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Phil Almost Comes Through

So my buddy Phil comes marching into the bleachers this afternoon saying, "Got the scoop! Got the scoop!"

He proceeded to tell us that "inside info" said that Michael Barrett would be batting second today. (Guess he must have been listening to The Score or something -- that's usually where he gets his "inside info".)

Well, turned out he was right, and Barrett took advantage of the new batting-order slot to slam home runs in his first two at-bats, so I'm guessing he'll be batting second for a while. It's actually a pretty good idea -- Barrett's shown decent bat control so far, and he's far better than Corey "I Never Saw A Pitch I Didn't Like" Patterson in that spot.

Sadly, I can't credit Phil with the win today, because Sergio F. Mitre decided to be bad Sergio today, and gave the homers right back to the Cardinals (Pujols and Edmonds back-to-back in the fourth) and the Cubs lost 7-6, despite another Moises Alou bomb onto Waveland (none of the six homers hit today needed any help from the wind).

Phil did give us another somewhat substantiated rumor, which I'll save for the end of this post.

A huge thunderstorm raced through the area this morning, knocking out power at Jeff and Howard's place (Jeff & Krista are living with Jon, in the basement of Howard's building -- don't ask), so he had to call me to get the updated weather report. When I got there I talked to Bill from Rockford who said he thought he was going to be seeing a tornado on his drive in this morning, that's how dark it got.

Nevertheless, it stopped raining, I put on the shorts (though took several other layers into the park, none of which I wound up needing), and by gametime the sun came out and it was quite a pleasant afternoon. Official game-time temperature was 61, though it felt like it was in the 70's at the ballpark -- I think they use the lakefront temp reading for the ballpark temp, so it may have been a bit cooler right at the shoreline.

Joining us today was David Geiser from the Cubs newsgroup, and the Cubs also lost the game he attended in the bleachers last year, so I jokingly told him he might have to be banned. He'll be at the other two games this weekend in the terrace and/or boxes, so I'll forgive him if the Cubs take the next two games.

Early in the game a guy walked up to us and asked "How do you get these great seats?" We explained that we have season tickets and either Jeff or I get there at gate-opening. He said he was bringing his 88-year-old grandmother to the game tomorrow and was looking for a place where she'd be safe from the drunken idiots.

Actually, I'd recommend somewhere other than the bleachers for an 88-year-old woman, but that's another story. We told him that we might have room for them tomorrow, and that we'd try to keep the drunks away from them.

Today's game drove home the lesson we've learned since Kerry Wood has been out -- that the vaunted pitching staff does have some holes. The last two spots (Mitre and Rusch) are being held down by less-than-replacement-value pitchers, and Mark Prior (who had a stellar appearance at Class-A Lansing last night) and Wood can't come back too soon.

It appears that Wood will start one of the games of the makeup doubleheader at Pittsburgh on May 28, so that's only one more start for Rusch in his spot, and Prior probably the weekend following, at home vs. the Pirates, after which Mr. Meat-Tray will either be sent back to Iowa, or the bullpen.

Frankly, I simply cannot understand Dusty Baker's use of his bullpen. Todd Wellemeyer did an excellent job of keeping the Cubs in the game, throwing two spotless innings and lowering his ERA to 2.08 in 13 IP. But it was only the third time he's appeared since April 27, a span of 21 games, and that's just silly. Again, why carry twelve pitchers if you're not going to use them all? What it does is force ridiculous moves like allowing Sergio Mitre to bat for himself in the fifth. What did Dusty think? That he was going to bang another double off the wall (and we all thought he should have been credited with a triple)?

Someone like Bill Selby, who's hitting .305 at Iowa, or David Kelton, who has 11 doubles and six homers, could be useful to the Cubs on the bench, especially with Sammy Sosa out and Todd Hollandsworth in the lineup every day. Maybe when Wood and Prior come back, the bullpen can be adjusted and the Cubs will acquire some bench strength.

Which leads me into Phil's other rumor. With Alex Gonzalez out, there's been talk about acquiring another SS, and the Mariners have apparently soured on Rich Aurilia already, and Aurilia used to play for Dusty Baker, of course, and Cubs scouts have been seen scouting Mariners games, and so...

It's not Aurilia the Cubs are after, it's Ichiro.

It'd probably take Corey Patterson and a pitching prospect, and you know what, I'd do it. Ichiro is 30, an established star, and I like his approach to the game much more than I like Patterson's. He'd be an instant fan favorite, could easily handle CF, and solve the leadoff problem. And, his #51 was vacated by the Juan Cruz trade.

If this is really what Jim Hendry has in mind, I say do it.

And remember where you heard it first.