Saturday, July 28, 2007

Some Cubs Notes

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CINCINNATI -- Kerry Wood joined the Cubs Saturday night at Great American Ball Park, but he's not ready to be activated for the big-league team. Not yet, at least.
Wood, who has been battling shoulder tendinitis, made his third rehab outing for Class A Peoria on Friday, and has pitched seven rehab innings over seven outings for that team and for the Mesa Rookie League team.
The Cubs want to be very conservative in Wood's rehab and avoid any setbacks, and he will likely make a few more Minor League outings, pitching more than one inning in at least one game. The right-hander could be a huge factor in the final two months of the season out of the bullpen.
"Earlier in the year, we were able to get some nice work out of our younger pitchers in the bullpen, and I'm talking about [Billy] Petrick and [Rocky] Cherry and whoever was here," manager Lou Piniella said. "Lately, that area is starting to leak a little bit. It's good to see Kerry throwing the ball well."
Cherry gave up two runs on one hit and one walk over one-third of an inning in Friday's 5-4 loss to Cincinnati.
At Mesa, Wood gave up two runs, one earned, on four hits and one walk while striking out five over four innings in four games. He pitched one inning in each outing, as he has done for Peoria. His totals in three appearances for the Class A team are one hit, one walk, three strikeouts and no runs.
"Let's keep our fingers crossed, and at the same time, let's monitor the situation carefully," Piniella said. "We're getting ourselves in a situation here where the months of August and September, they're experience months for pitching. If Kerry -- and I haven't seen the reports from last night -- but if he's on track, I don't see any reason why we can't get him here sooner rather than later."
Wood did start four games last season for the Cubs in his comeback year from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, and was able to pitch this spring before being shut down with tendinitis.
Cleanup hitter: Mark DeRosa was pretty pumped before Saturday's game because he was listed in the fourth spot for the first time since his college days with the University of Pennsylvania baseball team. He would've been the eighth player to hit fourth for the Cubs this season, joining Aramis Ramirez, Cliff Floyd, Michael Barrett, Derrek Lee, Matt Murton, Jacque Jones and Daryle Ward.
"It's nice to see an Italian last name in the four-hole," DeRosa said.
However, Piniella made a late switch half an hour before the game and Floyd was inserted into the No. 4 spot and DeRosa dropped to fifth. Murton was scratched from the starting lineup and replaced by Floyd.
Ramirez, who has a tender knee, was given Saturday off, part of the Cubs' plan to rest him from time to time, and DeRosa was to have subbed for him. Ramirez and Lee, who was hitting third, walked past the lineup card as DeRosa stared at it. Both teased DeRosa.
"When you see a guy batting fourth, he's the home run threat, ribbies [RBIs]," DeRosa said. "The best hitters on the team hit three or four. I guess I'm one of them. For a day. And on my daughter's birthday, too."
Hopefully, daughter Gabriella had a good day.
Backstop: Piniella still plans on alternating Jason Kendall and Koyie Hill behind the plate. Kendall did catch back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, but that was to keep Hill aligned with Carlos Zambrano, who is starting on Sunday.
"I'm going to catch whoever is swinging the bat," Piniella said. "This alternating thing seems like a fairly good idea unless somebody gets hot. Also, we have a pretty good winning percentage when Hill catches. I'm aware of that, too."
The Cubs are 15-6 with Hill behind the plate, and the pitchers have a 2.51 ERA. Saturday was Kendall's eighth game since he was acquired from the Oakland Athletics. He did come through with a game-tying RBI single in the ninth inning on Friday.
"Gerald [Perry] has been his batting coach the past two places," Piniella said of Perry, who worked with Kendall in Oakland and in Pittsburgh. "By sitting him from time to time, Gerald can get more work with him."
Penmanship: The Cubs want to watch the starting pitchers' pitch count, and have lifted Zambrano and Ted Lilly a little early to keep them strong for the second half. But Jason Marquis and Rich Hill each lasted just five innings in the last two games, and the Cubs bullpen has had to pick up the slack.
"What we need is for our starting pitching to go a little deeper in the ballgame," Piniella said. "We've had two five-inning starts on this road trip. It puts a little bit more of a strain on things. As long as they go into the seventh, we're in pretty good shape."
No one is overworked, Piniella said, but he did admit they were running into "a couple leaks."
"We're starting to struggle a little bit, that's all I'm trying to say," he said.
Despite using six relievers on Friday, the Cubs' 285 relief appearances rank third-fewest in the National League.
Extra bases: The Cubs entered Saturday's action ranked 13th in home runs with 82. "Home runs are probably down all over baseball," Piniella said. "It is somewhat surprising that 16 home runs leads our team. I'm interested in winning baseball games, not how many home runs we have." ... WGN Radio's Pat Hughes missed his third straight game because he was battling a bout of food poisoning. ... Looking ahead to the Cubs' homestand against Philadelphia, they will start Lilly on Monday followed by Marquis, Hill and Sean Marshall. ... Both the Aug. 5 game against the Mets and the Aug. 19 game against the St. Louis Cardinals have been picked up by ESPN and will be begin at 7:05 p.m. CT.
Minor matters: Geovany Soto hit a two-out, three-run homer in the fifth in Iowa's 7-6 loss to Colorado Springs on Friday. Buck Coats had three hits and one RBI. ... Kyle Reynolds had four hits, including a two-run homer and a three-run blast, in Tennessee's 14-1 win over Carolina. ... Jeff Samardzija gave up six runs on 12 hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings while striking out six in Daytona's 6-2 loss to Jupiter. ... Jeremy Papelbon gave up five runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings in Peoria's 6-2 loss to Dayton. ... Dustin Sasser gave up one earned run on three hits over five innings in Boise's 6-3 win over Vancouver.
On deck: Zambrano will close this series on Sunday against the Reds, seeking his 14th victory. He has yet to beat the Reds in two starts this year. First pitch is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. CT and the game will be broadcast on WGN.

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