel bad about. I think it’s changed me personally. It kind of hurt me because I love the players and I didn’ tthink there was any better place in the world to be than Chicago. You’d be a damn fool not to think they’re the greatest fans in the world. They’ve suffered through defeat and still love the players. But when I made my comments about the fans, I honest to God was directing them at those people who went after Moreland and Bowa. I didn’t mean the Chicago people in general. That was something I often hoped they would always understand, but that was unfortunate.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/28 Extra bases

* With Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the Marlins, all of 24 of the Cubs’ games this season have been decided by four runs or less, a franchise record. The previous club record of 21 games to start a season with all contests decided by four runs or less took place 105 years ago in 1908.

The 24 game stretch is tied with the 1918 Cardinals for second longest in baseball. According to Elias, the only team to open the season with a longer streak was the 1914 Tigers (33 games decided by four runs or less).

* The Cubs have had three pitchers record multiple saves thus far this season: Kevin Gregg (three), Kyuji Fujikawa (two) and Carlos Marmol (two). In 45 Aprils since the save became an official MLB statistic in 1969, this is the first time the Cubs have had three pitchers with multiple saves in the season’s first calendar month.

* Anthony Rizzo has now tallied 19 RBI in April, second most by a Cubs left-handed hitter. He passed Rick Monday, who drove in 18 in April 1976. Billy Williams drove in 25 runs in April 1970.

* On Monday, the Cubs start a 10-day, 10-game homestand against the Padres (four games), the Reds (three games), the Rangers (one make-up game, May 6) and the Cardinals (two games). The Cubs lost Sunday to end their 10-game road trip with a 4-6 record. So far this season, the Cubs are 5-2 against clubs that finished below .500 last season and 4-13 (.235) against winning clubs from last year.

4/28 Minor matters

Drew Carpenter gave up eight runs on nine hits over three innings in Iowa’s 13-2 loss to Omaha on Saturday. Logan Watkins had two hits and one RBIs, and Brett Jackson hit a RBI double. Ian Stewart was 0-for-3, and made an error in the ninth game of his rehab assignment.

On Sunday, Ryan Sweeney, Brett Jackson, Brent Lillibridge, and Brian Bogusevic each hit home runs to power Iowa to a 10-6 win over Omaha. Lillibridge and Bogusevic were both 3-for-4, and Bogusevic finished with three RBIs. Brooks Raley picked up the win, giving up four runs on six hits over six innings. Logan Watkins got it started for Iowa with a leadoff triple, and he scored on Jackson’s groundout. After Ian Stewart walked, Sweeney hit a two-run home run. Iowa added four more runs in the second on Jackson’s two-run homer and Bogusevic’s two-run single.

Tennessee’s games against Pensacola Saturday and Sunday were postponed because of weather. The Smokies will try to play a doubleheader on Monday.

Austin Kirk gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings in Daytona’s 5-1 loss to Lakeland. John Andreoli and Ben Carhart each had two hits.

Tayler Scott gave up two runs on seven hits over six innings in Kane County’s 5-3 come from behind win over Fort Wayne. Wes Darvill had two hits, and has had multiple hit games in four of his last five starts. Sunday’s game at Lake county was postponed because of rain.

— Carrie Muskat

4/26 Extra bases

* With Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Marlins, the Cubs now have had 18 of their 21 games decided by three runs or less, and the Cubs are 6-12 in the close games. More than half of the losses (eight) have been by two runs or less. Four of the Cubs’ seven wins have come in the last at-bat.

The Cubs have equaled a franchise record by having 18 of first 21 games decided by three runs or less. The last team to do so was the 1950 squad, managed by Frankie Frisch and which included Hank Sauer and Andy Pafko.

In total, the Cubs have seen all 21 of their games this season decided by four runs or less, which also matches a franchise record. The 1908 Cubs also began the season that way, but that team was 14-7 in the first 21 games.

* In 13 quality starts this season, Cubs pitcher have recorded a 1.85 ERA, yet only have three wins. Only three teams in all of baseball have more quality starts than the Cubs: Cincinnati (16), Philadelphia (15) and St. Louis (15). The Reds are 6-0 in their quality starts, the Phillies are 5-1 and the Cardinals are 9-3. The Cubs are 3-4.

* Overall, Cubs starting pitchers have a 3.04 ERA in the first 21 games of the season, third-lowest team ERA among starters in the National League. Through the first 21 games last season, the Cubs starters had a 4.35 ERA.

* Cubs starting pitchers have limited opponents to a .209 batting average and .618 OPS, lowest marks in the Majors this season

* Chicago’s bullpen has a 1.29 ERA (3 ER/21 IP) in its last eight games to lower the collective ERA from 6.06 to 4.29.

* The Cubs are tied with the Marlins for second-most errors in the Majors with 18. The Nationals lead with 19. The Cubs’ miscuse have led to 14 unearned runs, tied with the Astros and Blue Jays for the most in the Majors.

* On this road trip, the Cubs also are 6-for-45 (.133) with runners in scoring position, and batting .148 with RISP for the season, lowest in the Majors.

4/26 Minor matters

Ryan Sweeney hit his fourth home run, a three-run shot in the first, to help Iowa beat Omaha 9-3 on Thursday. Sweeney was batting .404 and has an 11-game hitting streak. He was 4-for-5 with a triple and four RBIs. Brent Lillibridge also had four hits and two RBIs. Ian Stewart went 1-for-3 in his eighth rehab game. Esmailin Caridad picked up the win in relief.

Dallas Beeler threw seven shutout innings in Tennessee’s 2-1 win over Pensacola. Ronald Torreyes had three hits and scored a run and Jae-Hoon Ha notched his 10th RBIs.

Javier Baez hit his fourth home run and Chad Noble hit his first in Daytona’s 5-3 win over Lakeland. Zach Cates picked up the win, giving up four hits over five scoreless innings. Baez is batting .238 with 11 RBIs.

Lendy Castillo gave up six runs on eight hits over six innings in Kane County’s 6-4 loss to Fort Wayne. Oliver Zapata hit a two-run double.

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Reds 1, Cubs 0

What’s a little blood to a former football player? Jeff Samardzija shrugged off a cut finger, suffered in the first inning, but couldn’t stop Todd Frazier who belted a solo home run to lift the Reds to a 1-0 victory Wednesday over the Cubs. Samardzija (1-4) cut the index finger on his right hand trying to grab Shin-Soo Choo’s ball in the first. Cubs manager Dale Sveum and athletic trainer PJ Mainville went out to check on Samardzija after home plate umpire Jordan Baker noticed some blood.

“It got compressed a little bit and a little baby cut,” Samardzija said, downplaying the injury. “It was a little interesting. It wasn’t so much the feel of it but more so the liquid coming out of it than anything else. They let me pitch, which was good. Everything physically was fine. It was more aesthetic than anything else.”

In the second, Samardzija didn’t appear to have any problems as the Great American Ball Park radar gun registered his fastball at 98 mph. He fanned eight over six innings, and now has 39 strikeouts this month, good for seventh place on the team’s all-time list for most Ks in the month of April. Matt Garza fanned 51 in April 2011 for the team high.

Samardzija almost tried to make another bare-handed grab of Choo’s ball in the fifth but pulled back at the last minute.

“‘Almost’ is the key word there,” Samardzija said.

“I’m sure he learned his lesson,” Sveum said.

Samardzija said the injury wasn’t a distraction. He dashed off the field quickly after each inning so Mainville could work on it. Samardzija didn’t wear a batting glove on his right hand to avoid aggravating it. Sveum kept an eye on his starter but didn’t need to pull him.

“He was pretty sharp,” Sveum said. “There were no worries there.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/24 Updated Cubs schedule

The Cubs and Rangers will make up their postponed game on May 6 at Wrigley Field, starting at 7:05 p.m. CT. The game was originally scheduled for April 17, but delayed because of weather. Tickets for the April 17 postponed game will be good for admission to the make-up game.

* The Cubs also announced start times for games originally listed as TBD. The June 7 game vs. the Pirates and the June 21 game vs. the Astros will start at 1:20 p.m. CT

4/24 Soccer anyone?

Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro is a huge fan of soccer star Lionel Messi, the four-time FIFA player of the year, who will be playing and hosting a charity match July 6 at Soldier Field titled “Messi and Friends.” Navarro, who is always wearing Messi’s jersey in the clubhouse, is hoping to arrange a meeting with the Barcelona and Argentine superstar. The Cubs are in town that day, playing host to the Pirates. The match is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.

4/24 Cubs vs. Marlins

The Cubs open a four-game series Thursday night in Miami against the Marlins. Here are the pitching matchups:

Thursday: RHP Edwin Jackson (0-3, 4.84) vs. RHP Kevin Slowey (0-2, 1.90)
Friday: RHP Scott Feldman (0-3, 4.50) vs. LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-3, 6.27)
Saturday: LHP Travis Wood (1-1, 2.08) vs. RHP Alex Sanabia (2-2, 5.09)
Sunday: RHP Carlos Villanueva (1-0, 1.53) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 3.81)