Results tagged ‘ Luis Valbuena ’

5/12 Cubs notebook

* Last year at the Trade Deadline, the Cubs were sellers. That may be the case again this year if they don’t rally. GM Jed Hoyer said he feels there’s still time for the Cubs to get on track. Sveum agrees.

“We’ve lost so many games we’ve had control over,” Sveum said Sunday. “We know this record could be flip-flopped with a little better play because the pitching has kept us in so many games.”

The Cubs have 21 quality starts, yet have won eight of those games. Thirty-three of their 36 games have been decided by four runs or less, and 28 have been decided by three runs or less.

However, the Cubs are in rebuilding mode, and Sveum knows what that means.

“You know things like that are possible and you weigh all the options and what’s best for the organization,” Sveum said. “Those are things you have to do sometimes. It’s not that easy to see Dempster and Maholm go somewhere else but it is part of the game. We’re trying to ge this thing completely healthy.”

* Luis Valbuena was able to play catch and hit in the batting cage on Sunday, one day after spraining the little finger on his right hand sliding into third base. Valbuena was not in the lineup against Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez, but was available to pinch-hit, manager Dale Sveum said. Valbuena was not expected to go on the disabled list. With one out in the fifth Saturday, Valbuena doubled to right but was tagged sliding into third trying to stretch his hit and jammed his hand on the bag. X-rays showed no fracture, and Valbuena received treatment. He was batting .272 with five home runs and 13 RBIs this season.

* Matt Garza will make at least one more Minor League rehab start, and possibly two, after his abbreviated outing on Saturday. Garza gave up three hits and walked two over 3 1/3 innings Saturday for Double-A Tennessee in his third Minor League rehab start, throwing 66 pitches, 40 for strikes. He struck out two.

“He felt great and everything, but not real efficient,” Dale Sveum said Sunday. “Right now, we have to get him built up to get to the fourth, fifth and hopefully sixth inning.”

Garza will be in Chicago this week when the Cubs return for a three-game homestand against the Rockies, and make his next start for Triple-A Iowa.

It will be tough to eliminate one of the starters from the mix. Edwin Jackson is the only pitcher who has struggled, and he’s not a candidate to move to the bullpen.

“It ain’t going to be easy,” Sveum said about moving one of the starters. “Part of it sometimes, when you have these decisions … it’s a good problem to have, but for the individual, nobody deserves it. They’re pitching perfectly fine. It isn’t going to be the easiest thing to do.”

* With an off day scheduled for Thursday, the Cubs will not tweak their rotation but keep everyone on schedule, Sveum said. Travis Wood, Carlos Villanueva and Jeff Samardzija will face the Rockies in a three-game series at Wrigley Field that starts Monday.

— Carrie Muskat

5/11 Valbuena hurts hand – UPDATED

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

5/2 Extra bases

* Kyuji Fujikawa, on the disabled list with a strained right forearm, threw his second bullpen on Thursday and the next step could be a rehab outing with Triple-A Iowa on Sunday.

“His command and everything was much better,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the right-hander. “Everything looked a lot crisper than the other day [in his first bullpen].”

Fujikawa could start the Minor League game to make sure he gets one inning of work. However, the Cubs do want to have him pitch in relief to get into his normal routine in preparation for his return.

* Cubs third basemen have combined for seven home runs in 27 games, most in the Major Leagues, and more than half of the entire season total in 2012. Luis Valbuena has hit five and Cody Ransom two so far. Last season, Chicago third basemen combined for 12 home runs.

* Starlin Castro moved down from the No. 2 hole to fifth for the second straight game, but Sveum said the move was more to take advantage of Ransom’s numbers against left-handed pitching. Castro is the Cubs’ No. 2 hitter.

“I see [Castro] as a two-hole hitter,” Sveum said of the Cubs shortstop, who has a career .303 average batting fifth and a .299 average batting second. “When everything is set correctly, he’s really a two-hole hitter. A lot of times you’d like a left-handed hitter there to hook the ball, and right-handed catchers have trouble throwing when a left-handed hitter is in the batter’s box.

“On our team right now, he’s a two-hole hitter,” Sveum said. “Obviously, he’s a hand-eye coordination guy who will put the ball in play and doesn’t walk much so maybe he’s more apt to hit at the bottom or the order because he can hit into some double plays and things like that. For the team we have now, he’s the second hitter.”

Ransom was 6-for-16 with three home runs against left-handed pitchers so far; Castro was batting .206 against left-handed pitching.

— Carrie Muskat

4/22 Reds 5, Cubs 4

Every loss is tough to take, but Monday hurt a little more for the Cubs because they did nearly everything right. Cesar Izturis hit a walkoff RBI single with two outs in the 13th to spark the Reds to a 5-4 come from behind victory over the Cubs, who had taken a two-run lead in the top of the inning on Luis Valbuena’s two-run home run.

“We battled all game,” Travis Wood said. “They’re a good ballclub over there and their guys did what they needed to do to pull out a win.”

Valbuena connected off Alfredo Simon in the 13th, scoring Welington Castillo, who had reached second on an error by third baseman Todd Frazier. For once, it looked as if the Cubs’ could capitalize on another team’s mistakes.

But Xavier Paul singled to lead off the Reds’ 13th against Michael Bowden, and advanced to third on a double by Brandon Phillips that right fielder Dave Sappelt missed.

“In my mind, I knew I had to make a web gem to win the game,” Sappelt said. “I came up short.”

Paul and Phillips both scored on Jay Bruce’s double into the gap in right center. Did Cubs manager Dale Sveum consider walking Bruce?

“I did,” Sveum said. “I didn’t want to put the winning run on the base and he hadn’t been swinging that good anyway.”

One out later, Izturis lined a single over shortstop Starlin Castro for the game-winner.

“I’m proud of the way they played today,” Sveum said. “They had good at-bats all night long, played good defense, pitched, and came up short. [The Reds] hit the ball hard the last inning. Besides the one blooper that fell in and changed things, other than that, they swung the bats there. No walks — they swung the bats to beat us.”

The Cubs had opportunities, stranding 12 runners in the game.

“It’s hard to be down,” Wood said about the loss. “It’s easy to be down, but also hard to be down. It’s not like we’re getting blown out every game. We’re right there. We just have to come together as a team and figure out how to pull them out.”

Fifteen of the Cubs’ 18 games now have been decided by three runs or less, and the Cubs are 4-11 in those close games.

“They are tough just because you know you’re doing everything you can and for some reason the ball isn’t going our way,” Wood said. “You just have to hang in there and ride it out. Tides will turn.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/19 Stewart has setback

Third baseman Ian Stewart will open the season on the disabled list. An MRI showed a pocket of fluid in his left quad, which he had drained on Tuesday. The Cubs will see how he responds to treatment over the next several days, and then expect to have a better timetable for his progress. Stewart said he felt something in his leg during the Minor League game last Thursday, and wasn’t sure if that aggravated his left quad. There’s stil pain, and he hasn’t been on the field since. On Monday, he tried to work out.

“I just tried to run, and can’t run, can’t get through the running part,” Stewart said. “That’s really the last hurdle. I can hit, take grounders, I just can’t run.”

Is he upset, frustrated?

“I would say frustration, because I can pretty much do everything somewhat pain-free without being able to run,” Stewart said. “I know what it’s like to play through pain and that’s what’s hard about this is I can’t get through the pain because it’s just too much.”

Luis Valbuena was expected to start Opening Day, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Brent Lillibridge appears to have made the team. He’s “too valuable a commodity,” Sveum said of the versatile Lillibridge, who can play all infield positions and the outfield.

— Carrie Muskat

3/17 Stewart running out of time

Ian Stewart is running out of time to get ready for the regular season. The Cubs third baseman will undergo another MRI on his left quad because there’s been some lingering soreness, which has kept him from running the bases and out of games. Stewart injured his leg Feb. 21 during an intrasquad game, and did not play again until March 14 in a Minor League game. He has been unable to get into another game since.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Stewart told the athletic trainers that the latest problem isn’t a setback. However, the reality is the Cubs have two weeks remaining before Opening Day, April 1.

“I don’t know if he’s got enough time,” Sveum said Sunday. “It’ll be interesting.”

Stewart was limited to 55 games last season before of a sore wrist, which needed surgery. That hasn’t been a problem this spring. Whether Stewart is ready for April 1 will affect how the Cubs put together their bench. Brent Lillibridge and Luis Valbuena can play third, as well as Edwin Maysonet and Alberto Gonzalez.

“It just comes down to what do you want in that spot,” Sveum said. “[Steve] Clevenger’s obviously a guy who could be interesting, [and we’re watching] all the waiver wires.”

Clevenger made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster last year as the backup catcher but on Saturday played first and third. He could be an emergency third baseman, plus give Sveum more options with double switches.

Others in the mix for the bench spots include non-roster invitees Darnell McDonald, Brian Bogusevic, and Dave Sappelt, all outfielders.

“It all depends when we sit down and really hard core look at it, what is our need, how does the pitching set up with the other team, who’s their closer, set-up guys, left-handed guys,” Sveum said.

— Carrie Muskat

3/16 Roster moves

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Saturday he hasn’t given general manager Jed Hoyer a wish list of what he needs heading into the season, adding that he’s comfortable with the position players on the roster. When the Cubs made their mid-March trip to Las Vegas last year, they didn’t know they would add reliever Shawn Camp and infielder Luis Valbuena, both acquired in late March. Camp was the Cubs’ first-half MVP last year, and Valbuena took over at third when Ian Stewart was injured.

“The thing you’re doing is always looking to get better, whether it’s a player here or a player there, bullpen spot, left-handed reliever,” Sveum said. “You’re always just looking.”

The Cubs also feel better about their pitching depth this year compared to 2012. Last year’s Rule 5 Draft pick, Lendy Castillo, was trying to make the leap from Class A to the big leagues. This year’s Rule 5 pick, Hector Rondon, was the Indians Minor League pitcher of the year in 2009, and has pitched in 105 Minor League games. Castillo had pitched in 45, and was a converted infielder.

“Last year, we went into the last week with so much youth in the bullpen and question marks with how [Kerry Wood] was going to be health-wise — and obviously that didn’t turn out too good — and we didn’t have any depth,” Sveum said. “It was almost a necessity to pick up Camp, and he had a great year. It was more a durable arm, a guy who could throw strikes.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/5 Can Stewart get ready in time?

Ian Stewart was able to hit, take ground balls and jog on Tuesday, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum admitted there isn’t much time for the third baseman to get ready for the start of the season.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s a big question,” Sveum said when asked if Stewart had enough time to make the roster for the April 1 opener. “There just aren’t that many at-bats. You have to be productive in those at-bats. [Luis] Valbuena is playing and doing a real good job.”

Valbuena took over the third base job last year after Stewart needed to undergo surgery on his left wrist. This spring, Stewart doubled in his first at-bat in an intrasquad game Feb. 21, and pulled up because of a sore left quad. He has not played since and the hope is that he will get into a Cactus League game in one week.

Last season, Stewart batted .201 in 55 games before he was shut down. The Cubs do need more production at third base, and would like Stewart to have a repeat of 2009 when he hit 25 home runs and drove in 70 runs.

“Hopefully it all comes together because by the time he gets on the field, you’re looking at 20 to 30 maybe regular at-bats [this spring],” Sveum said. “We’ll probably send him down to hit in a Minor League game and have him leadoff every game.”

If he’s not ready, Valbuena would start at third. He batted .219 last year with the Cubs, but hit .306 this winter in Venezuela.

— Carrie Muskat

2/23 Cubs 11, Angels 2

Luis Valbuena led off the second inning with a home run, Junior Lake added a solo shot, and the Cubs scored five runs in the third to post a 11-2 victory Saturday over the Angels in the Cactus League opener in Tempe. Logan Watkins tripled to open the third and scored two outs later on Scott Hairston’s single. Brett Jackson hit his second triple of the game, driving in two, and Welington Castillo and Brent Lillibridge each hit RBI singles.

Lefty Travis Wood gave up one hit, walked one, and struck out two in two innings in his first start. Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon gave up one hit in one inning in his Cubs debut. Dontrelle Willis, who is in the Cubs’ Minor League mini camp and has not pitched in the big leagues since 2011, was on the travel squad, but did not pitch.

— Carrie Muskat

2/23 Stewart out 10-14 days

An MRI shows Ian Stewart has a mild to moderate quad strain, and he could be sidelined 10 to 14 days.

“I got the MRI [Friday] and that’s just kind of a vague timetable right now just to see how things progress,” Stewart said Saturday. “I feel like it’s progressing pretty good today. I woke up today and didn’t feel as much stiffness as I had.”

He injured his left quad while turning around first base after hitting a double in his first at-bat Thursday in an intrasquad game.

“Hopefully, it’s not that long [that he’s sidelined] and it’s a precautionary length,” he said.

Cubs manager Dale Svem has said Luis Valbuena could be the option at third if Stewart isn’t healthy. Does this hurt Stewart’s chances?

“I would hope not,” Stewart said. “I feel like I was brought back to be a part of the team and to help this team and I feel like I can do that. This is unfortunate but I think if this was toward the end of camp or the middle, it may be a different story. It is disappointing because I put all that work in in the offseason and my wrist is good and had that first good at-bat of camp, even though it was the first intrasquad. My confidence is so high on my ability that this is a little road block that hopefully doesn’t last the amount of time they said and I can get out there sooner.”

Stewart signed a $2 million non-guaranteed contract, but he says he’s not thinking about the terms.

“If I didn’t think I could come back here and be a part of the team, there’s no sense in me coming back,” he said. “I have all the confidence in the world. I came back to be a part of the Major League team. I’m not even thinking about that right now.”

— Carrie Muskat