July 2013

7/28 Minor matters

Saturday’s games

Barret Loux gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings in Iowa’s 5-0 loss to Oklahoma City. Edwin Maysonet had two of Iowa’s four hits.

Kyle Hendricks gave up one earned run on six hits over seven innings in Tennessee’s 6-3 win over Huntsville. Justin Bour homered for the fourth straight game, while Christian Villanueva added his 14th, Rubi Silva hit his 13th and John Andreoli hit his second. Hendricks picked up his 10th win, and has a 0.73 ERA with 32 strikeouts in his last six starts, giving up three earned runs over 37 innings.

Dustin Geiger had three hits and two RBIs to help Daytona beat Palm Beach, 6-0. Jeffry Antigua threw three scoreless innings. C.J. Edwards makes his Cubs debut Sunday.

Dan Vogelbach hit his 15th home run in Kane County’s 4-1 loss to Peoria. Tayler Scott took the loss, giving up four runs over five innings. Rock Shoulders had two hits, including a double.

Kris Bryant collected his third hit in his last three games in Boise’s 3-1 loss to Spokane. Daniel Lockhart had three hits and scored a run. James Pugliese started, and gave up one run over six innings.

Jeffrey Baez had three hits and Greg Rohan and Charcer Burks each had two hits in Mesa’s 7-1 win over the Diamondbacks. Anthony Prieto gave up two hits over four scoreless innings.

7/27 Cubs 1, Giants 0

Chris Rusin won’t forget Saturday’s game. The Giants won’t forget Nate Schierholtz. Rusin threw seven scoreless innings and Schierholtz homered off his former teammate, Sergio Romo, with one out in the ninth inning to lift the Cubs to a 1-0 victory over the Giants, and take a 2-0 lead in the series.

The Giants tested the Cubs in the eighth and ninth innings. In the eighth, San Francisco loaded the bases with none out against Pedro Strop, who got Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval to each hit into a fielder’s choice, forcing runners at home. He then struck out Hunter Pence. The inning didn’t begin well as Strop didn’t handle two bunts cleanly.

“He was like Houdini out there — I liked it,” Rusin said of Strop.

In the ninth, the Giants loaded the bases with one out against Kevin Gregg, who got pinch-hitter Tony Abreu to hit into a slick 3-2-3 double play.

“It was an exciting game,” Schierholtz said. “It reminded me of playing here when we played one-run games every night. They’re nail-biters.”

The Cubs could’ve easily given up on the season when the front office started dealing players. Instead, they’ve been playing their best baseball of the season.

“We’ve got a lot of guys in here who don’t give up,” Schierholtz said. “One of the things they instilled in us in Spring Training is hard work and running balls out and not ever letting up. That’s one of the biggest things a winning team does. You don’t have to have the best players to win championships, and I learned that here,” he said. “It’s just been fun. We go out there loose with nothing to lose. It’s a fun, young group of guys and we all get along great.”

With one out in the Chicago ninth, Schierholtz launched a 3-2 pitch from Romo into the seats in right. The outfielder had played his entire career with the Giants until last year when he was sent to the Phillies at the Trade Deadline. He signed as a free agent with the Cubs with the promise of regular playing time, and delivered.

“I can’t really describe it, but it felt good,” Schierholtz said. “It’s great to get that win and it’s good to come in here and get the first two.”

He’s on a roll since the All-Star break, going 10-for-25 with three home runs, four doubles and nine RBIs. It’s helped that he was able to give a sore shoulder some rest during the break.

Rusin retired the first 13 batters he faced before he walked Pence with one out in the fifth. One out later, Joaquin Arias singled up the middle for the Giants’ first hit.

San Francisco had a runner at third with two outs in the seventh, but first baseman Anthony Rizzo robbed Brandon Belt of a potential extra-base hit and RBI with a perfectly timed leaping catch to end the inning.

“That was big,” Rusin said. “I was really pumped up after that. Right when it left the bat, I thought, ‘Man, I left one up’ and then Rizzo went up and got it.”

Said Sveum: “When things go good, you usually have those kind of breaks and if not, you usually miss things by an inch.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/27 Congrats

Congratulations to Cubs assistant athletic trainer Matt Johnson and wife Rachel on the birth of their son, Sam Mark Johnson. Matt took a red eye flight from Phoenix to Cleveland and arrived in time for the delivery. Sam checked in at 5 pounds 12 ounces, and everyone is doing great.

7/27 Extra bases

* Dioner Navarro seemed a good candidate to fill the fourth spot in the Cubs’ lineup Saturday against southpaw Madison Bumgarner. Navarro was 17-for-33 (.515) against left-handed pitching. Manager Dale Sveum is mixing and matching in that spot in the lineup following Alfonso Soriano’s departure via trade.

“[Navarro’s] numbers against left-handed pitching are as good as anybody,” Sveum said.

* Shawon Dunston Jr. was batting .328 at Class A Boise, and had more walks (18) than strikeouts (15) in 33 games. That’s the opposite of what his father, former Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston, would do. In his 18 year career, Shawon senior struck out 1,000 times and drew 203 walks. Dunston now is a coach on the Giants staff. What gives?

“First, he hits left-handed,” said Dunston of his son. “The patience is from my wife.”

* Carlos Villanueva will start the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Brewers and Jake Arrieta will be called up to pitch in the night cap. Arrieta was currently on Triple-A Iowa’s staff. Teams can add a 26th player for a doubleheader.

— Carrie Muskat

7/27 “Silly rumors” re: Samardzija

Players were razzing Jeff Samardzija on Saturday about being the latest Cubs pitcher to be highlighted in trade rumors, which manager Dale Sveum tried to squash. According to FOX Sports’ and MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are listening to offers for Samardzija, 28, although the asking price would be high. The right-hander, who has a 3.94 ERA in 21 starts, has two arbitration years remaining.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Sveum said about dealing Samardzija. “We have control of a guy for 2 1/2 more years. I think think somebody had to throw something out there and was bored and put some silly rumor out there,”

Samardzija didn’t have any inside information.

“We’re in the position where we do what we’re told and go where we’re supposed to go,” Samardzija said. “Obviously, we know when we pitch. I don’t have a no-trade clause or anything like that but I know I’m stil protected and under control for a couple more years. It’s out of my hands, out of my control.”

When Samardzija was drafted in 2006, he signed a five-year, $10 million deal. He had a no-trade clause in that deal and didn’t realize it’s value at first.

“When I had it, and I got to the big leagues and got a feel of what was going on and got a feel for the business side of things, it was an excellent thing to have,” he said. “It allowed me to get situated in the big leagues, know I wasn’t going anywhere, and it put us and the front office on the same page. I knew personally that I was going to be there, no matter what, and I was going to make it work. It also shows your commitment to the team and the city and that you want to be here through and through and that you’re committed to this team.”

His original contract included club option years for 2012 and ’13, and the Cubs declined his option for 2012, and renewed his contract that year at $2.64 million. This year was his first arbitration year, and he avoided arbitration and signed a one-year, $2.64 million deal.

It’s not about the money, he said.

“I don’t put any importance on money anyways,” he said. “Your numbers in baseball speak for themselves. That’s what makes your money, that’s what does everything. … However you perform is how you get paid.

“Money isn’t driving what I do,” he said. “Competition and competing is driving what I do and winning is driving what I do. That’s what it’s all about.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/27 Cubs lineup

Dioner Navarro is batting fourth for the Cubs against lefty Madison Bumgarner in game 2 of this weekend series against the Giants. Here’s the lineup:

Lake CF
Ransom 3B
Rizzo 1B
Navarro C
Castro SS
Schierholtz RF
Gillespie LF
Barney 2B
Rusin P

7/27 Could Samardzija be next?

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are listening to offers for Jeff Samardzija. But Rosenthal says the asking price is high. The 28-year-old right-hander has two arbitration years remaining. He’s compiled a 3.94 ERA in 21 starts this season with a 9.1 strikeout/per nine innings ratio. Theo Epstein has said no player is untouchable, but it would take quite a package to pry Samardzija loose. With the trade of Alfonso Soriano, Samardzija has the longest tenure with the Cubs among players on the 25-man roster.

7/27 Minor matters & roster moves

Friday’s games

* Justin Grimm gave up seven runs on eight hits and two walks in two innings in Iowa’s 10-6 loss to Oklahoma City. Donnie Murphy, Edgar Gonzalez and Brad Nelson each had two hits. Gonzalez drove in four runs. Barret Loux gets the start Saturday.

* Christian Villanueva, Rafael Lopez and Justin Bour each homered in Tennessee’s 9-8 loss to Huntsville. Villanueva had three hits, and Bour homered for the third straight game. Lopez was 3-for-3 with three RBIs.

* Matt Loosen served up six hits over five scoreless innings in Daytona’s 4-2 win over Palm Beach. Loosen has given up two earned runs over 32 innings in his last five starts, and was promoted to Double-A Tennessee on Saturday.

* Felix Pena gave up one run over six innings in Kane County’s 4-1 win over Beloit. Wilson Contreras homered, and Marco Hernandez posted his second straight three-hit game. Reggie Golden had two hits and one RBIs.

* Kris Bryant hit his first professional home run, a three-run shot in the third, and Rob Zastryzny gave up one run on four hits over two innings in Boise’s 9-1 win over Spokane. For Bryant, it was a nice game after going 0-for-5 in his first game with Boise, striking out five times.

“It felt great to get it out of the way, that first one, no matter what level, is the hardest,” Bryant told reporters in Boise. “My parents were here, home debut — that was pretty fun.”

The second player taken overall in the June Draft, Bryant hit 31 home runs in his final season for the University of San Diego.

“It can only get better from here, and that [first] game might wind up the worst I ever have, so maybe I can look back at it and have a good laugh,” he said.

Bryant says he has lots to work on.

“I expect a lot of myself, but I’m not going to pressure myself to hit a home run every day,” Bryant said. “If I did that, it’d be pretty boring. It’s a game where you get out more often than not, you fail and fail, then when you succeed, it tastes so good. College was last season, so to do anything like that at this level would be pretty amazing.”

* Jesse Hodges hit his second home run, a solo shot in the fourth, in Mesa’s 13-4 loss to the Angels. Carlos Rodriguez gave up eight runs in 1 2/3 innings and took the loss. Brett Jackson was 0-for-4 in his second rehab outing.

Roster moves

* The Giants traded for right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, 29, who was pitching at Triple-A Iowa. Moscoso compiled a 3.38 ERA and 1.094 WHIP with the Athletics in 2011, and was then traded to the Rockies for Seth Smith. He struggled at Coors Field, and was claimed on waivers three times over the winter, ultimately by the Cubs. In 17 starts at Iowa, he was 7-5 with a 3.93 ERA.

* The Cubs have promoted reliever Chang-Yong Lim, 37, to Triple-A Iowa, one of a series of roster moves. On Friday, reliever Eduardo Sanchez was promoted to the big league team, and outfielder Dave Sappelt was added to Iowa’s roster. Lim, a native of South Korea, signed a two-year Minor League contract in December. He has a 2.45 ERA in 10 games in the Cubs Minor Leagues.

7/26 Cubs 3, Giants 2

Two runs scored on an error by Giants first baseman Brandon Belt with two outs in the ninth to give the Cubs a 3-2 victory Friday night. Trailing, 2-1, against Sergio Romo, pinch-hitter Julio Borbon singled and pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro walked. One out later, Junior Lake reached on a fielder’s choice, forcing Navarro at second. Rizzo then lined the ball to right, through Belt’s legs, for an error. Borbon and Lake scored.

“It’s just a routine ground ball,” Belt said. “I did what I’ve always done in that situation. … That wasn’t the only mistake I made. Looking back on it, it cost us the game.”

The other blip came in the seventh. More on that later.

The Cubs picked up their 24th win on the road, one more than they won all last season away from Wrigley Field.

“Yes,” Sveum said emphatically. “And a lot more west of the Mississippi [River].”

Edwin Jackson did not get a decision but continued his much improved second half. He struck out five and did not walk a batter in the first six innings. Second baseman Darwin Barney made a great diving stop on Buster Posey’s hard-hit grounder and threw him out to begin the seventh. Jackson then walked Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence doubled down the left-field line.

Belt was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Jeff Francoeur blooped a single to right, driving in Sandoval and Pence. That’s when Belt’s other mistake occurred. He thought about scoring, but Jackson, who had his back to the action on the field, got a break as the throw went past him, bounced off the wall and back to the pitcher, who made the tag.

“Jackson wasn’t even looking,” Belt said. “He had no idea where the ball was.”

Sometimes, things do work in the Cubs’ favor.

“I think he was frustrated,” Sveum said of Jackson. “The ball fell in, and he might have lost concentration there. You saw where the ball was and he ended up making the play.”

Catcher Welington Castillo yelled at his pitcher to get his attention but probably couldn’t be heard over the crowd of 41,797 at AT&T Park. What happened?

“I stopped to not run into Sandoval,” Jackson said. “When I stopped to not run into him, I went around him. By the time I could turn around, the ball was coming at me, and right in front of me. Sometimes the ball bounces in your favor, and sometimes it doesn’t. … It’s a crazy game. That was something that worked in our favor.”

It’s not a good idea to run into Sandoval.

“He’s a big man,” Jackson said. “Nobody wants that collision at home like that.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/26 Theo says timing was right

Theo Epstein said Alfonso Soriano helped make the trade go smoothly.

“As far as these things go, this was relatively seamless to where we were able to monitor the market, give him an idea of what teams might be interested,” Epstein said. “When we explained why we thought it was the right time, and why it would be good for him, and good for the Cubs, he listened and took it to his family and made a decision that I think in the end was the right one.”

The Cubs dealt Soriano to the Yankees on Friday for Class A right-hander Corey Black.

Now, the Cubs do not have a player with a no-trade clause in their contract.

“I don’t look at this as a watershed moment, or a transformative moment at all,” Epstein said. “It was simply the right time for Sori to move on and open up some at-bats for Junior Lake and when [Ryan] Sweeney and [Brian] Bogusevic come back from injury, now that [David] DeJesus is back from injury, we have a chance to find out about left-handed bats and some on-base skills and see who might be in the mix for next year. It was just the right time for this particular move.”

Soriano’s eight-year, $136 million contract was the largest ever given to a Cubs player. Could they do another one? It depends on the player

“I’m of the belief that you’re never one player away,” Epstein said. “The single biggest factor in whether or not you have a chance to legitimately contend is the overall health of the organization.”

“We’re focused on building a healthy, productive, effective organization with a robust farm system, getting those players through the farm system to the big league level and gaining competitiveness that way rather than chasing one player who might make a difference.”

That doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t acquire impact players through free agency; they just won’t build their plans around that.

“We’ll know when the timing is right,” Epstein said.

— Carrie Muskat