Cubs' offense will be key vs. Brewers

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Cubs' offense will be key vs. Brewers

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 10:40 a.m.
Associated Press

With the back of their starting rotation in flux due to injuries, the Chicago Cubs will need players like Jeff Baker to step up offensively.

The second baseman will likely get another chance to do so Saturday night when the Cubs continue their series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

Chicago (4-3) placed pitchers Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner on the 15-day disabled list prior to Friday's 7-4 series-opening win. Manager Mike Quade will use call-ups Casey Coleman and James Russell as part of a patchwork staff in the interim.

Front-line starter Carlos Zambrano extended his mastery of the Brewers at Miller Park, but it was Baker who delivered the offense, going 4 for 5 with a three-run homer and four RBIs. He improved to 6 for 11 against left-handers this year, a promising sign with the Brewers scheduled to start Chris Narveson (0-0, 0.00 ERA) on Saturday.

"Baker? Jiminy Christmas!," Quade said. "Just unbelievable swinging the bat."

Baker is 7 for 15 overall this season and a .308 lifetime hitter against lefties. He is batting .420 (29 for 69) with two homers in 25 career games versus Milwaukee.

"It's just about getting good pitches to hit whether it's right-handed or left-handed and not trying to do too much and let the ball travel a bit," he told the Cubs' official website. "I've been able to do that against lefties, and I'm trying to do that against righties as well."

Narveson had little to show for a solid season debut Monday, scattering three hits and three walks in six scoreless innings before his bullpen squandered a lead in a 2-1 loss to Atlanta in Milwaukee's home opener. He has fared well versus the Cubs, going 3-0 in two starts and nine overall appearances against them.

Matt Garza (0-0, 3.86) takes the mound for Chicago after a quirky debut for the team Sunday. He allowed three runs and 12 hits - all singles - and struck out 12 in seven innings, missing out on a victory when Pittsburgh scored two in the ninth for a 5-4 victory.

"I kept attacking, I kept attacking," Garza said. "Even though those 12 singles were annoying, I kept telling myself, 'Get to the next pitch, get to the next pitch and keep attacking.'"

This will be his first start against Milwaukee (3-5).

Prince Fielder, who hit his 100th career home run for the Brewers in Friday's loss, is 5 for 10 with two walks and five RBIs in his last three games.

Milwaukee outfielder Nyjer Morgan continued to make the most of his playing time with Corey Hart out due to injury, going 2 for 3. Acquired from the Washington Nationals just before the start of the season, he is 8 for 16 with a double and a triple.

"As long as he keeps doing well and Corey is not back here, then he will be out there quite a bit," manager Ron Roenicke told the Brewers' official website. "I'm not going to say he's everyday, but he will be out there quite a bit."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

MESA, Ariz. – After an impressive camp where he looked like the next homegrown Cubs hitter to roll off the assembly line, Ian Happ will go to Triple-A Iowa and get ready to make his big-league debut, or perhaps build his value for a trade-deadline deal.

Along with Happ, the Cubs assigned outfielder John Andreoli and catcher Taylor Davis to minor-league camp on Monday while optioning pitchers Eddie Butler and Rob Zastryzny to Iowa, cutting their roster to 31 as the Opening Night picture comes into focus.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – batted .417 with five homers, four doubles and 17 RBI in 24 Cactus League games.

"Offensively, what was there not to like?" general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I feel like he hit the ball hard every at-bat for six weeks. It's always fun to see a young guy like that come in and open a lot of eyes."

Happ, 22, is a switch-hitter who can play second base and the outfield, skills that could help him escape from Des Moines once the need arises on the major-league level.

[MORE CUBS: How Cubs came to fully believe in the legend of Kyle Schwarber]

Though there are questions about Happ's defense, Theo Epstein's front office and Joe Maddon's coaching staff clearly value versatility and trust young talent, moving Addison Russell to shortstop in 2015 and elevating rookie catcher Willson Contreras last season.

Stay tuned to see when/if the Cubs will have a spot at Wrigley Field, but Happ looks like he will be on a fast track.

"Whenever you're in Triple-A, you're always a call away," Hoyer said. "Sometimes it happens quicker than you think. We never expected Addie would be up in April of that year, and he was. I feel like with Willson last year, if you had asked me in spring training – would he be up in June? – I probably would have thought it would be more like a September call-up or something like that.

"You never know. Things happen. When you have good players in the minor leagues, sometimes it speeds up on you a little bit."