With all the things that are uncertain for the Cubs heading into the off-season, one picture is…
Last Week an Important One for Some Cubs
Right-hander Jeff Samardzija will start Friday against the Diamondbacks. Samardzija made some mechanical adjustments during a second-half stint at Class AAA Iowa, and the Cubs noticed an improvement.
Although Samardzija possesses a good fastball, his secondary pitches remain a work in progress, and he'll head to Mexico for winter ball.
Right-hander Randy Wells might have pitched himself out of contention with Sunday's rough start in San Francisco, but he still has a record of 11-10 and an ERA of 3.18 in 26 big-league starts this year covering 158 1/3 innings. The Cubs wanted to give him only one more start after a good performance last week in Milwaukee, but with right-hander Rich Harden being shut down because of "fatigue" in his arm, Wells wound up with two starts down the home stretch.
While musing about his possible 2010 rotation over the weekend in San Francisco, manager Lou Piniella talked about all of the aforementioned pitchers except for Harden. Although he made 26 starts this year and stayed free of the shoulder problems that have plagued him for much of his career with Oakland and the Cubs, Harden is at best 50-50 to come back as he becomes a free agent. Harden made $7 million this year, and debate has started within the organization whether to offer him salary arbitration.
--RHP Carlos Zambrano made noises about retiring after next year. It's the second time this season he's talked of quitting, and the Cubs will let it go in one ear and out the other.
"Look, this is the only season I haven't won 16 or 18 or 14 games," Zambrano told the Chicago Tribune. "If that happens again next season, two seasons in a row, I'll quit. Believe me, I'll quit. I just have to put this behind me."
Zambrano, 28, previously talked of retiring after his five-year, $91.5 million contract expires after the 2012 season. He's 9-6 with a 3.69 ERA.
--1B Derrek Lee did not play again Sunday because of recurring neck spasms. Lee left Thursday's game against the Giants after stealing second base in the top of the ninth inning and feeling pain. He should be able to start Tuesday at home against the Pirates. He entered Sunday leading the big leagues with 24 homers since July 1.
--Wells cited falling behind 2-0 over the first two innings as the reason the Cubs lost Sunday. Wells pitched Sept. 22 in Milwaukee and was staked to a 6-0 lead, and he cruised to a victory. Originally, Wells was promised just one more start after his victory at Milwaukee, but with Harden shut down for the rest of the year, Wells will go Saturday against Arizona.
"It seems like it's a broken record with me putting the team in a hole early," Wells said. "It wasn't my day again. I feel great and feel like I'm throwing OK. I'm a big believer in setting the tone early, and their guy comes down and gets us out and I go out there and let up a run."
--RF Kosuke Fukudome extended his hitting streak to six games, during which he's 9-for-22 (.409). His hit Sunday was a double, which gave him 36 for the season, tied with Lee for the team lead. Fukudome's streak is helping him climb out of a September hole. He's only 18-for-90 (.200) for the month.
BY THE NUMBERS: 42-24 -- The Cubs' record through Sept. 25 with backup C Koyie Hill starting behind the plate. This is Hill's first full season in the big leagues, but he's made himself into a fixture with the Cubs.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't care if he hits between his legs. How's that? Right-handed, left-handed. Doesn't really matter." -- Piniella on what kind of "RBI bat" he wants for 2010.
--RHP Justin Berg, a rookie, has impressed the Cubs out of the bullpen. He has an 0.00 ERA in eight games. In 8 2/3 innings, he's given up seven hits while walking just one and striking out five. A sinkerball pitcher, Berg has a groundout-to-flyball-out ratio of 1.75. He could fit somewhere in the middle next year after spending most of this season at Class AAA Iowa.
--2B Jeff Baker finished the 10-game road trip 10-for-35 (.286) with four runs, two doubles and a game-winning homer. Over his last 11 games, Baker is 14-for-41 (.341), and he has supplanted Mike Fontenot as the regular second baseman. Baker is an arbitration-eligible player the Cubs want back for next season. He could wind up the starting second baseman in 2010, or he could play a role similar to that of Mark DeRosa, who played all of the infield spots and the outfield corners in 2007 and 2008. The Cubs say they plan to try Baker in the outfield next spring.
--OF Reed Johnson came off the DL on Sept. 21 and went 3-for-6 in five games. Johnson had been out since breaking his left foot July 29. He provides a right-handed hitting complement to Kosuke Fukudome in the outfield. Johnson is a free agent at season's end, and it's likely the Cubs will want him back.
--C Geovany Soto sat out Sunday's series finale in San Francisco in favor of Hill. After a brief spurt, during which he showed signs of coming out of a season-long funk, Soto went 3-for-25 (.120) on the road trip. Last season's Rookie of the Year has now splits time behind the plate with Hill, who has spent his first full season in the major leagues since originally coming up in 2003 with the Dodgers. The Cubs say they want Soto to report to spring training in top physical shape. His weight has been a problem throughout his professional career.
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