New York Mets: Theo Epstein

Series preview: Mets at Cubs

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
9:00
AM ET

Getty ImagesThe Mets face Jake Arrieta, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood at Wrigley Field.
METS (28-29, third place/NL East) vs. CHICAGO CUBS (20-34, fifth place/NL Central)

Tuesday: RHP Zack Wheeler (2-5, 4.31) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (1-1, 3.20), 8:05 p.m. ET

Wednesday: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-0, 2.45) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (3-5, 4.81), 8:05 p.m. ET

Thursday: RHP Jacob deGrom (0-2, 2.42) vs. LHP Travis Wood (5-5, 5.15), 7:05 p.m. ET

Cubs short hops

• UConn product and New Haven native Mike Olt leads National League rookies with nine homers and 24 RBIs. The righty-hitting third baseman was acquired last July 22 with three other players in a swap with the Texas Rangers for Matt Garza. Olt, 25, became the first Cubs rookie since Geovany Soto in 2008 with nine homers before June 1.


Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesUConn product Mike Olt leads NL rookies in homers and RBIs.


Olt experienced blurriness and depth-perception trouble with his vision last year while with Texas after being struck in the head the previous November while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. It affected his ability to catch baseballs in the field, not just to judge pitches at the plate. It since has been managed through eye drops.

Olt and lefty-hitting Luis Valbuena share duties at third base. The Cubs used six different players at the position last year.

Valbuena has been out since Friday with a sore abdominal muscle, but is expected to be available for the series opener against the Mets. He has started 21 games at third base and 14 games at second base this season. Ex-Marlin Emilio Bonifacio made his first third-base start of the season Saturday with Valbuena unavailable.

Bonifacio, who was released by the Kansas City Royals in February and signed by the Cubs, otherwise has 33 starts in center field and 14 starts at second base this season.

• The Cubs signed 42-year-old Manny Ramirez to serve as a player-coach with Triple-A Iowa. There is no intention of bringing Ramirez, who last appeared in the majors in 2011, to the big leagues.

“While Manny is not and will not be a fit on the Cubs’ major league roster, we do think at this stage of his life he’s a nice fit as a mentor for some of the young talented hitters we have in the organization,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said in a statement. “Manny will coach full time and play part time in a limited role that does not take at-bats away from our prospects. If he shows there is still some magic in his bat, perhaps he will find his way to the major leagues and help another team, but that is not why he is here.”

• Wednesday’s game will feature two of baseball’s more deliberate pitchers. Edwin Jackson averages 25.1 seconds between pitches, tied for seventh slowest in MLB among qualifiers. Opponent Daisuke Matsuzaka checks in at 23.9 seconds, which is actually the fastest pace of his career.

Anthony Rizzo (.267, 10 HR, 28 RBIs) had his fifth career multi-homer game Saturday when he twice took Milwaukee’s Wily Peralta deep. A day later, the 24-year-old Rizzo was ejected by plate umpire Jerry Meals in the fourth inning with the Cubs already trailing by eight runs for demonstrably arguing a called third strike. Rizzo has started 53 of the team’s 54 games at first base. He received his lone day off Friday, preceding his big day at the plate. Rizzo has lifted his on-base percentage to .398 this season, up from .323 a year ago.

• CBSChicago.com’s Bruce Levine reports the Baltimore Orioles are in the lead for soon-to-be-traded ace Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija’s ERA swelled from 1.68 to 2.54 after he was charged with eight earned runs in three innings at Milwaukee on Sunday. The Mets miss Samardzija and Jason Hammel (6-3, 2.78 ERA) in the three-game series. Hammel’s 0.869 WHIP ranks third in the majors, trailing only Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto (0.758) and San Francisco’s Tim Hudson (0.866).

Starlin Castro has the most hits by a shortstop in the majors since 2011 with 612, considerably ahead of runner-up Alexei Ramirez (575) of the Chicago White Sox. Castro (.272, 7 HR, 26 RBIs) has started all 54 Cubs games this season. He was due to be given Sunday off, but talked his way into the lineup. Castro had missed the bulk of Cactus League action with a spring-training hamstring injury. He started 159 games at shortstop in 2013.

• Left fielder Junior Lake has 60 strikeouts in 160 at-bats. His vulnerability is balls on the lower half of the plate.

Jake Arrieta opened the season on the disabled list with right shoulder tightness. He made his season debut May 3. Arrieta had been acquired from the Orioles last July 2 with Pedro Strop and two international signing bonus slots for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. Strop returned Friday from a DL stint for a left groin strain.

• Right fielder Nate Schierholtz went homerless in his first 42 games, which included 150 at-bats, but since has two homers in the past week.

• Former Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan was promoted from Triple-A on May 3. He replaced fellow outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who landed on the DL with a right hamstring injury. Another backup outfielder, Justin Ruggiano, was activated from the DL last Monday after missing a month with a left hamstring strain.

Travis Wood enters Thursday’s start off his shortest outing of the season. He allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Brewers.

• The Cubs’ .231 batting average ranks 29th in the majors, better than only the San Diego Padres (.226).

• Closer Hector Rondon (6-for-7 in save opportunities) missed the weekend series against Milwaukee while on paternity leave but will be back for Tuesday’s opener against the Mets. Neil Ramirez, also acquired in the Garza trade, filled in as closer during Rondon’s absence.

• The Cubs are 0-11-3 in their past 14 road series. They have a 10-13 record at Wrigley Field this season.

Series preview: Mets at Cubs

June, 25, 2012
6/25/12
9:20
AM ET

Getty Images
The Mets face (l to r) Travis Wood, Randy Wells and Jeff Samardzija at Wrigley Field.
METS (39-34, second place/NL East) vs. CHICAGO CUBS (24-48, sixth place/NL East)

Monday: LHP Johan Santana (5-3, 3.00) vs. LHP Travis Wood (1-3, 4.14), 8:05 p.m. ET

Tuesday: RHP Dillon Gee (5-5, 4.27) vs. RHP Randy Wells (1-2, 4.91), 8:05 p.m. ET

Wednesday: LHP Jon Niese (5-3, 3.75) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (5-6, 4.34), 2:20 p.m. ET

Cubs short hops

• Right-hander Matt Garza (3-6, 4.06 ERA in 14 starts) is among the most likely Cubs to be traded. Garza, 28, is earning $9.5 million this season and is under control via arbitration through 2013 before being eligible for free agency. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo lists the Braves, Tigers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Royals as potential landing spots.

• Left fielder Alfonso Soriano (.269, 14 HR, 44 RBIs) had 12 long balls in a 26-day stretch beginning May 15, but still has been the subject of fan booing. Soriano was caught standing at the plate when Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks dropped his screaming line drive in a June 16 game. “I think our fans know, because they’ve watched Sori play all year, that he’s been hustling from Opening Day on and given a great effort,” first-year president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told ESPNChicago.com in defense of Soriano. “It was an unfortunate natural reaction.”


Rick Scuteri/US Presswire
First base prospect Anthony Rizzo should make his Cubs debut during the series.


Randy Wells will make his second start for injured Ryan Dempster, whose 22-inning scoreless streak is frozen but intact because he landed on the disabled list last Monday with a tight right lat muscle. Dempster should return in plenty of time for the Cubs to trade him before the July 31 deadline. Wells allowed three runs on five hits and four walks and was pulled with his pitch count at 69 after 3 2/3 innings Wednesday against the White Sox.

Travis Wood has now drawn Justin Verlander, Jake Peavy and Santana in his past three starts. Opposite the White Sox’s Peavy in his most recent outing, Wood allowed one run on four hits in six innings to post his first victory since last Aug. 19, as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Wood, 25, was acquired in a Dec. 23 trade for Sean Marshall. He has a 2.92 ERA over his past four starts. He opened the season by making seven starts with Triple-A Iowa.

• Hyped first-base prospect Anthony Rizzo is expected to be promoted this series. Rizzo was acquired from San Diego on Jan. 6 with Zach Cates for Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na. Because he logged 68 days in the majors last season with the Padres, the 22-year-old Rizzo had to remain in the minors at least through Friday in order to delay his free agency for an extra year, until after the 2018 season. Rizzo had a rough time in the majors with San Diego last season, hitting .141 with one homer and nine RBIs in 128 at-bats.

• Rizzo’s imminent promotion should push lefty-hitting Bryan LaHair back into relatively unfamiliar right field, from first base. LaHair (.286, 13 HR, 28 RBIs) was a nine-year minor leaguer who was prepared to play in Japan this season before opting for one final stab at a major league career.

Jeff Samardzija moved into the rotation this year. Only five of his 128 major league appearances before this season had come in a starting role.

• In addition to Epstein, the Cubs’ new braintrust includes former Padres GM Jed Hoyer now serving in that role in Chicago. First-year manager Dale Sveum spent 12 seasons as a major league infielder. Sveum also managed the final 12 games of the 2008 season with the Brewers after Ned Yost was jettisoned. He rode CC Sabathia to a wild-card berth as the Mets missed out on the playoffs on the final day for a second straight season.

• With few opportunities, closer Carlos Marmol has only four saves this season. His next save will be the 100th of his career. The only other Cubs to have reached that plateau: Lee Smith (180), Bruce Sutter (133) and Randy Myers (112).

• Catcher Geovany Soto (.174, 5 HR, 8 RBIs) returned June 18 from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after missing a month.

• Shorstop Starlin Castro (.304, 6 HR, 38 RBIs), the Cubs’ lone representative at last year’s All-Star game, again has heated up. Castro drew Sveum’s attention earlier this month for repeated in-game mental lapses. He nonetheless has started all 72 games. Atlanta’s Dan Uggla is the only other major leaguer to start every game for his team this season.

• Third baseman Ian Stewart received another cortisone shot for a left wrist impingement, hoping to at least delay surgery until the offseason. He is not eligible to return from the disabled list until Thursday, after the series. Former Indian Luis Valbuena has manned third base in Stewart’s absence.

• Center fielder Tony Campana leads the majors with 24 steals, one ahead of the Dodgers’ Dee Gordon.

• The Cubs are 3-16 in games started by left-handed opposing pitcher.

Last series results

Chicago won, 2-1, at Citi Field, Sept. 9-11, 2011 (AP game recaps)

Mets 5, Cubs 4: Justin Turner doubled in the decisive run with two outs in the ninth inning. Manny Acosta had surrendered a tying single to Darwin Barney with two outs in the top half. Turner (three hits) also had a tiebreaking double in the fifth. Jason Bay doubled twice and threw out a runner at the plate. David Wright and Bay each had an RBI to help the Mets overcome an early 3-0 deficit. More

Cubs 5, Mets 4: Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run single in the top of the ninth, a half-inning after the Cubs blew a three-run lead. Jason Bay had given the Mets a 4-3 lead with a two-out, two-run single. More sloppy play by New York in the ninth on an overall rough day in the field, and another meltdown by Bobby Parnell (3-6), aided Chicago. The Cubs built an early 2-0 lead with help from two errors by Jose Reyes. David Wright made his second error and New York's fourth of the game when he couldn't handle Geovany Soto's grounder leading off the ninth. Pinch hitter Bryan LaHair doubled to put runners at second and third. Parnell then got two outs to bring up Ramirez. Terry Collins considered walking him, but opted not to put pressure on Parnell to pitch with the bases loaded. More

Cubs 10, Mets 6 (11 innings): Carlos Pena hit a go-ahead single in Chicago's six-run 11th, and the Cubs won a game that ended nearly five hours after the Mets held a touching ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Josh Stinson (0-1) walked Marlon Byrd to start the 11th and gave up a single to Bryan LaHair. Pena singled for the lead. Pinch hitter Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney each hit two-run doubles off Ryota Igarashi before the first out, and Geovany Soto added a sacrifice fly. New York trailed 4-1 after five innings but scored twice in the sixth off Matt Garza. The Mets tied it with an unearned run when reliever Jeff Samardzija made a bad throw. The Mets loaded the bases in the first, ninth and 10th innings but came up empty. More

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.297 7 37 55
OTHER LEADERS
HRC. Granderson 14
RBIL. Duda 46
RD. Murphy 55
OPSL. Duda .835
WB. Colon 8
ERAJ. Niese 2.96
SOZ. Wheeler 99