HOUSTON -- The year was 2004 when Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano, then playing for the Rangers, earned the All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player Award at Minute Maid Park.Soriano started the American League rolling with a three-run homer in the top of the first inning off then hometown hero Roger Clemens. Soriano, who was a second baseman at the time, also singled off Randy Johnson in his 2-for-3 performance. "I was very happy because that was my first year playing in Texas," said Soriano, who was traded from the Yankees to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez. "I got the MVP, so it was good for all those people who voted for me. That's a good memory that I have." The AL, which scored six runs in the first inning, won 9-4. Did it seem like seven years ago to Soriano, who turned 35 in January?
"Wow," he said. "That's a long time ago."Soriano said he will probably appreciate the award even more in the future. "When I'm retired, I can say to my kids, my family, 'Look, I played in the All-Star Game and I was MVP,'" he said. Minute Maid Park's left-field fence, a mere 315 feet down the line from home plate, can be very tempting for a right-handed power hitter. "I love it, but sometimes that left field being very short takes me out of my rhythm, because it's very short," Soriano said. "Because it's so short, I try to pull everything. But that's not the right thing to do."
Coleman on track to start finale against Astros
HOUSTON -- Casey Coleman rejoined the Cubs on Monday in Houston, and the right-hander is expected to start Wednesday night against the Astros.Coleman said his stint in Triple-A Iowa was worthwhile. "It's good to go down there because I had struggled a little bit earlier in the year," said Coleman, who was sent to Iowa on July 5. "I knew I had to go down because the guys up here were pitching well. "It's good to get in a consistent routine," he said. "I got back to what I've always done, that's throw strikes and not overpower people. Just get ground balls and keep your team in the game." Coleman went 2-4 with a 7.23 ERA in 11 appearances, nine of them starts, with the Cubs this season. The 24-year-old said he also fixed a few things in mechanics, crediting Iowa pitching coach Mike Mason for helping him. "Mentally I'm better," he said. "A lot more positive, and my confidence is back. Hopefully I can help this team get a few wins." Coleman was called up from Triple-A last year in early August, making eight starts and going 4-2 with a 4.11 ERA. "They gave me an opportunity to make the team out of Spring Training in the bullpen this year," he said. "Now that I'm ready, I know it's late in the year, but hopefully I can contribute."
Barney revels in streak-busting snag
HOUSTON -- The Cubs made it into Houston around 7 p.m. Sunday night, giving second baseman Darwin Barney time to watch his sensational diving catch in the fifth inning that helped end the 33-game hitting streak by Atlanta's Dan Uggla."I was surprised how tough a catch it was," Barney said. "Off the bat, when you have a bead on it, you don't think. You go. "It looked worse than it felt. My shoulder hurts a little bit today. I kind of came down on it. But I'm all right." ESPN showed Barney's replay over and over again Sunday night. "You can't get too wrapped up in it," Barney said. "You've got to try to stay consistent in this game. If you have a bad night, you're not wanting to turn on ESPN. If you have a good night, you [want to]."
Since it was only the fifth inning, Barney, who ran well into right field toward the foul line to make the play, did not assume the catch would end Uggla's streak."When a guy's going as good as he is, it's just one at-bat," Barney. "For me, it wasn't, that could be it. I was happy to do my part, but I didn't think that was the important play. [Alfonso] Soriano made a running catch in the first." Manager Mike Quade also saw the replay of Barney's catch several times. "It was pretty good," Quade joked. "The way his body was contorted made it look even better."
Someone told Cubs manager Mike Quade before Monday night's game in Houston that "his pitcher," meaning suspended Carlos Zambrano, wanted to come back.
"Oh, he does?" Quade said. "I didn't hear that. It's not on my radar right now. I'm not dealing with that today, that's for sure. Especially after a game like we played yesterday." The Cubs called up left-hander Scott Maine to replace Zambrano on the active roster. "Mainer would be a guy in the middle to bridge a gap," Quade said. "He's a 40-pitch guy, tops."
Maine might only be with the Cubs for a couple of days, as Casey Coleman is expected to be activated in time to start Wednesday's game. "Crazy things happen," Quade said. "You always have that chance once you're here." General manager Jim Hendry took particular interest in one player involved in Monday's early batting practice. John Hendry, Jim's 13-year-old son, took 25-30 swings against bullpen coach Lester Strode. Using an aluminum bat, John started slowly but then ripped off a bunch of line drives.
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.