MLB Insiders: Chicago Cubs

The Pirates open a three-game series in Chicago against the Cubs on Friday afternoon. Right-hander Kevin Correia will be on the hill for the Bucs. The Cubs will toss lefty Doug Davis.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have won six of their last seven series against the Chicago Cubs, including the first one to open this season.

They'll turn to opening day starter Kevin Correia once again against the Cubs when these NL Central rivals with identical records open a three-game set Friday at Wrigley Field.

Correia (6-4, 3.84 ERA) will try to duplicate a solid effort in the season opener in which he gave up three runs over six innings in a 6-3 victory. He's 2-0 with a 4.18 ERA in five starts against the Cubs.

The veteran right-hander had been 5-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts on the road before he surrendered six runs over four innings in a 9-6 loss at Milwaukee on May 15.

Doug Davis (0-2, 8.31) will make his third start since his contract was purchased from Triple-A Iowa on May 14. He has failed to last past the fifth inning both times, giving up seven runs over five in last Friday's 15-5 loss at Boston.

The left-hander has faced the Pirates more than any opponent, going 8-6 with a 4.91 ERA in 23 starts.

The Cubs have some huge issues with their pitching, but some relief is on the way.

Young right-hander Casey Coleman proved again Wednesday night he's not ready for prime time. He lasted just 1 1/3 innings in the Cubs' 7-4 loss to the New York Mets in a game stopped by rain in the seventh inning.

Coleman was one of the fill-ins when Nos. 4 and 5 starters Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner went on the disabled list in early April.

After a good showing at the end of last year, Coleman has faltered this year. In eight starts, he is 2-4 with a 7.32 ERA. He also has walked 26 and struck out 25 in 35 2/3 innings.

With Matt Garza on the disabled list with an elbow injury, the Cubs are without 60 percent of their Opening Day rotation. Wells will be back Saturday, but much of the pitching has been found wanting.

"We're inconsistent as a son of a gun," manager Mike Quade said after the game. "We were again tonight. To that end, it's tough to put things together when that's the case. We're working like heck to get it better. We hope that Wellsie coming back will help."

Quade was not happy with umpire crew chief Dale Scott for stopping the game. He wanted his team to have a chance to bat. But umpires saw the rain would intensify, and Scott called for the tarp.

"Look, we put ourselves behind the 8-ball blowing a really nice start," said Quade, whose team led 4-1 after one inning. "That's not the umpires' fault, that's for sure. Everybody's frustrated, not the least of which is me with the weather and what we've dealt with. But if you're going to play in it, I just thought you keep playing."


--C Geovany Soto caught three innings and got five at-bats Tuesday at extended spring training in Arizona as he finishes his DL stint from a strained left groin. Soto next goes to Class AA (Kodak) Tennessee, where he will catch 5-6 innings Thursday and 7-9 innings Friday. If all goes well, Soto will return to Chicago in time for Saturday's game against the Pirates.

--INF-OF Jeff Baker remains day to day with a strained left groin, suffered Sunday night in Boston. Baker is available to pinch hit, but he might not start until the weekend.

--OF Lou Montanez was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI Tuesday night in his Cubs debut. The Cubs took Montanez in the first round of the 2000 draft as a shortstop. Montanez played for Baltimore for parts of the last three seasons. The longest wait for a Cubs draft pick to make his debut with the team is almost 15 years. Pitcher Chuck Crim was drafted in 1979 but did not pitch for the Cubs until 1994 after pitching for the Brewers and Angels.

--LHP James Russell worked 3 2/3 innings just three days after he started and worked four innings at Boston. Russell gave up three hits and a run in 3 2/3 innings, but if nothing else, he settled the game down and ate up some innings. "Russ did a hell of a job," manager Mike Quade said. "He continues to find a way to fill in for us and do whatever we ask. Although some of his starts were rough, I thought he did a pretty good job at Boston the other night, and I thought he did a pretty good job keeping us in the thing tonight."

--LF Alfonso Soriano got his first RBI since May 11 with a two-run double in the first inning. He has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games, dating to May 11. He has not homered since May 2. "We'll always take the homers," manager Mike Quade said. "Just putting together quality at-bats. If they're not home runs, a double here and there, but base hits are fine."

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Pitchers the Cubs needed (Casey Coleman, Justin Berg and James Russell) to make it through the first two innings. That's the first time that's happened since June 29, 1989 vs. San Francisco, when the Cubs used Paul Kilgus, Jeff Pico and Les Lancaster.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I kept thinking about talking about him as an overachiever. Maybe I just misevaluated him. Maybe he's not an overachiever. Maybe he's just damn good." -- Manager Mike Quade on second baseman Darwin Barney, who made a diving catch of Jose Reyes' popup in the fifth inning.


--RHP Matt Garza (bone bruise in right elbow) was scratched from his May 21 start at Boston and was placed on the disabled list on May 24.

--OF Marlon Byrd (multiple facial fractures) went on the 15-day disabled list May 22 and is out indefinitely after being hit by a pitch from Boston's Alfred Aceves on May 21. Byrd was scheduled to see several specialists, and only then will the Cubs know when he can begin thinking about returning.

--INF/OF Jeff Baker (left groin strain) left the May 22 game and hasn't played since. Baker said he hurt himself swinging the bat at a pitch before he doubled in the seventh inning. He's day to day.

--C Geovany Soto (left groin strain) went on the 15-day disabled list May 11. Soto is scheduled to do a rehab assignment at Class AA Tennessee on May 26-27 and be activated on May 28.

--RHP Andrew Cashner (mild right rotator cuff strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 6. He began a throwing program April 22, and he threw off a mound for the first time May 2. He threw batting practice May 10, and he was rehabbing in Arizona in mid-May. He had a setback May 16, and an MRI showed that he aggravated the injury. He was shut down until the end of May, and he was scheduled to see Dr. Lewis Yocum on May 23.

--RHP Randy Wells (slight right forearm strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 5. He began a throwing program April 22, and he threw off a mound for the first time May 2. He threw batting practice May 10, and he made his first rehab start May 17 for Class A Peoria. He started for Class AAA Iowa on May 22, and he is scheduled to be activated on May 28.

--RHP Brian Schlitter (strained right forearm) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. The timetable for his return was unknown.

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