Notes: Search for closer continues
Ohman called up from Triple-A; Wood fine after throwing
CHICAGO -- Chad Fox was the Chicago Cubs' closer for one day, but that ended Tuesday when he was placed on the disabled list with an injury to his right elbow. So, who will close games now?
"I don't know," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said Tuesday. "We're probably in the same boat as we were. A lot depends on the situation. We'll go between [LaTroy Hawkins] and [Mike] Remlinger or even [Michael] Wuertz sometimes. It depends on the hitter. We like to use Wuertz against guys who aren't that good hitting a breaking ball."
Baker doesn't like the phrase "closer by committee." He prefers "closer by situation." For Hawkins, it's a been there, done that situation. The right-hander started the season with the closer job, but has blown two one-run save situations and been successful with two- and three-run leads.
"I don't think he welcomes the chance this way," Baker said of Hawkins. "None of us like to see Foxy go down, nobody. That was tough, real tough. He was pretty distraught last night, as we all were."
The Cubs did try to get a closer in the offseason, but were limited financially because of the commitment to Sammy Sosa. Once Sosa was traded on Feb. 2, the Cubs were able to do more, but by then, the free agent closers were locked up with other teams.
"We couldn't juggle the money around to get guys like [Armando] Benitez," Baker said. "We made an effort to get Benitez and an effort to get [Troy] Percival, but both of them signed before we could juggle the money around. Plus, we were also hoping Joe Borowski was coming back, too, and he would've been back if he hadn't been hit by that line drive."
Borowski was hurt March 21, and suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right wrist. He will throw a simulated game on Wednesday.
"It's not that easy to come up with a closer," Baker said. "There aren't that many good ones in the game."
It's also difficult to get another team to make a deal in April. It's early.
"You don't know, somebody might emerge here," Baker said. "Somebody we already have, somebody you either aren't counting on or somebody that the public already doesn't like."
Baker was alluding to Hawkins, who has not been greeted warmly by the Wrigley Field fans.
The Cubs now have five players on the disabled list, including Fox, Todd Walker, Nomar Garciaparra, Borowski and Scott Williamson.
"My daddy said, 'Don't think worse, because it can get worse,'" Baker said. "You have to remain positive and you have to remain focused. How little is your faith if you lose it because of a little turmoil?
"It's tough. But guess what, you have no choice," he said. "You have to get tougher. That's what life's about. If you quit every time it gets tough, you won't get out of bed in the morning."
Wuertz was the closer at Triple-A Iowa last season, and needs a little more experience.
"He just did it last year for the first time," Baker said. "The thing about Wuertz is you have to guard how many consecutive days and how many innings he throws. The more he throws it seems he loses something. That's what comes from knowing your personnel."
Welcome to the show: Left-hander Will Ohman was called up from Triple-A Iowa to take Fox's spot on the Cubs roster and in the pen. It's been quite a journey for Ohman as well. He's had three operations on his left elbow, so he can relate to what Fox is going through.
"It's never fun to come up in a situation like this and I'm excited to be here, but I feel really bad about what happened last night," said Ohman, who pitched for the Cubs in 2000 and 2001.
Ohman was placed on the Cubs' 40-man roster this offseason, so he knew he had a chance to get to the big leagues at some point.
"I knew if I pitched well, and something happened, I was going to get a shot at some point," Ohman said. "I'm grateful for that. It's never fun to come up in that type of situation where you see a guy get hurt."
When Ohman was going through his stretched-out rehab, he wondered if he'd ever get back to the big leagues. He spent this winter as the closer for Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League.
"Before my third surgery, when I was going in, I was getting a little bit skeptical," Ohman said. "The doctor was saying it was a no problem type of thing and he'd get me back there on the mound, and I said, 'I'll believe it when I see it.'
"All last year, things started to get better and I started to feel stronger and everything good happened in Mexico, and I feel like I'm ready to go."
The Cubs now have four left-handers in the bullpen in Ohman, Glendon Rusch, Remlinger and Cliff Bartosh.
"It's a luxury as far as I'm concerned," Rusch said.
"I'll take a page out of Jim Leyland's book in Pittsburgh -- they always had three lefties," Baker said. "Most lefties can get lefties and righties out better than most righties can get righties and lefties out."
Ohman, 27, was glad to get the call.
"I don't want to sound like a cliche, but I'm really just happy to be here and I want to help the ballclub however I can," he said. "Wherever they throw me, I just want to get outs."
|Kerry Wood / P|
Weight: 225 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Looking ahead: Kerry Wood threw off flat ground on Tuesday, and appears he'll make his next start on Saturday in Houston. Wood had to exit Sunday's game after five innings because of tendinitis in his right shoulder.
"He says he's feeling good and that's the main thing," Baker said. "If he's feeling good, there's a good chance he'll be on schedule."
The Cubs could flip-flop Wood and Mark Prior, and have Prior start on Saturday and Wood on Sunday if he needs an extra day.
"We're considering that, too," Baker said. "I'd like to have both of them out there against Houston if possible."
In the swim: Walker worked out in a pool at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Tuesday for the first time as part of his rehab from a sprained left knee. The second baseman was injured on April 10.
"I feel like if I just stabilize the MCL and tape it up like a lineman I could go," he said. "I'm walking pretty good now, and then it becomes a deal where you have to run. It's a far cry from walking, and sliding, and diving and moving.
"We've talked a lot about if a lineman has the same injury he's back the next week and the different stuff he has to do versus us," Walker said. "You come to the realization that in baseball you have to do so much with your legs and knees and it's so involved. You have to wait for it to completely heal. I'm fine now, but if I make a false move I'd have to start all over again."
Walker expected to be able to start an injury rehab assignment in two more weeks if he continues to progress. He was throwing on the side Tuesday for the first time in two weeks, and planned to skip the trip to Milwaukee next week so he could get more pool time. He's trying everything he can, including having his children kiss his knee for good luck.
He's overwhelmed by the number of injuries the Cubs have had to deal with.
"It's a miracle we have the record we do," Walker said. "Last year, we were two games away from making the playoffs and we had 10 guys out. We've got four or five guys down now and a few hanging by a thread. You just hope that everybody can hold it together and it's still April."
Numbers game: Since 1995, when Hawkins made his debut, closers have had a 48.74 percent success rate in one-run situations, according to STATS Inc. Hawkins' numbers are not included in that total. He has a 47.73 percent rate in one-run situations in his career (21-for-44), so the right-hander is not far off the average.
Hawkins actually is above the norm in other situations. He has a career 85.71 percent rate in two-run save situations, and a 90.91 percent rate in three-run situations. According to STATS Inc., all other pitchers had a 73.22 percent rate of success in two-run situations, while pitchers had a 90.06 percent rate of success in three-run situations.
Mr. 300: Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens could square off Friday in Houston, which would be a matchup of two 300-game winners. The last time two 300-game winners started against each other in a game was August 4, 1987, when California's Don Sutton faced Minnesota's Steve Carlton.
From June 28, 1986, to August 4, 1987, Sutton had four starts against 300-game winners: two against Phil Niekro and one each against Carlton and Tom Seaver.
The 2004 season was the first time there were two 300-game winners in the National League at the same time since 1893, when Cleveland's John Clarkson and Philadelphia's Tim Keefe were still active.
There were four 300-game winners in the National League in 1891 and 1892. The last time 300-game winners started against each other in a National League game was in July 1892 when Keefe and St. Louis' Jim "Pud" Galvin faced off twice. They played in St. Louis on July 4 (St. Louis won 9-2) and on July 21 in Philadelphia (the Phillies won 2-0). Clarkson faced off against Keefe a couple times in 1892 -- but those were before he won his 300th game that season.
Minor matters: Todd Wellemeyer gave up three runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings for Triple-A Iowa on Monday. He walked six and struck out three. David Kelton went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Iowa lost, 5-4, to Nashville. ... Felix Pie was 3-for-5 with a double, triple and two RBIs for Double-A West Tenn in a 6-2 win over Huntsville. Brandon Sing was 2-for-5 with a double. ... Ryan Harvey was 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs for Class A Peoria in a 9-0 win over West Michigan in the first game of a doubleheader. Peoria lost the second game, 4-3.
On deck: Ryan Dempster better set his alarm clock. He will close the series on Wednesday, and it's back to day baseball at Wrigley Field. Dempster has lasted six innings in each of his last three starts.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.