CHICAGO -- As the slumping Cubs continue waiting for the hot midseason run that gets them back into contention in the NL Central -- a run that's looking less and less realistic, especially after two sloppy losses to the Angels, the latest 12-0 on Saturday -- there is some movement this weekend.
Injured third baseman Aramis Ramirez (thumb) is scheduled to play for Class A Peoria Saturday and Sunday and, if all goes well, assistant general manager Randy Bush said he should be activated when eligible to return from the disabled list on Wednesday.
Ramirez has been out since June 8 with a sprained left thumb that has been aggravated each time he's tried to swing the bat. His swing is violent, and the pressure the bat handle puts on his hands has made the thumb even more uncomfortable.
Though he's taken batting practice most of this week, the Cubs will not know for sure whether he's ready until he tests it in games. As he headed to Peoria, they remained optimistic.
With next week's trip to Seattle and then across town to play the White Sox, manager Lou Piniella has six designated-hitter opportunities and indicated he may use Ramirez in that slot beginning on Wednesday.
"We have an opportunity to DH him, play him at third or a combination of both," Piniella was saying the other day. "The other guys have been playing, the weather's getting hot. We need to rest them, too."
Jeff Baker and Chad Tracy have been playing third in Ramirez's absence. Baker has been called on most and had been doing fine until committing two crucial errors in the seventh inning Friday led to a 7-6 loss.
"If he's fine, we'll get him back on the [active] list and, hopefully, he's nice and productive for us," Piniella said.
Which would be a nice change, not to mention entirely crucial if the Cubs are going to make a move: In 47 games this season, Ramirez is batting just .168 with five homers and 22 RBI.
Likes: Watched Steven Strasburg's third start while having dinner at the bar at Chicago's Gino's East on Friday night. The kid is a phenomenon, not just because of the 32 strikeouts over his first three starts, but also because of the reactions he elicits. He was pitching against the White Sox, so that was an added element in Chicago, of course. But there were people on both sides of me who knew a lot about him, and they were marveling. Watching them was nearly as much fun as watching Strasburg. ... Happy to report, by the way, that Gino's East hasn't lost a step. Delicious deep-dish sausage and mushroom pizza Friday night, just before another thunderstorm hit Chicago. ... Michigan Ave. in the summer. One thing that makes it terrific is so many families strolling up and down the avenue. Easy to tell people are on vacation, a weekend trip or whatever, and so many people are happy. ... Graeter's Black Raspberry Chip in Cincinnati. Now that's ice cream. ... Have seen about four tremendous thunderstorms during this week's swing through the Midwest. ... Seeing former Minnesota Twin Scott Stahoviak, who now is teaching grade school and coaching high school baseball in northwest suburbs of Chicago. Stahoviak, who played under Cubs general manager Jim Hendry at Creighton (Hendry was coaching back then), was visiting Wrigley Field on Saturday.
Dislikes: Can we be done with interleague play yet?
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Got what I got the hard way
"And I’ll make it better
"Each and every day
"So honey don’t you fret
"Cos you ain’t seen nothing yet
-- Sam and Dave, Soul Man