08/05/11 7:48 PM ET
Big Z comes up empty against softball pitcher
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"Of course not," Abbott said.
Friday was Big Z Foundation Day at Wrigley Field, and Abbott and her Bandits teammates were there to take part in the pregame festivities. Zambrano's foundation was created to help underprivileged children and families in the Chicago area as well as developing countries. Fans attending the Cubs-Reds game could purchase a T-shirt for a $15 donation and get information on his efforts.
Zambrano recently threw out a first pitch at a Bandits game. It was time to return the favor.
"A lot of the Major League players follow the softball teams," Abbott said. "We're sister-brother sports."
But apparently, Abbott ratcheted up the friendship by challenging Zambrano. So, Friday, he stepped in during early batting practice.
"I was supposed to do a [ceremonial] first pitch," Abbott said, "and I was talking smack through Twitter [about facing him]. You have to build it up a little bit."
Zambrano, who holds the Cubs' all-time record for most home runs by a pitcher, of course took her up on the challenge. Marlon Byrd also stepped in against Abbott and grounded out.
"'Z' said he could hit it," Abbott said. "Now, he owes me dinner."
The Big Z Foundation will also host a golf tournament Nov. 4-6 in Antigua, Guatemala.
Campana races around bases for first homer
CHICAGO -- Before Friday's game, Cubs manager Mike Quade joked that the way things have been going, maybe even rookie Tony Campana would hit a home run.
The speedy rookie outfielder did just that. He notched his first Major League home run in the first inning, an inside-the-park dash, against the Reds' Mike Leake in the Cubs' 4-3 win. Starlin Castro singled to lead off and Campana then lined a 2-0 pitch into the corner in left field.
Cincinnati's Yonder Alonso ran into the left-field wall along the line trying to track down the ball, but it ricocheted toward the back wall. Campana shifted into high gear and scored standing up.
"That got them on the board right away," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "That's a tough wall to play. You only have about six inches of foul territory before you hit the wall. [Alonso] got his feet tangled up, and Campana was off to the races."
He's the first Cubs player to hit an inside-the-park homer since Geovany Soto did so May 19, 2008, at Houston, and the first to do so at Wrigley Field since Sammy Sosa on Oct. 6, 2001, against the Pirates.
"I hit the ball and the first thing I thought was that the third baseman was going to catch it," Campana said. "It got by him, and I thought, 'That's a double.' I saw [Alonso] hit the wall and I thought I had a chance to get all the way around. I almost caught Starlin and I was hoping I didn't catch him."
This was Campana's first pro homer, unless you count an inside-the-park homer for Double-A Tennessee last year in the Southern League playoffs. His last home run before that? His last hit in college at the University of Cincinnati.
He's the first Cubs player to record his first home run as an inside-the-park type at Wrigley Field, and he's the first to have such a homer as his first in the big leagues for the franchise since Carmen Mauro did so on Oct. 3, 1948, at St. Louis.
How fast is Campana? Nyjer Morgan has challenged him to a foot race. Campana suggested the All-Star Game add a sprint to its list of events. Line up Michael Bourn, Dee Gordon and Carlos Gomez, too, and see what happens.
"I'd love to do something like that," Campana said.
Right now, the Cubs want him to focus on helping either off the bench or in the field.
"I do whatever I can do to help the team and that's usually getting in and playing good defense and stealing a bag here and there," Campana said. "When I get a spot start, I try to bring in some excitement to the team."
He did that on Friday.
Instead of getting day off, Marmol notches save
CHICAGO -- After pitching in four of the last five games, Carlos Marmol was expected to get Friday off. But the Cubs closer talked his way into the game and picked up his 24th save in a 4-3 win over the Reds.
"I was ready," Marmol said. "I feel strong and I said, 'Give me the ball.' It's been a long time since I pitched well here in Chicago and I wanted to show the fans I could do my thing."
Cubs manager Mike Quade indicated before the game he would lean toward lefty Sean Marshall as his closer instead of Marmol to give the right-hander a breather. Marmol now has pitched in five of the Cubs' last six games.
"He wanted in bad," Quade said of Marmol. "He's been through his struggles, he's pitching well and I think he had something to prove here at home. My closer comes to me and tells me that, he's in."
Since a rough stretch in July, Marmol has settled down. He has an 11.42 ERA in his last 12 appearances after holding the opponent scoreless in his previous 13. But he's been better, and in his last five games has given up one hit over five innings and struck out seven.
"The funny thing is he still can be better," Quade said of Marmol. "The quality of the breaking ball is back but I've seen it even more devastating. He's pounding the zone."
What's good is that on July 8 in Pittsburgh, Marmol blew a three-run save opportunity and the Cubs lost, 7-4.
"I think he made amends real well," Quade said.
Home runs coming in bunches lately
CHICAGO -- The Cubs hit 10 home runs in their last three games against the Pirates, including six on Tuesday. It's the first time they've hit that many in a three-game stretch since Sept. 21-23, 2007.
"I wish I knew and we would've put it in play in April," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "I do know, at least to my way of thinking, we didn't miss many mistakes the entire four days in Pittsburgh. That's how those kind of things happen. When you get them, you've got to deal with them. I don't know if it's contagious, but I hope so. I don't think [Tony] Campana will hit one [Friday], but you never know."
Campana did just that, hitting his first career homer, a two-run inside-the-park shot in the first inning off Reds starter Mike Leake.
Tyler Colvin got things started Tuesday when he hit his third homer over the right-field bleachers and it bounced into the Allegheny River at PNC Park.
"He's swung the bat a little better," Quade said of the outfielder, who is 3-for-11 in his past four games. "He's going to get opportunities, but Reed [Johnson] and some other people are going to push him."
Friday was the first Cubs game at Wrigley Field since the ballpark hosted two Paul McCartney concerts, and the field was in fairly good shape.
The right-field corner looked beat up and there were marks leftover from the seating.
"It held up really well," said Carl Rice, vice president of ballpark operations. "The two days of the concert and the whole week were all in the upper 90s, but the field wasn't covered until Saturday night and it came off right after the Monday night show, so it was the least amount of time.
"Roger's team [head groundskeeper Roger Baird] really did a great job of getting everything taken care of. The sod in the right-field corner was replaced, but we've always had to do that [after concerts]."
Cubs manager Mike Quade has dealt with having to share a facility in Oakland. The Athletics and the NFL's Oakland Raiders both played at the Coliseum.
"That field, for not being maybe a great stadium, the grounds were incredible and the groundskeeper there did a great job," Quade said. "When the [NFL] preseason started, oh boy. The infield was fine, but the outfield was a mess.
"You understand sometimes when the outfield gets beat up, but if you wind up with offensive linemen on your infield, it's not fun," he said.
The Cubs played in St. Louis after Busch Stadium hosted a U2 concert and the outfield had been resodded.
"It didn't take," Quade said of St. Louis' field. "I know their groundskeeper was disappointed that it didn't."
On Saturday, Wrigley Field will help celebrate what would've been the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan. The Cubs will partner with the Dixon Park District and the Illinois Reagan Centennial Commission to honor the only president born in Illinois who was a Cubs announcer.
Michael Reagan, the oldest son of the late president, will attend the game and throw out a first pitch, just as his father did in 1988.
The Cubs announced updated start times for two games to be played at Wrigley Field. The Aug. 21 game against the Cardinals will start at 7:09 p.m. CT and be broadcast by ESPN. The Sept. 17 game against the Astros, which had been listed as "to be determined," will start at 12:05 p.m. CT and be televised by WGN TV.
As of now, Rodrigo Lopez will stay in the Cubs' rotation, Quade said. The right-hander was roughed up in his last start against the Pirates, lasting four innings.
The Cubs wives will host their annual food drive on Saturday at Wrigley Field to benefit the Lakeview Pantry. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable items and will receive an autographed photo of a Cubs player in return.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.