Results tagged ‘ Jeff Baker ’

Now Playing: In the Dugout with Dale Sveum

The Cubs team Manager Dale Sveum takes into September is drastically different from the team that broke Spring Training in April. At the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs dealt away veterans Jeff Baker, Ryan Dempster, Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm and Geovany Soto in favor of high-ceiling minor league talent that could pay off down the road. This month, Vine Line talked to Sveum about the impact those deals have had on the major league club, what he expects out of the team’s recent call-ups and what he’s learned on the job this season.

To read the full interview, pick up the September issue of Vine Line, on sale soon at Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line, the official magazine of the Chicago Cubs, for just $29.95.

Cubs catching fire

Cubs fans hope first baseman Anthony Rizzo will one day fuel the North Siders to a World Series title. While that’s unlikely to happen this season, it’s difficult to ignore the sizzling run the team has been on since Manager Dale Sveum inserted the prized prospect into the third spot of the batting order on June 26. The Cubs are 11-4 since Rizzo’s call-up, having won four straight three-game series and splitting a four-game set with the equally hot Braves.

During this stretch, the pitching has been as good as it’s been all season. Couple that with some timely hitting, and things are starting to click. Vine Line examined why the last 15 games have been such a successful stretch for the Cubs.

Offensive Resurgence: Alfonso Soriano is known as a streaky hitter, but he seems to be finding a more consistent groove. The veteran has hit .286 with three homers, three doubles and nine RBI since Rizzo’s call-up. Geovany Soto, who currently owns only a .189 batting average, has hit .257 with a homer and a pair of doubles in that time. And if you look at the team’s averages over the last month, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker’s numbers continuously appear at the top. They might not play every day, but they have definitely made the most of their opportunities. Johnson is hitting .440 in his last 25 at-bats, while Baker has hit .318 during the hot stretch.

Starting Pitching: Though Jeff Samardzija has struggled, the rest of the rotation has been the real difference maker for the team during the hot streak. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm and Travis Wood have gone a combined 9-1 over the last 15 games. In 62.1 innings, the quartet has surrendered a combined 11 earned runs (five of them coming in Garza’s July 5 start vs. Atlanta) and recorded a 1.59 ERA. The group has 46 strikeouts, or 6.67 K/9, while keeping the walks to a minimum (2.46 BB/9).

Anthony Rizzo: It all started with the phenom’s call-up. In his first game, he went 2-for-4 with a double and what would prove to be the game-winning RBI. He’s hit .356/.377/.627 in 61 plate appearances since. His altered stance has rewarded him with four homers, 10 RBI and just six strikeouts. While he’s crushing righties to the tune of a .429 average, the lefty is also hitting a respectable .250 against southpaws with a pair of homers. Many feared Rizzo woudln’t be able to hit lefties at the major league level. To say that Rizzo is carrying the team isn’t totally accurate, but he might very well have been the spark the Cubs were looking for.

A pitch for philanthropy

Illustration by Jerry Neumann, and story by Jordan Ramos. Featured in the upcoming September 2011 edition of Vine Line.

Several Cubs players have new boots in their closets, but these kicks are much more than they appear to be at first glance.

Randy Wells, Kerry Wood, Ryan Dempster, Andrew Cashner, Jeff Baker, Jeff Samardzija and Mike Quade are all part of the Boot Campaign, an initiative created by five Texas women that supports injured American soldiers. The inspiration came from the book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, in which author Marcus Luttrell recounts Operation Redwing, an ill-fated mission to kill a high-ranking Taliban official in 2005.

Wells was introduced to Luttrell in the offseason.

“When I went down to the charity event and saw how much this book touched so many people, I got it and read it,” said Wells, who wore the boots in spring training. (more…)

The Buzz: What’s your favorite cookout food?

The upcoming June 2011 issue of Vine Line features Koyie Hill and Sean Marshall grilling up High Plains Bison steaks and burgers for a group of Cubs minor-leaguers. So with Memorial Day and cookout season right around the corner, we asked four other Cubs what they’ll be grilling this year. Subscribe or give a gift today.

Casey ColemanCasey Coleman, RHP
“My girlfriend’s from Tennessee, and her grandma cooks a whole meal by herself: ham, turkey and sweet, fried corn. In Florida, the only time we would cook out like that is Thanksgiving.”

John Grabow, LHP
“Carne asada tacos. I usually make homemade salsa, guacamole. I love to grill. That’s one of my favorite things to do in the off-season, especially on football Sundays.”

Jeff Baker, IF/OF
“I’m a hamburger-and-hot dog-on-a-grill guy. It’s about the only thing I can cook. Ketchup and relish, the more relish the better. Then go jump in the pool.”

Alfonso SorianoAlfonso Soriano, OF
“In the Dominican, it’s tropical food: rice and beans and chicken. So that’s what I like in the summer. And mangoes, too.”

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