Notes: Nomar to start in Peoria

Notes: Nomar to start in Peoria

CHICAGO -- For the first time since 1994, Nomar Garciaparra is back in Class A baseball.

After playing two games with the Chicago Cubs rookie team in Mesa, Ariz., Garciaparra will start for the Class A Peoria Chiefs on Tuesday. The shortstop is rehabbing from a serious groin injury suffered April 20. In two games with the Mesa team, Garciaparra was a combined 1-for-5.

"I think I'm at the stage right now where it's time to check it out in a playing atmosphere," Garciaparra said Monday.

"You just can't simulate a game situation," he said. "There are things that go on from an instinctive standpoint. I'm a lot more comfortable to get that first step and get out of the box, to explode on a ground ball or go after a ground ball, where I can do things instinctively without going, 'All right, am I going to hurt myself or is something going to happen?' We said, 'Hey, let's get in some games and let that be the judge.'"

He was encouraged when he handled a flare over the head of a third baseman, and was able to leap over the baserunner while turning a double play.

"I reacted and said, 'Hey, I'm alright,'" he said.

The Cubs have never set a timetable for Garciaparra's return from the injury, suffered as he ran out of the batter's box at Busch Stadium.

"We had an idea that he was going to come back, just not sure when," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said Monday. "We were hoping sooner than later, but the key is to have him at full strength."

"Do I know how long it will be? No," Garciaparra said of his rehab timetable. "Plus, hitting and getting the timing down, we have to take that into consideration.

"They want me to come back and I want to come back," Garciaparra said. "I'm just at the point where I can go out and play some games."

Baker doesn't want to rush the shortstop back into action at the Major League level. This Sunday will mark the one-year anniversary of the Cubs' acquisition of the five-time All-Star and two-time batting champion. He's played 57 games for the Cubs in 2004-05.

"This isn't Spring Training and it isn't time for experiments," Baker said. "We're trying to win and it's not done yet. He still has to get his stroke back, but he's made giant steps from where he was."

Can Garciaparra accomplish what he needs to do at the Class A level?

"Hopefully, I can," he said. "At this point, I might be here [with the big-league team] just to give Neifi [Perez] a break here and there. I'd love to come back and whatever capacity they want me, I'll do it."

Twisted words: A story that ran in the Chicago Sun-Times last Thursday quoted Corey Patterson as saying that he hadn't been talked to by Cubs coaches about shortening his swing.

Baker said he had not talked directly to Patterson about the article, but that Patterson, who was demoted to Triple-A Iowa on July 7, left him a message and said the story wasn't accurate.

"He said that there was no way that whatever he said could be construed as that," Baker said. "He knows and we know that [the story] is not true."

Baker said the coaches did notice the flaw in Patterson's swing, and have pointed it out to him on several occasions. Baker and Cubs coaches Gene Clines and Gary Matthews have all talked to Patterson about the need to shorten his swing.

"Does that even sound possible or feasible to you guys that we haven't said something about this?" Baker said. "Honestly, does that seem logical?"

Congratulations: Aramis Ramirez was named a co-winner of the National League Player of the Week award, presented by Bank of America. Ramirez shared the honor with Florida Marlins outfielder Miguel Cabrera.

Ramirez hit a league-leading six home runs with 11 RBIs and 14 hits during the week ending July 24. During the seven-game stretch, he batted .467 with nine runs scored and two doubles.

The award-winning week continued a strong season of success for the Cubs third baseman. Ramirez is hitting .316 on the year with 27 home runs and 73 RBIs. He earned his first invitation to the All-Star Game this season and started at third for the National League squad, replacing an injured Scott Rolen.

Trial by fire: Kerry Wood was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday, and the Cubs will again be looking for someone to fill his spot in the rotation.

Rich Hill got the opportunity Monday night, and though Baker is still unsure what the team will do in the future, the left-hander could get the job on a full-time basis, not part time.

"I don't have the answers to what will happen with the spot yet," Baker said. "A lot depends on how [Hill] pitches [Monday]."

Monday's start was Hill's first in the Major Leagues. He pitched out of the bullpen from June 15-26, making three appearances. In 18 Minor League games, Hill has gone 8-4 with a 3.62 ERA and totaled a Minor League-leading 164 strikeouts.

Countdown to Cooperstown: Ryne Sandberg began his Cubs career in 1982, but on June 13, 1994, he voluntarily retired. Sandberg did come back and played two more seasons with the Cubs from 1996-97. He was asked if he was happy that he came back to play.

"No question about it," Sandberg said. "I was going through some rough times in my life when I did retire in '94. I was going through a divorce. As a dad, I felt like it was important for me to take care of business outside of baseball.

"Baseball went on strike three weeks later, so baseball was in a little bit of turmoil, and everything just kind of hit at once," Sandberg said. "I felt like, under those circumstances, I could not play at the level I was used to. Basically, I just took the year off.

"Ironically, and kind of surprisingly, things changed in my life for the better," he said. "I remarried to my wife, Margaret, and she had three kids. It all just kind of happened where we were at Wrigley Field at the end of the '95 season.

"Everybody at Wrigley asked if I was going to come back and play. That was the first time that I had ever even thought about it. It was that Saturday before the last game of the year. Everything else was in line with my life, and it created a spark that just built."

About a month later, he announced he was coming back for the 1996 season.

"I wanted one more chance to get into the postseason and win a World Series with the Cubs," he said. "Those were two very important years in my career."

The Cubs came up short, but Sandberg finished his career with a .285 average, 282 home runs, 1,061 RBIs, and a ticket to Cooperstown. The second baseman will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, wearing a Cubs cap.

Facts and figures: Neifi Perez's grand slam in the 11th inning Sunday night against the Cardinals was the first extra-inning slam by a Cub since Rick Wilkins on Aug. 30, 1993. Wilkins connected off Roger Mason to give the Cubs a 10-6 win over the Phillies. ... Perez's homer was the fifth grand slam by a Cub at Busch Stadium. ... The Cubs have hit three grand slams this season.

Minor matters: Todd Wellemeyer gave up one run on two hits over two innings Sunday in Triple-A Iowa's 12-2 win over Oklahoma. Phil Norton picked up the win in relief, pitching three innings. Corey Patterson was 1-for-5 with one RBI. Ben Grieve went 3-for-6 with two doubles and three RBIs. ... Jae-Kuk Ryu gave up four runs on six hits over six innings in Double-A West Tenn's 9-0 loss to Montgomery. Casey McGehee was 3-for-4, all singles. ... Brian Dopirak went 1-for-3 with a double in Class A Daytona's 6-0 win over Dunedin. Two Cubs pitchers combined on a six-hit shutout. ... Lansing beat Class A Peoria, 7-6. Eric Patterson, who is Corey's younger brother, went 4-for-4 and leads the Midwest League with a .347 average. ... Mark Pawelek, the Cubs' No. 1 draft pick, gave up one run on two hits over four innings and struck out six in Mesa's 4-1 win over the Athletics.

On deck: Greg Maddux will try to notch career strikeout No. 3,000 on Tuesday. Maddux is two Ks away from the milestone. He'll face lefty Noah Lowry in Game 2 of this three-game series against the Giants.

Kelly Thesier is a contributor to Carrie Muskat contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.