Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

June 2010 Archives

Kevin Millar, a spring training teammate of Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs this year, appears to be one of the few, if not the only, ``teammate'' to have reached Zambrano since Friday's incident at U.S. Cellular Field.

Now an MLB Network analyst, Millar talked about Zambrano's take on the incident - echoing the explanation a source close to Zambrano gave to the Sun-Times on Saturday.

``I spoke with him the other day, after the games on Saturday, and the main thing he wanted to get across was that at times guys like Carlos, they don't know how to handle or how to fire up a team,'' Millar said. ``There wasn't one play that made him mad; it was just the whole team and the way they've been playing made him made, and then he was frustrated, he said, after his inning and came in and was basically trying to pump all the guys up.''

Multiple Cubs on Saturday scoffed at that explanation, given the ``this team is horse----!'' venom spewing throughout his tirade.

Meetings and milestones drive Cubs

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Was it the meetings? Was it the Stanley Cup buzz wafting from Chicago into Milwaukee.

Something seemed to put a charge into the Cub bats Wednesday night.

``Who knows if it helped or not, but we definitely had success tonight,'' said Derrek Lee, one of only two Cub hitters who didn't get called into Lou's office before the game for a quick, ``the-guy-playing-the-best-is-going-to-get-the-starts'' talk.

Five home runs later - including Lee's career 300th - the Cubs had a 9-4 win over the Brewers and a new high-energy look.

Of course, nine runs always looks like more energy than one. Even when seven of them are scored with a jog - including five on two pairs of homers by Marlon Byrd and Geovany Soto.

Piniella said he just wanted to put a little ``urgency'' into a group that has struggled to score runs all season.

Winning pitcher Carlos Zambrano said he saw a difference in the energy level.

``Hopefully, this is the start of a good streak for us, winning streak and hitting streak,'' he said. ``Since the first day of the season, we know that we can hit. We just haven't been able to execute it. But one thing I know is we have good hitters. Unfortunately, we don't' look like that [this season], but this team is loaded.''

For Lee, the pursuit of his 300th home run was an exercise in putting it out of his mind.

``I was aware, but I wasn't going up there thinking let's try to get to 300,'' said Lee, who retrieved the home run ball and had it in his locker after the game. ``But now that I'm there it feels good. It's a nice accomplishment. It says that you've had some success over a period of time. It feels good.''

A long, long period of time compared to many in the clubhouse.

Lee remembered the first one almost as the 300th.

``Yeah, in San Francisco, '97 ...,'' he said.

He just didn't need to be reminded that Cub teammate Starlin Castro was 7 years old at the time.

``You shouldn't have told me that,'' he said, laughing. ``That's crazy. Yeah, you look up there and see he's born in 1990, and you know you're getting up there.''

Said Piniella: ``Congratulations to him. He's had a great career - a batting title, 300 home runs. Pretty impressive. And he's a good young man to boot.''

Cubs' Ramirez headed to DL

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In a move that could have been made more than two weeks ago when his bruised hand became an issue, .168-hitting Aramis Ramirez is expected to go on the disabled list Wednesday.

``Rather than milking it along, possibly getting it 100 percent well [is the objective],'' said manager Lou Piniella, who wouldn't say specifically that a DL move was coming today, possibly to wait until all parties were notified. ``Let's not rule out any option,'' he added.

Chad Tracy, the former Arizona Diamondbacks starting third baseman who opened the season on the roster, likely will be called up from AAA Iowa to take Ramirez's place on the roster.

While the soreness near the base of his left thumb hasn't completely subsided and continues to bother him, allows a mental break as much as anything for the longtime cleanup hitter who has never suffered through a slump like the one he's been going through since the season began.

Until getting three hits Saturday in Houston, Ramirez had only three two-hit games all season, and two were in the span of five days last month.

He leads the team with 45 strikeouts, compared to just 30 hits.

Two weeks ago, Ramirez missed four games because of the hand problem but the club decided against a DL move at that point.

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