Cubs downplay Brewers’ signing of Kyle Lohse
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 25, 2013 10:37PM
San Francisco Giants special assistant Shawon Dunston, left, hugs his son Shawon Jr., of the Chicago Cubs, before a spring training exhibition baseball game in Mesa, Ariz., Monday, March 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Updated: April 27, 2013 6:31AM
MESA, Ariz. — Whether the Brewers’ signing of pitcher Kyle Lohse on Monday affects the balance of power in the National League Central, players in the Cubs’ clubhouse didn’t seem concerned about their climb in the division getting that much tougher.
“He’s a guy that’s going to win ballgames for them,” outfielder David DeJesus said. “But I feel that it’s not like a huge pickup. It’s a solid, veteran guy who throws strikes, keeps the ball in play, throws to contact. It’s going to match their team nicely.”
Lohse, originally a Cubs draft pick who went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA for the Cardinals last season, got a three-year, $33 million deal from the Brewers after lingering on the free-agent market because of the new compensation rule that costs the signing team a first-round or high second-round draft pick (because Lohse got a $13.3 million qualifying offer from St. Louis).
“But we’ve seen him,” DeJesus said. “We’ve faced him three or four times each year he’s been in the division. You just make sure you hit strikes on him.”
He may have a point. Lohse is just 4-4 with a 5.17 ERA in 16 career starts against the Cubs.
“I don’t think we’ve got time to be worrying about that,’’ catcher Dioner Navarro said. ‘‘We’ve just got to worry about what we do. Whatever they do, good for them. I mean, I’m kind of glad he signed. He’s a great pitcher, a great guy to compete against.
‘‘But we’ve just got to worry about us, worry about our group and worry about our goals.”
When the Cubs signed injured pitcher Scott Baker last fall, team president Theo Epstein touted the “95 percent” success rate of Tommy John surgery as a big reason the $5.5 million risk was worth taking.
But not even Baker could keep from wondering if he was an unfortunate 5-percenter while he waited for a week to see the team orthopedist after his elbow flared up during a spring-training start.
“You can tell yourself as much as you want to that it’s not the case,” he said Monday. “And you can believe whatever you want. But until you sit there and Dr. [Stephen Gryzlo] and Dr. [David ] Altcheck both confirm that that’s not the case . . . .
“When you hear two highly acclaimed orthopedic doctors tell you that’s not the case, it makes you feel pretty good, for sure.”
The surgeons determined Sunday that Baker’s setback was caused by a muscle strain in the elbow, not from any damage done to the refitted tendon.
Baker, who underwent the reconstructive surgery April 17 and missed the season, said there’s no doubt in his mind he’ll return to the mound this season to help the team.
But with his throwing shut down for a month, a best-case scenario looks like midseason instead of the mid-April return he and the team originally forecast.
“It is disappointing,” Baker said. “But I’ve come this far. I’m not about to give up or give in. I’m just going to continue to try to get ready to pitch at whatever point during the season that is.”
Shawon Dunston Jr., a Cubs outfield prospect, was surprised to even get the invitation to join the big-league club for a day — much less that the Cubs were playing his dad’s Giants. Shawon Dunston Sr. is a coach with San Francisco.
Then just before the game, manager Dale Sveum handed Dunston Jr. the lineup card to take to home plate, where his dad was delivering the Giants’ card.
“That was pretty nice,” said Junior, who shared a hug at the plate with his father.
Then he played the last four innings in center field, delivering a single in the ninth.
“Hopefully, I showed some tools out there,” he said with a smile.