Cubs' choice lefty killers sidelined

When the Chicago Cubs face a left-handed starter, manager Mike Quade knows that getting Jeff Baker in the lineup is a must. Unfortunately, when the Cubs face Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Paul Maholm on Saturday, neither Baker (groin) nor outfielder Reed Johnson (back) was available to start.

Quade said it broke his heart to sit the two of them out against Maholm, especially since Baker is hitting .525 (21-for-40) against lefties. For Johnson (hitting .367), it doesn’t seem to matter which arm the pitcher is throwing with, he’s just hitting the ball. But with injuries mounting for the North Siders, Quade would rather be cautious with both players than have them lose them for an extended period of time. Especially with Johnson who has been on the disabled list with back issues multiple times in his career.

“Reed I’m most concerned about, so we’ll be really careful with him,” Quade said. “Baker probably needs a day or so before I can use him in the field, I’ll still be able to use him off the bench.”

Quade was tempted to use Baker at first for the left-handed hitting Carlos Pena, but was worried about Baker tweaking his strained groin while playing in the field. With Johnson on the bench, speedy outfielder Tony Campana gets the start in center field. It’s Campana’s third consecutive start and his first chance to hit in the lead-off spot.

The Cubs do get a player back from injury on Saturday as pitcher Randy Wells makes his first start since April 4 against Arizona. Shortly after pitching six innings of one-run ball against the Diamondbacks, Wells was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain.

Quade said he expected Wells to throw 80 to 90 pitches, which he hoped would get him through at least five innings. Quade said they wouldn’t push it with Wells and as long as he kept the ball down in the zone, he expected good results.

While the pitching staff has been hit hard with injuries, Quade and General Manager Jim Hendry have been trying to put together a rotation. Newly-acquired pitcher Rodrigo Lopez will start on Monday in place of the struggling Casey Coleman, who was sent down to Iowa.

“Try to get [Coleman] fixed, get him back to where he was last year, command-wise. This is a tough place to fix yourself up here,” Quade said. “He’ll go down there and get back to being the guy he needs to be.”

Coleman has struggled so far this season, handing out 26 walks in 36 innings, while sporting an eye-popping 2.03 WHIP.