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Columnist
Spraying to all fields: These Cubs stories worth noting
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Columnist

Cubs catcher Koyie Hill, as pitching coach Larry Rothschild confirms with his handshake, has done a fine job behind the plate filling in for injured Geovany Soto, who should play against Colorado.

 

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Published: 8/6/2009 6:20 PM

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The Cubs spent Thursday resting in the rarefied air of Denver.

Let's breathe in some observations:

Ode to Koyie: When catcher Geovany Soto comes off the disabled list Friday, it's a good bet Koyie Hill's streak of 26 straight starts behind the plate will end.

Give Hill a lot of credit. He isn't going to hit much, but he takes charge behind the plate and calls a good game.

In Wednesday's series finale at Cincinnati, Hill became the first Cubs catcher with more than 25 starts in a row since Jody Davis caught 38 a row in 1986.

Hill also is the third Cubs catcher in the last 50 years to start more than 25 in a row. He joined Randy Hundley, who had seven such streaks from 1966-70 and Davis, who had two from 1982-86.

Looks like the Cubs made the right choice in spring training when they kept Hill over Paul Bako.

Firing BBs: Bob Brenly proved during Wednesday's telecast that he might be the best TV analyst in the game today.

He's certainly not afraid to criticize.

When Milton Bradley pulled up short on Willy Taveras' pop foul fly in the first inning, Brenly said: "Milton Bradley takes two more steps, that's an easy play for him."

And when Alfonso Soriano got picked off base in the seventh to kill whatever chance the Cubs had to rally against Justin Lehr, Brenly noted not only the pickoff, but Soriano's nonchalant manner at first.

"Do you know what I said about having a feel for the game?" Brenly asked. "There you go."

That was it. He didn't harp or bring up either situation later.

Both Brenly and play-by-play man Len Kasper noted that shortstop Aaron Miles looked "out of sync" in his first game off the disabled list after Miles took his time throwing to first base, allowing Taveras to beat his throw.

Cashner in September? General manager Jim Hendry checked in Thursday from Denver, where the Cubs open a three-game series tonight.

Earlier this week, Hendry watched the Cubs' Class AA Tennessee farm team, which is loaded with pitchers such as Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman and Chris Carpenter.

There has been a lot of talk about the Cubs possibly calling up Cashner in September. I don't see this happening. It looks like the Cubs will want Cashner, the Cubs' first-round draft pick last year, to get more polish in the minors.

Farm fresh: Speaking of the Tennessee club, Jim Hendry had high praise for the field staff in Tennessee, where Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is the manager.

"I was very impressed by the professionalism there," Hendry said. "Everybody from Ryno to our pitching coach, Dennis Lewallyn, and the hitting coach, Tom Beyers, set a great tone."

The Cubs' minor-league system is starting to catch the eye of people around the game now. Fast-rising shortstop Starlin Castro is up with Tennessee now. He's only 19, but he has torn it up on his way there. He just needs to cut down on the errors.

This year's top picks, outfielder Brett Jackson and infielder DJ LeMahieu, are down the road at Peoria.

Hendry credited scouting director Tim Wilken as well as Paul Weaver, the Cubs' director of international scouting, for much of the resurgence.

"If you talk to a lot of GMs and farm directors, they'll tell you our system is a lot better than it gets credit for," Hendry said.

Stats and stuff: The Cubs entered Thursday's off-day tied with the Colorado Rockies for the big-league lead in quality starts, at 67.

Those of you who follow our blog, Chicago's Inside Pitch, on dailyherald.com, know that we talk about quality starts a lot. The minimum requirement for a quality start is at least 6 innings pitched and no more than 3 earned runs.

The Cubs do much better than that. The team's record in quality-start games is 43-24, and the starters' ERA in those games is a sparkling 2.24. When the Cubs don't get a quality start, the team's record is 14-25.

Cubs closer Kevin Gregg is 21-for-26 in converting saves. That figures to an .808 percentage, or 13th in the NL. The Rockies' Huston Street entered Thursday leading the NL at .966, or 28 of 29.

So as good as Gregg had been at times before last weekend's disasters at Florida, this area remains a concern as the Cubs head down the stretch.

bmiles@dailyherald.com