Bryan LaHair and first base, Albert Pujols and Peoria, and Starlin Castro and errors are among the topics in this week's Cubs Inbox.
Why isn't Bryan LaHair starting every day? He has a .300 average, he's hitting home runs, and this is supposed to be his opportunity to show his abilities. It doesn't make sense. -- Dean S., Goshen, Ind.
This spring, LaHair was 3-for-18 against left-handed pitchers, while hitting .349 against right-handers. If he's not in the lineup, it's because a lefty is starting and the Cubs want to get Jeff Baker in the mix. Baker has a career .309 average against left-handers, while LaHair is 1-for-7 this year, and 6-for-41 in his career against lefties. He'd like more chances against them.
"I'm not afraid of left-handers," LaHair said. "I feel any time I come to the plate, I can do something, whether it's a lefty or righty. I'm on board [with sharing first], and I have a role, and I've accepted it."
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Cubs manager Dale Sveum isn't using a strict platoon. Sveum did not lift LaHair for a pinch-hitter on Tuesday against Cardinals lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and LaHair delivered a home run. That was his first hit this season off a left-hander.
"You do want to give him at-bats against lefties, you don't want to straight platoon," Sveum said of LaHair. "The bottom line is, Baker swings the heck out of the bat against left-handed pitching, and you have to give him at-bats, and sometimes without jeopardizing our defense in other areas, that's the one spot Baker is going to play."
I was wondering if Bryan LaHair or Anthony Rizzo are serviceable at any position but first base. It seems to me that Rizzo is just wasting his time Triple-A Iowa and needs more big league at-bats. Any way to get both of them in the lineup? -- John B., Ketchikan, Alaska
LaHair can play the outfield corners if necessary, but he did not play any outfield this spring. And to those who have suggested LaHair move to third base, that's not going to happen.
With all the talk about LaHair and Rizzo at first base, it got me thinking: How many first basemen have played for the Cubs since Mark Grace went to Arizona? -- Kevin M., Racine, Wis.
Grace's last season with the Cubs was in 2000. Since then, there have been 36 players who have taken a turn at first base. The list includes: Matt Stairs, Fred McGriff, Julio Zuleta, Ron Coomer, Delino DeShields, Michael Tucker, Mark Bellhorn, Hee-Seop Choi, Angel Echevarria, Robert Machado, Lenny Harris, Eric Karros, Ramon Martinez, Randall Simon, Jason Dubois, Todd Hollandsworth, Derrek Lee, Todd Walker, Scott McClain, Enrique Wilson, Henry Blanco, Jerry Hairston Jr., John Mabry, Scott Moore, Mark DeRosa, Jake Fox, Daryle Ward, Micah Hoffpauir, Baker, Xavier Nady, Tyler Colvin, LaHair, DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Pena, Steve Clevenger and Joe Mather.
I saw in Parade magazine that Albert Pujols was listed as playing for the Peoria Chiefs. Is there another Peoria team not affiliated with the Cubs, or was he in the Cubs' Minor League system? If so, how did he get there (it seems the Cubs would've drafted him) and why did he leave? -- John R., Pinckneyville, Ill.
The Peoria Chiefs were a Cardinals Minor League team from 1996-2004, which is when Pujols played for them. The Chiefs were affiliated with the Cubs from 1985-95, and again from 2005 to the present.
With Kerry Wood going down on the disabled list again this year, I feel he may not be around in the Major Leagues much longer. Can you see Kerry staying with the Cubs as a coach after his career? I would love to see him stay in Cubbie blue. -- Nick A., Valparaiso, Ind.
Wood, 34, has three young children who may want him to be their coach once his playing days are over. Right now, the focus is on this season.
I was watching one of the Cubs-Brewers games, and the announcers were talking about a Cardinals pitcher (I'm not sure when this happened), but he left the game at Wrigley, found a trench coat and they spotted him in his uniform across the street on a rooftop cheering with fans. Can you tell me who this was? -- Jeannine W., Ashland, Wis.
The only pitcher I know who did that was Tom Browning, who was with the Reds. In July 1993, he snuck out of Wrigley Field and was spotted on one of the rooftops on Sheffield Avenue in uniform. He was fined $500 by Cincinnati manager Davey Johnson for the prank.
What's become of Derrek Lee? Is he still a free agent and not signed? -- Dan M., Hillside, Ill.
He is still a free agent and not signed -- that's correct.
Do the Cubs have a good shortstop at Triple-A? They have to move Starlin Castro to center field. He is not a shortstop at all, and enough is enough with the errors. -- Rick V., Woodridge, Ill.
The Cubs' best shortstop prospect is Junior Lake, but I think you're writing Castro off too soon. When he was called up in May 2010, he was 20 years old and had less than 1,000 at-bats in the Minor Leagues. He may be ready offensively, but he is still learning on defense. I'm not saying Castro is a Hall of Famer, but Robin Yount made 44 errors at shortstop in his second season in 1975, and 31 more in '76. Sveum is working with him, but there will be growing pains.