Kerry Wood, a little history, trade rumors, Carlos Marmol's All-Star chances and a Felix Pie update are topics in this week's mailbag. In order to be more timely and handle the overload of questions, the Cubs' mailbag now will run every Monday, instead of every other week. Keep those e-mails coming.
How do we vote for All-Star pitchers? I think more than anyone, Carlos Marmol should be an All-Star, and it's tough to get a middle-relief pitcher on the team. How can we get him there? -- John T., Nashville
It's up to Colorado manager Clint Hurdle, who will be skippering the National League team. Pitchers and reserves for both squads -- 23 for the NL and 22 for the American League -- will be determined through a combination of player-ballot choices and selections made by the two All-Star managers in conjunction with Major League Baseball. It's tough for setup guys to get a call, but there is precedent. Mike Remlinger was named to the All-Star team in 2002, and Mike Stanton was picked in 2001.
The Cubs have a good chance of finishing the season over .600, and for a little history lesson, when was the last time the Cubs finished a season over .600? -- Kyle P., Rosamond, Calif.
The 1945 team, which is the last Cubs team to get to the World Series, finished at .636 (98-56). The Cubs also finished above .600 in 1937 (93-61, .604); 1935 (100-54, .649); 1929 (98-54, .645); 1918 (84-45, .651); 1912 (91-59, .607); 1910 (104-50, .675); 1909 (104-49, .680); 1908 (99-55, .643); 1905 (92-61, .601); 1904 (93-60, .608). They also did so nine times from 1876-1900. And, they finished above .700 in 1906 (116-36, .763) and in 1907 (107-45, .704).
I've heard talk about the Cubs pursuing C.C. Sabathia to strengthen the rotation. Is there any truth to the rumors? -- Cory R., Franklin Grove, Ill.
You will hear a lot of rumors between now and the July 31 trading deadline. If you ask general manager Jim Hendry, he'll say he's doing whatever he can to make the team better. They are looking at ways to improve the rotation. The price for Sabathia, however, may be prohibitive.
I know Kerry Wood has been lights-out lately, but it seems the few times he has struggled this year he hits a batter at some point during the ninth inning. I was curious to find out how many batters did he hit in his four blown saves and one loss? -- Sean R., Wichita, Kan.
Wood does have four blown saves, but he was charged with the loss in one, so it's only four games. He hit the leadoff man twice -- May 1 against Milwaukee and May 24 against Pittsburgh. Both eventually scored. On April 23, Wood blew a save opportunity against Colorado but was credited with the win when the Cubs rallied in the 10th on Ryan Theriot's RBI single. Wood's other blown save was April 9 against Pittsburgh when he served up a leadoff homer to Jason Bay.
With the superb success of Ryan Dempster's conversion from relief to starter, is there a chance the Cubs might try to do the same with Wood? -- Levi M., Salem, Ill.
No. Maybe you forgot, but Wood was a starter. He became a reliever last season because his right shoulder would give him trouble after 60 pitches. He seems to be doing just fine in his new role.
Dontrelle Willis recently gave up eight earned runs on three hits, and I saw a graphic saying Wood did the same thing in 2002. Could you enlighten me as to that particular game and situation? -- Joshua A., New Albany, Miss.
On June 16, 2002, against the White Sox at Comiskey Park, Wood gave up eight earned runs on two hits and six walks over four innings. Carlos Lee hit a grand slam off Wood in the third. It also was Wood's 25th birthday.
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Why did Lou Piniella send in Jason Marquis to pinch-run, especially since Marquis was the scheduled starter the next game [on June 17]? And, Reed Johnson tried a squeeze play with two outs and the tying run on third. Was it Reed's call or Lou's call? -- Ryan C., Omaha, Neb.
I don't think pinch-running is too much to ask a pitcher the day before he starts. If Marquis can't handle that, then something is wrong with his conditioning. And he'd be the first to tell you he can handle it. As for the bunt on June 17 in Tampa Bay, that was Johnson's call, and he said it was something he's done in the past. The Rays had to make a perfect play to throw Johnson out, and they did.
After Alfonso Soriano's injury, why didn't Matt Murton get the call? It seems like he does nothing but hit. The power numbers still are not there, but with a .295 career average, he has demonstrated an ability to hit for high average at the big league level over a significant period of time. I know the Cubs were already planning to call up Micah Hoffpauir to help DH in Interleague games, but what led them to pick Eric Patterson over Murton? -- Brian W., Indianapolis
Patterson was hot, he's fast and he's more versatile than Murton because he can play second base and the outfield. Since you wrote, Murton was added to the Cubs' roster and Patterson was sent down because the Cubs were looking for a right-handed bat for the Interleague series against Tampa Bay. Patterson then rejoined the Cubs when Carlos Zambrano was placed on the 15-day DL. The Cubs look ahead to the visiting team, and look for the best matchups. Expect more roster moves this week with Sean Marshall being activated to start Tuesday, and Daryle Ward expected to come off the disabled list.
What's going on with Felix Pie? Is he showing any improvement in the Minors, and should we expect him up in the Majors any time soon? -- Chad M., Shorewood, Ill.
He is doing better but I wouldn't expect him to be called up soon. Pie struggled when he was first sent down to Triple-A Iowa, and hit .156 (10-for-64) in May. But in his last 20 games, he's batting .282 (20-for-71), has a .316 on-base percentage, and a .766 slugging percentage. That's encouraging. However, Pie will be sidelined indefinitely because of a sore left hand. He was to undergo an MRI on Monday in Mesa, Ariz., and will rehab there. Apparently, he either jammed his hand or injured it on an awkward swing and has been playing in pain for a few games. The injury is in the soft spot of his hand between the thumb and forefinger.
What exactly did the Cubs get for Josh Hamilton and why did they trade him away? He's the left-handed center fielder they've been looking for all season, and knowing that his stats could be for the Cubs instead of the Rangers is killing me. -- Austin M., Atlanta
I get asked this a lot, especially because of Hamilton's success this season. The Cubs had no intention of keeping Hamilton when they picked him in the Rule 5 Draft in December 2006 and then traded him to Cincinnati. The Cubs did not plan on taking a player at all and traded that pick to the Reds for cash considerations. Remember, any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must stay on the Major League roster the following season. The Cubs felt there wasn't anyone who filled their needs. That was the offseason -- they signed Alfonso Soriano. Tampa Bay made Hamilton the first pick overall in 1999, the Reds had him, and now he's with the Rangers.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.