When it comes to the Cubs, there's never a dull moment

When it comes to the Cubs, there's never a dull moment

When it comes to the Cubs, there's never a dull moment
June 12th, 2007

(Sports Network) - It's been a rather volatile June so far for the Chicago Cubs, to say the least.

The team literally rang in the month with a bang, as ace pitcher Carlos Zambrano and catcher Michael Barrett came to blows in the dugout after a five- run inning by the Atlanta Braves led to a 7-1 Chicago loss on June 1. The well-publicized brawl escalated into the clubhouse, with Barrett, who committed a costly passed ball and throwing error during the frame, wound up visiting a local hospital to have a cut lip treated.

Tempers would flare again the following day. With the Cubbies on the way to a sixth consecutive defeat, manager Lou Piniella delivered one of his trademark tirades while arguing an out call by third base umpire Mark Wegner in the eighth inning. The fiery skipper's flailing foot made contact with Wegner during the confrontation, earning Piniella a four-game suspension by the league office.

Following a week of relative calm, another strange circumstance found its way into Sunday's encounter with the Braves at Turner Field. This time, however, the hot-headedness was provided by home plate umpire, who ejected Ted Lilly 10 pitches into his outing after the Chicago starter hit Edgar Renteria with an up-and-in pitch.

Wolf was on alert because of an incident in Saturday's battle between the two clubs. Braves starter Tim Hudson drilled Alfonso Soriano on the game's first pitch in apparent retaliation for the Cubs slugger's three-homer performance in Friday's series opener.

While Lilly's plunking of Renteria may very well have been intentional, Wolf's actions seemed to be somewhat premature and arguably without base. No warnings were given to either team prior to the start of the game.

"The umpires are trying to control the game. I understand that," Lilly told the Cubs' official site afterward. "But it just gets carried away. Jim is regarded as a good umpire and I believe that. I certainly think in this case, he made a pretty bad decision."

The ejection was quite costly for the Cubs, who were counting on a long outing from Lilly after Jason Marquis was yanked after just 1 2/3 innings in Saturday's loss. Chicago ended up losing Sunday's game as well after closer Ryan Dempster yielded three runs in the eighth inning and failed to protect a 4-2 lead.

Despite the soap opera atmosphere, the Cubs actually have been playing well as of late. Since Piniella's tantrum, Chicago has gone on to win six of nine games.


Although both Zambrano and Barrett have stated that the ugly incident between them is behind them, Koyie Hill has caught the excitable right-hander in his two starts since the fracas. The pairing has proven to be effective, as Zambrano has put together two of his best starts of the season with Hill as his backstop.

The All-Star hurler struck out nine Milwaukee batters and held the Brewers to two runs over 6 2/3 innings in his first start after the fight. Zambrano backed that effort up with eight outstanding innings against Houston on Monday, and added a solo home run at the plate to lift the Cubs to a 2-1 victory.

Zambrano limited the Astros to one unearned run and just three hits, while racking up eight strikeouts and walking just one.

Hill was recalled from Triple-A Iowa on June 1 to replace Henry Blanco, Zambrano's regular catcher who was forced to the disabled list because of a herniated disc.


Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 7, prior to Monday's game. The 28-year-old, who leads the Cubs with 13 home runs and 39 RBI, has been bothered by patellar tendinits in his left knee and sat out all four games of the Atlanta series because of the problem.

Ramirez's injury has forced an infield shuffle, with Mark DeRosa moving over from second base to the hot corner and Ryan Theriot, Cesar Izturis and Mike Fontenot all seeing time at the two interior spots.


The Cubs had a few nervous moments in the hours leading up to last Thursday's opening round of the First-Year Player Draft, but the organization was able to land their preferred choice, California high school third baseman Josh Vitters, with the third overall selection.

Chicago was concerned when word got out that Kansas City, who had the No. 2 pick, balked at taking New Jersey prep pitcher Rick Porcello because of perceived excessive bonus demands. The Royals' choice eventually came down to Vitters and another California high school third baseman, Mike Moustakas, but opted for Moustakas. The two players were generally considered the top two hitters among this year's prep class.

Vitters, who will turn 18 in August, batted .390 with nine home runs and 29 RBI in 24 games for Anaheim's Cypress High School this spring.

Chicago focused primarily on college players afterward, as the team's next 10 picks came from the NCAA ranks. The Cubs took Auburn catcher Josh Donaldson was taken in the supplemental round (No. 48 overall) and grabbed two college infielders, Florida State second baseman Tony Thomas and Oregon State shortstop Darwin Barney, in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.


Soriano is batting .396 (19-for-48) with six home runs, 10 RBI and 11 runs scored in 11 June games. The dynamic left fielder became the first Cubs player to hit three homers in a single game since Ramirez did the trick at Cincinnati on September 16, 2004.

Starting pitcher Rich Hill has allowed just two earned runs and 10 hits in 21 combined innings over his last three starts. The young lefty tied a career high with 11 strikeouts in Thursday's 2-1 victory over the Braves.


Derrek Lee is going through his first extended slump of the season, as the standout first baseman has just three hits over his last 26 at-bats. The tough stretch has dropped Lee's average from .357 to .329.

Marquis was roughed up for six runs, although only two were earned, on four hits and three walks in his 1 2/3-inning stint on Saturday. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 5.10 ERA over his last six starts.


Chicago resumes interleague play on Tuesday, when the surging Seattle Mariners make their first-ever appearance at Wrigley Field. Hill (5-4, 2.71) and Jarrod Washburn will go head-to-head in the opener of the three-game series, while Chicago will send out Sean Marshall (2-2, 2.08) opposite Miguel Batista (7-4, 5.48). Thursday's finale features a matchup of struggling righties in Marquis (5-3, 3.01) and Jeff Weaver (0-6, 12.46).

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