CHICAGO -- The Cubs added a fresh, albeit delayed, arm to the bullpen in Mitch Atkins.
Weather delays slowed the right-hander's arrival on Saturday from Memphis, Tenn., where Triple-A Iowa was playing. He did arrive in time for the Cubs' Interleague game against the White Sox.
To make room on the roster, left-hander James Russell was optioned to Iowa. Russell was 0-1 with a 4.71 ERA in 20 relief appearances.Atkins was 4-2 with one save in 14 games (six starts) for Iowa, striking out 33 in 48 innings. He had been used as a starter in his last six games, and last pitched June 5 against New Orleans. In that game, he gave up one run on three hits in six innings.
"We need a pitcher in here with a fresh arm," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Saturday.
Atkins had been scheduled to start Friday for Iowa but Jeff Samardzija got the assignment, his first start of the season, and gave up one hit in four innings in a 4-1 win. In 17 games this season at Iowa, Samardzija is 4-0 with a 2.16 ERA. He's walked 17 and struck out 22 in 25 innings.
The Cubs' bullpen is shorthanded because the starters went five innings in each of the past three games.
John Grabow also could rejoin the Cubs' bullpen soon. The left-hander was placed on the disabled list June 8 with a sore left knee and in two rehab starts with Iowa, he's given up one hit and one walk and struck out one in two innings.
Video reveals fix for Wells
CHICAGO -- The Cubs may have found the answer to Randy Wells' so-called first-inning curse.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild looked at some film of Wells' delivery for about half an hour Saturday and feel they've found a minor mechanical flaw when he's pitching out of the stretch.
"It's off the stretch, not off the windup," Piniella said. "Notice that when [Wells] has his troubles, or has had his troubles, there's a guy on base. When he's going good off the windup, he gets one, two, three innings. We feel that Larry hit on something that will help him off the stretch."
On Friday, Wells retired the first two batters he faced in the first, then gave up four straight hits to the White Sox, who posted a 10-5 victory over the Cubs. It was Wells' fifth straight loss and he's now 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA in his last eight starts.
He's been roughed up in four games in the first inning and teams are batting .357 against him in the opening frame.
Wells has tried to downplay the first-inning struggles.
"It just came down to not executing pitches when I needed to," he said of Friday's outing.
Stevens pitching with confidence
CHICAGO -- Jeff Stevens believes.
The right-handed reliever believes in his pitches, believes he can get Major League hitters out, and that belief has translated into a solid performance for the Cubs.
"I think it's just having all three pitches going and just believing in all of them and knowing I can throw a 2-0 slider and maybe last year, I wouldn't think I could do that," Stevens said. "Now I just get it and go and believe in it. I'm convinced that's the biggest thing, believing in what you're throwing."
He had not given up an earned run in his first nine Cubs outings before Friday when the White Sox scored in a 10-5 win over the Cubs. Stevens wasn't bothered Saturday. He's looking at the big picture.
"I'm getting really good opportunities to pitch," said Stevens, who was called up May 19 from Triple-A Iowa. "Last year, I was hoping I'd get that opportunity. This year, I really want the ball and I've been getting it in meaningful innings and situations."
A pitcher wanting the ball is like a hitter wanting to be at the plate with runners on or in clutch situations.
"You want the ball in big situations and you want to be out there and you want to make pitches and you want to show you belong here," Stevens said. "I think that's the biggest thing is believing you belong here and believing you can make pitches and get guys out.
"That's the biggest thing, knowing whatever you throw up there will be the right pitch and will work out for you," he said.
Stanley Cup tour coming to Wrigley
CHICAGO -- The newly crowned Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will be feted Sunday at Wrigley Field prior to the finale of the Cubs and White Sox Interleague series.
The Blackhawks will be recognized on the field at 6:45 p.m. CT. As part of the festivities, the hockey players will throw out a ceremonial first pitch and lead the fans in singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.
Jim Cornelison, who sings the national anthem at the United Center prior to Blackhawks games, will do the honors Sunday at Wrigley.
The Blackhawks won the NHL championship on Wednesday, beating the Philadelphia Flyers in six games.
Playlists changing at Wrigley
CHICAGO -- Ryan Theriot likes Salt-N-Pepa.
Their song "Push It" was one of five song selections the Cubs second baseman gave the marketing department when asked for his at-bat music at Wrigley Field. In the past, players have relied on organist Gary Pressy and his choice as they step into the batter's box.
Friday was the first time music other than Pressy was played as the players went up to hit.
However, several of the Cubs have yet to name their tune, including Kosuke Fukudome. His interpreter, Hiro Aoyama, did request something by a Japanese group called "Funky Monkey" but the marketing folks didn't have a CD.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.