April 2013

4/21 Cubs lineup

The Cubs will try to salvage a win Sunday in their series against the Brewers. After Saturday’s loss, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he was losing patience with some of the errors and mistakes on the field. But there were no changes in the lineup.

DeJesus CF
Castro SS
Rizzo 1B
Soriano LF
Schierholtz RF
Castillo C
Valbuena 3B
Barney 2B
Feldman P

Said Sveum: “To win in the big leagues you have to have people who perform, and perform 162 games, not once in a while. You have to perform. It’s the big leagues, otherwise, you lose your jobs.”

What options do the Cubs have?

“There’s always options if you can’t play,” Sveum said.

— Carrie Muskat

4/21 Minor matters

Chris Rusin gave up seven runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings in Iowa’s 8-5 loss to Memphis on Saturday night. Brian Bogusevic had two hits to extend his hitting streak to six games.

Dallas Beeler gave up two earned runs over seven innings in Tennessee’s 11-4 win over Montgomery. Arismendy Alcantara and Matt Szczur each hit home runs. Szczur finished with three RBIs. Johermyn Chavez also drove in three runs.

Ben Wells gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings in Daytona’s 6-4 loss to Tampa. Jorge Soler extended his hitting streak to nine games, hitting a double and driving in two runs. John Andreoli was 4-for-4 with an RBI and stolen base.

In the first game of a doubleheader, Pierce Johnson gave up one run on three hits over five innings in a 7-3 win over Quad Cities. Johnson struck out six. Rock Shoulders had two hits, including his third home run. In the second game, Tayler Scott gave up three runs on five hits over six innings in a 4-3 Kane County win to complete the sweep. Shoulders connected again, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs. Dan Vogelbach had two hits.

4/20 Sveum: These are rookie ball mistakes

Dale Sveum has met with the players, they’ve done the drills, they’ve practiced the plays, and they have the talent, which is why Saturday’s game — and this season — is so frustrating. The Brewers took advantage of the Cubs’ sloppy play to post a 5-1 win in front of a sellout crowd of 42,230 at Miller Park in what looked like a repeat of past games this season.

“It seems to be the story every night,” Sveum said. “It seems to be continuing that we can’t seem to catch the ball or make a play when we have to make a play. Edwin [Jackson] pitched a great game, but he was part of that, throwing the ball into center field. We’ve got to step up and somebody has to start making plays and driving runs in because this is obviously getting old.”

Jackson’s throwing error in the sixth led to two of the Brewers’ runs and was one of three miscues by the Cubs in the game. Of the five runs scored, four were unearned.

“I’ve talked,” Sveum said about how he’s dealt with the Cubs. “We’ve been doing this quite a bit. You don’t want to have meetings every night.”

Maybe the problem is youth? Shortstop Starlin Castro committed his fourth error.

“We’re making a lot of the same mistakes,” Sveum said. “Obviously, they’re young but we’re making mistakes that rookie ball people make.”

Jackson (0-3), who signed a four-year, $52 million contract this offseason, took the loss. It’s the first time the right-hander has opened a season winless in his first four starts since 2007 when he went 0-8 with the Rays.

“Everybody knows they can make plays,” Jackson said. “It’s nothing that anyone is panicking over. Clearly, we have to play better and execute better. It’s not an issue that anyone is panicking over. I can’t speak for everyone but nobody is panicking. We just have to make the plays when we have a chance.”

What’s going on?

“I think it’s just a matter of slowing the game down,” Darwin Barney said. “Starting pitching has done such a great job and a lot of the jams they’ve been in have been attributed to miscues. It’s unfortunate. I think a part of it is pressure. I think guys are putting a little too much pressure on themselves and they take that onto the defensive side. As a unit, we need to be better from pitchers to infielders and just all around. It just comes with slowing the game down and being confident and just making the routine plays and keeping them routine.”

Alfonso Soriano also felt the Cubs may be pressing.

“I think we’re better than this,” Soriano said. “I think we’re trying too much. That’s why the team isn’t doing well so far. I think everybody is pushing too much and trying to do too much. We have to come back tomorrow and be relaxed and just let the talent play the game.”

In Spring Training, the Cubs knew they had a rough schedule in the first month and needed to get off to a good start.

“Everybody in this clubhouse, we want to win so bad, we want to show to the other team and the fans that we can do it,” Soriano said. “I think that’s our mentality here. We just have to play the game and have fun and not try to do too much and not worry about making mistakes and play the game.”

The Brewers began the season 2-8, and have won six in a row.

“That’s what drives me crazy, the coaches crazy,” Milwaukee manager Ron Ronicke said. “We try to figure things and how to get the team going and next thing you know they do it themselves. It’s baffling, this game’s very baffling.”

Sveum would like to see the players figure it out. He said he has “options” if the mistakes continue. He admitted to becoming impatient with the poor play.

“To win in the big leagues, you have to have people who perform, and perform 162 games, not once in a while,” Sveum said. “You have to perform. It’s the big leagues. Otherwise, you lose your jobs.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/20 Get ’em over, get ’em in

The Cubs entered Saturday’s game ranked last in the Majors with runners in scoring position.

“It’s a small sample at this point in the season but the one thing besides some mistakes we’re making in the field, is it’s holding us back from breaking games open and taking leads,” Dale Sveum said. “We just can’t seem to get going with men in scoring position.”

Anthony Rizzo is 2-for-15, while Alfonso Soriano is 1-for-12 with RISP. That’s not the kind of production you want to see from your 3-4 hitters. Is being able to deliver with runners on a tool?

“It is one stat that fluctuates a little bit,” Sveum said. “You’ll see throughout the league certain guys are really good with men in scoring position and they’ll be in the .300s to low .300s for their careers, and other guys will be really good one year and not so good the next year, kind of like pinch-hitting sometimes. It’s a small sample right now and it kind of gets a little contagious.”

The Cubs haven’t been able to drive runners in. They also haven’t been able to move them over and hit to the right side of the field. But, it’s early.

— Carrie Muskat

4/20 Borbon off to quick start

After a whirlwind day Friday, all Julio Borbon had to do on Saturday was get fitted for his new Cubs uniform. On Friday, Borbon found out he was claimed by the Cubs at noon CT, then stuffed all of his belongings in four suitcases, caught an afternoon flight to Chicago, rode a limo to Milwaukee, and arrived at Miller Park in the eighth inning when he ran into manager Dale Sveum in the clubhouse. Sveum had been ejected earlier.

“I was in there, and said, ‘Hey, get your stuff on, there’s a good chance you’re pinch running in this game,'” Sveum said.

Borbon, 27, did enter as a pinch-runner with two outs in the ninth against the Brewers and got the green light, but was thrown out trying to steal second to end the game.

“He got the green light but unfortunately he did a slow slide,” Sveum said. “He had the bag stole easy and he slid too early.”

What kind of player is Borbon?

“People say numbers don’t lie, and it comes down to I’m a guy who relies on speed,” Borbon said. “I like to go out there and put some pressure on the defense. From the second I get up there, I like to bunt. It’s no secret in the American League. I like to get out there, put some pressure on the pitchers.”

Born in Starkville, Miss., Borbon moved to the Dominican Republic when he was 3 or 4, and lives in Santo Domingo in the offseason. He attended the University of Tennessee and played with Darwin Barney on Team USA in 2006. Funny, he didn’t sound like he was from Mississippi.

“There are some words where I definitely have a little Southern accent,” he said.

Sveum said Borbon could get a start if Alfonso Soriano wants a breather but the veteran hasn’t asked for a day off yet. Borbon said he was excited to join the Cubs, and get a front row seat to watch what Theo Epstein does since taking over as president of baseball operations.

“My fiance, she’s from Boston, and she knew him, and she was the first one to tell me he had done great things for the city of Boston,” Borbon said. “From his background and his resume, he’s on his way to doing the same thing here. It’s exciting to become a part of that and know that you’re going to go onto great things. That’s what I see looking around here.”

— Carrie Muskat

4/20 Castro’s hit streak – UPDATED

Starlin Castro singled with one out in the fourth inning Saturday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. That’s the longest active streak in the National League. He now has eight hitting streaks of 10 or more games since the start of the 2011 season, tied with the Yankees’ Robinson Cano. Since he made his big league debut on May 7, 2010, Castro has totaled 550 hits, the most in the NL in that span. Ryan Braun entered Saturday’s game second with 537 hits.

4/20 Minor matters

Barret Loux threw five shutout innings in a 5-0 victory over Nashville on Friday. Logan Watkins had two hits and Ian Stewart was 0-for-2 with two walks in his third rehab start.

Arismendy Alcantara had two hits and two RBIs in Tennessee’s 8-1 win over Huntsville. Matt Szczur had two hits, including a triple, and scored two runs. Christian Villanueva had two RBIs, and now has 12 in his last 13 games. A.J. Morris picked up the win in relief.

Dustin Geiger extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a fifth inning single in Daytona’s 8-3 loss to Tampa. Jorge Soler was 1-for-3 with a double and scored a run. Zach Cates took the loss, giving up six runs on three hits and three walks in two-thirds of an inning.

Kane County’s game vs. Quad Cities was postponed because of the weather.

4/20 Cubs lineup

The Cubs will try to even the series against the Brewers on Saturday night at Miller Park. Here’s the starting lineup:

DeJesus CF
Castro SS
Rizzo 1B
Soriano LF
Schierholtz RF
Navarro C
Valbuena 3B
Barney 2B
E. Jackson P

4/19 Sveum ejected

Cubs manager Dale Sveum was ejected in the sixth inning Friday night for questioning a call by home plate umpire Chris Guccione. With the Brewers leading 4-3 in the sixth and the count 2-2 to Ryan Braun, Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija threw a pitch that Guccione called a ball. Samardzija said something, and catcher Welington Castillo stepped between the umpire and the pitcher. Sveum came out to argue the call and was ejected. The Cubs manager was ejected four times last season, his first at the helm.

The ejection came on the anniversary of one of Sveum’s best games as a player for the Brewers. On April 19, 1987, Easter Sunday, he hit a two-run walkoff home run to lead Milwaukee to a 6-4 win over the Rangers for their 12th straight victory.

— Carrie Muskat

4/19 Extra bases

Matt Garza threw a two-inning simulated game Friday at Miller Park, and did well, although he struggled a bit with what manager Dale Sveum called “pinpoint-manship.”
Garza, who strained his left lat during a live batting practice session Feb. 17 and did not appear in a Spring Training game, was throwing in a game situation for the first time this year. He has not pitched in a regular season game since July, and missed the second half of last season with elbow problems.

“Everything was coming out of his hand OK,” Sveum said. “He was a little rusty.”

His command was also off a bit, resulting in the lack of pinpoint control.

“That’s just the first step to get out there,” Sveum said of Garza, who faced two hitters.

This was the first of at least four games for Garza. Next step will be 45 pitches over three innings. If all goes well, the right-hander should be ready to return to the Cubs rotation by mid May. Garza most likely will go to Double-A Tennessee for his next outing.

* With the addition of outfielder Julio Borbon, infielder Alex Gonzalez was designated for assignment. That doesn’t give the Cubs much depth in the infield. Cody Ransom is the backup at second, short and third, and there is no official backup first baseman. Sveum said the Cubs will rectify that when they add third baseman Ian Stewart, who was rehabbing at Triple-A Iowa. Stewart missed Spring Training with a strained left quad suffered in an intrasquad game Feb. 21, and weather has interfered with his rehab at Iowa. Stewart had played in two games heading into Friday.

“He needs a good solid week to play,” Sveum said of Stewart, limited to 55 games last season because of problems with his left wrist that ultimately required surgery. “He had no Spring Training.”

When Stewart does arrive, Luis Valbuena can fill the utility infielder role.

“If [Stewart] is here, he’s going to start,” Sveum said. “Valbuena will move all over the place. You still have to perform.”

* Kyuji Fujikawa, on the DL since April 13 with a strained right forearm, played catch in Chicago Friday. He threw from about 75 feet, and had no pain. It’s the first time he has thrown since going on the DL.

* Infielder Brent Lillibridge, designated for assignment on Tuesday to make room on the roster for Ransom, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa. Lillibridge was 1-for-24 in nine games with the Cubs.

* Jorge Soler rejoined Class A Daytona on Thursday after serving a five-game suspension and went 1-for-3 with a single in his first at-bat. He was penalized for charging the opposing dugout with a bat in his hand on April 10. Soler had gone to Mesa, Ariz., to workout at the Cubs’ facility there during the suspension.

“He was really anxious to come back, he was excited to play,” Daytona manager Dave Keller told the Daytona Beach News Journal. “I just told him, ‘Hey, let’s go play baseball. Let’s go after it. Get into your routine and get prepared for the game.'”

— Carrie Muskat