Cubs Daily Clips: May 28
Doug Davis struggles again as Cubs fall 4-2 to Pirates
By: TONI GINNETTI
Inexperience didn't serve the Cubs well in the rotation when Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner went down with injuries the first week of the season.
Experience hasn't done much better as veteran Doug Davis tries to come back from a lost season of injuries and surgery last year.
After three starts, he remains winless, with the Cubs falling 4-2 on Friday to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But the Cubs seem ready to give experience another try with one more veteran looking to revive his career. Rodrigo Lopez could join the rotation as soon as Monday against the Houston Astros. It would be the latest stop-gap for a floundering rotation hoping to begin healing when Wells returns today from a strained forearm.
Lopez, 35, arrived Friday from Atlanta's Class AAA Gwinnett team, where he had been starting and hoping to catch on to a major-league club after going 7-16 with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.
''I'm happy to be back, and I hope I can help,'' he said, admitting he was surprised when he learned of the Cubs trade. ''I was talking to my agent a few days ago to see if anyone was interested. [Thursday] I was in Buffalo and got a call.
''It's a big-league club, and I've played in Wrigley Field before [with the San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies, Philadelphia Phillies and Diamondbacks] and I think it's a good town. I've been pitching as a starter. I have some experience. I throw a lot of innings, and so far my season has been good [6-1, 2.59 ERA with Gwinnett] and I feel pretty comfortable. I'm going to try to do as much as possible to help, whether it's in the bullpen or rotation.
''Honestly, I never thought of the Cubs. In the offseason, we never had any conversations with them, so I really wasn't keeping track of the Cubs, and I was pretty surprised.''
In the offseason and through spring training, the Cubs' rotation seemed to be in place. But it has become a different story after Casey Coleman, James Russell and Davis struggled to shore up the back end.
''I honestly don't know,'' manager Mike Quade said of Lopez joining the rotation. ''[Lopez] has been starting all year. We haven't thought about it. I can't think too much past tomorrow for right now.''
Davis (0-3) suffered from control problems in his latest start. He lasted only 42/3 innings, hurt by six walks - three scoring - and by two errors in the second inning, including one of his own.
''I'm not going to make any excuses for walking six people,'' he said. ''That's going to come back to haunt you. That's something I'll definitely work on in my next side session.''
Two of the four runs charged to Davis were unearned in the second when he committed an error fielding Ronny Cedeno's sacrifice bunt and Aramis Ramirez followed with another error on pitcher Kevin Correia's infield grounder with the bases loaded.
Ramirez, who is dealing with a tight hamstring, also had another difficult day at the plate. He went 0-for-3, including popping out with the bases loaded in the eighth. He is hitting only .207 (11-for-53) with runners in scoring position.
''I can't figure it out,'' said Quade, who didn't plan to take Ramirez out of the cleanup spot. ''We've had a lot of our big bats struggling in those situations. When a veteran guy has that going on, he has to figure it out. He's just not swinging with authority.''
The Cubs only had four singles until the ninth, when Alfonso Soriano homered off Joe Beimel after Carlos Pena (2-for-3) had walked.
Carlos Zambrano's neck trouble just a knot
By: TONI GINNETTI
A ''knot'' in his right trapezoid muscle - caused not by pitching but from lying on his side in bed - is the cause of occasional neck stiffness for Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano.
''It's probably the way I sleep,'' he said Friday. ''I watch TV in bed [lying on his shoulder]. The chiropractor told me to sleep on my back and not on my shoulder, but I always watch TV that way.''
Zambrano left after his start Thursday against the New York Mets to see team orthopedic specialist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo. He was X-rayed, but the situation isn't serious, he said.
''I've been having treatment the last three or four starts,'' he said. ''I've been feeling it sometimes, but it doesn't bother me. It's nothing to worry about. We'll treat it. I just keep doing my exercises and [getting] massages.''
Zambrano, who also deals with hand cramping if he doesn't drink enough fluids, had one of his better games Thursday, working six innings and also getting three hits in a 9-3 victory.
''I was using my sinker,'' he said. ''I was able to command my pitches and get out of some situations, and we won.''
The muscle knot hasn't inhibited Zambrano's swing. A switch-hitter, he connected on a breaking ball to drive in rookie Tony Campana from third with two outs in the fourth inning Thursday. It was the eighth three-hit game of his career.
''Are you surprised?'' he said with a smile.
Zambrano made a point of taking batting practice last weekend when the Cubs were playing in Boston.
''It was awesome,'' he said. ''[Ryan] Dempster told me this doesn't happen often - like a hundred years. To take batting practice in Fenway is like taking it here. The only difference is the wall [there]. It's a historic ballpark.''
Nine men in
The Cubs had nine relief pitchers Friday with the arrival of newly acquired Rodrigo Lopez from the Atlanta Braves' system. Manager Mike Quade also had starter Casey Coleman in the bullpen Friday and used him in the fifth.
Need for speed
Campana started a second straight game in center field after going 3-for-4 in his first major-league game as a starter.
''If he finds a way to get on base, for sure,'' Quade said of the speedy outfielder's chances to continue. ''He's got good competition in front of him, but he's fun to watch and a good weapon to have for so many reasons. He's an interesting guy to have around, too, so we'll see.''
Marlon Byrd said he doesn't know how he will react in the batter's box when he eventually returns after being hit in the face by a pitch last Saturday in Boston. Byrd, who suffered facial fractures, said he doesn't blame Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves.
''It's just one of those things where when you're playing against another team, things happen,'' Byrd said on WSCR-AM in his first comments since the incident. ''He wasn't trying to hit me after going two breaking balls. The ball just came up wrong and ended up coming to hit me in the face. There's no reason to apologize. It's baseball.''
Byrd was to see another specialist Friday.
Cubs' sloppy play leads to ugly loss
By: Bruce Miles
So this was supposed to be the start of something big for the Cubs.
After winning a series against the Mets, the North Siders were prepared to keep it going and change their luck against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have had their number of late.
Uh, not so fast.
And "not so fast" might be the perfect way to describe Friday afternoon with Doug Davis, the Cubs' deliberate lefty.
He wasn't the only culprit in an uninspiring 4-2 loss to the Pirates - the Cubs offense played a part - but Davis didn't help things, as he issued 6 walks over 4⅔ innings and committed a fielding error in the Pirates' 2-run second.
The 35-year-old Davis made his third start for the Cubs, and he's been largely ineffective, with an 0-3 record and 6.75 ERA.
Davis hasn't pitched a lot this year. The Cubs signed him as a free agent in April and then had to hurry him up because of injuries.
"I'm not going to make any excuses for walking six people, that's for sure," he said. "I've been around long enough to know that walking that many guys against any team is going to come back to haunt you. Three or 4 of those walks scored as well."
The Cubs will dip into the geriatric pool again next Monday as recently acquired right-hander Rodrigo Lopez starts against the Astros.
At 22-27, the Cubs appear to be going nowhere fast, as they trot out a bunch of still-learning youngsters and veterans who seem to be interested in varying degrees.
Davis walked one in the second, when he and third baseman Aramis Ramirez committed fielding errors. In the Pirates' 2-run fourth, Davis walked three, gave up a hit and hit a batter.
"I say it a lot: You never know what run's going to beat you," said manager Mike Quade. "The second inning starts out not good, and we get two gifts (groundballs) to give us an opportunity to get out of it, not just with minimum damage, but maybe with no damage. We couldn't make two plays, and they scratch for 2 (runs). All of a sudden, it's a different ballgame.
"We didn't get much done offensively, but a clean game defensively puts us in the thing."
Speaking of the offense, Alfonso Soriano hit a 2-run homer in the ninth. It was his 12th of the year but his first since May 2. He grounded into a double play in the seventh.
The real problem is Ramirez, whose only homer came April 6. He's now 1-for-22 with runners in scoring position and two outs. In the eighth, he popped out with the bases loaded and two outs. For the day, the Cubs were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Ramirez politely declined to be interviewed.
"I got nothing today," he said.
Quade, though, will continue trotting Ramirez out in the cleanup spot despite Carlos Pena hitting better of late.
"I can't figure it out," Quade said of Ramirez. "We've had a lot of big bats that have struggled in those situations. Early on, he was doing well. I don't know.
"With a veteran guy, he's got that going. He's got to figure that out. His approach seems good to me.
We've talked a lot about the 1-home run thing. I don't think he's swinging for the fences and having bad at-bats because he's trying to go deep. He's just not able to put the ball in play on a regular basis with authority right now."
Cubs take a flyer on veteran righty Lopez
By: Bruce Miles
In their never-ending search for some kind of pitching, any kind of pitching, the Cubs made a minor-league deal Thursday.
They acquired 35-year-old right-hander Rodrigo Lopez from the Atlanta organization for minor-league lefty Ryan Buchter. Lopez will join the Cubs on Friday and be activated. The Cubs will option reliever Justin Berg back to Class AAA Iowa.
It's likely the Cubs will use Lopez as a swingman at the beginning, but it is possible he could slip into the rotation, especially if the Cubs don't feel veteran lefty Doug Davis can help them. Davis starts Friday against the Pirates.
At Class AAA Gwinnett, Lopez was 6-1 with a 2.59 ERA. He started 33 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, going 7-16 with a 5.00 ERA. He's pitched for five major-league teams, compiling a record of 75-89 with a 4.85 ERA.
"We've been scouring, looking for people like this," said general manager Jim Hendry. "He's had a real good year in Triple-A for the Braves. We thought it was a good move for us, obviously with our injury situation and some setbacks at the Triple-A level. We have some real good kids in Double-A that we want to get to Triple-A at some point in the next few weeks that are high-level prospects.
"We've given a lot of guys opportunities. Some thrive on them, and some have it. We need to keep trying to get better."
Currently, starting pitchers Andrew Cashner, Matt Garza and Randy Wells are on the disabled list. Wells will return Saturday, and Garza is scheduled to return at the end of next week.
Infielder Jeff Baker played with Lopez in Colorado.
"He's a competitor," Baker said. "He works quick. He throws hard. He mixes it up. He's got confidence in all his pitches. The thing I liked about playing behind Rodrigo was that he's fearless."
Kosuke Fukudome hit his first homer of the year in Thursday's 9-3 win over the Mets. Carlos Pena hit his sixth of the year and his second at Wrigley Field. All 6 of Pena's homers have come in his last 20 games.
"Getting better, little by little, hitting the daylights out of that ball," said manager Mike Quade. "That's what he's here for, really. As the conditions improve and his swing gets better, there will be more of those balls leave the ballpark."
Davis, defense scuffle as Cubs fall
By: Carrie Muskat
CHICAGO -- It's one thing to get beat, but it's another to make mistakes and beat yourself, which is what happened to the Cubs on Friday.
Kevin Correia threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings, and the Pirates took advantage of two Cubs errors to post a 4-2 victory.
"We didn't get much done offensively," Cubs manager Mike Quade said, "but a clean game defensively puts us in the thing."
The Pirates had two on in the second when Ronny Cedeno bunted toward starter Doug Davis, who muffed the play for an error. With the bases loaded, Correia then hit a grounder toward third baseman Aramis Ramirez, and the ball took a hop and deflected off his glove toward short. A run scored on the error. One out later, Steve Pearce hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
"You get into some kind of rhythm, and the errors are going to happen, I understand that," Davis said. "But I have to pick up not only Aramis but myself. I made an error that inning as well. It comes down to executing pitches and minimizing the damage that inning."
The Pirates loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth when Davis walked two and hit another batter. The lefty, making his third start for the Cubs, then walked Andrew McCutchen to force in a run, and another tallied on Neil Walker's infield hit that Ramirez knocked down.
Davis (0-3), appearing in his 300th career game and third start with Chicago, walked six and gave up four hits over 4 2/3 innings to take the loss.
"I'm not going to make an excuses for walking six people, that's for sure," Davis said. "I've been around long enough to know walking that many guys against any team is going to come back to haunt you.
"I felt like my mechanics were there, and I made a lot of pitches as well," he said. "It's something I have to work on."
The Pirates decided to be patient.
"When a guy puts himself in that situation, the best thing you can do is just wait him out and wait for the pitch," Chris Snyder said. "That's what we did. I'm not sure how many walks we had, but I know we had quite a few."
"Having a year off, I didn't expect he was going to be a guy who comes in here ultra-sharp, giving us seven to eight innings," Quade said of Davis, who started eight games last season for the Brewers before he was shutdown with elbow problems. "It's a whole different outing, to me, if we make a couple plays, and he was in the middle of that himself in that second inning."
Correia (7-4), who beat the Cubs on April 1 in the season opener, served up four hits, walked one and struck out two. Two of Chicago's hits came in the fourth, when Starlin Castro led off with an infield single and, one out later, moved up on Carlos Pena's single. But Correia got Alfonso Soriano to fly out and rookie Tony Campana to ground out to end the inning.
The Cubs loaded the bases in the eighth, but Jose Veras got Ramirez to pop up to end the inning. Ramirez, who has batted fourth all season, is 1-for-22 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
"I've got nothing today," Ramirez, who has one homer this season, hit back on April 6, said after the game.
"I can't figure it out," Quade said of the lack of clutch hits by the third baseman. "We've had a lot of our big bats who have struggled in those situations.
"I don't know -- when a veteran guy has got that going, he's got to figure it out. His approach seems good to me. We've talked about the one-home-run thing, and I don't think he's swinging for the fences and having bad at-bats because he's trying to go deep. He's just not able to put the ball in play on a regular basis with authority right now."
Ramirez isn't alone. Pena is batting .125 with runners in scoring position; Soriano is hitting .213.
"There have been a few guys in the middle of the lineup who have struggled with that," Quade said. "We need to find a way, like we did on Thursday [against the Mets], to put runs on the board."
Chicago beat the Mets, 9-3, on Thursday and entered the game ranked second in the National League with a team batting average of .280. The Pirates have had the edge in this series, though, in recent years. With the win, Pittsburgh improved to 15-6 against Chicago, dating back to Sept. 30, 2009.
Soriano did connect with one out and one on in the ninth, hitting his 12th homer of the season and first since May 2 off Joe Beimel, but that was all the Cubs could manage in the final frame, as Joel Hanrahan came in and struck out the side to end the game.
Wells making return against Pirates
By: Evan Drellich
Earlier in the week, the Cubs lost another pitcher, Matt Garza, to the disabled list. On Saturday, they'll get one back.
Right-hander Randy Wells is to be activated from the disabled list and make his second start of the season for Chicago on Saturday, in the middle game of three against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. Left-hander Paul Maholm is to start for Pittsburgh.
Wells, 28, made one start this season, allowing one run in six innings to the D-backs on April 4 before being placed on the disabled list with a strained throwing arm.
Geovanny Soto (left groin) remains on the disabled list, but is close to a return, while Andrew Cashner, who has also made just one start this season, continues to rehab a strained right rotator cuff.
For all the injuries, though, manager Mike Quade doesn't consider his team a group of walking wounded.
"I don't spend time now assessing it," Quade said. "You just take 25 healthy guys and try to win a baseball game every night. You know the issues and injuries, and so be it. We'll get Wells back [on Saturday]; Soto comes back. We'll get healthy eventually, and we'll play better when we are. Right now, we're getting contributions from a lot of guys we probably didn't expect to need this much from, and you hope they keep contributing. You talk about [Tony] Campana and [Jeff Baker] and [Reed Johnson] coming off the bench. You're just trying to hang around."
The Pirates snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 win in the series opener on Friday. Left fielder Jose Tabata went 1-for-4 with a walk, a strikeout, a stolen base, and a run scored, as he continues to emerge from a long funk. From April 16 to May 19, he was 13-for-85 (.153), and in the six games since, he's 9-for-22 (.409). That's earned him a move back to the leadoff spot, where he'll likely remain.
Tabata also has five walks in the six-game stretch.
"The one thing that I kind of keep an eye on is walks," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "When his walks start showing up, his discipline is showing up. That's what is probably as important for him as anything. He's one of the few guys whose strikeout-to-walk ratio is almost 50-50. The discipline is important for him. He's that kind of hitter; when that shows up, usually the bat will show up."
Tabata had a small scare when he appeared to twist his ankle in the first inning on Friday, but he was not taken out of the game and should be fine.
Cubs: Lopez joins bullpen, for now
Just acquired from the Braves, Rodrigo Lopez joined the team on Friday and was assigned to the bullpen, though that may only be temporary.
Lopez was starting at Triple-A Gwinnett for Atlanta and was 6-1 with a 2.59 ERA.
"We're going to take a look at all of this," manager Mike Quade said before Friday's game. "Today was [Lopez's] day to pitch in Triple-A. If he's on his turn, there's no sense wasting him if we need him. We'll take a look at how the day goes and what we think with [Randy] Wells going [on Saturday]."
Lopez did not pitch in the Cubs' 4-2 loss to the Pirates.
Pittsburgh has won its past three road games and is 14-12 away from PNC Park. The Pirates were 17-64 on the road last year.
Carlos Pena, 2-for-3 on Friday, has reached base in 20 of his past 21 games.
Lopez likely to start for Cubs on Monday
By: Carrie Muskat and Alex Ruppenthal
CHICAGO -- Veteran right-hander Rodrigo Lopez was in the bullpen at Wrigley Field on Friday a day after being traded by the Braves, but he will likely slide into the Cubs rotation on Monday and start against the Astros.
The Cubs need to make a roster move on Saturday when they activate Randy Wells from the disabled list to start against the Pirates. They are expected to send Casey Coleman to Triple-A Iowa.
Manager Mike Quade was hesitant to use Lopez out of the bullpen on Friday.
"I think we have to look at what he's been doing lately," Quade said after the game. "He wants to pitch and I'm sure he's versatile, but he's been starting all year."
Lopez, 35, didn't expect to be playing for the Cubs.
"I was surprised," Lopez said. "I was talking with my agent 10 days ago about [whether] teams were interested in me, and he said nobody was interested."
Lopez said he and his agent had talked earlier this season with the Orioles, Pirates, D-backs and Rockies, but not the Cubs.
Lopez was 6-1 with a 2.59 ERA in nine starts for Triple-A Gwinnett before being traded. He has a career 4.85 ERA in the Majors and has made 227 appearances over nine seasons, 199 as a starter.
"I've been pitching as a starter [this season]. I don't know what kind of role I will have here," Lopez said. "I work a lot of innings [and am] very durable. So far my season in Triple-A has been good, and I'm pretty comfortable right now. Wherever they need me, I'll be happy to help them out, regardless if it's the rotation or in the bullpen."
Lopez will likely throw a side session on Saturday in preparation for Monday's game.
The Cubs have been forced to piece together the rotation because of injuries to Wells, Andrew Cashner and Matt Garza. Lopez was signed to a Minor League contract by Atlanta in the offseason and acquired in exchange for a Minor League pitcher.
To make room for Lopez on the Cubs' 25-man roster, Justin Berg was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Berg had a 3.75 ERA in eight relief appearances with the Cubs. He was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in seven relief appearances with Iowa.
To create an opening on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Robert Coello was designated for assignment. Coello was 3-5 with a 7.82 ERA in nine starts with Iowa.
Watching TV a pain in the neck for Zambrano
CHICAGO -- Carlos Zambrano has experienced elbow pain from too much typing on the computer. He's had arm cramps from not taking in enough potassium, resulting in a diet of bananas, Gatorade and water. Now, the Cubs pitcher has added a new chapter to his string of bizarre injuries, though this one shouldn't keep him off the mound.
Zambrano visited the team's orthopedic specialist after pitching six innings in the Cubs' 9-3 win over the Mets on Thursday to have his stiff neck examined and to undergo an X-ray. On Friday, Zambrano said the reason for the stiffness is likely his penchant for watching TV while lying in bed.
"I always watch TV at home with my head [elevated]," said Zambrano, motioning to show how he tilts his head forward to see the TV.
Doctors told Zambrano he has a knot in his trapezoid muscle.
"Sometimes it doesn't bother me, but yesterday, it bothered me," Zambrano said. "It's nothing to worry about."
Zambrano said he has been receiving treatment over his past three to four starts. The stiffness didn't affect him on Thursday, on the mound or at the plate. He threw six innings of one-run ball and went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
Manager Mike Quade said Zambrano "absolutely" will make his next start and that he didn't even know about Zambrano's neck stiffness until after Thursday's game.
Campana willing to do the little things
CHICAGO -- Rookie Tony Campana got his second start in center field on Friday as the Cubs continue to be careful with Reed Johnson.
Johnson, who has battled back problems, was batting .367 overall and .375 against lefties. Cubs manager Mike Quade said he was hoping both Johnson and Jeff Baker, who has been sidelined by a sore groin, would be available on Saturday against Pirates lefty Paul Maholm.
Campana had three hits on Thursday in his first start. Will he get more playing time?
"If he finds a way to get on base, for sure," Quade said. "He's got pretty good competition with Mr. Johnson, who has been playing well. [Campana] is fun to watch. He's such a good weapon to have for so many reasons. You saw the defense and what he can do. He's an interesting guy to have around whether he's in the lineup or on the bench."
Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita wasn't surprised at Campana's success.
"When you're a little guy like that, you have to do the things he's doing," Fleita said of the 5-foot, 8-inch outfielder. "You've got to dive into first, you've got to run into walls, you've got to get up there and fight like heck to make contact, and when you get on base, you have to drive the opposition crazy.
"He's done everything you can imagine that you have to do when you're him to prove you can play at this level. There will always be the critic who says he's too small, is he durable, is he this, is he that? I think [Campana] knows that and meets that challenge and welcomes it. I sure like watching him play. He puts a smile on your face."
Aramis Ramirez was back in the lineup on Friday after getting a day off to treat a tender left hamstring. The injury was not serious, Quade said.
Meanwhile, catcher Geovany Soto's rehab was delayed on Thursday when the Double-A Tennessee game was postponed by rain. Soto was to play on Friday and could still be activated this weekend. The original plan was to have him play at least two games for the Minor League team.
Cubs prospects showing signs of progress
CHICAGO -- Brett Jackson, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2009 who has been rehabbing a hand injury at extended spring training in Mesa, Ariz., was expected to join Double-A Tennessee on Monday.
Is Jackson ready to come up to the big leagues?
"You have to look at what he can do when he comes up here," Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita said. "The beauty right now of Brett Jackson is he has a good eye, takes his walks, he's going to throw to the right bases and he has a good foundation that allows him to have success. He's playing good baseball, and if the opportunities come, why not?"
Entering Friday, Tyler Colvin was batting .250 in eight games with Triple-A Iowa since May 19. Colvin, who opened the season with the big league team, has one homer, one triple and four doubles so far.
"He's doing what you're supposed to do," Fleita said of the outfielder, who batted .113 in 28 games with the Cubs. "He has a great attitude. He's a realist."
Fleita said he remembers when Colvin struggled a few years ago and asked to make a switch, so he could get at-bats.
"He's not looking for any sympathy," Fleita said. "He knows he put himself in the position he's in, and he knows he'll get himself out of it."
Hayden Simpson, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2010 Draft, picked up his first professional win on Thursday with a victory over Wisconsin. He gave up two hits and struck out seven over five innings. Fleita talked to the right-hander recently and suggested two goals: Finish healthy, and establish a routine for next season.
"The last goal, which is the most important, is that he still loves the game," Fleita said.
Asked what the radar gun showed on Simpson's fastball, Fleita said he didn't know. He's asked some of the Minor League ballparks to remove the gun for certain pitchers.
"I want to know you're throwing strkes, getting guys out and creating ground balls when you pitch," Fleita said. "I haven't seen a gun get anybody out."
Carlos Zambrano went 3-for-3 and allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win on Thursday. It was the eighth game in which he recorded three or more hits and was the winning pitcher, the highest total since Bob Gibson retired in 1975 with eight such victories. Zambrano also has the most such wins in modern Cubs history (since 1900), with two more than Grover Alexander or Mordecai Brown.
Zambrano also has three more such wins than Babe Ruth, who posted a 94-46 record, primarily for the Red Sox in the 1910s, but had three or more hits in only five of them.
Matt Garza is eagerly awaiting the go-ahead from the Cubs medical staff to resume throwing. Garza, on the disabled list with a bone contusion in his right elbow, was still expected to be ready for the Cubs' series in St. Louis, which begins June 3.
Knoxville News Sentinel
Geovany Soto wanted to play for Smokies during rehab stint
Cubs All-Star turns down offer to play for Iowa Cubs
BY: ADAM GREENE
SEVIERVILLE - Chicago Cubs All-Star catcher Geovany Soto had his choice of where he wanted to play a couple of rehab games.
Fresh from the training facility in Mesa, Ariz., the Cubs offered to send him to Round Rock, Texas, to pick up a couple of games against the Express with the Class AAA Iowa Cubs. Soto turned them down. He wanted to play with the Tennessee Smokies.
"I like coming here," Soto said before Friday night's doubleheader against the Mississippi Braves. "I told them I want to come to Tennessee. I like the atmosphere and I like the guys. The fans get into it. It's humbling experience coming back and seeing everybody rooting for you."
The Smokies and the Braves split the doubleheader Friday, with the Braves taking the first game 3-2. Tennessee bounced back, winning 7-2 in game two. The Smokies and Braves play the final game of their five-game series today in Smokies Park at 6:15 p.m.
This is Soto's second time rehabbing with Tennessee. He suited up for the Smokies for three games in 2009.
Soto has been on the disabled list since straining his groin blocking a pitch in the dirt against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 11. Soto knows one of the biggest issues with the injuries is trusting that he won't hurt himself again.
"After every injury, you feel a little scared," Soto said. "You're looking for the pain. You don't want a setback."
Soto's stint in Tennessee also will give him a chance to spend some time with Smokies catchers Blake Lalli and red-hot newcomer Luis Flores. Flores has directly benefited from Soto's injury, excelling in his time with the Smokies after being called up from High-A Daytona. With Soto's return to the Cubs, the ripple effect could possibly send Flores back to Florida, in spite of the fact that he's batting over .500.
"I'm planning on having a talk with the catchers and all the guys," Soto said. "I know it's a grind when you're in the minors and everything seems like it's forever. As long as you work hard put your effort into it, it'll pay off."
In Friday's first game, Soto went 0-for-3. The Braves ended Tennessee's winning streak at nine with a four-hit performance by the Southern League's top pitcher, J.J. Hoover (2-3). Second baseman Ryan Flaherty drove in both of Tennessee's runs with a double in the third inning.
In the nightcap, Flores hit his fourth home run in his last three games, a three-run shot. Flores finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs and pushed his batting average to .550.
Notebook: Tennessee added right-handed pitcher Ryan Searle (1-2, 1.59 ERA) to the roster from Daytona. In a corresponding move, reliever Marco Carrillo was promoted to Iowa. . . . The Smokies will be holding a pregame memorial ceremony saluting members of the military prior to today's game at 5 p.m.