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Improving Weather, Improving Bradley: Cubs vs. Cardinals, Friday 4/17, 1:20 CT

We'll find out later if Milton Bradley will be suspended for cap-tipping (no relation to cow-tipping) with plate umpire Larry Vanover yesterday. Frankly, I think a suspension for an incidental cap-tip is ridiculous, and once Bob Watson reviews the tape, I suspect Milton will simply be fined. More importantly, will Milton be able to play in the field today?

The longer-term big issue involving Bradley is how quickly he'll be ready to return to the lineup. Asked if it could be today, [Lou] Piniella said: "I don't know. When we come to the ballpark, we'll find out how he feels."

Even if Bradley says he's ready, the rule of thumb with an injured player is to give him one more day off.

Bradley passed his most strenuous test since suffering the injury Sunday night when he ran at about 75 percent strength before Thursday's game, under the trainer's supervision.

The original return date for Milton was supposed to be tomorrow, but the Cubs could use his bat. The weather is supposed to be pleasant (near 70, little or no lake breeze), so maybe it'd be worth putting him out there, even if he has to be pulled after three at-bats.

Interesting Rich Harden note from Bruce Miles:

Checking with the Elias Sports Bureau, the Cubs found this tidbit about Rich Harden's 3-inning performance Wednesday:

Harden faced 17 batters, allowing 5 hits and 4 walks and striking out eight. In other words, every batter he faced got either a hit, a walk or a strikeout. No other pitcher over the past 80 years had faced as many batters in a big-league game with each batter getting a hit, a walk or a strikeout, according to the research.

Thirty-five years ago today, on a gusty, windy afternoon, one of the wackiest games in Wrigley Field history was played. Catcher George Mitterwald had a career day, hitting three homers and driving in eight runs. The Cubs hit six homers in all and the Pirates had three, and the Cubs won 18-9 (they led 18-4 going into the ninth). It was Steve Blass' final game -- he had almost no control, and walked seven. And can you imagine a pitcher in 2009 being allowed to throw a 16-hit, nine-run complete game, as Burt Hooton was?

The story, perhaps apocryphal, is told that Mitterwald's big day happened on a day he wasn't supposed to play -- he had been told the day before he was to have the day off, so he went out for a late night of partying ... and may have had the best day of his career nursing a hangover. He hit only four more homers the rest of 1974.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano
vs. P. J. Walters
P. J. Walters
1-0 W-L ---
3.00 ERA ---
13 SO --
6 BB --
1 HR --
vs. StL -- --

2009 - Carlos Zambrano 1-0 2 2 0 0 0 0 12.0 12 4 4 1 6 13 3.00 1.50

Z is 9-6, 3.25 in 22 appearances (21 starts) in his career vs. the Cardinals. Though Albert Pujols has hit five homers off him, Z has generally handled him pretty well (14-for-54, .259). The Cardinal who gives him fits is Skip Schumaker (7-for-19, .368, two doubles, a triple, a HR). Z has thrown well in his two starts so far this year. Lou says he knows how to deal with Albert:

"You put him on base with men in scoring position, and you try to have a guy like Albert not beat you," Piniella said. "I think that's the best approach. He's a force. You're very careful."

It must be working. The Cubs are one of only four NL teams (Philadelphia, Florida, San Francisco the others) to hold Pujols to under a 1.000 OPS against them.

P. J. Walters is making his major league debut today. He turned 24 last month and last year, split between AA and AAA, he was 10-6, 4.50 in 29 starts with a lot of walks (70 in 158 innings). Here's hoping the Cubs have a good scouting report on him and actually use it, because these seem to be the kind of pitchers that give Cub teams nightmares.

Today's game is on WGN, again on FSN Midwest and at the Mediacenter. Gameday

Discuss amongst yourselves.