The Cubs took off for Houston this afternoon, and they'll hold a light workout tonight at Minute Maid Park as they get ready to open the unofficial second half of play tomorrow against the Astros. The Cubs' all-stars will get a much-needed excused absence from the workout.
Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster will pitch for the Cubs this weekend, with newcomer Rich Harden opening Monday at Arizona as Lou gives Harden's troublesome right shoulder all the time he can give it.
Two weeks from today is the non-waiver trading deadline. I expect GM Jim Hendry to inquire about another arm for the bullpen and maybe an extra bat. Hendry no doubt will inquire about Colorado lefty Brian Fuentes for the pen. One trade that is not happening is one for the Padres' Khalil Greene. My Cubs people emphatically tell me they are not interested in Greene, a shortstop who was cited in a couple of reports over the past few days. Ryan Theriot is performing just fine at short for the Cubs, with an OBP of .396, which has him sixth in the NL. All Lou has to do is make sure to give Theriot a day off now and then and play Cedeno at short. That should help avoid any September collapse, such as the one Theriot endured last year. The Cubs got plenty of help from within last year, with Geovany Soto and Kevin Hart performing well enough to make the playoff roster. I expect to see Micah Hoffpauir and, yes, pitcher Jeff Samardzija this September.
Alfonso Soriano will take BP over the weekend in Houston. From there, he'll likely do a quick minor-league rehab and be ready to roll next Thursday, when the Cubs come home to play the Marlins. That'll make it six weeks out for Soriano, the Cubs' original timetable. If there's any benefit to Soriano being out this long, it's that it might benefit his legs, which bothered him last year and this.
The Cubs' road record is 20-26, but they should be looking to take two of three in both Houston and Arizona.