Previewing tonight’s pitching matchup with Scorecard EXTRA

Every game at Wrigley Field, you can pick up baseball’s best scorecard, the Scorecard EXTRA, for just $2. It not only includes a hard-card and free Cubs pencil to keep track of the game but also has a 16-page wrap that covers the entire Wrigley Field experience. There’s the celebrities, the concessions, the fans and, of course, the baseball.

Cubs advance scout Brad Kelley supplements Christina Kahrl’s monthly preview from Baseball Prospectus, and here’s his preview on tonight’s Giants starter, Matt Cain:

“Matt Cain eats innings and has flown under the radar because of low run support. He always could pitch up in the zone with his mid-90s fastball but has refined his command, and developed life on his change-up.

“Cain had a change-up, but it was just a third pitch for him, didn’t use it much, was straight and didn’t have life. Now he has good life, and it helps neutralize left-handed hitters.

“He eats innings. You think about it, he was young, and he’s learned on the job at the big-league level.”

Scorecard EXTRA preview: Cubs vs. Padres–Tuesday, Aug. 17

Thumbnail image for R05_SCXTRAPADRES AUG10.jpgThe Cubs got a taste of Padres closer Heath Bell in the non-save situation of last night’s ninth inning. He retired Starlin Castro, Kosuke Fukudome and Darwin Barney in order–the first two striking out.

Bell didn’t pitch in the Aug. 14 and Aug. 15 Padres-Giants games, so expect to see him back on the mound during the last three games of this series.

If it’s in a save situation, as Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus explains in August’s Scorecard EXTRA (right), beware. His 35 saves (in 38 opportunities) lead the NL.  

Scorecard EXTRA preview: Cubs vs. Phillies–Friday, July 16

Phillies hitting crop for blog.jpgIn Thursday’s ninth inning, down 12-2, the Phillies offense came to life. Run-scoring hits by Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez followed by Ryan Howard’s two-run home run, his second of the game, showed the lineup’s potential for big innings.

The eight innings that preceded the ninth, however, exemplified the frustration Philly bats have been feeling in 2010. As Baseball Prospectus’ Christina Kahrl explains in July’s Scorecard EXTRA (above), it has been a tougher go for the two-time defending NL champs this season on offense.

But the Cubs can’t sleep on the Phillies Friday afternoon. Philadelphia has had Chicago’s number the last decade, winning eight straight season series. Thursday’s final frame may have sparked the surge for nine straight.

Vine Line on new Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro

Thumbnail image for CASTRO S SPRING 2010 114.jpg

It’s often said in the Cubs organization that players will tell you when they’re ready. After an impressive spring training and start at Double A in which he never stopped hitting, Starlin Castro’s bat and glove have gotten him the go-ahead all the way to Chicago.

General manager Jim Hendry spoke to the media earlier today by phone, and he emphasized that defense is the big reason Castro’s contract was selected today. Castro will play shortstop, moving Ryan Theriot over to second base, which Hendry feels will be a better spot for Theriot at this point in his career.

Looking to learn more about Castro before his big-league debut tonight? We wanted to post a couple of our recent stories from Vine Line. The Farm Report gives the scouting report on the top prospect — as well as an update on the organization’s depth at shortstop. The Inside Pitch talks about how manager Lou Piniella might use the 20-year-old Castro, just like he did a certain other young shortstop in Seattle.

For full quotes from Hendry, click past the jump.


Of pitchers, cover players and Foxes

Good to see Ryan Dempster back ready to go. He had no problems testing out his big toe and is back off the disabled list just a week over the minimum. He was sitting with Ted Lilly, who just elected to have arthroscopic knee surgery while hitting the DL for his shoulder, in the clubhouse before batting practice today.

Fukudome, CF
Theriot, SS
Lee, 1B
Ramirez, 3B
Bradley, RF
Soriano, LF
Fontenot, 2B
Hill, C
Dempster, RHP

Right-hander Roy Oswalt (6-4, 3.66 ERA) pitches for the Astros.

Between the lines

How great a job did Jake Fox do yesterday in emergency work behind the plate? Lou spoke highly of him afterward, especially his leaping catch of a Jeff Samardzija’s sailing fastball.

VL Cover Aug09 Lee.JPGDid you notice Fox’s pitch calling while facing Ivan Rodriguez with two outs and a runner on third in the top of the 10th? After a 1-0 curveball was fouled into the dirt (with Fox plunging to his knees to block it in case Rodriguez didn’t make contact), Lou signaled from the dugout with his hand to just throw fastballs, the same way a pitcher does in warmups. Lou didn’t want a wild pitch to allow the runner home. Sure enough, Fox called for fastballs over the next two pitches, and Rodriguez went chasing for a strikeout.

 You can tell that Cubs fans have begun anticipating something special happening every time D-Lee comes to the plate. Our August Vine Line cover player smacked his 20th home run last night, and he drew the leadoff walk in the bottom of the 13th, his fifth time on base in the game.

— Sean Ahmed

Brave new homestand

Roster moves were the theme of the day, as the club welcomed back Aramis Ramirez, Reed Johnson and Angel Guzman from the DL. With all credit given to the young players that came up and acted as sparkplugs for the team, it’s nice to see these familiar faces in uniform again.

Rehab assignment stats (at Class-A Peoria unless otherwise noted):

Ramirez: .500 (3-for-6), double, three walks

Johnson: .333 (2-for-6), two walks

Guzman: one perfect inning, two strikeouts; at AAA Iowa, 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K

As corresponding roster moves, the Cubs optioned Sam Fuld and Kevin Hart back to Triple-A Iowa; David Patton was placed on the DL with a groin strain.

Fukudome, CF
Theriot, SS
Lee, 1B
Bradley, RF
Ramirez, 3B
Soriano, LF
Soto, C
Fontenot, 2B
Wells, RHP

Right-hander Jair Jurrjens (6-6, 2.73 ERA) pitches for the Braves.

Vine Line Extra: The 10th Inning with….Lin Brehmer

    In the April edition of Vine Line, we debuted a back-page column called “The 10th Inning with….” which offers fan perspectives from the outside looking in. The fans are mainly celebrities or prominent personalities around Chicago giving their impressions on all things Cubs. 
    We’ve received a nice amount of positive feedback on the column and hopefully it will appear every other month, alternating with “Stretching Out with…”
    Popular WXRT Radio on-air personality Lin Brehmer was nice enough to volunteer his services as our inaugural columnist. He has been a die-hard Cubs fan since 1984, when he moved to Chicago. Here is his story:

Lin Head Shot.jpgCubs fans come from every corner. They grow up at the corner of Southport Avenue and
Irving Park Road, and come back to discover a post office where their houses used to be. They grow up on the farms of Iowa, where the crackle of a transistor radio transports them to another world. My collision course was nothing short of providential.
   Raised in a region where the pinstripes were of a different color, four brothers from Oak Park, Ill., introduced me to the lineup of Kessinger, Beckert, Williams, Santo, Banks, Hundley, Altman and Phillips. We roamed the asphalt schoolyards of New York looking for a game. Playing stickball, Joel, Adam, Benji, D.K. and I would take turns being the Chicago Cubs or the New York Yankees.
   In 1970, we started the Cleo James fan club for the unheralded and unloved Cubs outfielder. This past October, 38 years later, Benji sent me an official looking document that reads:

“For Lin Brehmer: Founding Member and President-for-Life of THE CLEO JAMES FAN CLUB. In honor of, and appreciation for, Mr. Cleo James, Outfielder, Chicago Cubs (1970-1971).”

    And then there’s an anonymous quotation: “He won some, he lost some, but he suited up for them all.” In the middle of the document in a protective plastic sleeve is a baseball card of good old number 24. On the back of the baseball card we learn that Cleo’s hobby was table tennis.
    I first arrived in Chicago in 1984 on the promise of World Series tickets.
    Perhaps, I was naive.
    1984. The year of nicknames. Sarge. Ryno. Penguin. The baseball world was giddy with talk of the Cubs that summer. It was the season that Whitey Herzog, the eminence grise of the Cardinals, called Ryne Sandberg the greatest player he’d ever seen.
    My job interview was grueling. I spent the summer eating stuffed pizza and watching the Cubs. By September, I was hunting for a place to live. Tooling around the North Side in a borrowed Mazda, I drove to the corner of Clark and Addison and stopped.
 I am not a casual baseball fan. As a skinny pre-teen, I was a fire-balling southpaw for such teams as Lazar’s Kosher Meats, Gerard Towers, and the star-crossed Michael C. Fina Jewelers.
    In 1971 and 1972, I was the MVP of my high school baseball team. When Rotisserie Baseball was invented at the start of the ’80s, I immediately took my team, Brehmer’s Bombers, to the cellar. I’ve coached youth baseball for six years.
    So that first view of Wrigley Field might as well have been accompanied by a cinematic choir of angels or by the sonorous voice of James Earl Jones summoning me, “Lin Brehmer, this is your destiny.”
    The Cubs did not go to the World Series in 1984. I know because I watched Game 5 against the Padres in my landlord’s apartment right beneath my own on the 3700 block of N. Wayne Avenue.
    And a strange fever grew. 
    Living four blocks from Wrigley Field, I spent the next few baseball seasons in the right-centerfield bleachers with Marty, Mars, Wendy, Norm and Sara.
    My apartment window had a sign in the window that read “No Lights In Wrigley Field,” and as soon as lights were installed, we protested by buying a night game/weekend season ticket package. Aisle 239. Row 4.
    ‘ve been to 28 out of the last 29 Opening Days. My mental scrapbook holds many images: Mark Grace’s torrid postseason run in ’89. Gaetti’s home run in the ’98 one-game wild-card playoff. The nine-run comeback against the Rockies in the summer of ’08.
    And my favorite moment of all: Andre Dawson’s final home game in ’87. That was the year that Dawson offered the Cubs a blank check for his salary and won the MVP for a last-place club.
    All season long the bleachers would pay tribute to Dawson’s unrelenting commitment by bowing to him as he jogged out to rightfield. Andre Dawson was cut from different marble than most media-savvy ball players of the modern era. He was as stoic a presence as I have ever seen in a major-league outfield.
    On that last day, Dawson hit his 49th home run. When he trotted out to his place, he faced the bleachers for the first time, raised his arms in the air and bowed repeatedly to the fans. The gesture was so out of character that it spoke to the man’s caliber.
     I have watched the Cubs now through my son’s eyes. He went to 15 games before he was 1 year old. As a toddler, he ran up the ramps and then down the ramps. He watched the “El” from the rightfield corner. And one afternoon I looked to my left to see him with a pencil in his hand, peanut shells scattered on an open scorebook, writing 6-4-3 DP. A Cubs fan born and bred. A kid gathering stories to pass on to another generation. A young man who will understand there is no winning without losing.
    Robert Browning, who knew nothing of baseball but much of human nature, once wrote, “That heaven should exceed a man’s grasp or what’s a heaven for.”
    Every year, I take a magic marker and draw an X through the month of October. That’s because I plan on being at Wrigley Field through the end of that month.

Lin Brehmer has been the morning disc jockey at 93XRT since 1991. He first came to the station in 1984 so he could go to the World Series at Wrigley Field.

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Ho, Ho, Kam! Merry Cubs fans!