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

June 2011 Archives

LeMahieu sent down -- but not out of Cubs' big picture

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The Cubs get their rookie second baseman back from the disabled list Wednesday - one day after sending the kid who might be their future third baseman back to the minors.

The Cubs are a long way from being able to reliably project their Opening Day infield for next year, much less the year after. But the way manager Mike Quade talks about rookie infielder DJ LeMahieu, don't be surprised to see the kid get a chance to stick as a third baseman the next time he shows up during the 25-man roster period.

``There probably would be a debate among our people in the minor-league system about where he's better,'' Quade said of LeMahieu's fielding at second and third. ``I respect those people, and if they're not sure, that means he's probably pretty good at both. From what I've seen at second, I've been real happy, so if he's equally adept at third, that's a good thing, for sure.''

Especially with Darwin Barney - who returns from a knee injury today - in the process of locking down second base.

Barney, who finished up a minor-league rehab assignment with a 2-for-3 game Tuesday for AAA Iowa, is expected in the lineup Wednesday night, equipped with a knee brace.

``Barney right now has established himself, no question,'' Quade said. ``DJ's career, maybe he winds up at third. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself elsewhere if you're able to handle elsewhere.''

Third base should be open by next spring, with incumbent Aramis Ramirez expected to become a free agent (pending the Cubs buying out his $16 million option).

LeMahieu, the first Cub from the 2009 draft (second round) to make it to the big leagues, hit .243 with a double in his 23-game debut, mostly at second base filling in for Barney.

``He's handled himself extremely well. He hasn't been in awe,'' Quade said. ``It's great anytime you can get guys that you're looking at for future help to come up and handle themselves as well as he did.''

Cubs' Davis: Chemistry better since meeting

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Cubs pitcher Doug Davis has only been with the team for a little more than five weeks, but he already sees a big difference in the clubhouse quality since then, he said.

``I think everybody's pulling for everybody right now,'' Davis said after pitching five innings of the Cubs' 4-3 loss to the White Sox Wednesday night. ``We're losing as a team, we're winning as a team, and I think it's definitely different from a month ago. And we'll continue to push each other and back each other up on everything.''

Davis pointed to a team meeting about three weeks ago, just as the Cubs were hit with a rash of injuries within less than a week.

They haven't won a lot of games since then, but manager Mike Quade and players say they feel they've played a lot better baseball - and against some of the better teams in baseball during that stretch.

Davis, a veteran journeyman, said chemistry wasn't a major issue before that, but added, ``It just didn't feel like everybody was on the same page. I think we had a team meeting and things got straightened out, where we're all on the same page and working for each other.''

They even got cool new ``F--- the Goat'' T-shirts along the way.

``Bottom line, everybody is pitching in and giving us a chance to win every ballgame, and that's a key,'' he said.

Next key: Win at least a few more of the one-run games that have accounted for four of their last six losses.

``We're just going to keep coming,'' said first baseman Carlos Pena, whose 14th home run of the season Wednesday gave him homers in three straight games - the first Cub to do that since Derrek Lee last August.

Power rising with temperature for Cubs' Pena

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He's still striking out, and he's still not hitting better than .220. But Carlos Pena is looking more and more these days like the left-handed power threat the Cubs believed was worth the $10 million price tag last December.

Since going without a homer and just six RBIs in his first 25 games this season, Pena has 12 homers and 30 RBIs - including three homers in his past five games.

All three have either tied the game or given the Cubs the lead, including Monday night's three-run shot in the sixth that came three batters after Starlin Castro's tying homer off Sox starter Gavin Floyd.

So what's gotten into the former AL batting champ lately?

``There's plenty of factors we could talk about,'' he said. ``We could say weather, we could say getting used to a new environment. But I just don't even go back and try to analyze it too much.

``Instead of looking at what's wrong, I try to always talk about what can I do right? So that has been my attitude. Every day I come in and I'm in the cage with [hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo]. And the work is never done. It's never-ending. I'll be back out there again tomorrow trying to improve myself as a hitter. And, hopefully, I can just keep on contributing for the ballclub and for my teammates.''

It's probably no coincidence the Cubs are 5-2 in the games Pena has played (4-1 in his starts) since returning to Chicago off that 2-8, three-city trip - as Pena's hit the three homers, added two doubles and driven in six runs in those games.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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