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4/10 Minor matters – Wednesday’s games

Carlos Pimentel struck out 10 over six innings to help Iowa beat Nashville, 6-1, on Wednesday. Pimentel gave up a solo homer in the second, but that was the only blemish. Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters each homered, and Javier Baez doubled and scored on Chris Coghlan’s sacrifice fly.

C.J. Edwards gave up one run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings in Tennessee’s 3-1 win over Chattanooga. Rafael Lopez hit a two-run double. Armando Rivero struck out three over 1 1/3 innings for his second save.

Albert Almora was 2-for-4 with two doubles in Daytona’s 1-0 loss to Dunedin in the first game of a doubleheader. In the second game, Dan Vogelbach hit his first home run of the season, a three-run blast, but it wasn’t enough as Daytona lost, 6-4.

Jacob Rogers hit a second inning solo home run in Kane County’s 7-4 loss to Fort Wayne. Shawon Dunston Jr. had two RBI.

4/9 Hot start

Emilio Bonifacio has not only provided a much needed spark for the Cubs offense but he’s made it very easy for manager Rick Renteria to fill out his lineup card. David DeJesus was the Cubs’ main leadoff man last season until he was traded. Others to bat No. 1 in 2013 included Starlin Castro, Luis Valbuena, Dave Sappelt, Junior Lake, Darwin Barney, and Julio Borbon. Bonifacio has led off all seven Cubs games this season, and provided stability at that spot.

“If you can have a leadoff guy who you can slot in, it’s really big,” Renteria said. “We’ve had a couple guys who have done it in the past — Starlin has done it, and Junior has done it. ‘Boni’ might profile more as a typical leadoff guy.”

Bonifacio is on a record-setting pace. According to Elias, he is the first big league player in the modern era (since 1900) to record games with one hit, two hits, three hits, four hits and five hits all within the team’s first seven contests of a season. Bonifacio‘s 17 hits are the most by any Cubs player in the team’s first seven games of a season in the last 100 years since 1914, according to STATS Inc.

– Carrie Muskat

4/9 Balls and strikes

Cubs closer Jose Veras appreciated manager Rick Renteria sticking up for him on Tuesday night. The rookie manager was ejected in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Jeff Nelson.

“You don’t want him to get thrown out, but he argued because they called bad pitches to [Welington] Castillo, too,” said Veras, who was on the mound in the ninth.

Castillo was called out on a questionable strike three to end the Chicago eighth.

“Every manager does what he feels he needs to do at a particular time,” Renteria said Wednesday. “It’s a feel thing. You don’t want to go out there and try to embarrass an umpire. They have a tough job. Sometimes when you’re watching a ballgame, you let loose, too, and you get ejected.”

Renteria was the first Major League manager to get ejected this season, which is not exactly something the rookie skipper wanted on his resume. He’s managed in the Minor Leagues. Was he ever tossed then?

“Oh, yeah,” Renteria said.

What sets him off?

“Any number of things,” Renteria said. “You have a lot of guys working extremely hard to do their job and you have a lot vested in the outcome and the umpires have a lot vested in what they do on a daily basis. We get emotional. We’re looking at the wins and losses. If I think things are kind of going awry, you try to address them, and last night, it just happened.”

Renteria argued a ball called on a 1-2 pitch to Jordy Mercer in the Pirates’ ninth.

“You just want to win the ballgame — I don’t want him to get thrown out,” Veras said. “I just want to finish my outing, have a good outing.”

Veras did just that, striking out one in one inning. He did not give up a hit or walk a batter.

“It’s going to be better,” Veras said. “That’s why we’re working. I’m not going to be perfect for a six-month season. It’s better to be struggling early than late. I’m going to be OK. I’m fine.”

– Carrie Muskat

4/9 Minor matters – Tuesday’s games

The Iowa Cubs managed four hits and struck out 14 times in a 4-1 loss to Nashville on Tuesday. Chris Rusin took the loss, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits over six innings. Eli Whiteside hit a RBI single in the fifth.

Tennessee had the day off and returns to action Wednesday against Chattanooga.

Daytona’s game against Dunedin was postponed because of the weather. The two teams were scheduled to play a doubleheader on Wednesday.

Kane County scored the winning run on an error by shortstop Franchy Cordero to beat Fort Wayne, 4-3, in 12 innings. Gerardo Concepcion, Tyler Bremer and Zack Godfrey combined to throw seven scoreless innings in relief. Jacob Hannemann was 2-for-5 with one RBI. The game marked the professional debut of 19-year-old Jen-Ho Tseng, who struck out five over five innings.

4/9 Cubs lineup

Jason Hammel makes his first start at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night as the Cubs play the Pirates in the second game of their three-game series. The Cubs will be facing Wandy Rodriguez for the second time this season, and beat him last week at PNC Park. If you’ve paid attention to Rick Renteria’s lineup, you’ll recognize this as the one he uses vs. left-handed starters. Here you go:

Bonfacio CF
Castro SS
Ruggiano RF
Rizzo 1B
Olt 3B
Lake LF
Castillo C
Barney 2B
Hammel P

4/8 Renteria 1st to get ejected

The Cubs’ Rick Renteria became the first Major League manager to be ejected this season when he was tossed in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Jeff Nelson. Managers do have access to expanded instant replay this year but cannot challenge an umpire’s calls on balls and strikes. Renteria was the first Major League manager to use instant replay, doing so in Pittsburgh on Opening Day. Told that he also was first to be ejected, he shrugged.

“OK,” Renteria said. “I don’t know if that’s very good, but OK.”

The Pirates led 7-6 in the ninth when Renteria complained from the dugout about a call on Jose Veras’ 1-2 pitch to Jordy Mercer. The pitch was called a ball, and Renteria felt it was a strike. Nelson apparently had heard enough, and signaled that the rookie manager was gone. Renteria came onto the field to discuss the matter further, but Nelson’s call was upheld.

What was the issue?

“That was between me and Jeff,” Renteria said.

“He’s a fiery guy,” Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson said of Renteria. “He’s going to stand up for his team. He’s going to speak for what he believes and fight for the guys in the clubhouse. He sees us out there battling. It’s part of the game.

“If I do a better job as a starter, going deeper, and keeping the score down, he doesn’t have to get to that point,” said Jackson, who gave up four runs in the first inning in the Cubs’ 7-6 loss to the Pirates.

– Carrie Muskat

4/8 It’s Hammel time

Jason Hammel has pitched in 215 games with the Rays, Rockies and Orioles, and Wednesday will be his first ever start at Wrigley Field. He will not step on the mound until he’s warming up for the game. He has been getting to know his way around the ballpark.

“I’ve just been getting a feel for it,” Hammel said of Wrigley. “I remember walking down the tunnel to come into the clubhouse the first time, I was confused. I’ve just been getting my bearings and a comfort level over the last three, four days and it’s been good.”

No matter what the weather is, Hammel won’t change his approach.

“If I’m trying to pitch to the weather, it’s not going to help me,” he said. “I need to stay with my game plan. Obviously, seeing the same team two times in a row will have an affect but I’ll see what adjustments they’ve made and then I’ll make adjustments off that.”

Hammel faced the Pirates last Thursday at PNC Park, and picked up the win, the Cubs’ first of the season.

“I’m going to have to see what they’re doing,” he said of the Pirates. “The hitters will tell you if they’ve made adjusments or if they’re seeing you well. It’ll probably work itself out in the first few innings.”

Game time temperature on Tuesday was 48 degrees. Hammel is OK with the cold.

“I’m actually more comfortable throwing in cold weather — not like this, not like 30-degree cold,” he said. “I sweat like a pig so I’d much rather pitch in a cold atmosphere than when it’s super hot out.”

– Carrie Muskat

4/8 To platoon or not

In the first seven games of the season, Cubs manager Rick Renteria has used a lefty-righty platoon at third base and the outfield with his lineup, and said he’ll continue to do that.

“At this point, we’re still allowing these guys the opportunity to use the splits that end up existing, righty-lefty,” Renteria said. “At some point, these guys will end up playing against both righties and lefties.”

So far, left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena, Ryan Sweeney and Ryan Kalish are starting against right-handers, while right-handed hitting Mike Olt and Junior Lake face the lefty starting pitchers. Emilio Bonifacio, a switch-hitter, usually switches to the outfield against southpaws.

At some point, though, Renteria said he will likely abandon the platoon. It depends on the player.

“It’s the seventh game of the season today,” Renteria said Tuesday. “As the season progresses, and I start to see them playing more and they have pinch-hit at-bats in the ballgame … a lot of those things are giving me a lot of information and feedback leading me to where we might ultimately go.”

Performance is key, he said.

“You might have someone say, ‘Well, I can’t perform unless I have four, five regular at-bats every single day,’” Renteria said. “The reality is every time you get an opportunity to hit, that’s an opportunity. How good the at-bat is, how the approach is — you don’t have to get a hit to have a good approach. It could be a productive at-bat without getting a hit. You take all those factors into play and hopefully make the right decision.”

– Carrie Muskat

4/8 The development of Javy Baez

The development of Javier Baez continued this past weekend, and Theo Epstein said the team’s top prospect got an important lesson, thanks to his teammates. Baez was hitless in his first nine at-bats at Triple-A Iowa, and ejected from Saturday’s game after arguing a checked swing third strike call. He reportedly exchanged words and had an altercation in the dugout with teammate Eli Whiteside.

“He had a nice conversation with a teammate and that was a good thing,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday. “It’s a tremendously great learning experience.”

Baez ended his hitless streak in style Sunday with a pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning.

“I think it was a great development and experience for him,” Epstein said. “He started out not feeling real comfortable at the plate and he let it frustrate him and he showed it on the field. His teammates, they know how good he can be and how good a teammate he can be and they called him out on it.

“He responded just the right way and took it to heart and came back the next day with a pinch-hit home run,” Epstein said. “He’s hit the ball hard in five straight plate appearances. He’s taking the responsibility of being a good teammate and taking it to heart. Experiences like that will just help him get where he needs to be.”

– Carrie Muskat

4/8 Cubs lineup

Starlin Castro stays in the No. 6 spot in the Cubs lineup for Tuesday night’s game against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. It’s the first game under the lights at the ballpark. Castro made his first start in the sixth spot on Sunday, and delivered a RBI double in the first. Edwin Jackson makes the start. Here’s the lineup:

Bonifacio 2B
Kalish LF
Rizzo 1B
Schierholtz RF
Valbuena 3B
Castro SS
Sweeney CF
Castillo C
E. Jackson P

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