Alfonso Soriano, Bryan LaHair and Ryan Dempster are among the topics in this week's Cubs Inbox. Send your questions to CubsInbox@gmail.com, and please include your name and hometown.
It seems like every game I hear Len Kasper and Bob Brenly mention how Soriano is "hobbling on that bad left leg" after every time he grounds out or any time he makes a play in left. Why wouldn't the Cubs put him on the DL, move LaHair to left and bring up Anthony Rizzo for a few weeks? Is it because Soriano is finally starting to hit home runs?
-- Steve G., Irving, Texas
Soriano does have a sore left knee, but it obviously hasn't affected his hitting, considering his 6-for-13, three-homer series this past weekend against the Twins. He was joking with Cubs officials after Sunday's game to move this week's Interleague series against the Tigers to Detroit, so he could be the designated hitter.
The knee hinders Soriano when he's running, and it's tough for him to stop. But since last Tuesday in Milwaukee, he no longer wears a knee brace, and the Cubs' medical staff has put together enough strengthening and stretching exercises to keep him in the game. Soriano has been the team's only source of offense since May 15, with 12 homers in 25 games -- more than any other Major Leaguer in that stretch. Chicago needs him in the lineup.
What pace is Rizzo on compared to LaHair's 38 homers last year at Triple-A Iowa?
-- John P., Swifton, Ark.
Through 58 games at Iowa this year, Rizzo is batting .363 (78-for-215) with 20 home runs. Through 58 games last season at Iowa, LaHair was hitting .356 (73-for-205) with 16 home runs. Rizzo notched his fifth multihomer game Sunday, hitting a pair.
Please explain why manager Dale Sveum is not playing LaHair. We are putting Jeff Baker out two or three days a week instead of LaHair. Let's see -- LaHair is batting over .300 and Baker is south of .250. Fielding, LaHair has the edge. So explain to me if we are in a development year, why we are not developing LaHair. If he has problems against left-handed pitching, he's not going to get better watching from the bench.
-- John F., Wanning, Hainan, China
Sveum is trying to find an edge against left-handers. Baker is struggling this year, hitting .214 (9-for-42), but he has a career .302 average against lefties. LaHair is 3-for-27 against left-handers this season, and he is batting .131 (8-for-61) in his career against them. The Cubs have scuffled overall vs. left-handers -- batting .223, the second-lowest mark in the NL -- and are 3-13 so far against southpaw starters. They're looking for any kind of edge.
I am much more impressed with Tony Campana in the outfield than David DeJesus. I would rather see an outfield with LaHair in right and Campana in center. DeJesus just doesn't hit enough to pay regularly in the outfield. Campana would be an ideal leadoff man.
-- Harold H., Culloden, W. Va.
We'll have to agree to disagree. Campana does rank among the National League stolen-base leaders with 18, but his on-base percentage is .226, while DeJesus has a .378 OBP when leading off (DeJesus' numbers are down in the No. 3 spot, where he's 4-for-23). Sveum will start Campana in center in larger ballparks, because he does cover a lot of ground. His speed is a tremendous asset off the bench. DeJesus also had a solid May, hitting .317, and you don't see many teams running on him when he's in right. They can run on Campana.
What are the chances Ryan Dempster is traded to a playoff contender before the Trade Deadline? As much as I love Demp, I think it would be a win-win scenario.
-- Jacob C., Chicago
Considering where the Cubs are in the standings and this being the last year of Dempster's contract, it could happen. What team wouldn't want a starter with a 2.31 ERA who is holding opponents to a .206 batting average? Imagine what his record would be if the Cubs scored some runs in his starts. It's a similar scenario to 2010, when the Cubs dealt Ted Lilly to the Dodgers. Matt Garza also has drawn interest from teams. An American League scout told me Sunday he'd love to have Soriano in his lineup. The countdown until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is on.
I never seem to hear Josh Vitters discussed as a possible callup to solve our third-base issues. Is that possible, plausible this season, or do the decision makers prefer Vitters spend a full season at Triple-A?
-- Joseph H., Lake Ariel, Pa.
Sveum was asked about Vitters this weekend, and he said the third baseman was doing better.
"He's been swinging the bat really well lately," Sveum said. "He [doesn't have] great command of the strike zone. He puts the ball in play, doesn't strike out a lot for that kind of hitter. He still has to develop defensively. He's got to get better defensively before we think of [promoting him]."
Now that Marlon Byrd is gone, is there any chance Reed Johnson could take over as the Cubs' player blog writer? I really enjoyed his blogs when he did it a couple years ago.
-- Melissa J., Plover, Wis.
Reed and I have talked about it, and yes, we will likely revive "Reed Between the Lines."
When will MLB Commissioner Bud Selig reveal which stadiums will host the 2013 and '14 All-Star Games? I know Wrigley Field is competing for '14 in order to honor the stadium's centennial.
-- Felipe A., Chicago
Citi Field in New York will host the 2013 All-Star Game, which would mean 2014 would be an AL year (Major League Baseball usually alternates). The Cubs may try to twist Selig's arm and host the game in 2016, which is 100 years after the team moved into Weeghman Park, now known as Wrigley Field. Plus, the renovations may be done then.
When will the rained-out game against the Reds be played? Have they rescheduled it yet?
-- Beth G., St. Louis
The Cubs and Reds will play a day-night doubleheader Aug. 18. Tickets from the May 1 game that was postponed by rain will be honored for the day game.
Why does Cubs radio announcer Pat Hughes always take the fifth inning off every game?
-- Gary S., Davis, Ill.