04/28/08 11:00 AM ET
Mailbag: Chicago a first-place wonder?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers Cubs fans' questions
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
-- Tom B., Streator, Ill.
Both the Cubs and their crosstown rivals were in first in their respective divisions on April 21. The last time the Cubs and White Sox were in first place at the same time after a significant number of games (and we're not including first-week standings) was May 23, 2004, when both teams were 25-18. In 2003, both teams were in first at the same time as late as Sept. 9. The Cubs were 77-67 at that time, and the Sox were 78-66. Thanks to historian Ed Hartig for that answer.
Is anything physically wrong with Bob Howry, or did he have any offseason problems of any kind? I remember watching games last year and consistently seeing Howry hit 94-95 [mph] on the gun, but now he's hitting 87-88. I know velocity isn't everything, but it's a huge part of Howry's game and it seems to be a logical conclusion that if he can't overpower hitters, he'll continue to struggle. We need him to be solid if we're going to make a run.
-- Mike C., Chicago
There's nothing physically wrong. Howry had some of the same problems as Ted Lilly in that his arm strength is not what it should be. That's part of the reason he has gotten off to a slow start. Lately, his problem has been location.
Is Ryan Dempster hiding his grip or getting his grip with all that glove movement in his windup?
-- Aaron H., Indianapolis
It's a timing device that Dempster uses, as well as a way to adjust his grip without letting the hitter know what's coming.
I noticed that with Alfonso Soriano going on the 15-day disabled list that the Cubs recalled Eric Patterson from the Minors. Why didn't they recall Matt Murton? On any other team, Murton would be starting in left field. I am very confused by this.
-- Paul B., Naperville, Ill.
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Hopefully, everyone upset that Murton didn't get the initial callup saw that he was added when the Cubs had to face the Pirates' two left-handed starters. Patterson was the right choice at the time he was added, because the Cubs wanted a left-handed bat, and someone to back up in the infield with Mark DeRosa moving to left. The Cubs will have to make another move this week when Soriano comes off the disabled list.
After watching Carlos Zambrano's huge game at the plate on April 16, I was wondering how many starting pitchers have ever had hits from both sides of the plate in the same game?
-- Barney F., St. Charles, Ill.
Zambrano has done that before, back on June 27, 2006, against Milwaukee. "My job is to pitch," Zambrano said. "I was lucky to get three hits."
I'll have to ask Hartig to research this one a little more.
I noticed that when Kosuke Fukudome is on first (which has been often), Matt Sinatro appears to be talking to him about third-base coach Mike Quade's signs. Does Sinatro speak Japanese, do they compromise and speak Spanish, or is Fukudome's English improving?
-- Jake D., Janesville, Wis.
Sinatro would be more likely to speak Italian than Spanish. Fukudome knows enough baseball English to understand what Sinatro is saying.
As DeRosa's biggest fan, I would like to know what uniform number he wore as the quarterback at Penn. I need to order a jersey for my DeRosa shrine.
-- Nicolas B., Bloomington, Ill.
DeRosa wore No. 16, just as Joe Montana did.
I consider myself to be a pretty knowledgeable baseball fan. I was looking at the box score from the April 18 game, and under the pitching section, the Cubs pitchers had an "H" next to their name and a number. I never remember seeing this before. What does it mean?
-- Rob G., Kenosha, Wis.
The "H" stands for a hold, and it's awarded to a relief pitcher if he enters in a save situation, records at least one out, and leaves the game without having relinquished the lead.
What became of Chad Fox? I never saw any announcement that he was released. Clearly, he's not on the roster, but was he assigned to a Minor League team, is he still working in extended spring, or did he give up his comeback bid?
-- Paul B., Indianapolis
Fox continued his rehab in Mesa, Ariz., at extended Spring Training, and has begun a rehab assignment at Class A Daytona.
I received a white "W" flag for Christmas and have been flying it religiously this season. What is the official length of time I can fly the flag after a win? When does it need to come down? Please help.
-- Jason P., Grinnell, Iowa
At Wrigley, it's flown after a win, and taken down the next morning. You're free to fly it as long as you want.
Aug. 8 is the 20th anniversary of the first night game at Wrigley. Why is the game not a night game? Is there any chance they will change it?
-- Liana W., Hiawatha, Iowa
I'm sure you know that the game was rained out on Aug. 8, 1988, so the first official night game at Wrigley Field was played the next night, Aug. 9. That said, Aug. 8 this year is a Friday, and one of the rules regarding night games at Wrigley is that none are played on Fridays or Saturdays. It's an attempt to help alleviate some of the congestion in the Wrigleyville neighborhood.