Fontenot is in 2-for-26 slump (STAFF/PAM DAVIS)
Manager Lou Piniella moved Mike Fontenot from third base to second for Thursday night's series finale at St. Louis, with Ryan Freel playing third. Fontenot has been logging most of the time at third base since Aramis Ramirez dislocated his left shoulder May 8 at Milwaukee.
Piniella said he believes Fontenot may have been putting undue pressure on himself to perform at third. The numbers for Fontenot have been bad.
Since May 9, the first game after Ramirez went out, Fontenot is 2-for-26. He started at third base in six of those nine games, going 1-for-21. In Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Cardinals, Fontenot went 0-for-3.
The Cubs front office is open to a huge second-guess on this issue. When spring training began, many observers wondered whether the Cubs had enough depth at third base after the New Year's Eve trade of jack-of-all-trades Mark DeRosa to Cleveland.
DeRosa's best position might be third base, but he played second, first and the outfield in addition to third for the Cubs.
The Cubs had hoped that a combination of Aaron Miles and Fontenot could fill in at third. So far, the Cubs have found those alternatives to be inadequate.
CARDINALS 3, CUBS 1: The Cubs managed just five hits Thursday and scored two runs in the entire three-game series. LHP Sean Marshall worked five innings, giving up four hits and three runs, two of which were earned. He gave up solo homers to Albert Pujols and Brian Barden. 1B Derrek Lee had two singles.
--LF Alfonso Soriano at second base? Probably not, but Piniella mentioned it as a possibility to generate a little more offense. Piniella would like to get 1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir into the lineup more, and the way to do that would be to put him in left field, with Lee ensconced at first base. But Piniella does a lot of out-loud thinking, and the move probably won't happen.
--RF Milton Bradley hit the ball hard Thursday, but he went 0-for-4, including a strikeout. Bradley was 1-for-10 in the three-game series. He left two runners on base, and his average fell to .184.
--Freel was 0-for-3 and he committed a throwing error that led to an unearned run in the third inning. Freel made his second start at third base. Until Ramirez comes off the disabled list, probably after the All-Star break, Freel is likely to see more time at third, with Fontenot shifting to second.
--RHP Angel Guzman is getting more responsibility. Piniella used Guzman in the eighth inning of a close game ahead of veteran RHP Aaron Heilman, who has not pitched since Saturday, when he was charged with a blown save. Guzman has allowed one hit and no runs in his last four outings.
--INF Bobby Scales walked as a pinch hitter and scored the Cubs' only run in the sixth. Scales is 2-for-2 as a pinch hitter, with a triple and a homer. It's possible Scales could work his way into the third base mix if Freel does not produce and Piniella keeps Fontenot at second.
ON THE FARM
FRESNO 9, IOWA 2 (CLASS AAA)
At Des Moines, the Cubs (21-18) collected 10 hits but left nine on base in the loss Thursday. C Jake Fox (1-for-4) singled to extend his hit streak to 12 consecutive games. CF Sam Fuld (2-for-4) paced the offense with two hits atop the order. RHP Mitch Atkins (2-5) started and suffered the loss, allowing seven runs and six hits in four innings. He walked four batters and struck out two.
BIRMINGHAM 8, TENNESSEE 2 (CLASS AA)
At Sevierville, the Smokies (18-19) were held to six hits in the loss Thursday. 3B Marquez Smith (2-for-4) led the offense with his eighth home run and eighth double, and C Steve Clevenger (2-for-4) added two hits. RHP Marcos Mateo (1-2) started and received the loss, allowing a season-high six runs and 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings.
PEORIA 4, WEST MICHIGAN 1 (CLASS A)
At Peoria, 3B Josh Vitters (1-for-4) hit his eighth home run and seventh this month, and LF Josh Harrison (2-for-4) hit his second home run for the Chiefs (22-17). RHP Chris Archer (2-0) started and tossed five scoreless innings for the win. He allowed one hit and one walk, and tied a season-high eight strikeouts.
Daytona’s (Class High A) scheduled doubleheader versus Brevard County was postponed due to rain.