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by Derek Smart
I'm a little behind on things, having been preoccupied with mothers visiting and the preparation and subsequent execution of first birthday plans for our daughter. So, with that in mind, I'm going to jump around a bit and wallow in figurative potpourri as I eagerly await today's doubleheader with the Pads.
With Todd Walker out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury sustained in Sunday's game against the Brewers, the acquisition of Jerry Hairston in the Sosa deal looks downright prescient and makes me feel a ton better about missing Walker's bat in the lineup. That is, if Hairston would only get used.
Monday saw Cub Town nemesis and whipping boy extraordinaire, Neifi!, get the call at the keystone, while Hairston inexplicably sat. Jerry Jr. was going to the start yesterday, but it might have been more because of Aramis Ramirez being a late scratch from the lineup, moving Neifi! to third - a dropoff reminiscent of those experienced by Niagra barrel-riders.
Thankfully, rain intervened before we were all subjected to a lineup that had both Neifi! and Henry Blanco in it, although there's no guarantee that it won't happen again today, because....
It appears that Aramis might be having some continuing issues with last season's injury:
"It's supposed to be wet all day long and Aramis is feeling a little discomfort in that groin area," manager Dusty Baker said. "We talked to trainer Mark O'Neal and Aramis and we just thought it would be better not to take a chance on him pulling that thing, especially in these wet conditions....
Told Baker had said Ramirez felt some "discomfort," Ramirez replied: "Yeah, but not like a soreness. It just wasn't right. It's not tight. It's just not right. I was fine in spring training and fine the first two series. This cold weather and the rain, it wasn't right."
I'm not going to get my panic on until this becomes a regular thing, particularly since yesterday's scratch merely seems precautionary. Still, I'd expect for Ramirez to sit out at least one of today's games, and for the Cubs' unfortunate bench to look like an even more obvious flaw because of the ensuing lineup juggling.
Room had to be made when Mark Prior came off the DL, and Todd Wellemeyer was the predictable casualty. I actually really like Wellemeyer, but he's in desperate need of some AAA innings to get his problematic control sorted out. If he can figure out how to throw strikes consistently without necessarily giving up more hits in the process, he's got the potential to be a real asset out of the pen, and goodness knows the Cubs can use all the help they can get in that respect.
After a fantabulous spring that coaxed an MVP award prediction from Peter Gammons, Nomar (or, as I've taken to calling him in deference to the dialect of his new team's region, Nomair) has been less than his preseason excellence would have led us to expect.
Saturday gave us an excellent example of the sort of thing that's causing him problems at the moment: Four times Nomar faced Ben Sheets, and four times Sheets started him off with a lowish curveball on the outer black. The first time, Nomar tried to pull it and grounded into an out, which isn't horrible if you learn a lesson, but apparently Nomar didn't.
The next three trips when Sheets threw the exact same pitch in the exact same spot, Nomar tried to do the exact same thing with it, except instead of pulling the ball into play he pulled it foul each time. It makes me think he's not seeing the ball well right now, because I'd expect an adjustment - either laying off, or at least attempting to send the ball to right. Until he starts making those kind of in-game changes, he'll probably stay mired in what looks an awful lot like a slump.
Get ready, folks, because it's two big games today, with the Cubs' two big question marks taking the mound. Here's to Good Kerry showing up, and a solid but uneventful outing from The Franchise.