Notes: Hill ready for Bonds hoopla
Young Cubs lefty looking forward to facing Giants slugger
CHICAGO -- Barry Bonds is just another hitter. At least, that's the approach Cubs pitcher Rich Hill plans on taking Monday when he faces the San Francisco Giants slugger.
Hill will start Monday night when the Cubs open a four-game series against the Giants at Wrigley Field. In his career, Bonds has hit 26 home runs at Wrigley, and has a .268 (107-for-400) average, which includes 24 doubles and five triples. He's also drawn 78 walks at Wrigley, including 16 intentional passes, and struck out 61 times.
But Bonds is closing in on Hank Aaron's all-time record for most career homers (755), and Hill is aware of the hoopla surrounding that. There will be flashbulbs popping with each pitch to the left fielder, who entered Sunday's game against the Dodgers with 751 homers.
"It's pretty cool," Hill said of the hype around Bonds. "I'm not going to downplay this. This is fun. Everybody's got their cameras out, the flashbulbs are going off. I'm sorry if it's out of line, but that's fun to me.
"Playing in that kind of atmosphere is great -- it's great for baseball," Hill added. "It's me being a fan out there, too. But you've got to get the job done and all that. I'm not saying I'd like to give that home run up, but it's fun."
Bonds is 0-for-2 against Hill, who faced him once last year in San Francisco.
"This is something that's special," Hill said. "This is probably the best record in baseball you can hold."
Cubs manager Lou Piniella has had to deal with Bonds since his career began in Pittsburgh.
"He's certainly dangerous and he's certainly very capable," Piniella said. "He's had a great career and he's after probably the most hallowed record in baseball."
Will Piniella walk Bonds?
"We'll have to wait and see," he said. "I'll let him get his at-bats, but if the ballgame is on the line, our preference probably will be to let someone else beat us."
Piniella did order the Cincinnati Reds to intentionally walk Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson five times in a game.
"You pitch to him," Piniella said. "Again, we're here to win baseball games and we're going to do what we need to do and what we feel we need to do to win baseball games. If it dictates walking him, we'll walk him. If it doesn't, we'll pitch to him."
Hill will be pitching for the first time since July 4, and the left-hander isn't sure if the extra time off will help him.
"I don't know about being any more strong," he said. "The extra time, sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. I'm a guy who likes to get in a routine. This will be interesting to see what happens, because I haven't had this long a break."
Aches and pains: Outfielder Cliff Floyd was not available Sunday because of a jammed left shoulder injured on Saturday when he tried to make a diving catch. The Cubs decided not to have X-rays taken of his shoulder.
"He'll probably be ready by [Monday] or Tuesday," Piniella said.
Catcher Henry Blanco's rehab assignment has been delayed. Blanco has some soreness in his left shoulder, and will remain with the Cubs until he passes all the tests before beginning a Minor League assignment at Triple-A Iowa. The soreness was not related to the cervical disk problem that forced him to go on the disabled list. Blanco could go to Iowa later in the week.
Closer Ryan Dempster, who has been out with a strained left oblique, threw in the bullpen on Sunday. If he feels fine on Monday, he was expected to make two Minor League appearances this week, beginning Tuesday.
"Those are the preliminary plans," Piniella said.
When Dempster comes back, the Cubs would get back to 12 pitchers. They may make a move on Monday. One possible move is trimming one of three catchers on the roster.
"We're going to need a 12th pitcher," Piniella said. "We've been saying that, and we've been getting away with it. We won't be able to get away with it much longer. We're playing a little bit with fire."
Kerry Wood, who struck out three batters in one inning for the Mesa Rookie team Saturday, his first rehab start, was expected to pitch again Tuesday in Mesa, Ariz. In his outing, Wood's fastball was clocked at 92-93 mph, and of his 14 pitches, nine were strikes. He threw five sliders, and all of them were for strikes, too.
Leadoff man: Alfonso Soriano did not lead off on Sunday for only the eighth time this season, and batted fifth for the first time. Piniella is trying to find a lineup that is more effective against left-handed pitchers. It worked, as the Cubs beat Houston's Wandy Rodriguez, 7-6.
"We've struggled a little bit against left-hand pitching," Piniella said. "I talked to Alfonso to see if we can get a little more balance in the middle part of the lineup and get a little deeper. I've still got speed with [Ryan] Theriot and [Mike] Fontenot and now I've got a little more power in the middle."
During the Cubs' last road trip, they went 0-3 against left-handed starters and 4-0 against right-handers.
"We're just going to try this and see," Piniella said.
Aramis Ramirez was surprised to see the change.
"I was shocked when I saw the lineup today," said Ramirez, who batted fourth. "Any time you get a guy like that behind you, you're going to get some pitches to hit."
Piniella did talk to Soriano first before making the switch. The left fielder was batting .318 with 11 homers against right-handed pitchers and .289 with five homers against lefties.
"I wanted to make sure he was comfortable with it because he's doing his job and he's doing it well," Piniella said.
And Soriano's take?
"He's doing what's best for the team, and I'm with him," Soriano said. "It's better for the team."
As it turned out, Soriano led off the second and the fifth innings for the Cubs on Sunday.
At the beginning of the season, the Cubs had Michael Barrett and Matt Murton, both right-handed bats, hitting fifth and sixth against lefties. However, both are gone. Barrett was traded to San Diego on June 20, and Murton is playing for Triple-A Iowa.
"We really haven't replaced those two components," Piniella said. "We've had a little bit of a hole in the middle of the lineup and it's against left-hand pitching. We're trying to shore up the middle of the lineup."
Piniella wasn't sure whether he'd drop Soriano on Tuesday against San Francisco lefty Barry Zito.
MVP: Mark DeRosa started Saturday's game at second, switched to right field, and then to third. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time in his career that DeRosa has appeared in three different positions in the same game. He has played two positions in the same game 28 times.
Jose Hernandez played three different fielding positions in the same game for the Cubs four times from 1998-99. In one game, June 16, 1998, against Milwaukee, he played four positions: center field, right field, third base and first base.
Since 1975, Hernandez is the only Cub to play more than three fielding positions in the same game three or more times.
Extra bases: Daryle Ward will be doing some power shagging in right field in case he's needed. ... The Cubs' game Aug. 5 against the Mets will be broadcast on ESPN and start at 7:05 p.m. CT. The July 30 game vs. Philadelphia has been changed and will start at 6:05 p.m. CT. ... Milwaukee pitcher Ben Sheets injured a finger on his right hand Saturday, but Piniella was unaware. "I look at what our team is doing," Piniella said. "I don't pay attention to particular teams. We have to play well -- and if we don't, it doesn't matter what anybody else is doing."
Minor matters: Jake Fox hit a two-out, three-run walkoff homer to lift Tennessee to a 7-5 victory over Mobile on Saturday. Mark Holliman gave up four runs on five hits over eight innings but did not get a decision. ... Matt Murton, Felix Pie and Scott Moore each homered in Iowa's 5-4, 15-inning loss to Omaha. Eric Patterson had three hits. ... Joel Santo gave up six runs on six hits over two innings in Daytona's 12-10 loss to Lakeland. Kyle Reynolds hit a grand slam in the third. ... Peoria blew a 4-0 lead and lost, 8-5, to Quad Cities. Jake Renshaw gave up five runs on eight hits over three innings. ... Joshua Donaldson hit a two-run homer in Boise's 7-4 loss to Tri-City.
Good cause: Online bidding will close at midnight CT on Saturday for items available at the Kerry Wood Strike Zone Celebrity Bowling Tournament. Among the items are dinner with Piniella, the chance to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field, and an autographed urinal from the Cubs clubhouse.
The fourth Kerry Wood Strike Zone Celebrity Bowling Tournament will be held July 22 at 10 Pin Bowling Lounge in Chicago. Proceeds will go to Derrek Lee's Project 3000, which was created to advance testing and understanding of Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, a genetic eye disease, which has affected Lee's daughter, Jada.
Since its inception, Project 3000 has raised more than $900,000. According to a spokesman for the University of Iowa Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration, Project 3000 also has increased requests for testing for LCA genes in the last year.
For more information, go to www.kerrywoodstrikezone.com.
On deck: Hill will make his first start of the second half on Monday night when the Cubs begin a four-game series against the Giants. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT -- please note the change in time -- and the game will be broadcast on ESPN and WCIU.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.