Results tagged ‘ Josh Vitters ’

8/30 Vitters’ growing pains

Luis Valbuena started at third base for the Cubs on Thursday, and may be getting more playing time in the final month than Josh Vitters, which is a switch from Dale Sveum’s plan a short time ago. Vitters was batting .093 (5-for-54) with 19 strikeouts and hitless in his last four games.

“I’ll still mix and match,” Sveum said. “You might see Valbuena in there a little bit more. We’re just giving Vitters some time to kick back here now and see what happens. You’re trying to evaluate but you’re trying to win ballgames at the same time. We’re having trouble scoring runs, period, so the at-bats — Valbuena is getting on base, he’s swinging the bat well, playing good defense.”

Sveum admitted it’s a change from earlier.

“I have shifted gears a little that way because we’re not getting anything out of that position,” Sveum said. “A guy who hasn’t struck out much is striking out quite a bit and not making contact. We’re just going to evaluate and keep plugging along to determine what do we have and moving forward and evaluating these guys in situations that hopefully they’re going to succeed.”

Vitters is working hard, getting extra time in the cage with hitting coach James Rowson.

“I can hit at the Major League level now,” Vitters said. “There’s always adjustments that need to be made. I’m working on making strides to be where I need to be next year.”

Part of that is developing a game plan every at-bat and sticking to it, plus trusting himself. He was batting .304 at Triple-A when called up on Aug. 5 but said he wasn’t consistent.

“It’s the same story now,” he said. “I’m hoping the hot part comes or I can find a way to be more even through the whole season.”

His splits at Iowa: .261 in April, .284 in May, .324 in June, .301 in July. His strikeout numbers did increase — he went from 10 in 20 games in April to 29 in 27 games in July.

 – Carrie Muskat

8/27 Cubs lineup

Josh Vitters is back in the Cubs lineup, playing third, as they open a four-game series against the Brewers. Milwaukee has had the edge this season, posting a 10-3 record so far. This week is their last meeting of the year. Justin Germano takes the mound. He lost to the Brewers last Monday at Miller Park, giving up seven runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus RF

Vitters 3B

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Castro SS

Clevenger C

Jackson CF

Barney 2B

Germano P

– Carrie Muskat

8/21 Cubs lineup

Chris Rusin makes his Major League debut Tuesday night for the Cubs against the Brewers. The lefty will be the 16th rookie to play for the Cubs this year, and 10th player to make his ML debut this season on the team. Of the 16 rookies, he is the ninth rookie pitcher. The Cubs last had more than 10 players make their ML debut in the same season in 2010 when 11 did so, including 10 prior to Sept. 1. The nine rookie pitchers is the most in the NL and tied for fourth most in the Majors with the White Sox, trailing the Athletics (11), Tigers (10) and Blue Jays (10). Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus RF

Vitters 3B

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Castro SS

Castillo C

Jackson CF

Barney 2B

Rusin P

 – Carrie Muskat

8/20 Vitters keeps learning

Josh Vitters and Darwin Barney were intently studying the video of Monday’s game in the clubhouse. They weren’t replaying Vitters’ first Major League home run but examining the rookie third baseman’s throwing technique. It’s all part of the learning process for the young Cubs, who lost, 9-5, to the Brewers. The Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2007, Vitters hit his first home run with two outs in the fifth to open a 3-1 lead. He entered the game with three hits in 33 at-bats, including one double, and launched a 3-2 pitch from Mark Rogers (1-1) over the left-field fence.

“It felt really good,” Vitters said. “It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been more.”

Vitters has been described as a fastball hitter. The good news for the Cubs is he connected on an off-speed pitch.

“He was hammering me with breaking balls all day so it was nice to finally make the adjustment and get to one,” Vitters said.

A pastor from a Lutheran church who is a huge Cubs fan apparently caught the ball and returned the souvenir to Vitters hoping to get a chance to sing the national anthem before a game at Wrigley Field in exchange. Vitters got the ball. We’ll have to wait and see if the pastor sings.

Dale Sveum, who is more of a teacher than manager this season, was happy for Vitters but then reminded the media of the day’s lesson: productive outs. In the first, David DeJesus doubled but Vitters struck out rather than advance the runner.

“That’s what they’re here for — to see Major League breaking balls and evaluate them to go to the next step,” Sveum said of the young roster.

And learn how to be better defensively. Vitters owes first baseman Anthony Rizzo lunch after saving a couple of his throws. That’s what prompted Barney’s post-game tutoring.

“Barney’s a veteran guy, which sounds weird, but it’s awesome — what better guy to get advice from than one of the better second basemen in the game?” Vitters said of Barney, 26, who is leading the National League in fielding percentage in his second full season at second.

“They’ve been through everything,” Vitters said of the few veterans. “I love getting [tips], feeding off it. There’s always stuff to work on. That’s what I focus on is things I need to improve on.”

– Carrie Muskat

8/20 Cubs lineup

Justin Germano opens the Cubs’ three-game series in Milwaukee Monday night against the Brewers. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus RF

Vitters 3B

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Castro SS

Castillo C

Jackson CF

Barney 2B

Germano P

* On Saturday, Starlin Castro recorded his 20th stolen base after swiping 22 bases in 2011. He’s the sixth Cubs shortstop to record multiple 20-stolen base campaigns, joining: Joe Tinker (11 times), Ivan DeJesus (5 times), Shawon Dunston (4 times), Ryan Theriot (3 times) and Charlie Hollocher (2 times). Castro is batting .348 (16-for-46) with a .943 OPS in his last 12 games, hitting safely in 10 of those contests, after going 0-for-19 in five games, Aug. 3-7.

* Carlos Marmol has successfully converted his last 14 save opportunities dating to May 2, pitching to a 0.68 ERA (1 ER/13 1/3 IP) in those games. He was successful in a career-best 18-straight save situations, Aug. 21, 2010-April 2, 2011, which included 17-straight converted save opportunities to close out the 2010 campaign. Marmol has a 1.42 ERA in 13 relief appearances in the second half of the season.

* Left-handed pitcher Alex Hinshaw, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers from the Padres, was not expected to join the team Monday. Hinshaw was 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 31 relief appearances with the Padres.

* Expect Chris Rusin to start Tuesday night for the Cubs, which would be his Major League debut. Rusin posted a 2.63 ERA in his first five starts of the season, giving up eight earned runs over 27 1/3 innings. He struggled in June, but in his last three starts, has given up four earned runs over 18 2/3 innings. Overall, he’s 8-8 with a 4.59 ERA in 24 starts, striking out 87 over 133 1/3 innings and walking 52. In his last start Aug. 15 against Tucson, he threw six shutout innings, giving up four hits in the win.

– Carrie Muskat

8/14 Cubs lineup

Chris Volstad will try for his first win since July 2011 on Tuesday when he takes the mound against the Astros in the second game of this three-game series. Dale Sveum said Tuesday during an appearance at the WGN Radio “Cubs Corner” that Josh Vitters should get more playing time. Sveum wanted to see Vitters at third to gauge for himself how the third baseman is doing. Vitters is in there Tuesday. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus RF

Vitters 3B

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Castro SS

Castillo C

Jackson CF

Barney 2B

Volstad P

– Carrie Muskat

8/13 Cubs lineup

Josh Vitters is starting at third and batting second Monday night for the Cubs as they open a three-game series against the Astros at Wrigley Field. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus RF

Vitters 3B

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Castro SS

Castillo C

Jackson CF

Barney 2B

Samardzija P

– Carrie Muskat

8/13 Monday morning quarterback

When a Cubs player has a tough time, Dale Sveum often calls it a “hiccup.” This month has been one big hiccup. Getting caught up after a tough weekend vs. the Reds …

* What happened? After a winning July, the Cubs are 1-10 in August, and batting .199 this month with a .300 slugging percentage. They’re averaging 2.8 runs per game, and have been out-scored 55-31, out-hit 104-71, and out-homered 11-5.

The pitchers have posted a 5.01 ERA, and opponents were batting .277 against in the last 11 games. The starters are 0-8 with a 4.48 ERA with six quality starts (Dates: 8/4, 8/6, 8/8, 8/9, 8/11, 8/12), while the bullpen has a 6.21 ERA, giving up 20 earned runs over 29 innings. Teams are batting .346 against the Cubs bullpen this month.

* 3B Josh Vitters was expected to start two of the three games against this week the Astros. Dale Sveum says Vitters, who has made three starts, is a good fastball hitter, which should serve him well in the big leagues.

* What’s surprising about the offensive slump is that the players dealt at the Trade Deadline (Reed Johnson, Jeff Baker, Geovany Soto) weren’t exactly forces in the Cubs lineup. Here are August numbers so far:

Anthony Rizzo .209 (9-for-43)
Darwin Barney .250 (10-for-40)
Starlin Castro .163 (7-for-43)
Steve Clevenger .143 (2-for-14)
David DeJesus .216 (8-for-37)
Brett Jackson .150 (3-for-20)
Alfonso Soriano .189 (7-for-37)
Bryan LaHair .176 (3-for-17)
Luis Valbuena .261 (6-for-23)

* August numbers for the bullpen …

Shawn Camp: 6 Gs, 8 ER, 4 2/3 IP, 15.43 ERA
Carlos Marmol: 4 Gs, 1 ER, 4 IP, 2.25 ERA
James Russell: 6 Gs, 3 ER, 5 IP, 5.40 ERA (.440 batting average against)

* On the plus side, congrats to Tim Wilken, who was director of amateur scouting and named a special assistant to GM Jed Hoyer.

* Keep an eye on: Double-A Tennessee first baseman Justin Bour now has 100 RBIs, and was batting .300. He’s batting .341 in August with four home runs and 15 RBIs. Bour is the first player in the Southern League to drive in 100 runs in a single season since 1999. Bour is the first player in the Cubs Minor League organization this year to reach 100 RBIs.

– Carrie Muskat 

8/10 Cubs lineup

Here’s a lineup that should make everyone who wants to see the kids play happy. Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo are all starting.

DeJesus RF

Barney 2B

Rizzo 1B

Soriano LF

Castro SS

Vitters 3B

Jackson CF

Castillo C

Germano P

* The Cubs are 14-5 in their last 19 games at Wrigley Field, dating to June 25, good for a .737 home winning percentage. That’s third in the majors in that span, behind only the Tigers (16-5/.762) and Reds (15-5/.750).

The Cubs’ .538 winning percentage (28-24) at Wrigley Field is .262 points higher than its .276 winning percentage (16-42) on the road. That’s the largest difference in home and road winning percentage in baseball.

* Alfonso Soriano hit his 20th home runs on Thursday, a game-winning two-run shot in the eighth. It’s his 11th-straight 20-home run campaign, and he joins David Ortiz and Albert Pujols as the only players to record 11 consecutive 20-home run seasons, including this year. Soriano joins Hall of Famer Andre Dawson as the only players to hit 20 or more long balls in each of their first six seasons with the Cubs.

– Carrie Muskat

8/8 Welcome to Wrigley

Thursday night will mark the Wrigley Field debuts for Cubs’ top prospects Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.

“The fans are probably curious to look at the guys who all the hype is about,” Dale Sveum said. “I would think they’re very excited to see all these guys. There’s no mystery now as to what’s going on with the team. As a fan myself, you’re always like, ‘I want to see that guy play.’ I would think they’re probably chomping at the bit to see some of these guys, too.”

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have stressed the need to find impact players. Could Jackson and Vitters be those guys?

“They could be impact players,” Sveum said. “All you want in an organization is the thought of guys who could be impact players. What they do at the big league level is sometimes up to them, and how they do the adjustments.”

What Sveum likes is that Jackson and Vitters have the tools needed.

“They’ve gone through the development,” he said. “Now it’s just being able to develop at the big league level and do things. These guys can be impact players. They’re two-way players. That’s the one thing you want is a two-way player who can hit balls out of the ballpark, who can run balls down, who can throw, who can steal bases. These guys are hard to come by. You hope with the organization and where we’re at now, these are the guys who have to come through now.”

– Carrie Muskat

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