HOUSTON -- The reporter wanted to ask Ryan Theriot about stats.
"Uh, oh," the Cubs shortstop said.
No, this time, the stats are on Theriot's side. Not only did Theriot bring an on-base percentage of .410 and a batting average of .333 into Tuesday night's game against the Astros, he was tied for the National League lead in multihit games (20) with Houston's Lance Berkman and Atlanta's Chipper Jones.
That's some heady company for any player, especially one who ran afoul of the stats-oriented crowd last year when his numbers dropped precipitously in September.
"Yeah, it's cool to be in the same company as those two guys," Theriot said. "They've been doing good things at the plate for a long time. What I think is impressive -- about those two guys and not myself -- is that they're switch hitters.
"As a former switch hitter, I know how hard it is to get into a groove from one side of the plate, much less both sides of the plate."
Theriot won the starting shortstop job early last season but finished with an OBP of .326 and a slugging percentage of .346 for an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of only .672. Entering Tuesday, Theriot's OPS was a nice .828.
"Hopefully we'll be talking about this in four months, and it will be the same scenario," he said.
Theriot made some changes to his swing over the winter and came to spring training in good shape, proving that perhaps you can work and "grit" your way to better numbers.
"What can help this team the most is getting on base and never getting away from that," Theriot said. "In years past, when things would go bad, I would do some things differently, which was a bad idea. It's always a bad idea."
Ascanio up: The Cubs recalled reliever Jose Ascanio Tuesday from Class AAA Iowa to replace reliever Chad Fox, who went on the disabled list with ulnar tendinitis in his right elbow.
Ascanio's velocity at Iowa was up to 93-94 mph, much better than in spring training, when he was a disappointment. The Cubs traded lefty reliever Will Ohman and infielder Omar Infante to Atlanta at last December's winter meetings for Ascanio.
"We were going to bring up either Ascanio or Hart," said manager Lou Piniella, referring to righty Kevin Hart. "Hart was starting. They didn't really want to disturb that. Our minor-league people felt that Ascanio was throwing the ball well. That's the guy we traded for, report-wise in Nashville last year. He didn't show it in the spring."
At Iowa, Ascanio was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 17 games.
Rotation set: The Cubs will throw Carlos Zambrano, Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly this weekend in Pittsburgh. Lou Piniella said Zambrano had a stiff neck in his last start. Zambrano threw for the trainer Tuesday, but the problem apparently arose from the way Zambrano slept.