Chicago Cubs: Jeff Baker
The plan for Thursday is to have the Cubs' major league staff and medical team evaluate Baker before, during and after the side session. If all goes well, he could be cleared for a minor league assignment.
"He will throw a bullpen, and we will assess him from there," said Chicago general manager Jed Hoyer. “We think he is pretty close to going out on a rehab assignment. It will be hard to tell where he is at until he gets into some games. He was really frustrated about what happened in spring training. He has worked real hard, so he is probably real excited about getting it going.”
The Cubs are so impressed with Baker as a competitor and a person that if all goes well on the physical front, a new deal most likely will be offered to him for 2014.
"We have certainly talked about it," Hoyer said. “He is a fantastic person and a really good teammate. When he had a setback in spring training, he apologized to us when we felt worse for him. He is certainly the type of guy you want in your organization.”
Baker, 32, is 63-48 lifetime with a 4.15 ERA.
Freak injuries and slow starts for some of the staff have depleted a once-decent inventory of starters that the Cubs front office put together during the winter. Plan A had newcomers Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Scott Baker and Carlos Villanueva joining a returning core group led by Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Matt Garza.
Certainly it was reasonable to assume that Baker and Garza might take longer to find their grooves this spring. Both pitchers were coming off of elbow problems -- in Baker’s case, ligament replacement surgery and in Garza’s, extensive elbow rehab.
CHICAGO -- There were many areas that led to the Chicago Cubs' slow start and ultimate crash in 2012, and the bench was not exempt from that group.
The left-handed dominated lineup figured to have secret bench weapons when it came to opposing left-handed starters, but the strategy backfired in a hurry.
The Cubs were one of the best hitting teams against left-handed pitching over the previous two seasons, but slow starts from right-handed hitters Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson prevented the trend from continuing.
The 21-year-old was ranked the No. 11 prospect in the Tigers’ organization in the 2012 MLB.com prospect watch.
Carreno went 9-8 with a 3.23 ERA in 139 1/3 innings (27 starts) for Single-A West Michigan. He had just 28 walks.
Baker was originally sent to the contending Tigers for two players to be named later, but the Cubs agreed to take Carreno and a cash consideration.
Baker had just seven hits in 35 at-bats for the Tigers before he was moved to the Braves on Aug. 31. With Atlanta, he had two hits in 19 at-bats over 14 games.
The club called up top prospects Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters before Sunday's game in Los Angeles. According to a tweet from mlb.com, Jackson will start in centerfield and hit second in Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs closed out their second home sweep of the season with a 3-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday.
How it happened: It was simply too much Travis Wood for the Astros as the Cubs starter got it done multiple ways Saturday. His brilliant outing started by retiring the first 12 batters he faced. He gave up just three hits the entire day and one was on a bad call by an umpire. Wood also provided a leadoff double in a three-run sixth inning. Anthony Rizzo brought home Wood with a single and Jeff Baker had a two-run double.
What it means: Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair were named to the National League All-Star team on Sunday, but Wood might just be the best thing going on the Cubs right now. The left-hander has now given up one earned run or less in three consecutive starts and has done it four times since the start of June. To put his last three outings another way, he has given up just one run combined in outings against the Chicago White Sox, New York Mets and Astros.
Outside the box: Make that six saves for Carlos Marmol, all since June 15 when he closed out a victory against the Boston Red Sox. Aside from an outing against Arizona in that stretch when he gave up two hits and a run, Marmol has been dominating. His return to former glory is due in part to trusting his fastball more, something the coaching staff had been insisting on since spring training.
Off beat: There is no doubt first-base umpire Paul Schrieber made a bad call when the Astros’ Brian Bixler was ruled safe at first base. But it didn’t have to be such a bang-bang play that left doubt in the umpire’s mind. Rizzo took the throw from Darwin Barney against his body, something he has done on occasion since he arrived to the Cubs on Tuesday. Had he stretched just a little bit with the speedy Bixler coming down the line, he would have made the call much easier to make.
Up next: The Cubs will send right-hander Jeff Samardzija (5-7, 5.05 ERA) to the mound at Atlanta on Monday in the opener of a four-game series. The Braves will counter with right-hander Tommy Hanson (9-4, 3.59) in the 6:10 p.m. CST start from Turner Field.
Baker not only got the start at first base in place of Bryan LaHair, he was inserted in the lineup against the Twins in the No. 5 hole, directly behind Alfonso Soriano.
Soriano’s 11 home runs are the most in baseball since May 15 and he has been even hotter of late with a two-homer game Friday night at Target Field.
But on Friday night, there was LaHair and his 12 home runs as an option if Twins pitchers avoided Soriano. On Saturday, avoiding Soriano gives them Baker and his one home run and six RBI.
Baker was looking at the positives about the situation.
“The good thing is behind hitting behind somebody that is so hot, hopefully he’ll be on base for you and you can get a hit and keep it going,” he said.
He certainly won’t be insulted if Soriano gets walked in front of him.
“I’m comfortable with my numbers in these situations,” Baker said. “If that is something that happen I’ll be ready and hopefully instead of one run scoring two runs will be scoring.”
And if the pitcher wants to take a peek at the on-deck circle when Soriano comes to the plate, Baker can always puff his chest out a little bit and make himself look big and intimidating.
“Yeah, I’ll lift my shirt up to make sure my pipes show and I’ll get my tan line out and maybe it will scare somebody and go from there,” he quipped.
It’s not completely the “B” team that will face the Oakland A's, but there will be plenty of youth as Tony Campana leads off and plays center field, followed by Darwin Barney (second base) and Starlin Castro (shortstop).
Bryan LaHair (first base) will be the cleanup hitter for the second consecutive day, followed by Jeff Baker (right field) and Reed Johnson (left field). The bottom three of the order consists of Steve Clevenger (catcher), Blake DeWitt (designated hitter) and Josh Vitters (third base).
New manager Dale Sveum is big on pacing his veterans, at least through the early part of the Cactus League schedule. That means established players such as Alfonso Soriano, David DeJesus, Marlon Byrd and Ian Stewart will all get a break.
“We don’t have the core guys out there today so it will always be a scattered lineup when that happens,” Sveum said.
The young talent in the Cubs’ farm system is finding its way to Clark and Addison much faster than the organization anticipated.
Infielder D.J. LeMahieu, who joined the team Monday, is the latest minor leaguer to get called up by the team.
The Cubs needed an infielder to replace Jeff Baker, who was put on the DL with a left groin strain. LeMahieu was told yesterday by Brian Harper, his manager at Double-A Tennessee, that he was going to Triple-A Iowa.
”Two hours later I got a phone call from [Cubs Oneri Fleita. He said ‘forget about Iowa,’ you’re on your way to the major leagues,” LeMahieu said.
LeMahieu was hitting .358 at Double-A Tennessee with 27 RBIs in 50 games with 20 doubles. It’s also noteworthy that he was batting .459 against lefties – that fact is key because he’s replacing Baker, who also had been dominant against left-handed pitching.
“This young man knows what his strengths are and knows what his weaknesses are,” Fleita said. “However, we believe he has enough to compete at this level.”
The Cubs selected LeMahieu out of LSU in the second round of the 2009 draft. He played for LSU in the College World Series as a freshman in 2006.
“When you’ve gone through a quality program like the one at LSU and you played in the College World Series, you’ve paid your dues,” Fleita said. “He’s well prepared and was way ahead of some other players that were drafted and developed in our minor leagues.”
LeMahieu was hoping that experience will help his transition to the big leagues.
“Playing in front of crowds and going to Omaha [in the 2006 College World Series] the adjustment to the minor leagues wasn’t as big and hopefully [playing in the majors] is somewhat similar,” he said.
Manager Mike Quade said he’s not sure if LeMahieu will get a start in the near future but he won’t hesitate to use him off the bench.
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