X-rays were negative of Luis Valbuena’s right hand. He had to leave Saturday’s game after jamming his right pinky finger sliding into third base in the fifth inning. Valbuena wasn’t scheduled to start Sunday against lefty Gio Gonzalez, and would likely be able to pinch hit, Dale Sveum said.
With one out in the fifth against the Nationals, Valbuena doubled to right but was tagged sliding into third trying to stretch his hit. Cody Ransom took over at third base in the sixth. Valbuena was batting .272 with five home runs and 13 RBIs.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs may have taken Ian Stewart off the 40-man roster, but they are hoping the third baseman can get back on track and contribute. Stewart missed all of Spring Training because of a strained left quad suffered in the first intrasquad game, Feb. 21. After his Minor League rehab time ended, Stewart was activated from the disabled list, and then optioned to Triple-A Iowa. In 15 games, he was 4-for-46, while Luis Valbuena has done well playing third for the big league team.
“We’ve been really patient with him,” GM Jed Hoyer said Saturday of Stewart. “Early in the rehab, you take numbers with a grain of salt, but I think later on, I think you’ve got to perform, especially with Valbuena doing what he’s doing. We’d be jumping up and down to get that kind of performance out of a third baseman. Valbuena has earned that job.”
Stewart, though, now seems to be behind Josh Vitters on the Iowa depth chart at third. Hoyer said it would be a “disservice” to not play Vitters, who was the team’s No. 1 Draft pick in 2007.
Does Stewart have a future in the Cubs organization?
“I’m not sure,” Hoyer said. “I hope there is. I do think there’s a lot of talent there. It’s been an unfortunate run with the injuries. He’s a left-handed hitter with power who plays good defense. I hope there’s a future here but at this point, it’s going to be about performance. We want him to perform.”
– Carrie Muskat
GM Jed Hoyer likes how the Nationals have built their team with good Draft picks and smart trades. The Cubs are trying to get there.
“You look at the Reds, you look at the Cardinals, you look at [the Nationals] and we’re not there from a talent standpoint,” Hoyer said Saturday. “Some of these clubs offer a nice blueprint. You look at [the Nationals] as to where they were in ’08, ’09, ’10, and where they are now, and it shows you the value of young talent and they’ve done a nice job mixing veteran guys with that [young] talent. Right now, I want to see us compete with these guys on the field. You look at how they built their team but at some point, I want to beat them.”
The Cubs are in last place in the Central division, and appear headed for another overhaul at the Trade Deadline.
“The things we need to solve offensively are pretty clear,” Hoyer said. “Our starting pitching has been good enough to be a contender. The bullpen has not been, defense has not been … and the offense hasn’t been.”
So, what can the team do?
“We can play better and win a lot more games,” Hoyer said. “We need to win series. We need to win more games to not be in that position.”
The Cubs GM doesn’t want to overhaul the roster again. He’d rather they were in contention.
“We don’t want to be a seller, that’s not a position you want to be in,” Hoyer said. “But if you are in that position, you want to take advantage of it. You hope you’re looking to buy. It’s a lot more fun.”
– Carrie Muskat
* The Cubs have made 30 errors, most in the Major Leagues, and they have led to 19 unearned runs, tied with the Astros for most in the Majors. The Cubs also have committed an error in a season-high seven straight games for the first time since a nine game stretch, July 9-20, 2011.
Cubs pitchers have made eight errors. The Diamondbacks as a team have combined for eight errors.
* So far, 33 of the Cubs’ 35 games (94 percent) have been decided by four runs or less, and 28 of those games (80 percent) have been determined by three runs or less. More than half of the Cubs losses have been by two runs or less.
* Anthony Rizzo is tied for the NL lead and tied for third in the Majors with 19 extra-base hits. The Cubs’ 117 extra base hits lead the NL.
– Carrie Muskat
Brooks Raley gave up eight runs on 11 hits over four innings in Iowa’s 11-1 loss to Colorado Springs. Logan Watkins drove in Iowa’s only run, and stole a base.
Rubi Silva hit a home run but it wasn’t enough as Tennessee lost, 5-4, to Birmingham. Eric Jokisch gave up five runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. Matt Szczur had two hits and a stolen base, and Christian Villanueva also had two hits.
Daytona’s game vs. Dunedin was suspended in the third inning because of rain and was to resume on Saturday as part of a doubleheader.
Tayler Scott gave up one run on four hits over 5 1/3 innings in Kane County’s 2-1, 10-inning win over Burlington in the first game of a doubleheader. Felix Pena gave up two hits and struck out six over six innings in a 4-1 win in the second game. Rock Shoulders and Bijan Rademacher each homered. For Shoulders, it was his seventh of the season.
The Cubs are scheduled to face hard throwing right-hander Stephen Strasburg on Saturday at Nationals Park. Here’s the lineup:
E. Jackson P
* Starlin Castro was the Cubs’ leadoff man Friday by default.
“It’s just kind of process of elimination, really,” manager Dale Sveum said of his lineup against Nationals lefty Ross Detwiler. “The two choices were him and [Cody] Ransom, and having Ransom in the lineup, hopefully, he’ll hit a home run and I’d like him to do it with somebody on base.”
David DeJesus is the Cubs’ leadoff man against right-handed pitchers and Sveum was using outfielder Dave Sappelt there against left-handers but Sappelt was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Monday after batting .178 in 20 games with the Cubs. The other possibility against southpaw starters is Julio Borbon, Sveum said.
“He’s one of those hitters where he’s going to be the same hitter no matter where you put him in the lineup,” Sveum said of Castro.
Castro was looking forward to the switch.
“I like it,” Castro said. “Wherever he puts me, I’ll do my job.”
* When Kyuji Fujikawa last pitched for the Cubs in mid April, he was the closer. On Friday, the Japanese right-hander was activated from the 15-day disabled list and won’t be used in the late innings, Sveum said.
“We’ll ease him in right now to make sure everything is good — velocity, command, life,” Sveum said. “We’ll ease him into whatever situation, sixth, seventh inning, depending on the score of the game, obviously.”
Said Fujikawa: “Who knows what role I’ll play in? Whatever the manager says, I’ll pitch in that role.”
Fujikawa, 32, has been sidelined since April 13 with a strained right forearm. In five relief appearances with the Cubs before he was injured, Fujikawa was 1-0 with two saves and a 12.46 ERA. He did not like being sidelined.
“I let the team down, so I would like to contribute more,” he said.
* Edwin Jackson caught up with his former teammates on the Nationals prior to Friday’s game. On Saturday, it’ll be all business when the Cubs right-hander faces Washington and Stephen Strasburg.
“It’s going to be fun,” Jackson said. “I get to face 98 [mph] tomorrow. I talked to ‘Stras’ and told him I’ll be ready to swing it. Once the game starts, it’ll be no friends and they’ll be trying to get me and I’ll be trying to get them.”
Jackson signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cubs in the offseason and enters Saturday’s game 0-5 with a 6.39 ERA.
“It’s been a slow start, to say the least,” he said. “It’s not exactly how I had it envisioned. I feel good mentally, physically. I’m ready to go. I’ll continue to work hard and continue to grind out the season and finish strong.”
* The Cubs traded infielder Alberto Gonzalez to the Yankees for future considerations. Gonzalez made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, primarily to help in the infield while Darwin Barney was on the disabled list. In 11 games with the Cubs, he was 5-for-23 (.217).
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs open a three-game series against the Nationals in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Jeff Samardzija gets the start while the Nats counter with lefty Ross Detwiler. Starlin Castro is batting leadoff for the first time this season. Here’s the lineup:
* In 74 games as the leadoff man, Castro has a .319 average, .362 OBP, .459 slugging. He’s a .297 hitter batting second, .282 batting third, .296 batting fifth.
* The Cubs are 7-4 against teams that finished below .500 last year, and 6-17 against winning clubs.
* The Cubs batting .273 in 18 games at Wrigley Field; .207 in 16 road games.
* The Cubs did win eight of first 10 games at Nationals Park, but have gone 1-7 in the last eight games.
* Travis Wood (.179), Scott Feldman (.200), Carlos Villanueva (.209), and Jeff Samardzija (.210) rank third, seventh, 11th and 13th in the National League in opponents batting average.
– Carrie Muskat
Darnell McDonald hit a solo home run but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost 5-1 to Colorado Springs on Thursday. Drew Carpenter gave up three runs on six hits over five innings, striking out six. Brett Jackson, activated from the DL Thursday after missing time because of a turf toe, went 2-for-4. Brad Nelson also had two hits.
Rafael Lopez and Jonathan Mota both homered in Tennessee’s 9-7 loss to Birmingham. Alberto Cabrera gave up six runs on 13 hits over 4 1/3 innings, striking out five.
Javier Baez had two hits, including a double and a triple, and stole a base in Daytona’s 4-3 win over Dunedin. Baez was batting .244 overall. P.J. Francescon gave up three runs on eight hits over five innings and did not get a decision. Dustin Geiger had two hits and raised his team-leading RBIs total to 29.
Kane County’s game against Burlington was postponed because of rain. It’s the Cougars’ 10th postponement this year.
The Cubs activated Kyuji Fujikawa from the 15-day disabled list, and optioned pitcher Rafael Dolis to Triple-A Iowa. Fujikawa, 32, has been on the DL since April 13 with a strained right forearm. In two rehab games, he threw three scoreless innings, giving up one hit and walking one while striking out two. On Wednesday, he needed 16 pitches to throw two scoreless innings for Double-A Tennessee.
In five relief appearances with the Cubs before he was injured, Fujikawa is 1-0 with two saves and a 12.46 ERA.
Dolis, 25, did not give up an earned run in two relief appearances over two games with the Cubs. He had a 3.52 ERA in eight appearances at Iowa.
In other roster moves, reliever Kameron Loe was given his release. He was designated for assignment on Monday.
– Carrie Muskat