DENVER -- How do you replace a six-time All-Star? Left fielder Matt Murton has started by hitting three home runs in four days and collecting eight hits in five days and four starts. The Cubs might miss Alfonso Soriano, who suffered a slight tear of his right quadriceps muscle Sunday against the Mets, but Murton has filled in admirably.
"It's the best stretch as far as playing time I've had all year," Murton said. "What it does for you as a hitter is you start to see the ball, you start trusting it a little bit more and when you start trusting it, you can start letting it go a little bit more, be a little more aggressive because you trust your swing and you trust what you're seeing." Murton has made a believer of manager Lou Piniella since returning to the Cubs after a midseason stint with Triple-A Iowa, where he was batting .331 with six homers and 27 RBIs in 39 games. Entering Saturday's game, Murton was hitting .367 in 12 games since his July 27 recall. "We brought him up when he was hot, put him in there to play," Piniella said. "He hit well here last year. He's getting comfortable and he's doing a nice job." Last season, Murton hit .297 with 13 homers, 22 doubles and 62 RBIs in 144 games with the Cubs. But after starting a 1-for-18 slump in early June this season, Piniella sent Murton to Iowa to get his swing back. With a bulk of at-bats this week, Murton has his confidence back. "These few days have been more indicative of what I'm capable of doing," he said. "You're not going to expect to hit the home runs every night, but I'm feeling better at the plate, having better at bats and battling." Three games, one lineup: For the first time all season, Piniella sent out the same lineup for the third straight game on Saturday. "It worked the first couple of days," Piniella said. "Our lineup out here in this park is an athletic one. They've played well, so why change it?" With injuries to Aramis Ramirez and Soriano, Piniella does not have a lot of options, but that usually doesn't stop him from mixing things up. "I don't have what you'd classify as an everyday club here," Piniella said. "So I tinker with it from time to time." Ramirez still ailing: Ramirez returned to the team Friday, but was not in the lineup again Saturday because of a sore right wrist. Ramirez said he would most likely sit out Sunday and possibly return to the lineup Tuesday. "It's up to Aramis," Piniella said. "When he's ready, we'll get him back in there. He'll make that decision." Ohman reports: Will Ohman reported to Iowa on Saturday and threw on flat ground. Cubs vice president/general manager Jim Hendry said Ohman would throw a bullpen session Sunday and pitch for Iowa either Monday or Tuesday. Ohman, who was optioned to Iowa on Tuesday, went on Mike North's morning radio show on 670 The Score on Friday and said he had been pitching injured for 1 1/2 to two months. Ohman informed the team of his injury after receiving word that he was being optioned to Iowa. Ohman had an MRI exam on Wednesday in Chicago that showed irritation in the AC (acromioclavicular) joint in his shoulder. Marquis checks on Baker: Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis talked to Rockies special front office assistant Walt Weiss Saturday to check on Jeff Baker. Marquis hit Baker in the head with a pitch he was trying to go down and away with in the seventh inning Friday night. The ball ricocheted off Baker's helmet and hit him in the face and helmet. Baker fell to the ground and had to leave the game. A CT scan showed no broken bones in his face, but Baker does have a mild concussion and went on the 15-day disabled list Saturday. "Hopefully it didn't do too much damage," Marquis said. "Glad the tests came out negative." Next up: Cubs lefty Sean Marshall (5-6, 4.17) will pitch the final game of the Cubs seven-game road trip Sunday at Coors Field. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. CT.
C.J. Moore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.