Lee, Soriano together on precipice of 300
Cubs pair hit third and fourth with milestone homers in reach
CHICAGO -- Maybe Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano can duplicate what Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko did in April 2009.Lee and Soriano both have 299 career homers and were batting third and fourth in Wednesday's lineup against the Los Angeles Dodgers. On April 13, 2009, Dye and Konerko hit their 300th home runs back-to-back in Detroit while with the Chicago White Sox. Dye and Konerko are the first teammates to hit century milestones of at least 300 in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Dye hit a 2-1 pitch from Detroit's Zach Miner, and Konerko went deep with a full count. It was the second homer of the year for both. Lee hit No. 299 on Tuesday, and Soriano reached that mark on Sunday. So far, 125 players have hit 300 home runs, including six who reached the milestone with the Cubs. The most recent was Sammy Sosa on June 26, 1999. Cubs manager Lou Piniella gave Lee a little hitting tip prior to Tuesday's game. "I was here Monday [on the off-day] and I looked at film of Derrek and of [Aramis] Ramirez both," Piniella said. "It was a couple simple little things that I thought would free [Lee] a little bit. "The amazing thing is, the individual is the one who has to respond to it, and last night he did. He drove the ball well to left-center and up in the bleachers in right, a base hit up the middle. It was a good day for him." What if Lee and Soriano homered back-to-back? "That would be nice," Piniella said.
Big Z available in 'pen until return to rotation
CHICAGO -- Carlos Zambrano will be back in the Cubs' bullpen Thursday through Saturday before he is inserted into the rotation again. Who gets bumped has not been announced."We have a pretty good idea of what we're going to do," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We'll use Carlos in the bullpen in the St. Louis series [this weekend], and then we'll insert him into the rotation." The right-hander was the Cubs' Opening Day starter and started four games before agreeing to switch to the bullpen April 22 to make room for Ted Lilly, who was activated from the disabled list at that time. In 11 relief appearances, Zambrano is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA, giving up six runs on 16 hits over 11 1/3 innings. Three of those runs came on May 14 against the Pirates. Zambrano asked to return to the rotation after that game. Piniella was in no hurry to reveal who among the five current starters -- Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny -- will be reassigned. "We don't have to make a determination until next week," Piniella said on Wednesday before the Cubs faced the Dodgers. "We'll let everybody pitch and go from there." Zambrano tuned up for his return by throwing 73 pitches in a simulated game on Monday, the Cubs' off-day. When he will start in the Cubs' series against the Pirates (Monday-Wednesday) will depend on how much he's used over the weekend against the Cardinals. "They've all pitched well," Piniella said of his starters. "The amazing thing is when Lilly came back, if we hadn't taken Zambrano out, we were going to have to take somebody out anyway. We were in the same situation when Lilly came back from his rehab. We needed a spot for Lilly. "We tried the Zambrano thing in the bullpen, and all we're doing now is opening a spot for Zambrano," Piniella said. "It's no different. We can't pitch six. The amazing part about it is whoever comes out of the rotation can really help us in the bullpen, too." Zambrano told Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild that he wasn't comfortable pitching in relief. Yet, since the Cubs told him he will start again, Zambrano has pitched much better. In his last three outings, he has given up one hit and not walked a batter in 2 2/3 innings. "This is a situation where Carlos has been a starting pitcher here for a while with success, and he needs to get back out there and join our rotation and win some ballgames," Piniella said. "That's what he needs to do is pitch well and win some ballgames out of the rotation."
Improving Aramis remains out
CHICAGO -- The swelling had gone down in the left thumb of Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez, but he was not able to do any baseball activity on Wednesday.Ramirez, who was batting .160, is nursing a sprained left thumb and has not started since Saturday, when he went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts against the Texas Rangers. "He'll probably try a few flip drills tomorrow and then we'll see where we're at," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said on Wednesday.
Theriot in midst of walk drought
CHICAGO -- Cubs infielder Ryan Theriot's on-base percentage in April was .370. He batted .337 in the first month. Those numbers haven't been as strong in May.In 20 games this month, Theriot was batting .250 with a .267 on-base percentage. He's drawn one walk in 20 games in May, and that was in the eighth inning on May 1. That's it. "He hasn't walked since the first of May?" Cubs manager Lou Piniella asked on Wednesday when the stat was presented to him by one of the Cubs' beat writers. "That is surprising. I wasn't aware of that." The Cubs have had better at-bats and shown improvement in recent games. But Piniella brought up the Theriot stat about four minutes later in his pregame session. "That's unbelievable," Piniella said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.