Eyre to DL; Ascanio to Chicago; Injury updates all around

Quick hitter here with updates on the 50 million injured Cubs courtesy of a tidy little article up on Cubs.com today:
  • Scott Eyre was placed on the DL today. To take his place the Cubs recalled Jose Ascanio from Iowa. The move reinforces what would have been a limited bullpen. Eyre is expected to miss about another week recovering from the strained left groin he suffered his last time out (his neck is probably also still sore from watching balls fly around the ballpark).
  • Ryan Theriot also set out his 2nd consecutive game on Saturday due to a bruised and swollen right hand. When asked, Lou Pinella would not comment on how he sustained the injury. But Mark DeRosa said he "jammed" it. Must not be a big deal though-DeRo was joking that Theriot was simply trying to protect his BA so he could make his first All-Star game.
  • Carlos Zambrano continued his way back from the DL by throwing off flat ground again Saturday. Z is planning to throw on the side on Sunday. He's still looking to make a start July 4th in the STL.
  • Alfonso Soriano's hand continues to heal nicely per x-rays taken Friday. Sori has rejoined the team and it sounds like he's just a few days away from beginning "baseball activities."
  • Reed Johnson took BP for the 2nd straight day today-he's on track to be activated on Thursday. He better hurry-because w/ Edmonds and Fukudome also dinged up, and Felix Pie in Arizona, we could be in trouble at CF if someone gets hurt.

A Trip Around the Minors...

Felix Pie-DL

Rich Hill-DL

Kevin Hart-DL

Bonus-Jason Dubois is off to a typical Jason Dubois in Iowa-type start. He's hitting .280 with 8 HR's in 75 AB's. His OPS is over 1. I actually feel sorry for this guy...if the Cubs played in Des Moines and faced AAA pitching, he'd be an all-star.

Tyler Colvin-Colvin BA got a boost this week, thanks to a 7 for 25 week (a .280 BA). He added 2 doubles, a triple and a HR to go along with 5 RBI's. He also made it through the week with only striking out twice. His once strikeout per game ratio is now down to a strikeout about 4 out of 5 games (which doesn't sound like much, but is a significant improvement).

Donnie Veal-Veal pitched only once this week (he's slated to start tonight) and it was a typical Veal performance. While he rendered 6 hits and 3 walks over 5 innings, he only gave up 1 earned run. The only un-Veal like statistic was that he didn't strike out a batter. Veal isn't a huge strikeout pitcher, but he does strike out about 7 batters per 9 innings.

Jose Ceda-Ceda has been working out of the 'pen since being promoted to Tennessee about 10 days ago. He has only given up one run in his four appearances, covering 6 and 2/3 innings. He has already amassed 12 K's in that short span. I know I mentioned this when Daytona moved him to the 'pen, but I really think Ceda's future is as a reliever.

Bonus-Since being called up to Tennessee about a month ago, Wellington Castillo (NDFA, 2004) has shown the Cubs organization that he deserved the promotion. In 17 games behind the dish, Castillo is hitting .321 with 3 HR's. His .554 slugging percentage is tops on the Smokies.

Tony Thomas-Rumor is that Thomas may be headed to Tennesse, but until we hear word of that, let's look at his stat's for the week. There isn't much to report on him, or on almost any of the Daytona roster, as they have had a bunch of rainouts this week. Thomas played in 4 games, including both games of a doubleheader, and went 4 for 15 (.267). He managed 5 RBI's and 3 runs in those 4 games.

Bonus-Billy Muldowney (8th round, 2006), added to Daytona about 3 weeks ago, has made 3 starts for Daytona and all have been excellent. While he's only pitched 14 and a 1/3 (not start lasting longer than 5 innings), he's given up only 2 earned runs (1.26 ERA). His WHIP is an impressive 0.70 and he's struck out 10.

Josh Donaldson-Donaldson's slow start is officially over. He hit .304 over the past 7 days, bringing his average up to .221. He added 4 runs this week, or roughly 15% of the total number of runs he's scored all season. After hitting roughly .200 for the first two months of the season, it's nice to see the Cubs supplemental first round pick of 2007 rebounding.

Bonus-I have been impressed with the Chiefs bullpen all season, so much so that I thought Dae-Eun Rhee was part of it. He's not, but his numbers seem like they are. The South Korean in his first full season in the Cubs system has a 1.22 ERA and 0.95 WHIP this season in 9 starts, going 4-1. Until he gave up a single run in his start on Tuesday, Rhee had not been scored upon in 14 innings over his previous 4 starts.

Josh Vitters-After a slow start sent him back to Arizona, Vitters has re-emerged at Boise and may be playing with a chip on his shoulder. In the first 10 games of the Hawks season, Vitters is hitting .341 with 3 doubles and 2 triples, leading the team with 21 total bases. He has a hit in every game but the opener, a game in which he walked and had an RBI. If this continues for much longer, Vitters may be back to Peoria.

Bonus-Rebel Ridling (25th round, 2008) is batting .414 in his first ten days, and yes his real name is Rebel. He instantly becomes one of the best names in baseball. The Hawks 1-sack has played in two fewer games than Vitters, but has managed to hit 5 doubles and an HR, giving him 20 total bases. He also has 11 RBI's.

Murphy's Bleachers

I agree with results of the last poll. The best place to get "warmed" up for a Cubs game is Murphy's Bleachers. One of the few spots in the area that all you to liquid up indoors and outdoors. If you are going to the game in the Bleachers no better place to feed that hunger.

Murphy’s Bleachers is located directly across the street from Wrigley Field on the corner of Waveland and Sheffield. This is across from the bleacher entrance thus the clever name.
If you get there early enough try to grab a table outside near one of the beer vendors...

The "L" Flag, Zambrano & Fukudome injuries. Lou, & some signings

It's just 2 losses. Everybody chill out. We're still 33-10 at home. Would any of us not taken that mark through our first 43 games at home before this season started? That's what I thought. Now, let's write about some junk:
  • Anyone else hate the idea to no longer fly the "L" flag above Wrigley after losses? There's no legit reason to change this great tradition that has been around since 1917. Just another PC-ification of our society, I guess. Like not keeping score in tee ball games anymore. Boo to that. Save the "L" flag!
  • Carlos Zambrano began throwing off of flat ground yesterday-the first time he's done so since leaving his June 18th start with a shoulder injury. Z is expected to have a bullpen session on Sunday assuming the shoulder reacted well to the side session. Baby Bull is also pining to pitch in the All-Star game coming up in a few weeks, saying he wants to help the Cubs get home field advantage for the World Series. Easy, Bull. Easy.
  • Kosuke Fukudome sat out his second straight game in yesterday's loss to the Orioles. The decision is still being described as "precautionary" to rest Fuku's strained calf. The club is now blaming the injury on playing on the artificial turf in Toronto and Tampa Bay. C'mon guys...the players on those teams play 1/2 their games every year on that turf. They don't have to sit out 2 games for every 6 they play. Edmonds and now Fuku both claim the turf "injured" them. C'mon. Fukudome "may" return for the Sox series this weekend per the article.
  • BP's Will Carroll says Fuku was trying to play through the mild strain but, while it wasn't affecting him at the plate, it was beginning to slow him down a bit in the field. Carroll expects Fukudome to be ready to go starting today.
  • Lou Pinella is headed to the All-Star Game. Pinella was named to the coaching staff replacing the recently (brutally) fired Willie Randolph from the Metropolitans. Lou's pretty jacked up about it: "I'm happy that they asked," Piniella said Thursday. "I look forward to going to New York. It'll be the last time I'm in Yankee Stadium. I played there, I managed there, coached there, I was a general manager. It'll be fun for me, and I'm appreciative that I was asked, and I'm looking forward to helping Clint Hurdle out in any way I can."
  • The Cubs have inked 26 draft picks. That list includes Cubs sandwich round pick Ryan Flaherty out of Vanderbilt. It does not, however, include Cubs 1st rounder Andrew Cashman. 'Bout time they got this up. I was wondering how some of these recent draftees were being assigned to teams like Boise because I hadn't heard anything about any signings. I looked all over the Interwebs and couldn't find anything on it. Again, bang up job by the Muskrat getting us the news. Oh...and if you're looking for any info on the signing terms in that article, don't bother because the Muskrat didn't bother to put it in there. Nice work.

Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors

Number of quick hits from the Cubs trade rumor mill tonight:
  • MLB.com has an article up today entitled "Trade winds are starting to blow." They had this to say about the Cubs: "Cubs: The Cubs don't seem to lack much at this point, but they would be selective buyers. Chicago could dangle outfielder Matt Murton and a cluster of prospects who have earned favorable reviews. Sabathia won't see his name associated with the Cubs unless Chicago could convince the Tribe to lower its demands for the lefty."
  • MLB.com, in fact, has a whole new section up called "Trade Deadline 2008" that has some okay stuff in it (anyone else find that MLB.com's stuff is always average at best and usually bad? I'm looking at you Muskrat). Here's an article from the new section about how there's not likely to be a blockbuster deal this year. Guess they forgot about CC Sabathia, Rich Harden, AJ Burnett, Matt Holliday, etc. And another ramming MLB's parity contention down our throats. Hey...the "p" word as the first linked article calls it worked for the NFL. Why not jump on that bandwagon, right Bud?
  • From the Trade Deadline 2008 section, MLB.com brings us this list of players that could be moved this year at the deadline. Though not specifically mentioned, of interest to the Cubs on this list could be: CC Sabathia, Greg Maddux, and Milton Bradley.
  • From MLB.com's new "Trade Talk" blog, there's this, which appears to have been posted my Ms. Carrie Muskrat herself: "The front office won't say it on the record, but the Cubs are close to ending the 100-year drought since the team's last World Series title. Because of LHP Rich Hill's struggles, they're looking at starting pitching, but are not in desperate mode. That means C.C. Sabathia is not on the list unless the Cubs can lower the asking price. OF Matt Murton is available, and the Cubs do have a solid farm system for other teams to pick from. The need for a left-handed bat in the outfield isn't as strong with OF Jim Edmonds' resurgence." I have several problems with this Muskrat...1) The Cubs are close to ending their title drought? Really? Why? Because they're in 1st in June? That makes us close? Really?; 2) Matt Murton is available? Wow-there's a hard hitting scoop for ya; 3) So, you're telling me we're going to pin our title hopes on a "resurgent" 38 year old and not look to improve at what is far and away our weakest posistion? Really? C'mon Muskrat-I know you're bad, but you let me down after your column from the other day.
  • From the same John Perrotto's BP column ($) that brought you the incalculably genius reasoning that the Cubs are only playing so well at home because some dude in the scoreboard is stealing signs for them is a note that the Cubs are hoping Eric Patterson's hot play of late will make him more attractive in the trade market.
  • BP's Joe Sheehan doesn't think the Indians should trade CC Sabathia at all. Sheehan blames an "NFL mindset" where one bad week creates panic and spurns immediate changes at the expense of the longer term. Sheehan says, "Baseball doesn’t reward panic. It rewards perspective and patience, and those two traits are in ample supply in Cleveland. The Indians are perfectly capable of not just making their season interesting, but extending it well into October. They should hold on to C.C. Sabathia because doing so helps them reach their goal: a championship in 2008."

Short Hop

Couple quick items of note tonight:
  • Cubs RFer and new leadoff man Kosuke Fukudome was scratched from tonight's lineup with tightness in his left calf. The move is said to simply be precautionary. Nothing to see here-no problems.
  • This, however, is interesting. Per an article by John Perrotto on Baseball Prospectus ($) today, well, I'll just let Perrotto say it: "There is growing sentiment among baseball people that the Cubs might be relaying the catcher’s signs from the hand-operated scoreboard at Wrigley Field to the hitters. The Cubs are averaging 6.5 runs a game at home and 4.4 on the road." Wow. Despite their $118 million payroll, apparently the Cubs are going to lay their hopes of ending their 100 year title drought in sticking a couple friggin' grounds crew guys up in the scoreboard to then secretly radio signs into ear pieces that have been secretly installed in every Cubs' batting helmet thereby giving them an advantage, at home only, against oposing teams. I, for one, think it's brilliant. I'm soooooo glad the Cubs have decided to do this. Because no way they're actually just playing better with better players feeding off of one of the best home environments in professional sports. Nah. They must be cheating.
  • Finally, Jon Lieber could be calling it a career after 2008. No wonder he's not bitching about how Lou is letting him sit around and grow cobwebs. Dude's thinking about sitting on a beach sipping mai-tais.

Minor League Movers

The Iowa roster has been a flurry of activity over the past couple of weeks and some of the moves have created some press of their own, so I'll just hit all the details of the week, knowing that I am repeating some news. When E-Pat returned to last week, the I-Cubs were forced to make a corresponding move, in this case, a release. The victim was Andy Cavazos, a reliever who had a 5.88 ERA. Obviously, based on the numbers, no big loss. As Jumbo mentioned, Kevin Hart took one off the bean and placed on the D.L. That allowed the Cubs to remove Jose Ascanio from the bereavement list. When E-Pat repacked his toothbrush for Chicago, D-Ward was added from the D.L. on a rehab assignment.

Well, that only got us through the weekend. As mentioned, Rich Hill and Felix Pie have both been sent to Arizona/the D.L. D-Ward was removed from Iowa to head back to Chicago. Sean Marshall got called up yesterday to take Big Z's place. That prompted a callup for Jeff ND. I agree with my colleague Jumbo that this was the wrong Tennessee pitcher to get the promotion. Donnie Veal has been lights out. Jeff ND was called up simply because of the amount of money the Cubs have invested in him.

The Iowa moves obviously affect every other roster on down the line. Last week, Josh Lansford (6th Round, 2006) was added to the Tennessee Roster. This seems to be a move out of need, as Lansford was only hitting .249 with Daytona. Over the weekend, Michael Cooper was sent back to Daytona and Ed Campsuano was added. Cooper's ERA at Tennessee was nearing 6. Fans may remember Campsuano, as he was one of the final guys cut in Spring Training. He has been slowed by injuries (the reason for the low minors assignments). Pitcher Casey Lambert (6th Round, 2007) was also added after a solid start in relief for Daytona, with a sub 3 ERA. Jeff ND's promotion made way for Matt Craig to come off the D.L.

Daytona made two additions not previously mentioned. First, infielder Jose Made was added from extended spring training. Second, pitcher Dustin Sasser was promoted from Peoria. Sasser, a 21st rounder last year, had posted a 1.53 ERA in 35+ innings of relief for Peoria and hadn't yielded an HR.

In a rare move, the Cubs promoted a player from the Dominican Summer League team. Julio Castillo, a pitcher who signed with the Cubs as a 16 year old, was added to the roster. Castillo had played for various teams in the Cubs organization throughout his career, including a stint in Peoria, but it's rare for a guy in the Dominican league to be added straight to Class A ball.

Jeff Samardzija's First Iowa Start

I'm not one of those people who drools over Jeff ND (even when he's oiled up), but I thought I would break form a little and give a quick recap of his first Iowa start last night. My official thoughts on his numbers: eh. That's right, eh. There's nothing horrible if you look strictly at the numbers over his 6 innings of work: 7 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 2 walks, and 5 K's. That's a 4.50 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. He gave up a solo homer to Dallas McPherson, but it was McPherson's 26th in 70 games, so no big deal in that.

But he was aided by a play at the plate that saved him a run and possibly would've run him from the game. He only had one clean inning, the fifth. And the Cubs handed him a lead twice, going up 1-0 in the top of the first and 2-1 in the top of the second. Both times, he immediately gave up a run in the next half.

So, if you look past his numbers, it wasn't a great game. But then again, those are essentially the kind of numbers he's been putting up all season in Tennessee (4.86 ERA, 1.48 WHIP).

Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors

Last time out I took a look at a couple potential Chicago Cubs starting pitcher trade targets, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. As SP seems to be the focus of most of the rumor action, let's take a look at some more guys that Jim Hendry could be thinking of bringing to the Northside.

Rich Harden: Quick-what do you think of when you hear the name Rich Harden? Yep...injuries. If The Disabled List were a baseball team, Rich Harden and Mark Prior would be their top 2 starters. The guy is extremely talented-but dude can't stay healthy. Harden came off his most recent trip to the DL on May 11th. The culprit this go-around was a strained back muscle.

Current Team: Here's the problem with this one-the Oakland Athletics are currently 41-34. They're in 2nd place in the AL West, 5.5 back of the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim, California, United States, North America, Western Hemisphere, Earth, Milky Way, Space. And they're just 3.5 back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card. Even though it looked at the beginning of the year that the A's were firmly entrenched in rebuilding territory, this team is competing. Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report (see sidebar for link) has the A's at a 55.42% of making the playoffs. Actually, they have the A's at 48.55% of winning the division while giving the Angels only a 45.91% chance of taking it. I think the A's will eventually fall back, and will eventually head back to their rebuilding plan-but right now and until further notice, this team is going to try and win now. And Harden is a huge part of that.

Contract Situation: Harden is working on a 4 year, $9 M deal that expires after this season. There's a $7 M club option for '09. Dirt cheap for a guy of his talent. Too much for a guy that spends 90% of the season on the shelf.

The Numbers: Harden has only pitched 59 innings this year across 10 games started. But in those games, he has gone 4-0 (!) with a 2.44(!) ERA while striking out 72(!) to just 25 walks. Despite the limited IPs, he's got a 19.7 VORP. BP projected Harden for a 21.2 VORP over only 80 IPs and 13 GS. Think those IPs sound low? Here's Harden's IPs over the last 3 years: '05-128, '06-46.7, '07-25.7(!).

The Competition: If Harden is believed to be healthy despite his 6 trips to the DL in 6 seasons...every single contending team would be interested. Harden is just one of those guys in sports. The guy that has such a huge upside that teams are blind to the downside, but it injuries, off field BS, or whatever. Harden has taken the ball every 5th day for 8 starts in a row now since coming off the DL. 2 ways to look at this, I guess: 1) he's finally healthy; or 2) he's due to get hurt again. If the A's fall out of this, some team will be willing to pony up to A's GM Billy Beane's asking price. The chance that a healthy Harden could be with your club down the stretch is just too good to pass up.

The Cost: Mucho. Billy Beane is a legendary GM. A lot of his excellent reputation was formed from Beane's ability to flip pitchers at the end of their deals for a slew of prospects (ie, the deals for Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Dan Haren, etc.). The guy's not going to screw around with a talent like Harden. Beane will likely say, if you want him-come and get him. And you better bring your Baseball America Top 10 Prospects list with ya. 'Cause we're going to take a bunch of those guys from you. If not-screw you, we're in the race and we're going to keep him.

What would it take to acquire Harden? Looking at the deals Beane made to flip pitchers Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Dan Haren might be helpful. Tim Hudson was traded in 2004 to the Atlanta Braves for a 26 year old SP Juan Cruz, a 22 year old SP Dan Meyer, and a 25 yr old Charles Thomas. This one didn't really work out too well for Beane. Cruz never matured as a starter (as Cubs fan know) and both Meyer and Thomas spent limited time in the majors, never really establishing themselves. But at the time the deal was made, Meyer was considered one of the best lefties in the minors, Thomas had surprised many with his performance, and Cruz was believed to be pretty talented.

Mark Mulder was dealt in December of 2004 to the Cardinals for a 23 yr old Dan Haren, a 19 yr old Daric Barton, and a 29 yr old Kiko Calero. At the time of the deal, Barton was the best hitting prospect in the Cardinals system and we all know what a stud Dan Haren has become.

Dan Haren was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in December 2007 along with Connor Robertson for a huge haul-Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Aaron Cunningham, Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Carter. At the time of this deal, Carlos Gonzalez was the D-Backs top prospect, Brett Anderson their 3rd, Cunningham their 7th, and Chris Carter their 8th. Dana Eveland is also an excellent pitching prospect who is in the A's starting rotation this year.

A deal for a healthy Harden would fall just short of the bounty required to obtain CC Sabathia. We're talking several of our top prospects. I'm thinking something along the lines of Cubs top hitting prospect Josh Vitters, Cubs top pitching prospect Donnie Veal, and probably another pitcher in the form of Sean Gallagher or Rich Hill. Mabye a "throw in" of Murton or Hoffpauir as well. I don't think Beane would be interested in Felix Pie (he strikes out too much for his style) or any of our other young prospects (not that highly rated other than Vitters and Veal).

Thoughts: Peter Gammons has called Rich Harden "the most dominant pitcher in the American League right now." Per Phil Rogers of the Trib on Monday, the Cubs have solid interest in Harden. Per Paul Sullivan of the Sun-Times, Micah Hoffpauir could be a part of a deal for Haren.

Put me on board with this one. Part of me is trying to figure out why I'm sitting here liking the idea of trading for an injury time bomb like Harden while resisting a deal for Sabathia, but I am. I just hate the idea of cleaning out the minor league cupboards for a 2 month rental of Sabathia, who almost certainly would not re-sign with Chicago. And I guess I feel like Harden, due to his injury history, could be had at a bit of a value. But I suppose I'm only on board with a deal that will cost a ton of young talent if we'd be getting Harden at a price closer to his actual performance-based value as opposed to his perceived in-a-perfect-world-he's-always-healthy value. A deal here would come with a steep price. But if Harden stays healthy (they don't make a font big enough to do justice to that "if"), then it's a deal that may be worth making.

Gil Meche: If you'll remember, the Cubs aggressively pursued Gil Meche when he was a free agent in 2006. Ultimately, Meche went to the Royals and Ted Lilly came to the Cubs, but the interest was certainly there. The Royals just so happened to make Meche a "statement" signing and broke the bank to acquire the righty.

Current Team: The Kansas City Royals continue to be the Kansas City Royals. Sitting at 34-43, the Royals are in their familiar spot in last place and are 8 games back of the White Sox. No real reason to think they'll turn it around this year, though they are getting better. BP's Playoff Odds report gives them a pretty bleak 1.93% chance of making the playoffs this year. Yeah-they're done.

Contract Situation: Meche signed his 5 year $55 mil deal in December 06. Meche earns $11MM this year, $11MM in '09, $12MM in '10, and $12MM in '11. Lotta meat left on that bone. Meche also has what appears to be a full no-trade clause.

The Numbers: Meche is 5-8 with a 4.91 ERA thru 16 GS and 95.1 IPs. Meche has 80 Ks to 34 BBs on the year and a 5.5 VORP. Nothing special here so far this year. Pre-season, BP projected Meche to a 10-11 record with a 4.47 ERA over 29 GS and 185 IPs, with 134 Ks to 70 BBs and a 23.7 VORP (47th among SPs)

The Competition: Not too much out there in terms of other teams being linked to Meche. Peter Gammons and John Heyman of SI.com have both brought up the possibility of the Royals shopping Meche, but only threw out the Cubs as potential suitors. Heyman describes Meche as an over-priced middle of the rotation starter and suggests that the Royals probably wouldn't be willing to eat much of his contract. Heyman suggests that the Cubs could include Jason Marquis in a deal to even out the salaries. Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, however, says the club is denying that moving Meche would be a possibility. What club wouldn't deny a rumor like this, though?

The Cost: The cost here would come primarily in the checkbook department. Meche isn't the prize he was when he signed his big deal-but still has most of the change out there waiting to be paid on that bad boy. Any deal for Meche would likely be looked at by the Royals as a cost-cutting maneuver. The Royals are reported to be working towards making a run in 2010 and all moves are being geared towards then. If they move Meche, then, they'll need a SP that will be good to go in 2 years. Sean Marshall, Sean Gallahgher, and/or Rich Hill would most certainly be involved here. I don't see Marquis being included-moving one of our established starters at this point for another starter would be counterproductive. The Royals could probably also get a throw-in position player. A guy like Jon Lieber, who's making $3.5 mil this year, could be included to bust up some of the salary hit.

Thoughts: Eh. This one's not really doing it for me. A deal for Meche would require the Cubs to take on a long-term salary commitment and in return all they'd get is a guy going on 30 who seems to have lost a lot of his best stuff. He's right handed, so no help their either. This is more attractive than a lot of other possible deals in that the costs would most likely be mostly financial, but Meche doesn't do much to upgrade this team. Ask yourself: is Gil Meche the final piece to our World Series puzzle? Yeah? No.

Short Hop

  • Two roster moves for the Cubs today. As expected, the Cubs recalled Sean Marshall from Iowa to make the start tonight against the Baltimore Orioles. To make room, the Cubs placed Reed Johnson on the DL with his continuing back problem. Also, Daryl Ward is back with the club after his quick 3 game rehaber in Iowa, where he went 5-10. Ward has been out since May 14th recovering from a bulging disc in his lower back and issues with his hip. Ward will likely be the DH over the weekend against the ChiSox. To get Ward up, the club sent Micah Hoffpauir back to Iowa. Keeping both Ward and Hoffpauir on the roster would have been a move straight from the Department of Redundancy Department. They're both big guys who are left-handed and can hit, but can't play OF. Good news here is that Eric Patterson was rewarded for his strong play lately and will stick with the club, potentially for a while. When ReJo is ready to go again, the club could very well opt to send Matt Murton back to Iowa and keep Patterson on board.

Boise Hawk Josh Vitters

Before I launch into Josh Vitters and the rest of the Boise Hawks roster, I would like to provide some background for the casual reader who may not intently follow Northwest League Baseball. The Boise Hawks are the Cubs Class A Short-Season affiliate. The season starts mid-June and ends in September. Part of the purpose in having the short season is that it allows the parent club to comprise the team of a mixture of guys who have spent the last two months in Extended Spring Training/Rookie Ball and guys who were recently signed out of the draft. Since some of these guys just graduated from high school, this allows them time to get acclimated to playing professional baseball. A lot of these guys will also play winter ball, so it gives them a chance to not have to grind through a 140 game season and then head to winter ball. With all that said, let's see what the Boise Hawks roster has in store:
Michael Brenly (C)-This, of course, is Bob Brenly's son, which is essentially why he's being mentioned. Taken in the 36th round this year, Brenly quickly signed with the Cubs after a college career at UNLV.
Luis Flores (C)-While Brenly will have the name recognition, Flores is the better prospect here. A 7th round pick of the Cubs a few weeks ago, he is a collegian whose season came to an end in the NCAA regionals.
Josh Harrison (2B)-A 6th rounder from this year, he was the Big East Conference Player of the Year this year.
Josh Vitters (3B)-The 3rd overall pick in last year's draft, Vitters has struggled with a few injury issues and hasn't been the hitter that made him the third pick. He spent some time earlier in the season at Peoria, and if he can impress, he may return. One thing to keep in mind with Vitters...his 19th birthday won't occur until near the end of the Hawk's season.
Ryan Flaherty (SS)-Flaherty was the Cubs supplemental first round pick a few weeks ago out of Vanderbilt. Combine him with Vitters, and the Hawks left side of the infield is comprised of a 3rd overall pick and the 41st overall pick.
Kyler Burke (OF)-Burke was the throw-in the deal that sent Michael Barrett to San Diego for Rob Bowen. A former supplemental first round pick (35th overall), Burke has struggled since being drafted in 2006.
Mark Pawelek (P)-Unfortunately, Mark Pawelek will pitch in his fourth straight season for Boise. A first round pick of the Cubs back in 2005 (20th overall), Pawelek has struggled with injury issues, including breaking his elbow after tripping over a Playstation. If there is a silver lining here, it's that Pawelek was drafted out of high school, meaning that despite being in pro baseball for now his fourth year, he has yet to turn 22.
James Leverton (P)-An 8th round pick for the Cubs in the 2008 draft, Leverton will be a relief pitcher for the Hawks after pitching in relief for Texas Tech.
Jay Jackson (P)-Taken with the Cubs 9th pick after Leverton, Randy Jackson prefers to be called Jay. Along with pitching, he also played outfield in college at Furman.
Jake Muyco (P)-Muyco will be rejoined with former 2005 Boise Hawk teammate Mark Pawelek, but for different reasons. Muyco, a 8th round pick in 2005, made it to AA as a catcher, before the Cubs decided to convert him to a pitcher. Muyco will start his new journey as a pitcher with Boise.
In total, the Cubs have 3 of their former first round picks at Boise (including supplemental picks), 4 if you throw in Kyler Burke. That's not good, any way you slice it. You'd hope that if you have multiple first round picks there, it'd be because you had multiple first round picks in the same year's draft.
Others that may find their way to Boise are 3rd rounder Chris Carpenter and 5th rounder Justin Bristow, both from this year's draft. Both have already signed and were assigned to the Cubs Rookie ball team.

Ryne Sandberg Video

So this morning I was doing some research on potentially new cable companies for my homestead. I currently utilize Comcast, which is nice, but I am always in the market for something fresh and clean.

Whilst in the middle of my research I came across this little commercial for RCN. I may have to make the switch from Comcast to RCN because of this little ditty.

When did Ryno become the go to guy for theatrical masterpieces?

Muskrat's Best Column Ever? Notes on Z, Sori, Hill, Jeff ND, & More

Something really strange and unexpected happened to me this afternoon. I read an article by Cubs.com beat writer Carrie Muskat that didn't make me want to break things and didn't make me dumber for having read it. With the Cubs rolling and now this column, maybe hell really is freezing over? Some miscellaneous things going on w/ the club, so let's get up some notes:
  • The aforementioned Muskrat column contains some decent items of note. First off, both Rich Hill and Felix Pie, both of whom started the season on the Cubs big league roster, have been removed from the Iowa Cubs and shipped back to Arizona. Wow. Hill is going back to continue to work on his mechanics (and probably his self-confidence) with Minor League pitching coach Rick Tronerud and pitching coordinator Mark Riggins. It's absolutely amazing to me that Hill can get this lost with his mechanics and become this bad, this quick. Yesterday there was talk of shutting him down which would indicate they at least had a thought that he may have some kind of injury. But now they're sending him to EST to throw more-they must have ruled that out somehow. As much talk as there has been and will continue to be about picking up a starting pitcher via trade, the answer to the Cubs pitching problems could be in Hill's head. If he gets things straightened out and can return to form, he would be an enormous boon to the Cubs rotation down the stretch. Don't think he can do it? Why not? He's shown he's capable-just remember the job he did for the Cubs last year. Until we hear otherwise, there's absolutely no reason that Hill can't regain some of what made him so great last year.
  • Felix Pie will be heading to the desert to rehab a hand injury. Or that's how the story goes, at least. The team is saying that Pie injured his left hand, "Pie either jammed his hand or injured it on an awkward swing and has been playing in pain for a few games. It's one of those freaky injuries you get in that soft spot between thumb and forefinger," said Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita on Monday. Whatever you say Oneri. Too bad for Pie-he seemed to be finally getting back on track.
  • In non-Arizona news, Jeff Samardzija is headed from Tennessee to Iowa. The departure of Rich Hill and Sean Marshall from the Iowa rotation has created a need for SPs in Des Moines. Samardzija has begun to put it together over his last 5 starts or so. Over his last 5 GS, Samardzija has given up 8 earned runs over 27 and 1/3 innings on 16 hits and 10 walks while K-ing 16. Not bad work, but for me, Donnie Tyrone Veal is more deserving of the promotion.
  • One final note from the Muskrat is a little fact about Cubs minor leaguer Alex Maestri. Pending Maestri's start tonight for Dayton, Maestri could get the call up to AA Tennessee to replace Jeff ND. If he does, it's believed that this would be the highest level of American professional baseball an Italian-born player has reached. I couldn't think of any Italian-born major leaguers, but never having any ever get as high as AA struck me as interesting.
  • BP injury expert Will Carroll has some notes up on the injuries to Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano. Carroll is extremely skeptical of the Cubs and the (mis)information they often seem to give on injuries. Remember how the Cubs handled the injuries to TD name inspiration Mark Prior and Kerry Wood and you'll know why. Carroll says he's going to take Jim Hendry at his word this time, but he doesn't sound too convinced. Carroll believes the "mild strain" that Z was diagnosed with is an injury to his rotator cuff based on the way Z dropped his arm slot in his last start. Carroll points out that when the results of the tests on Z's shoulder were announced, they were announced simply as an MRI and not as the arthogram that was reported. It's unclear whether this was a change in the test actually performed or just the way it was annouced. Carroll says there may be something more than we're aware of here and that he's going to watch the situation closely. Carroll expects Z will miss some time beyond the minimum 15 days.
  • Carroll reports that Alfonso Soriano's hand injury is healing nicely and he should begin taking BP soon. The club wants to reign in Sori a bit, however, as a setback in this sort of injury would be the re-breaking of the bone which would put him back at square one. Sori should be back by the All-Star break, but his own timetable of next week is probably faster than the Cubs will let him go. The good news is that the rest he's getting now is allowing the club to work with him on his flexibility which is helping his problematic leg injuries.

Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors

With the July 31st trade deadline quickly approaching, the trade rumors have really started to heat up all around MLB. The majority of the rumors surrounding the Cubs center on the acquisition of a starting pitcher and potentially a center fielder, preferably a lefty or switch hitter. Tons of names are being thrown about. Let's kick off Towel Drills's trade rumors coverage right now by looking at 2 of the top SP names being linked with the Cubs:

C.C. Sabathia: Nobody is being talked about more right now in terms of being traded than Sabathia. This one, like most of these guys, is going to depend on how his current team fares over the next couple weeks as to whether or not he'll be traded.

Current Team: The Cleveland Indians currently sit at 35-41, 7 games back of the White Sox and well out of the wild card as well. Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report (see link in sidebar, at left) currently gives the Indians about a 4.77% chance of making the playoffs. And things ain't lookin' good for the tribe. SP Jake Westbrook is out for the year following Tommy John surgery. SP Fausto Carmona on the 15 dayer. That's 2/5 of their starting rotatio n. Not to mention that Travis "Pronk" Hafner (greatest nickname ever) is also riding pine on the 15 with a right shoulder and perennial All-Star Victor Martinez just had right elbow surgery that will keep him down for 6-8 weeks.

VMart was a huge blow for this club. Trying to track down the Sox, as well as the Twins (shouldn't be a problem if they were healthy) and the surging Tigers (who would be) will not be easy. And it might not be possible. GM Mark Shapiro is about as good as they come. He sees the writing on the wall here. I think he does in fact move Sabathia before the deadline.

Contract Situation: Sabathia is currently in year 2 of his 2 year/ $17.75M contract. He'll be a free agent at the end of the year and will almost certainly test the free agency waters irregardless of what goes down here in trade season. The Indians have stated that they will not be providing a window for an acquiring team to negotiate a contract extension with the hefty lefty. So whomever lands him, it's going to be a 2-3 month rental situation.

The Numbers: CC is currently 5-8 on the year in 16 GS and 106.1 IPs with a 4.06 ERA, 107 Ks, 30 BBs, and a 14.8 VORP (44th among all pitchers). Baseball Prospectus predicted before the season that Sabathia would make 32 starts, going 15-8 with 181 Ks to 54 BBs, a 3.42 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, and a 50.9 VORP (3rd amongst all pitchers). He is, quite simply, the best SP expected to be available based purely on ability.

The Competition: The Tribe is said to have scouts out looking at prospects from about 8 teams. The Cubs appear to be one of them. Per ESPN's Buster Olney on Saturday, depending on if these teams are in contention in the next couple of weeks, the teams that Sabathia is likely to go to are, in order: 1. Brewers, 2. Cubs, 3. Dodgers, 4. Rangers, 5. Red So x. The Yankees are said to be out of the running at this point, despite the injury to Chen-Ming Wang.

The Cost: Per the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Indians will likely be looking for 2 or 3 near MLB ready talents for their ace. Pitching out, pitching in. The Indians will almost certainly require 1, if not 2, of our best SP prospects. That means Marshall and/or Gallagher. Along with them, they'll likely ask for a guy like Eric Patterson or Ronny Cedeno or maybe even hope the Cubs sell low on Felix Pie. We can try and dangle a Matt Murton or Rich Hill, but neither of them are likely to bring much at this point. Micha Hoffpauir probably also carries some value, as will some younger of the Cubs top prospects like Donnie Veal, Tyler Colvin, and maybe even Josh Vitters. We'd basically have to lose at least 3 of our best prospe cts to make this go.

Thoughts: Too expensive for me. I'm probably in the minority here, but I'm not freaking out about the Cubs starting pitching situation. Zambrano is Zambrano and his shoulder doesn't seem like it will pose any sort of threat. Ryan Dempster has been off the chain all season-just see his start tonight against the Sox for all the evidence you need there. Granted he could tire down the stretch not being accustomed to the higher number of IPs as a starter, but he has looked damn impressive all year. Lilly and Marquis have been inconsistent, but both continue to improve and on certain days look really good. Add in some combo of the Seans (Marshall and Gallahger) and you've got 6 solid options. In the playoffs, you can get by with 3 regular starters. Add in our outstanding bullpen and I'm not sure what the big deal is.

That said, I get it. This is a speical season. These don't come around every day (see 1909-2007 seasons). The Cubs are, and should be, in win now mode. Is it worth selling out the majority of your farm system to land a 2 month rental at SP? I don't know. I don't think so, but I'm not sure. I'd love to have Sabathia, but not at the price he'll command. I do want to win, and win this year, but I'm not sure leveraging everything for what amounts to a SP lottery ticket is the way to do it.

A.J. Burnett: Likely the 2nd best available SP with a 2 letter nickname, A.J. Burnett says he wants to be a Cub.

Current Team: The Toronto Blue Jays are currently in last place in the AL East. Their 36-41 record only gets them within 10.5 games of Boston. BP's Playoff Odds Report gives them a whopping 2.75% chance of making the playoffs this year.

Contract Situation: Burnett signed a 5 year $55M deal in 2006. The deal runs thru 2010 and still has $30M sitting on it. Additionally, Burnett has an opt-out clause after 2008 and has a limited no-trade clause. Oh...and his deal says his wife gets 8 limo round trips for his wife between Toronto and his Maryland home per year. (No word on whether Burnett is married to John Madden). The no-trade doesn't seem to be a problem here. And I wouldn't think Burnett would opt-out of this deal were he to get dealt to the Cubs. Maybe he would if he had to stay in Toronto, but sounds like he wants to be in Chicago and I doubt he'd get more money anywhere if he did opt out.

The Numbers: Burnett is 6-7 thru 15 GS and 91.1 IPs. He carries a 5.42 ERA with 90 Ks to 46 BBs and has a VORP of -1.8 (not good, the negative number meaning any average "replacement player" would be better...we have plenty of those already). BP had Burnett ranked as the 20th best SP heading into the season and projected a 34.7 VORP season.

The Competition: The Brewers are scouting Burnett (do the Brew Crew know something about their team that we don't?) as are the Phillies.

The Cost: Not near as much as Sabathia, but still not cheap. There's no dobut that Burnett is a very talented pitcher. He carries plenty of baggage, but the talent has always been there. Again, I'll assume we'll lose at least 1 of Gallagher/Marshall/Hill and we'll probably have to part with a position prospect. Probably not EPat here, but Ronny Cedeno would be a fit for the Jays and their middle infield needs. A guy like Hoffpauir could provide value at DH for them down the road. The Cubs may have to throw in a prospect, but probably none of the other younger, top prospects in the system.

Thoughts: Not a fan of this one either. Burnett, for one, hasn't been pitching well this year. He's clearly unhappy in Toronto, so I'll cut him some slack, but he's not the pitcher he used to be before he signed his huge $55 M deal. Also, the guy is a bit of a timebomb in a few senses. First, check out this list of injuries and "incidents." Not a very good history for this player. Second, the way his contract is structured could prove dangerous, and expensive, for any club acquiring him. Let's say a team gets Burnett in July. He pitches for a couple months, the team goes to the playoffs, he doesn't perform well and neither does the team, tensions arise...then what? Burnett opts out of his deal and you just overpaid for a guy you wouldn't likely have taken on as a rental. Or...Burnett lives up to his injury history, pitches 2 starts, blows something out, then doesn't opt out of his deal and the club is stuck with him at $12M per for the next 2 years. Dangerous. Too dangerous. I'm hoping the Cubs take a pass here as well.

Short Hop

Reed Johnson's back continues to give him troubles. Johnson took an anti-inflamatory injection on Thursday and is now expected to be placed on the DL on Monday or Tuesday.

With Eric Patterson going 1-2 through 7 innings played tonight, including his first career HR, 2 runs scored, 2 Ribs, and 2 BBs, in addition to his great game on Saturday, will EPat now get to stick around a while longer? Or will the Cubs still send EPat down for Sean Marshall and bring back Daryl Ward off the DL sooner than expected? We'll see tomorrow-but after watching Patterson play his heart out again tonight-ya gotta root for da kid.

Cubs vs. White Sox: Bring Out the Brooms!

I didn't grow up in Chicago. I grew up in Indianapolis. Every baseball fan I knew in Indy was either a Reds fan or a Cubs fan. I grew up watching Harry Caray, Mark Grace, Ryno, The Hawk, Shawon-o-Meter, etc. on WGN after school. I've been a Cubs fan for as long as I can remember being a baseball fan.

That said, I don't have this whole "Oh, I'm from Chicago. I'm a Cubs fan, but I also root for the White Sox becasue they're from Chicago too" thing that a lot (okay, too many) of you native Chicagoans have. No, I effin hate the While Sox. I hate everything about them. Their ugly dirtbag fans. Their jag-bag manager. Their players. Their ugly black and white uniforms. Their crappy new-age ballpark. Their announcers. And, most of all, this constant misconception that simply because Cubs fan know how to have a good time, that we don't pay attention when we're at the games and don't know anything about baseball or our team.

So this being the case...I'm loving life right now. The Cubs, after ripping the dirty black hearts out of the dirtbag Sox fan's chests on Friday with ARam's walk-off HR (click here watch it again, just for fun), beat the ChiSox 11-7 yesterday afternoon. Put that one on the board, idiots. Yes! As you no doubt know by now, the Cubs rang up a Niner in a 4th inning that featured not 1, but 2, HRs by ex-Cardinal Jim Edmonds as well as a solo shot by Lil Mikey Fontenot and a 3 run job by Sox-killer Aramis Ramirez. The 9 run inning was the most scored by a Cubs team in a single inning since June 10, 2004 against Jim Edmonds' Cardinals.

The Cubs go for the sweep tonight on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. A sweep, and plenty of ice cold Old Style's, might just be enough to dull the pain of being forced to listen to Joe Morgan flub his way through another telecast. While we ready our brooms, let's get to some other happenings related to our team:
  • As expected, the Cubs placed Carlos Zambrano and his a-o-kay shoulder on the 15 day DL yesterday in what's really more of a precautionary/roster move decision. The move is retroactive to June 19th and Z will likely come off the DL on July 4th just in time for me to watch him punish the Cardinals live at the new Busch Stadium.
  • Bruce Miles is trying to get Z in trouble. In his article for the Daily Herald on Z going on the DL, Miles runs the following for no apparent reason:

    Although Zambrano's shoulder might be OK, he might want to work on some foot-in-mouth disease. Asked about missing next weekend's scheduled start against the White Sox, he talked about playing at U.S. Cellular Field.

    "I don't like to pitch in American League ballparks," he said. "I feel bored. The games are too long. I like the National League. You're competing and you do something for yourself. No one has to come in for me and do the DH part.

    "I like to compete and play against the White Sox. It's good. Every time I go to U.S. Cellular, or Comiskey, or whatever is the name of the ballpark, people start screaming at you and saying all kinds of things, calling you all kind of things.

    "They say something like 'homosexual.' Sometimes I'm in the outfield and they say bad words. 'You're a homosexual.' I say, 'I'm going to show him if I'm a homosexual on the mound.' That's kind of like a good feeling between the Cubs and the Sox."

    When asked about his reaction to Zambrano's comments, Hendry said he did not wish to be quoted. A Cubs spokesman said Zambrano was not trying to be offensive to any group and that he was attempting to relay what has been said to him in the past by some fans.

  • Eric Patterson was added to the roster...again...to take Z's place. Patterson was thrown into the starting lineup, where he started in LF, hit 2nd, went 3-5, scored twice and stole a bag. Patterson will spend the weekend with the big club and, word is, will be sent back to the cornfields on Monday to make room for a recall of Sean Marshall, who is expected to make a start in place of Z on Tuesday in Baltimore. I gotta say-I don't like this. This constant screwing around with Patterson can't be good for the kid. He seems to be doing okay with it, and is doing infinitely better with the changes than Felix Pie is or would do, but wouldn't it be better to give him more than 2 days up? Patterson was just sent down to Iowa a couple days ago. Typically, minor leaguers must spend 10 days in the minors after such a transaction, but due to the Z injury Patterson was eligible to be recalled almost immediately. But without another injury, Patterson will have to spend the 10 days down once he gets sent down to bring up Marshall. Why not just use Monday's off day to skip Z's turn in the rotation and let Patterson stay up? I know we'd be short on pitchers, but we'd be fine. Further, Patterson is playing much better than Murton. Can we trade Murton already? We're simply a better and more versitile team with Patterson than Murton. Murton is dead weight, and a dead man walking.
  • Yesterday marked the Cubs 13th straight win at Wrigley. Folks, we're 31-and freaking 8 at home this year. 31-8. That's a .795 winning percentage. The last time the Cubs won 13 straight homers was 2001. Today they'll try and make it 14 straight. The last time the Cubs did that? 1936. Simply amazing.
  • With 2 HRs yesterday, in 25 games masquerading as member of the Cubs, ex-Cardinal Jim Edmonds is now 23-74, hitting .311, with 4 HRs, 11 extra baggers, and 16 Ribs. Yes, I'm still having issues with him. But yes, I do like him hitting how he's hitting right now.
  • Daryl Ward could be back with the Cubs by next week. Ward was set to join Iowa for a quick rehab stint beginning yesterday. If he's feeling OK, DWard could be back on the pine by Tuesday or Wednesday. That's bad news for Micah Hoffpauir.
  • Rich Hill is jacked up. Hill failed to even make it out of the 1st inning in his start last night for Iowa. Hill gave up 3 hits, SIX! runs, and FOUR! walks in the 1st before getting yanked and, probably, flogged until bloody by a Larry Rothschild henchman. The club is considering shutting him down for a while. Said Jim Hendry:

"He has not improved since he's been down there," Hendry said. "His command has not been better. We'll get our heads together and decide what to do. If he needs a break or some mechanical issues to work on, sometimes you can work them out in the game and compete, and sometimes you can't."

  • Per Al at Bleed Cubbie Blue, the Cubs are working out rehabbing ex-Sox Freddy Garcia (see blurb at bottom of post) in Mesa, AZ. I'm not sure what the market is like for Garcia and suspect someone will give him a shot at their MLB rotation, but I agree with Al in that if the Cubs can sign him to a minor league deal, why not?
  • Finally...I'm starting to get worried with the amount of national media coverage the Cubs are getting. Too many national media-types are starting to drool all over themselves with this club. This has been, indeed, a special Cubs season so far. But it's only June. The number of articles attempting to fork over the long sought after World Series trophy to the Northside are worrisome. I'd much prefer this team to sneak up on everyone in October and make a run, a la the 2002 Angles or 2003 Marlins or something. But with the best record in baseball, this is pretty much impossible. As a Cubs fan, I'm just expecting the worse here and wish everyone would just ignore this team. Oh well. That said-here's a couple articles that were up on ESPN recently. Gene Wojciechowski (thank you copy/paste) brings us this really unfortnately titled "Wait till this year: 10 reasons Cubs could go all the way." And in an article that's actually good and worth reading, some dude named Wayne Drehs has a really great rundown of the Cubs season and of ARam's walk off game from Friday.