CHICAGO -- Kosuke Fukudome's Japanese hitting coach, Kyosuke Sasaki, rejoined his star pupil in hopes of getting the Cubs' outfielder back on track.
For the third straight season, Fukudome began well, batting .344 in April, but he hit .253 in May and was 5-for-27 (.185) this month.
"He doesn't look bad at all," said Sasaki, who watched Fukudome during an early batting-practice session at Wrigley Field on Tuesday.
Sasaki will be in Chicago for 10 days, and it will give him and Fukudome a chance to do some extra work in the batting cage. The two spent time together this offseason and again in Spring Training. Fukudome was not in Tuesday's lineup against the Oakland Athletics, replaced by rookie Tyler Colvin in right field.
"We're giving 'Fuke' a little time off," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Tuesday. "He's been struggling a little bit. With the hitting coach coming in, we'll give him a chance to work with him. It gives me a chance to play Colvin, too. We'll see what happens in the next few days."
It's been difficult for Piniella to give the five outfielders enough playing time.
"I would like to play everybody," Piniella said. "I've said it's difficult, and right now, we're going to play Colvin. [Wednesday], there's a real tough lefty, so we'll see what we do there. Right now, we'll play Colvin a little and let Fukudome get a breather, and at the same time, let him work with his hitting coach."
Sasaki, who managed former Cubs outfielder Tuffy Rhodes in Japan, said one of the things he noticed Tuesday was that Fukudome's timing was a little slow. Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo told Sasaki the same thing.
With the emergence of Colvin, who was hitting .296, Fukudome's name has been mentioned in trade rumors. The outfielder does have a limited no-trade clause in which there are 15 teams on his no-trade list. He's also owed slightly less than $8 million for the rest of this season and $13.5 million for 2011, which will limit teams' interest unless the Cubs were willing to pick up part of his salary.
Aramis takes BP to test sore left thumb
CHICAGO -- Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez took batting practice on Tuesday, the first time he's tested his sore left thumb since going on the disabled list June 8.
Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo reported to Cubs manager Lou Piniella that Ramirez swung the bat OK and his thumb didn't bother him much.
"He'll continue to work for a week or so and then be eligible to come off the disabled list," Piniella said.
It's unclear whether Ramirez will need a Minor League rehab assignment. Piniella said the third baseman could go to Class A Peoria, which is nearby, but also could simply be activated when the time comes.
Ramirez was batting .168 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 47 games before he was sidelined.
Cubs activate Grabow just in time
CHICAGO -- The Cubs activated left-handed reliever John Grabow from the disabled list just in time.
Grabow, who had been sidelined since May 31 because of a left knee sprain, joined the Cubs as they begin an Interleague series against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday.
"Oakland has a lot of left-hand hitting, so he's back at the right time," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of the Athletics, who are batting .250 against lefties, compared to .267 against right-handers.
Mitch Atkins, called up Friday from Triple-A Iowa, was sent back to the Minor League team. He did not get in any games during his brief callup and was expected to start for Iowa on Wednesday.
Grabow was 0-3 with a 9.45 ERA in 23 games with the Cubs before going on the disabled list.
"It was definitely bothering me," Grabow said of his knee. "I'm not going to make an excuse that that's why I was pitching bad, but it was in the back of my mind when I was throwing."
In four rehab appearances with Iowa, Grabow gave up three earned runs in four innings. He did not give up a run in three of his four appearances. He was roughed up Saturday, serving up three runs on four hits in one inning against Memphis. In the other three outings, he gave up two hits and one walk.
"I threw pretty good," Grabow said. "I pitched in four games, and had one bad one and the rest were real good. I'm happy to be back, and it's time to move forward now and help this team win."
With Grabow's return, the Cubs' bullpen now has three left-handers in Grabow, Sean Marshall, and Tom Gorzelanny.
Dempster honored to hoist Stanley Cup
CHICAGO -- As a little kid growing up in Vancouver, Canada, Ryan Dempster dreamed of one day hoisting the Stanley Cup. The Cubs pitcher pursued a different career path, though.
"I can't skate," Dempster said. "It's a pretty ugly sight to watch me skate."
But on Sunday night, he got to lift the Stanley Cup while on the pitcher's mound at Wrigley Field when the Cubs saluted the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks were feted prior to the Cubs' Interleague game against the Chicago White Sox, and all three teams posed for a photo around the trophy.
"That was awesome -- to see three professional sports teams on the field at the same time," Dempster said. "It was pretty special. I don't think you'll ever see that, especially during the season. It was fun -- it was fun with all the festivities. Those guys deserved the recognition they got."
But lifting the Cup? Dempster couldn't believe he had the chance.
"I was extremely honored that they would even ask me to do that and humbled that they gave it to me," he said. "I know how special of an honor that is, just to even touch it. I was shaking for three innings afterward. Being a little kid in Canada, that's all I ever thought about it. They've embraced me and been so generous to me. It's brought that little kid out in me for sure."
After he lifted the Cup, he noticed all the players gathering for the photo around the mound. Dempster was in the middle of the Blackhawks, with the Cubs to his right and the White Sox to his left.
"My wife was making fun of me -- 'Hey Ryan, look, there's you and the Blackhawks and your team and the White Sox."
One thing he'd like to see continued from Sunday's game was the crowd response during the national anthem. Sunday's crowd of 40,456 roared when Blackhawks anthem singer Jim Cornelison did the honors at Wrigley, and the song was drowned out by the cheers, just as fans do at the United Center.
"It'd be nice to have that every night," Dempster said. "That was a lot of fun and the energy was intense. It was a special day, and I'm glad I was there and I'm glad all these guys were there."
Hill gets second straight start behind plate
CHICAGO -- Cubs catcher Koyie Hill started Tuesday night, his second straight game behind the plate. Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Geovany Soto will start Wednesday and Thursday when the Athletics start two left-handers.
"We're just trying to win baseball games right now," Piniella said Tuesday. "Both catchers have done a nice job behind the plate. I don't know -- we can go either way with that. Tonight, Hill is catching because we won the other night."
When Hill is behind the plate, Cubs pitchers have a 3.58 ERA, compared to 4.14 ERA when Soto is catching.
Hill has thrown out three of 16 basestealers, while Soto has thrown out six of 39. Teams may not be running as much against Hill, but a significant number of the stolen bases are because of the pitchers, not the catchers.
Hill, a switch-hitter, was batting .232 while Soto was hitting .266, but Soto also was hitting just .120 from May 11 to June 4.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.