Cubs Still Tweaking Bullpen

The bullpen continues to be a source of trouble for the Cubs this year, and on Wednesday, the team made another move to address the mess.

The Cubs optioned right-hander Jeff Samardzija to Class AAA Iowa and purchased the contract of right-hander Chad Fox from Iowa.

Samardzija, who began the regular season in Iowa's rotation, will go back there and start Saturday. He has had trouble with his command since coming back to the big leagues on April 23. After an 8.10 ERA, and a shaky outing Tuesday against the Giants, manager Lou Piniella said Samardzija could not get by on his fastball alone; that he would need to work on his secondary pitches. That work will take place in the minor leagues.

When spring training began, Samardzija was in the running for the fifth starter's job, won by lefty Sean Marshall. Samardzija then went into the bullpen for the rest of spring training before heading to Iowa, where he started.

Fox, 38, went to spring training as a non-roster man. A veteran with a long history of elbow problems, he pitched briefly for the Cubs in early 2005 before hurting the elbow again. He sat out 2006 and '07 before going to spring training with the Cubs last year. He got into three games for the Cubs in May 2008 before the elbow acted up again.

CUBS 6, ASTROS 3

The Cubs jumped on LHP Mike Hampton for four runs in the first inning Wednesday, three coming on a triple by CF Reed Johnson. RHP Rich Harden (3-1) worked into the eighth inning before RHPs Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg finished. Gregg earned his fifth save.

NOTES

--RF Milton Bradley had the hearing on his two-game suspension for bumping umpire Larry Vanover after an ejection on April 16. The Cubs and Bradley expect to hear a verdict later in the week.

--3B Aramis Ramirez homered in the seventh inning Wednesday. It was his 18th career home run at Minute Maid Park, putting him second among visiting players behind Albert Pujols, who has 22.

--1B Derrek Lee was out of Wednesday's starting lineup at Houston because the bulging disk in his neck flared up. The condition caused neck spasms earlier this season. Micah Hoffpauir replaced Lee at first and went 1-for-4 with a double.

--OF Kosuke Fukudome was out of the lineup Wednesday against Hampton. On the just-concluded homestand, Fukudome went 0-for-13, but his batting average remains .300.

--LF Alfonso Soriano went 1-for-5 Wednesday with three strikeouts. Soriano was one of several regulars who got the day off Tuesday at home after gong 4-for-22. His last homer came April 28 at Arizona.

--The Sports XChange

MINORS WATCH

IOWA 7, NASHVILLE 4 (CLASS AAA)

At Des Moines, the Cubs (14-11) tallied 10 hits in the victory Wednesday. LF Jason Dubois (1-for-4) hit a three-run home run, his fourth of the season, and 3B Matt Camp (3-for-4, two RBI) led the offense with three hits. RHP Jose Ascanio (1-1) picked up his first win, tossing five shutout innings and allowing three hits. He struck out nine batters and did not allow a walk to lower his ERA to 1.01 in six starts.

TAMPA 3, DAYTONA 1 (CLASS HIGH-A)

At Tampa, Fla., the Cubs (12-14) were held to six hits in the loss Wednesday. 2B Nate Samson (2-for-4) led the offense with two hits, and LF Tyler Colvin (1-for-3, walk) singled and scored the Cubs' only run. Colvin has seven hits in his last 12 at-bats. RHP Andrew Cashner made his third start and tossed three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks in a no-decision. He fanned two batters and has allowed one run and four hits over nine innings. RHP Jose Pina (0-1) suffered the loss in relief, yielding two runs and two hits in one inning.

PEORIA 8, LANSING 6 (CLASS-A)

At Lansing, Mich., the Chiefs (14-11) collected 15 hits for the second straight day in the victory Wednesday. Six Peoria players finished with two hits or more, including LF Josh Harrison (3-for-5, double) and 3B Josh Vitters (3-for-5, double), who hit his third home run. Harrison has hit safely in 15 consecutive games. RHP Kevin Kreier (3-1) got the win in relief, tossing one scoreless inning. RHP Marcus Hatley started and pitched three innings, allowing four runs and five hits.

--Staff Reports

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