Cubs recall Murton from Minors
Infielder/outfielder Patterson optioned to Triple-A Iowa
CHICAGO -- Matt Murton strode into the Cubs clubhouse for the first time this season, but he had no place to go.
Eric Patterson was still clearing out of Murton's prospective locker as the pair prepared to trade places, with Patterson going back down to Triple-A Iowa. Murton arrived a couple hours before Saturday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A regular with the Cubs the past two seasons, Murton's first appearance in Chicago this season was brought on by a spate of opposing left-handed pitchers on the horizon. Murton, a right-handed hitter, should get some pinch-hitting opportunities and a few starts in the outfield until Alfonso Soriano returns from the DL (right calf strain).
The Mets, Chicago's opponent Monday and Tuesday, have three lefties in their bullpen. The Cubs' next two opponents after that, Colorado and Washington, also have a handful of left-handed pitchers in the rotation and in the bullpen.
"We're going to be facing some left-handed pitchers, and the teams we're playing have some left-handers in the bullpen," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "At the same time, if I want to rest [Ryan] Theriot or [Kosuke] Fukudome a day, we have a right-handed bat here that can help out. Murton has experience and he's had success at the big league level. He can hit right-handed and left-handed pitchers."
Murton is a .296 career hitter over three seasons with the Cubs. Last year, he hit .281 (66-for-235) with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 94 games. The signing of Reed Johnson, and the Cubs keeping Ronny Cedeno and Mike Fontenot on the bench, made Murton the odd man out. The Cubs tried to deal him somewhere he could play regularly but found no takers.
Murton's lack of power, a continuing concern for the Cubs, plagued him again in Triple-A. He hit .317 in 13 games but didn't pick up an extra-base hit. He had 13 homers and 62 RBIs in 2006, but hasn't progressed much since.
"We were hoping he'd go down and hit the ball for a little power," Piniella said. "But he's been getting his base hits. Sometimes it takes some at-bats. But look, he's hit at the big league level and he gives us experience, and he gives us a bat from the right side."
While Patterson didn't find out he was leaving until about 15 minutes before he had to clear out, Murton got the news Friday and caught an early flight out of New Orleans on Saturday morning. He was happy, but succinct in dealing with the media.
"It's great," he said of coming back. "This team has been playing well. It's unfortunate, obviously, that Alfonso got hurt. I've been feeling pretty good at the plate down there and am just looking to come up and keep doing what I've been doing."
It was a whirlwind trip to Chicago for Patterson. He arrived on April 16, when Soriano went down, and got six at-bats in three games. The left-handed Patterson went hitless, but knocked in a run and stole a base and got one start. He hopes when he makes his third appearance at this level (he made his debut last year), he sticks around for awhile.
"I think it's just like anything else," Patterson said. "The more you're around it, the more comfortable you get. Hopefully the next time it'll be a little bit longer."
Patterson will continue to play second and center field in the Minors. He said Cubs coaches talked to him about adding a stride at the plate and focusing on a consistent offensive approach.
"Basically, I'm going back and I'm going to work on some things, really, continue to work on everything," he said. "There's not an attitude or anything like that. I'm not going to sit there and sulk and be upset. I understand it's a business. They have a job up here and I have a job down there, to work and get better."
Jon Greenberg is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.