June 2013

6/28 Mariners 5, Cubs 4 (10 innings)

Once again, the Cubs wasted a quality outing by Travis Wood. Alfonso Soriano and Dioner Navarro each hit solo home runs but the Mariners rallied for two runs in the eighth and Mike Zunino hit a walkoff RBI single with one out in the 10th to post a 5-4 Interleague win over the Cubs Friday night.

“It’s a tough one today,” said Soriano, who connected in the seventh. “You just try to forget this game today and come back and win tomorrow.”

Carlos Marmol is gone but the Cubs bullpen continues to struggle. Chicago led 4-2 when Jason Bay walked to open the Seattle seventh and one out later, Wood was pulled for Carlos Villanueva. Zunino singled, and was forced at second on Brad Miller’s grounder, allowing Bay to score.

Nick Franklin doubled in the Mariners’ eighth against James Russell, and one out later, scored on Kendrys Morales’ double to close to 4-3. Raul Ibanez tripled to left past a diving Brian Bogusevic and Morales scored the tying run. Russell now is 0-for-5 in save opportunities.

“It was all set up for him against the lefties, turning the guys around, and he obviously, couldn’t get the ball down tonight,” Dale Sveum said.

With the game tied at 4 in the 10th, Blake Parker walked both Michael Saunders and Ibanez, and then exited. Shawn Camp entered, and the runners moved up on Bay’s sacrifice. Justin Smoak was intentionally walked to load the bases and Zunino lined a 3-2 pitch to center for the game-winning hit.

“I was just looking for something I could get up and elevate to the middle of the field,” Zunino said. “[Camp] usually throws a bunch of sliders so I was looking for one of those early. But he kept coming with the fastball, so with a 3-2 count I knew I had to stay aggressive. … With the infield playing in, I knew I got enough of it to get it through.”

Wood struck out six and walked two over 6 1/3 innings but did not get a decision. He is winless in his last five starts despite posting a quality start in each.

“Travis pitched a heck of a ballgame,” Sveum said. “It’s about as snakebit as you can get, getting him wins.”

The lefty ranks among the Major League leaders in quality starts, and has topped his 2012 season total, when he collected 14 of 26 outings.

“Things are going good in that aspect,” Wood said. “I feel I’m more advanced as a pitcher. I’m not just up there throwing. I have a game plan and how I want to attack hitters and the offspeed stuff is better and command is better. The arm side wasn’t there, and it made me battle.”

— Carrie Muskat

6/28 Extra bases

* Since his one-day “breather,” Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is 4-for-10, which is encouraging. Has manager Dale Sveum seen changes since Tuesday’s day off, Castro’s first of the year?

“Maybe a little attitude change,” Sveum said Friday. “I think the mechanics of his swing are probably the same. He’s mixed in some hits which are nice. That’s usually what gets you going sometimes.

“He’s still struggling a little bit with the fastball,” Sveum said of Castro, who was batting .234 overall. “The mechanics are the same. Hopefully, he keeps gradually understanding what he has to do.”

* Alfonso Soriano was the designated hitter for Friday’s Interleague game, and will likely handle that role in the Cubs’ six-game West Coast swing against the Mariners and Athletics. That means Ryan Sweeney and Brian Bogusevic will be getting the action in the outfield for the Cubs. The Cubs will have to figure out how to get everyone at-bats when David DeJesus returns from a sprained right shoulder. DeJesus was in Chicago, continuing his rehab.

“A couple of them might be part of our future, left-hand hitters who are better athletes, two-way players,” manager Dale Sveum said of Sweeney and Bogusevic. “We’ll work it out to figure out the playing time.”

Sveum will talk to Soriano about playing time if there’s a significant change for the 37-year-old outfielder.

“You’re not going to just do something like that to a guy who’s had that kind of career,” Sveum said. “I’ll have to figure out how to get these guys their at-bats with matchups, or whoever’s the hottest. A lot of times those things work themselves out.”

* Dioner Navarro has caught Matt Garza’s last three starts, and the right-hander has given up two earned runs in those games, but Navarro isn’t the pitcher’s personal catcher.

“It’s just how it all works out sometimes,” Sveum said Friday. “[Welington Castillo] has caught them all and everybody has had really good games. If you have that kind of fastball command — [on Thursday], Garza had his slider and his command. When you have that kind of outing, it doesn’t matter what’s going on behind the plate.”

Castillo is the Cubs’ regular catcher, and has started 57 games compared to Navarro’s 21.

* Scott Baker, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery one year ago, will throw his second simulated game on Saturday in Mesa, Ariz. His first outing was 20 pitches, and went well.

“Everything went good and the velocity was up there,” Sveum said of Baker. “We hope he keeps going in the right direction.”

The right-hander could be pitching for the Cubs by late August.

“He’s basically starting his Spring Training right now,” Sveum said. “The first day pitchers throw live, it’s basically like that [for Baker].”

* Steve Clevenger, sidelined since April 14 with a left oblique strain, was activated from the 60-day disabled list and optioned to Triple-A Iowa. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Zach Putnam (bone spur) was transferred to the 60-day DL.

— Carrie Muskat

6/28 Turn back the clock


Here’s the jersey the Cubs will wear on Saturday as part of a Turn Back the Clock day. It’s from 1909. Why 1909? We’re not sure.

6/28 Cubs lineup

Alfonso Soriano is the DH tonight for the Cubs and Dioner Navarro gets a second straight start in the first game of an Interleague series against the Mariners in beautiful Seattle. Here’s the lineup:

Valbuena 3B
Castro SS
Schierholtz RF
Soriano DH
Rizzo 1B
Sweeney CF
Navarro C
Bogusevic LF
Barney 2B

Travis Wood P

6/27 Ty Wright promoted

Outfielder Ty Wright was promoted from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa. Wright was batting .253 in 53 games after being placed on Tennessee’s roster on April 22. The right-handed outfielder collected 40 hits, eight doubles, three home runs and 19 RBIs. Wright started the 2013 season with the I-Cubs, where he hit .190 (8-for-42) with a pair of doubles and three RBIs. The Tyler, Texas native was selected by the Cubs in the seventh round of the 2007 draft.

6/27 Cubs 7, Brewers 2

Dioner Navarro belted a three-run homer to back Matt Garza and power the Cubs to a 7-2 victory Thursday over the Brewers to win their first series at Miller Park since Sept. 10-12, 2010.

Garza gave the many scouts in attendance something to think about. The right-hander, who seems to be the subject of trade rumors every season, now has given up two earned runs over 22 innings in his last three outings. Garza appeared to be in total command as he struck out 10, and did not give up a hit until Aramis Ramirez blooped a single to center with one out in the fourth. For the game, the right-hander scattered eight hits over seven innings.

It helps to get some offense. Ryan Sweeney singled to open the second against Wily Peralta, stole second, and moved up on a wild pitch before scoring on Brian Bogusevic’s perfectly placed double down the left field line. One out later, Darwin Barney dribbled a single to right to score Bogusevic.

Sloppy play by the Brewers in the third led to four more Cubs runs. Starlin Castro led off with a single, stole second and scored on a fielding error by left fielder Caleb Gindl, who muffed Sweeney’s fly ball. One out later, Bogusevic reached on an error by first baseman Juan Francisco, who couldn’t handle third baseman Aramis Ramirez’s throw, and Navarro followed with his seventh home run to open a 6-0 lead. All four runs in the inning were unearned.

Garza helped himself in the fourth, hitting his second single of the game before eventually scoring on Nate Schierholtz’s sacrifice fly.

6/27 Cubs sign 4th round pick

The Cubs have signed right-handed pitcher Tyler Skulina from Kent State University, the fourth-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft. So far, the Cubs have signed 18 players from the June draft, including four top-five picks, eight top-10 selections and 15 top-20 picks. Skulina, 21, went 6-4 with a 3.36 ERA in 15 games for the Golden Flashes. He walked 34 and struck out 102, for an average of 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. He was named a 2013 Louisville Slugger Pre-Season Second Team All-American after going 11-3 with a 3.77 ERA in 18 starts in 2012. The righthander sat out the 2011 campaign after transferring to Kent State from Virginia. He was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 46th round of the 2010 draft, but did not sign.

6/27 Minor matters

Iowa had Thursday off, and will return to action Thursday against Omaha.

Kyle Hendricks threw eight shutout inings in Tennessee’s 6-0 win over Jackson. Hendricks struck out six and walked one, giving up five hits. He’s now 8-2 with a 2.17 ERA. Christian Villanueva hit his eighth home run, and drove in two runs.

Daytona’s game at Tampa was postponed because of rain. The two teams will play a doubleheader on Thursday.

Gioskar Amaya hit his third home run, and Dan Vogelbach was 4-for-4 with a double in Kane County’s 5-4 loss to Beloit. Vogelbach was batting .276.

Jacob Hannemann had two hits and stole a base in Boise’s 4-3 win over Hillsboro in the first game of a doubleheader. In the night cap, David Bote had three hits and stole a base in a 3-2 loss.

Giuseppe Papaccio and Francisco Sanchez each had three hits in Mesa’s 6-5 win over the Athletics.

6/27 Extra bases

* Alfonso Soriano will play all six games on the Cubs’ West Coast Interleague trip to Seattle and Oakland, most likely as the DH.

“I like it, especially in a stadium when I can have a batting cage behind the clubhouse and the dugout, that’s good,” Soriano said Thursday. “Between innings, I can work on my swing and be ready with my at-bats.”

Soriano did not start Thursday against the Brewers, getting a second straight day off. The veteran outfielder was batting .245 overall, and .191 in 22 games in June with one home run and seven doubles.

“At my age, now I’m 37, I just hit for one week, it’s good,” Soriano said. “[Being the DH] the whole season, that’s totally different. But for six games, it’s not bad.”

* Starlin Castro was 2-for-5 on Wednesday in his first game back after a one-day breather, and could’ve had a third hit if Milwaukee third baseman Aramis Ramirez wasn’t hugging the line.

“Hopefully, that kind of game propels you moving forward and he can be the kid we all know he is,” manager Dale Sveum said of Castro.

* Reliever Blake Parker is experimenting with a new split change pitch.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Parker said. “I like it as a third pitch.”

Something’s working for the right-hander, who has thrown scoreless relief in seven of eight appearances.

— Carrie Muskat

6/27 Jorge Soler – UPDATED

Cubs prospect Jorge Soler has a stress fracture of his left tibia, and will be sidelined four to six weeks. Soler apparently fouled a ball off his leg in Spring Training, and the injury flared up. He will have to wear a walking boot, and will go to Mesa, Ariz., to rehab.

Theo Epstein says they are hopeful Soler can return to games this year, and want to have him play in the Arizona Fall League.

“If he gets back and plays again this year and can play in the Fall League, it should make up for [missed time],” Epstein said of Soler.

— Carrie Muskat