Notes: Remembering Rod Beck

Notes: Remembering Rod Beck

CHICAGO -- Rod Beck pitched two seasons with the Cubs, helping them win the National League Wild Card in 1998. News that the reliever died on Sunday came as a shock to those who knew him.

Reliever Scott Eyre had asked Beck to autograph a ball during the Cubs Convention in January when he took part in a seminar with the right-hander, who fooled hitters more than he overpowered them.

"I heard the stories that he said, 'I'll pitch every day,' and that's the attitude I have towards pitching," Eyre said. "I don't remember where I was, but he pitched every single day and he saved every game for weeks straight, and then he went to the playoffs and there was nothing left.

"He went out there with nothing, and still had all the confidence in the world."

Cubs third-base coach Mike Quade got to know Beck when the right-hander pitched for Triple-A Iowa. Quade, the Iowa Cubs manager at the time, said Beck fit right in.

"He came there and his stuff wasn't what it was, but he had the savvy and the desire, even in Triple-A," Quade said. "It wasn't easy for him. When he left Spring Training [in 2003], he wasn't sure what was coming. Dusty [Baker] told him to hang in there with us.

"He had a trailer and lived outside the ballpark [in Des Moines]. He was a fun-loving guy, a competitive guy, and he loved life."

Beck, who saved 51 games for the Cubs in 1998, was called up to the Padres in '03, and saved 20 games that season.

"He had the ability to trick hitters with less than what he was accustomed to," Quade said. "He was a pleasure to have around."

Beck, who was 38, was a character, sporting his trademark Fu Manchu mustache, wild hair and beer belly.

"I didn't know Rod -- I'd seen him pitch," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "I just went to chapel, and we said a prayer for his family. He was a competitor. I always enjoyed watching him pitch and the way he competed and the way he got people out."

Pitcher Kerry Wood, in town for the Cubs-White Sox series, was shocked at the news. He and Beck were teammates with the Cubs.

"What I remember best about him was, obviously, what a great teammate he was," Wood said. "After games -- wins [or] losses -- we'd just hang out talking about the game. We'd hang in the clubhouse for a couple hours and talk about games we just played or talk about games we played in the past or who we had coming up -- [we'd] talk about baseball and learn from each other.

"He'd been through it all. He had experience and all his war stories -- 'Shooter' was great."

Numbers game: The Cubs will likely make a roster move on Monday to get back to 12 pitchers. Technically, they had 11 on the roster on Sunday, but only 10 were available with Ryan Dempster sidelined with a sore left oblique.

Dempster felt a twinge in his side on Friday when he pitched in the Cubs-White Sox game. The right-hander was not available on Sunday, but said he was going to throw on Monday.

"Let's see if we can ride this out for a few days," Piniella said. "He said it hurt him on his first or second pitch. I wish he had said something. These things have a way of lingering."

Back to the move -- the Cubs will likely add a reliever, and Piniella wasn't sure who it would be. Neal Cotts is one option.

"Cotts would be a really, really good suggestion because he's starting, and we need innings," Piniella said. "We need a long guy more than we need short people."

Could the Cubs make a trade?

"You have to talk to Jim [Hendry, general manager]," Piniella said. "I try to stay away from those areas unless I'm specifically asked."

Who's on first: On Monday, Aramis Ramirez is expected to start at third base, his first game in the field since he injured his left knee on June 6. If that's the case, who's at second base? Piniella's options include Mark DeRosa, Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot.

"I have some ideas about that," Piniella said, "but we'll wait for [Monday]. We might surprise you a little bit."

Fontenot entered Sunday's game having hit safely in 12 of the 13 games he's played in since his callup from Triple-A Iowa on June 9.

"He's earned a spot playing by his play," Piniella said. "He's been consistent. He's hit well. The kid deserves to be out on the field."

The Cubs have been going younger.

"I like combination teams where you get experience and veteran leadership and you get young kids with enthusiasm and the ability to get better with experience," Piniella said. "We're playing young kids now, too -- it's not like they're sitting. They've done a very respectable job, as a whole. We probably have a few more kids that, as soon as next year, could get into the picture."

Speaking of youth, Felix Pie got Sunday off to catch his breath.

"I remember when I first came up with Kansas City and I struggled a little bit, and the manager, Joe Gordon, said, 'I'm going to give you a few days off, so you can relax and stop pushing.' It really helped me," Piniella said. "You learn from managers you played for. In my instance, Joe was right. I was fresher and started playing the way I was capable instead of just fighting it."

Pie is batting .227 overall, and is just 2-for-19 on this road trip with a triple and four RBIs.

Wash your hands: DeRosa may have finally figured out what's wrong. His 3-year-old daughter Gabriella has walking pneumonia, and he may have caught it.

"I have symptoms of a cold or a sinus something or other," DeRosa said Sunday. "My daughter has walking pneumonia, and that's finally been diagnosed. I don't know if that's what I have, but I'm showing signs, so we'll see."

DeRosa has had a tough week, what with his dizzy spell in Texas on Wednesday night. He was scratched from Saturday's game because he wasn't feeling well, which might have been the result of all the medication he was taking. He was in the lineup on Sunday.

"It could have nothing to do with [the medication]," DeRosa said. "It could be I'm going crazy. We'll try different things. I'm definitely feeling better. At least I feel like [I've got a] normal sickness thing instead of walking around in a funk."

Leading off: Alfonso Soriano is the second Cub to hit game-opening home runs in consecutive games; the other was Sam Mertes. Abner Dalrymple and Rick Monday are the only other Cubs to hit first-inning leadoff homers in consecutive games, but theirs were hit in the bottom of the first inning, according to research by Cubs historian Ed Hartig.

Dalrymple connected June 27, 1885, against Boston's Daisy Davis, and June 29, 1885, against Boston's Jim Whitney. Mertes hit leadoff blasts against Boston's Bill Dineen on June 8, 1900, and against Boston's Ted Lewis on June 9, 1900. Monday homered in the first inning off New York's Jon Matlack on June 25, 1976, and against New York's Jerry Koosman the next day.

The only player to hit game-opening home runs in three consecutive games was Brady Anderson of the Baltimore Orioles on April 19-20-21, 1996. Soriano didn't connect; he struck out swinging in the first inning on Sunday.

Quote of the day: "We've been playing better baseball. Our team has been getting better in areas. It really hasn't showed all that much in the won-loss record, but invariably, if we continue to play better fundamental baseball, it will. Early in the year, we made a lot of mistakes, and it became an expectation. Now, [the mistakes] come further between, and it surprises me when we make one. That tells me we're getting better as a team. Sooner or later, that will translate into more wins for the organization." -- Piniella, when asked if his team was better than its record

Minor matters: Les Walrond gave up three hits over seven shutout innings in Iowa's 15-0 win over Albuquerque on Saturday. Walrond struck out six. Ronny Cedeno had four hits, and Buck Coats had three hits, including a three-run homer. ... Paul Schappert gave up one run on four hits over five innings in Tennessee's 2-1 win over Huntsville. ... Yusef Carter hit a solo homer, his first with Daytona, in a 5-4 loss to Tampa. Jesse Estrada gave up one run on six hits over five innings and struck out five, but did not get a decision. ... Juan Mateo gave up one run on three hits over three innings in Peoria's 3-2 loss to Beloit. Jonathan Mota, Josh Lansford and Russ Canzler each had two hits. ... Dustin Sasser gave up one run on four hits over three innings in Boise's 9-4 loss to Salem-Keizer. ... Brad Clipp gave up one run on five hits over four innings in Mesa's 5-3 loss to the Royals.

Mark Pawelek, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, fractured a bone in his non-throwing right elbow when he tripped over his PlayStation in his Arizona apartment. Pawelek first hit his arm on the corner of a wall and then landed on the arm. Because it's his right arm, Pawelek could throw sometime in August.

On deck: Jason Marquis will open a six-game homestand on Monday night against the Colorado Rockies. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net.

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