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Did You Ever Think You'd Be This Glad To See Dusty Baker? - Cubs vs. Reds Preview, Monday 8/3, 6:10 CT

I cannot imagine Dusty Baker, who signed a three-year contract to manage the Reds before 2008, will finish out the last year of that deal in 2010. The Reds have appeared to regress since last year -- they are currently on pace to lose 92 games -- and the game seems to have passed Dusty by, even more so than it did during his last year as Cubs manager. There have been rumors that Tony LaRussa will leave the Cardinals after this year and join his former GM, Walt Jocketty, who is now in charge of the Reds.

Many people blame Dusty for the troubles Kerry Wood and Mark Prior had during his tenure. There's something to that, though other factors were involved, too. But Dusty's overuse of Aaron Harang -- who has thrown 110 or more pitches 19 times since Baker began managing the Reds -- is unconscionable.

Meanwhile, Lou might have a new relief pitcher in this series:

The positive news the Cubs received Sunday on the two key players who left Saturday's game with minor injuries could pay quick dividends this week in Cincinnati, including the intriguing -- if remote -- possibility that Carlos Zambrano could pitch out of the bullpen for the first time in seven years.

Even if Zambrano didn't exactly embrace the idea.

Manager Lou Piniella raised that possibility for the second consecutive night after another rough finish for a bullpen that has been worked hard lately -- in large part because of Zambrano's early exit Saturday because of lower- back stiffness.

"He's got till Friday," Piniella said of Zambrano's anticipated fitness for his next scheduled start, "unless we put him in the bullpen for a couple of days. We might need him there in Cincinnati."

Said Zambrano, when told of Piniella's comments: "I'm not a reliever."

Oh, come on, Z. Take one for the team. For one thing... how about being a closer for a day? Tonight?

Lineup via Twittermyer:

Fukudome, cf; Theriot, ss; Lee, 1b; Ramirez, 3b; Bradley, rf; Soriano, lf; Fontenot, 2b; Hill, c; Wells, p

This will be Koyie Hill's 24th consecutive start. He has caught all but six innings in those 24 games. I checked the 1968 game logs for Randy Hundley, who caught 160 games (156 starts) of the 163 (one tie) played that year. He started the first 26 games, then got a day off. Then he started 40 in a row (and appeared in the game he didn't start). Following ten more in a row, Hundley sat for a game -- the second game of a doubleheader, so he didn't get the entire day off. Then he made 50 more consecutive starts, before getting another second-game-of-a DH off -- and he appeared in that game. It was 16 more starts before he finally got another day off, but he also appeared in that game, but for only one inning -- most of a day off. Then he caught the final 17 games of the season, all but five innings. Why not those five innings? He was ejected for arguing a call.

So if you think Hill can't handle this, just look back 41 years. (No wonder Hundley's knees went.)

Today's Starting Pitchers
Randy Wells
Randy Wells
vs. Aaron Harang
Aaron Harang
7-4 W-L 5-12
2.84 ERA 4.50
60 SO 115
21 BB 34
8 HR 21
vs. Cin -- vs. Cubs

2009 - Randy Wells 7-4 15 15 0 0 0 0 95.0 88 31 30 8 21 60 2.84 1.15

2009 - Aaron Harang 5-12 22 22 2 1 0 0 134.0 161 73 67 21 34 115 4.50 1.46

Today's game is a pitching rematch from July 24, ten days ago at Wrigley Field. Both starters pitched reasonably well, but Dusty left Harang in for 119 pitches and the Cubs eventually put the game away vs. the Cincinnati bullpen. (Don't look at Kevin Gregg's line from that game, it will just raise your blood pressure.)

Aramis Ramirez and Mike Fontenot homered off Harang on July 24; A-Ram is the Cubs' best hitter against him, lifetime .326/.347/.652 with 4 HR in 46 AB, and he is expected to play tonight. Derrek Lee has also homered 5 times off Harang in 52 career AB.

Randy Wells threw six good innings against the Reds on July 24; his only real mistake was giving up a three-run homer to Harang, a career .090 hitter. I trust that won't happen again. This is the Cubs' 104th game and Wells has thrown 95 innings; if Wells throws a complete game (unlikely, of course), he will then show up in the qualified league leaders list for ERA. More likely, he'll show up there after his next start.

It's your lucky day, outside-of-Chicago Cubs fans. Normally, you wouldn't get to see WCIU games -- but ESPN has picked up tonight's game for national coverage. For other games today see the Mediacenter. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Reds site Red Reporter.

Overflow comment threads will post today at 7:15 pm, 8:15 pm and 9 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.