Expect the Cubs to at least kick the tires on left-handed reliever B.J. Ryan, released Wednesday by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 33-year-old Ryan will have to clear waivers, and once that happens, the Cubs likely will explore the possibility of signing him.
Insiders say any team that ends up with the former closer probably will want him to start out at Triple-A. The Blue Jays are on the hook for the approximately $15 million Ryan is owed through next season. The Cubs, or any team that picks up Ryan, will have to pay him only a prorated share of the major-league minimum salary this year and the minimum for 2010.
In 25 games this year, Ryan was 1-1 with a 6.53 ERA and 2 saves in 4 chances. In 202/3 innings, he gave up 22 hits and had 17 walks for a high WHIP (walks plus hits per 1 inning pitched) of 1.89.
After saving 32 games last year, Ryan battled muscle tightness in his left shoulder in April and May and spent time on the disabled list.
Ryan signed a five-year, $47 million contract with the Blue Jays before the 2006 season. Reports out of Toronto say his velocity has been down and his command off.
The Cubs are happy with Sean Marshall as their lone left-handed reliever, but general manager Jim Hendry isn't averse to taking chances on pitchers such as Ryan.
Hart out, Stevens coming: The Cubs optioned righty Kevin Hart to Class AAA Iowa Thursday. They'll likely recall right-handed reliever Jeff Stevens today from Class AAA Iowa.
Hart, who has been a reliever with the Cubs for parts of three seasons, made his first big-league start Wednesday against the Braves. He took the loss, pitching 5 innings and giving up 1 run.
The move was made to give him some work in the minor leagues because the all-star break is coming up. Hart likely will pitch again for the Cubs July 19 at Washington or July 20 at Philadelphia.
Stevens is one of three pitchers the Cubs obtained from Cleveland last New Year's Eve in the trade for Mark DeRosa. At Iowa, Stevens is 0-3 with a 2.18 ERA in 30 games. In 411/3 innings, he has given up 25 hits and 20 walks for a good WHIP of 1.09. He has 43 strikeouts.
The Cubs also reinstated lefty reliever Jason Waddell off the disabled list and optioned him to Iowa. Waddell has been out since the middle of June with a non-baseball-related medical issue.
No change for Soto: The Cubs said Thursday the MRI performed on Geovany Soto's left-oblique muscle Wednesday night confirmed a mild strain.
The Cubs say they'll evaluate Soto again before today's series opener against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
Backup catcher Koyie Hill may get the start, with infielder-outfielder Jake Fox serving as the emergency backup. Fox originally came up through the Cubs system as a catcher.
Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field
TV: Channel 9 today; Channel 32 (Fox) Saturday; Channel 9 Sunday afternoon; ESPN Sunday night
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Rich Harden (5-5) vs. Chris Carpenter (6-3) today at 1:20 p.m.; Ted Lilly (8-6) vs. Brad Thompson (2-5) Saturday at 3:10 p.m.; Randy Wells (4-3) vs. Adam Wainwright (9-5) or Kyle Lohse (4-4) Sunday at 12:05 p.m.; Carlos Zambrano (4-4) vs. Wainwright or Lohse on Sunday at 7:05 p.m.
At a glance: The Cubs won a pair of games from the Cardinals in April at Wrigley, with the finale being rained out, forcing Sunday's doubleheader. The Cubs are 1-5 at St. Louis. Albert Pujols is far and away the leading MVP candidate at the halfway point, with his hitting line of .331/.459/.725 for an OPS of .1.184 entering Thursday's series finale at Milwaukee. Pujols has a pair of homers off Lilly and 5 vs. Zambrano. The Cubs entered Thursday's off-day fourth in the league in ERA, at 3.81. That pitching has gone largely wasted because of poor offense. The Cardinals were third in ERA, at 3.79.
Next: Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Thursday-Sunday