The Cubs are going for a sweep today against the Astros, just as they were last series against the Mets. The Cubs lost that game 17 to 1.
- Dale Sveum credits an improved and more heavily used fastball with Carlos Marmol’s recent string of effectiveness. Sveum, you’ll recall, was the one saying Marmol needed to start throwing his fastball more as far back as the second week of the season. Marmol has finally received the message, and it’s paying off. “There’s no question [the fastball has helped],” Sveum said. “He’s throwing his fastball in the strike zone. If he doesn’t, it’s just missing and he’s able to come back and do some things. He’s still going to throw his slider, but his fastball is still going to be very important to be able to throw, especially the velocity. Hitters see 94, 95 [mph] and it speeds them up.” To me, Marmol just looks more “in control” of himself these days. He’s still a little wild, but it doesn’t look like he has *no* idea where the ball is going. Since coming off the DL in late May, Marmol has thrown 11.1 innings, striking out 16, and posting a 3.97 ERA.
- Chris Volstad will indeed be called up to get the start on Tuesday, in place of demoted Randy Wells (who was pitching in place of injured Ryan Dempster). Volstad, 25, went 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA after starting the year with the big club (he really did look good in Spring Training…). Frequently the victim of the big inning, Volstad simply couldn’t put together a single start that you’d call a great one, and he was sent to Iowa to work things out. There, he’s put up a 4.44 ERA over eight starts, which really isn’t all that bad. He has a 3.42 K/BB ratio, which is his best since rookie ball. Who knows? Maybe Volstad pulls a Travis Wood, and comes up having figured some things out.
- Ryan Dempster threw off flat ground again yesterday, and won’t take to the mound until tomorrow. Apparently he still feels well, but obviously there’s no sense of urgency here. Dempster isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break. He did pull it together enough to bowl at Kerry Wood’s charity event earlier in the week, though. (He appears to be bowling lefty, which is how I suspect he was protecting that injured right lat. Unless Dempster always bowls lefty, that is.)
- GM Jed Hoyer spoke yesterday about newly-signed prospect Jorge Soler, but didn’t offer a whole lot in the way of telling or sexy quotes. “He has a ton of power potential for us,” Hoyer said. “We scouted him heavily. Obviously, it’s a significant commitment for us, but we feel he fits very well into what we want to do – he’s the right age, right talent. We’re excited to finally get him started.” Okey dokey. As noted yesterday, Soler will head to Arizona for a Spring Training-like session before being assigned to a team (beyond the rookie league team in Mesa, where he might play some games). We probably won’t see him in Boise or Peoria for a few weeks.
- Ok, so Hoyer did say a little bit more about Soler, as a player. “I think you’ll be really impressed when you see him physically: a huge, huge person, a very big man,” Hoyer said. “Right now, he moves really well. We’re going to start him out in right field. Could he end up moving at some point? He could because he is that big. But he has huge power and it’s hard to find power in today’s game and that’s a big part of why we’re willing to make that kind of commitment is that it is hard to find power. He’s just a huge guy with bat speed and has always generated a lot of power.” Soler is about 6’3″ and 210/22o lbs.
- Hoyer also said that surgery is likely in the offing for injured third baseman, Ian Stewart. “Yeah, I think it’s a strong likelihood is a strong way to characterize it,” Hoyer said of the possibility of surgery. “He may be able to avoid it but to this point we have tried to exhaust every option to avoid it and it may well end up with surgery. It’s been frustrating for Ian and frustrating for us.”
- Matt Garza gave the shaving cream pie to the camera yesterday, and apparently it was not well-received. He had interrupted Bob and Len’s interview with Anthony Rizzo, and they did not sound too impressed. Shrug. It was kind of funny.
- Brett Jackson, having heard Dale Sveum’s comments about his alarming strikeout rate, spoke to Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register: “Obviously I’ve been striking out too much, so I’m cutting down on my swing and trying to be more of who I am,” Jackson said. “I was trying to be someone probably greater than who I am, and who I am is a player I think can help a team win, with the speed I have.” We’ll see if there’s a change going forward, and whether it negatively impacts his power game.