Mailbag: Fans curious on many topics

Mailbag: Cubs fans curious about many topics

Alfonso Soriano and the lineup, fifth starter candidates, Kerry Wood, Spanish-speaking catchers, Rich Hill and home runs, and the upcoming draft are among the topics in this week's Mailbag.

Send your questions to, and please include your name and hometown.

To all first-time Mailbag readers, the Cubs have decided not to use the alternate blue jerseys this year, and Carlos Zambrano is OK with that. The April 11 Astros-Cubs game will be made up June 11. No date has been set for the April 29 Cubs-Cardinals game, which was postponed.

I know it would be difficult to move Soriano down in the batting order, but with Ryan Theriot so good at taking pitches, getting walks and running the bases as well as his nice line-drive swing, why not bat him leadoff? Alfonso is great, but strikes out way too much to bat leadoff. Why not put him down in the order to take advantage of his power?
-- Joe R., Inverness, Ill.

Last year, Soriano led off and was a 40-40-40 guy (homers, doubles, stolen bases). That's what the Cubs signed him to do. In terms of the Cubs lineup, think of Theriot as a second leadoff man.

Soriano has a .353 on-base percentage, which has improved since the start of the season (it was .308 in April; it's .440 in May). He is more comfortable in left field than center. The problem now might be his left hamstring is sore, and that could be hindering him.

Other than Angel Guzman, who are the candidates for the fifth spot now that Wade Miller is hurt?
-- Jason D., Itasca, Ill.

Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol, who both pitched last year for the Cubs, have been doing well at Triple-A Iowa. Marshall was 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in three starts for the Iowa Cubs, striking out 12 over 16 2/3 innings. Marmol was 4-1 with a 3.79 ERA in seven starts with 46 strikeouts and 12 walks over 40 1/3 innings. That includes a 10-strikeout game April 14 against Round Rock. Miller will be making his first rehab start Tuesday for Double-A Tennessee, and will likely need at least one more, maybe two before he's ready to return.

Does Michael Barrett know Spanish? I'm curious as to how Big Z and Henry Blanco converse when they're on the mound -- English or Spanish?
-- Lisa A., Greenwood, Ind.

Yes, Barrett can speak some Spanish. As for Carlos Zambrano and Blanco, I'm sure they speak Spanish when it's just the two of them on the mound. Piniella also speaks Spanish to Zambrano.

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I know it's early, but I was wondering what the overall record is for the Cubs and Sox against each other.
-- Jay Q., Chicago

It's never too early to talk Cubs-Sox. Since Interleague Play began in 1997, the White Sox have a 29-25 edge in the series, and were 4-2 last year against the Cubs. The Cubs are 14-13 at Wrigley Field against their crosstown rivals.

Rich Hill has been absolutely dominant this year and exceeded all expectations. It seems to me, the only runs he gives up come from the long ball. What is Hill's percentage of runs given up due to home runs compared to the rest of the starters?
-- Matt F., Regina, Saskatchewan

Hill has given up 13 runs over 46 2/3 innings. Of those, nine have come on home runs (five dingers total). Hill does rank in the top 20 in the National League in strikeout/walk ratio (40 K's to 15 walks). Jason Marquis was 10th in the National League in fewest home runs per innings pitched (two in 47 2/3 innings) while Ted Lilly was 13th (two in 45 1/3 innings).

I was reading the recap about how Marquis just brilliantly shut down the Pirates and noticed a stat saying the Cubs starters have 19 quality starts in 31 games. Is this a new statistic to prove just how bad the Yankees starters have had it this year? And what qualifies as a quality start?
-- Eric H., Ames, Iowa

It has nothing to do with the Yankees. A quality start is when a pitcher goes six or more innings and gives up three or fewer runs.

What's the medical status of Kerry Wood? I know he's on the disabled list, but have the Cubs released anything on his condition? Will he pitch this year? Has he injured another body part?
-- Rob M., Rolling Meadows, Ill.

There's nothing new to report. Wood developed tendinitis in his right shoulder, and he is rehabbing with a trainer in the Phoenix area. As to whether he'll pitch this year, I don't know. And neither does he. In an interview April 21 in Chicago, he said he was getting frustrated.

"I'm tired of going up and down and back and forth," he said. "I'm tired of getting back in action and pitching a few days and starting over from scratch again. If it gets better, it gets better. I'm still working. It's definitely becoming harder, it definitely is."

I noticed that Mark Pawelek has only pitched four innings at Class A Peoria. What's his status?
-- William O., Eagan, Minn.

Because of the bad weather in April, Pawelek was sent to Mesa, Ariz., for extended Spring Training to get on a regular routine. He may be assigned to a Minor League team soon, possibly Class A Daytona.

What can be shared with us regarding Brian Holliman? He has enjoyed an incredible start to this point at Double-A Tennessee. I had never heard of him before this season.
-- Lance P., Montgomery, Ala.

Holliman is 5-0 with a 0.44 ERA in six starts so far, and opponents are batting .217 against him. The right-hander was a third-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. He attended the University of Mississippi, and went from college ball to high Class A last year, pitching for Daytona, where he was 8-11 with a 4.38 ERA. Holliman could be promoted soon. After his last start, Tennessee manager Pat Listach said: "I've said the same thing for five starts now. All he does is throw all of his pitches for strikes and stays ahead in the count. That's pitching."

What happened to the pitcher Ryan O'Malley? He was quite a story last year.
-- Bill B., Naperville, Ill.

O'Malley is pitching for Triple-A Iowa, where he was 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA in seven starts. In his last outing, May 9, he did not get a decision in 4 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and three walks while striking out four.

If the Cubs felt they needed another left-handed bat to balance the order, why did they hand Josh Hamilton to the division rival Cincinnati Reds for absolutely nothing? The Reds finished ahead of the Cubs last year and have just as much of a logjam in the outfield as the Cubs do, so why isn't Hamilton in blue pinstripes today?
-- Josh L., Lebanon, Ill.

The Cubs had no intention of drafting anyone in the Rule 5 Draft, and they didn't trade Hamilton, they traded their pick to the Reds. The Cubs didn't know who the Reds would select until they handed a Chicago official a slip of paper with his name. The Reds took a gamble on Hamilton; they've even hired someone full-time to keep an eye on him.

With the MLB draft coming up, where do the Cubs stand in the draft position? Whom could they chose?
-- Cole B., Des Moines, Iowa

The Cubs have the third pick overall in the draft, which will be June 7-8. Scouting director Tim Wilken won't divulge who he'll pick, other than to say he'll take the best athlete available. He did pretty well last year with Tyler Colvin, who is hitting .317 at Class A Daytona.

How good is Ryne Sandberg doing as a manager in Peoria? I saw him manage against Fort Wayne and he was very nice signing autographs before the game, and I was just wondering if he is a good manager by the numbers or if he is just a crowd pleaser?
-- Adam J., Hartford City, Ind.

This isn't just for show. Sandberg is definitely serious about his new job and has aspirations of someday managing in the big leagues. Having watched him for a couple days in Peoria, and talking to the players there, I think he'll do well.

I just read the article about the ban on alcohol in the home clubhouse at Wrigley. It made me wonder if there was an exception for champagne if the Cubbies were to clinch the division later in the year.
-- Chris G., Asheville, N.C.

I'm sure the Cubs will find something bubbly that won't stain the new carpet in the clubhouse, like ginger ale.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.