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

4/8 Minor matters – UPDATED

* Christian Villanueva hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the sixth to back Tsuyoshi Wada and lead the Iowa Cubs to a 4-1 victory over Nashville on Monday. Wada retired 20 of the 24 Sounds hitters he faced, struck out eight and walked one over 6 2/3 innings. He did serve up a second inning home run to Eugenio Velez.

Nashville starter Ariel Pena took a no-hitter into the fifth, when Iowa finally scored. Brett Jackson snapped an 0-for-12 start with a triple and he scored on Eli Whiteside’s single. The Iowa Cubs rallied off reliever Kyle Heckathorn with two outs in the sixth. Matt Szczur walked and Chris Coghlan singled to set up Villanueva’s first home run.

Blake Parker struck out two in the ninth for the save. The I-Cubs stole four bases. On Tuesday, the two teams square off again as Chris Rusin makes his second start against Mike Fiers.

* Michael Lorenzen struck out seven over seven scoreless innings as Pensacola beat Tennessee, 3-2. Lorenzen had a perfect game through four, and Dustin Geiger broke up the no-hit bid with a single to start the fifth. Geiger also hit a home run in the ninth. Smokies starter Matt Loosen gave up three runs on six hits over five innings.

* Rock Shoulders had two hits, including a double, and two RBI but it wasn’t enough as Daytona lost 5-4 to Brevard County. Jeimer Candelario also had two hits, including a triple, and one RBI.

4/7 Join Rizzo at “Cook Off for Cancer”

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will host his second “Cook Off for Cancer” on May 16 at Revel Downtown, 440 W. Randolph, Chicago. Fans can join Cubs players and coaches as they serve upscale ballpark food prepared by some of Chicago’s top chefs. Fans will vote for their favorite chef or dish by tipping the Cubs server. The list of chefs participating include:

Tony Priolo, Piccolo Sogno
Doug Tomek, Uncle Dougies
Guiseppe Tentori, GT Fish and Oyster
Mario Hernandez, Del Frisco’s
Doug Psaltis, RPM Italian
David Burns, Levy Restaurants
Joseph Heppe, Untitled 111
Molly Johnson, Limelight Catering
Cosmo Goss, Publican
Joseph Farina, Joe’s Fish
Lee Ann Whippen, Chicago q

Tickets are $200 person, or $1,200 for a table. To purchase a ticket or make a donation, visit Cubs.com/Cook

4/7 Minor matters

* Chris Valaika hit a walk-off RBI single to lift Iowa to a 4-3 win over Memphis on Sunday. Iowa erased a 2-1 deficit when Javier Baez hit a pinch-hit home run in the seventh. It was his first Triple-A hit in 10 at-bats. Eric Jokisch started, and gave up two runs, none earned, on six hits over seven innings. Josh Vitters was 3-for-4.

The home run for Baez came one day after he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. Baez’s frustration carried over into the dugout where he and catcher Eli Whiteside were involved in an altercation, according to the Des Moines Register.

“I was mad, he was mad, everybody was mad,” Baez told the Des Moines Register. “We argued a little. Nothing personal.”

Baez talked to Whiteside on Sunday, and patched things up. Baez is aware of the high expectations on him.

“I don’t really care about what other people think,” he told the Des Moines Register. “I’ll do my job and I’ll do the best I can for my teammates and for the team.”

* Dustin Geiger hit a solo home run in the ninth but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee lost 3-2 to Pensacola on Sunday. Geiger was 2-for-3. Ivan Pineyro started, and gave up two runs over four innings.

* Daytona was off on Sunday and scheduled to return to action Monday against Brevard County.

* Quad Cities scored five runs in the seventh to beat Kane County, 7-3. Juan Paniagua started and gave up two runs on three hits and four walks over four innings.

4/6 Cubs 8, Phillies 3

Ryan Kalish drove in three runs to help the Cubs beat the Phillies, 8-3, on Sunday at Wrigley Field. It was Kalish’s first multi-hit effort since he had two hits Sept. 3, 2012, at Seattle. Starlin Castro, inserted in the No. 6 spot, delivered in a four-run first with a RBI double. Carlos Villanueva picked up the win in his first start, giving up one run on six hits over five innings. He had to work to get out of some jams, too.

* Emilio Bonifacio collected his 14th hit, tops in the Major Leagues.

* The Cubs had scored eight runs in their first five games combined.

* Wrigley Field had its first replay challenge when Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg challenged Chase Utley getting called out at first in the fifth inning. The play was confirmed.

* Kalish is back after undergoing cervical fusion surgery on his neck. He was injured in a collision with an outfield wall and said he’s not going to be charging into Wrigley Field’s walls any time soon.

“I’m not going to go full speed into this one here,” Kalish said. “That’s brick.”

* Catcher John Baker wanted No. 12 on the Cubs. That’s the same number Dusty Baker wore.

“I thought if I took it, there might be some cool t-shirts left over with ‘Baker’ on them,” Baker said.

* Next up: After an off day Monday, the Cubs play host to the Pirates at Wrigley Field Tuesday night, kicking off a three-game series. Edwin Jackson is scheduled to start.

– Carrie Muskat

4/6 Leadoff man

After Sunday’s game, the Cubs play host to the Pirates, starting Tuesday. Can the Pirates contain Emilio Bonifacio? He was 11-for-16 in the three games at PNC Park.

“He’s actually a ball of energy,” Rick Renteria said Sunday of the leadoff man. “He’s talking in the dugout all the time. He’s a ball of energy we appreciate having. The conversations in the dugout have been pretty good. All the games we’ve played, guys are talking about the right things and there’s good energy in there. The outcome hasn’t been what we wanted but everybody is still preparing to do what they can to help us have success.”

Even Renteria doesn’t think his leadoff man can keep up the pace.

“It would be impossible for us to believe he would maintain the clip he had through the Pittsburgh series but when he gets to the plate, he tries to work the count, he tries to get on, and when he gets on base, he wants to wreck havoc on the pitchers and the opposition,” Renteria said. “It’s good for him to be part of our club.”

– Carrie Muskat

4/6 Castro hits 6th; hopes for RBI chances

Starlin Castro has batted second and third so far this season, but on Sunday, Cubs manager Rick Renteria dropped the shortstop to the sixth spot in hopes the shortstop could drive in some runs. The Cubs entered Sunday’s game 4-for-40 with runners in scoring position in their first five games.

“It’s good, because we haven’t scored any runs,” Castro said of the switch. “That’s why I’m going to try to do something to get some more runs. It’s good. I feel good. That’s a RBI position. Maybe we’ll have men on base in scoring position.”

Renteria also wanted to take advantage of Castro’s .409 average against Phillies starter A.J. Burnett. The Cubs shortstop is 9-for-22 in his career against the right-hander.

“Maybe we’ll have a lot of guys on base and we’ll see if [Castro] can go ahead and put himself in a position to drive in runs,” Renteria said.

The Cubs manager didn’t talk to Castro before posting the lineup.

“He’s not a guy I worry about,” Renteria said.

Castro understood the switch.

“We haven’t scored runs,” Castro said. “I take [batting sixth] in a good way. We’ve left a lot of people in scoring position. I know Ricky is trying to do something.”

– Carrie Muskat


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