Chicago MLB teams lose both season openers

March 31, 2008 4:53:07 PM PDT
Monday was opening day at Wrigley Field.

The Chicago Cubs began their season Monday afternoon against the Milwaukee Brewers. The game started about 2 p.m. after a rain delay of 41 minutes.

Both Chicago teams lost their season openers. The Cubs fell 4-3 in a 10-inning rout. The White Sox lost 10-8. Both teams rallied back from three-run deficits but both failed to hold on.

Carlos Zambrano pitched for the Cubs but left the game with an injury after catching a pop-up flyball. Ben Sheets was on the mound for the Brewers, the team the Cubs had to catch and pass last season.

The Cubs were eight and a half games back June 23, 2007, before overtaking the Brewers and winning the division on the final week of the season.

Banks Immortalized by Statue

Also on Monday, Cubs legend Ernie Banks was honored at Wrigley Field with a statue, which was unveiled at 10 a.m. Banks, also known as Mr. Cub, will sing the seventh-inning stretch.

"I know it will be here 100 years from now. It's a miracle to me, but it's prove that you find satisfaction, contentment in your life, miracles can happen," said Ernie Banks.

Banks was honored to great fanfare as hundreds of fans came to get a peek of him. Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Hank Aaron were present.

"It's a miracle to me. But it has proved that you find satisfaction, contentment in your life, miracles can happen," Banks said.

"These guys were our heroes. I'm not the only little boy who grew up in Chicago who mimicked Ernie Banks' batting style. He used to hold the bat like this and move his fingers like this," said Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"Ernie played the game as it's supposed to be played. Every one of those homeruns that went over the fence in this field behind us was a real home run," said fan Chris Craven.

The statue could bring luck to the Cubs.

"I would love to see them go to the World Series. One hundred years is a long time. We'll cross our fingers and hope for the best," said one fan.

Still, some aren't taking any chances as fans poured in for today's opening game. Just a couple blocks away, was Murphy the Goat.

"He's quite well-maintained. We're dressing him and feeding him bread. The goal is to embrace the goat as opposed to reject him and reverse the curse," said Chris Bryan, Uncommon Grounds.

Wrigley Future Uncertain

The Cubs are entering the season under a microscope as the Tribune Company attempts to sell the team and the landmark ball park.

The hot topic is the possibility that the Cubs and Wrigley Field may be sold. The Tribune's new owner recently said he would have no problem saying goodbye to the Wrigley name if the price is right. But what do the fans think?

"They can change the name. It will always be Wrigley Field. So it doesn't matter," said fan John Molloy.

"We haven't had a World Series win in 100 years; we have little to hold on to. Wrigley is one of those things. It is the confines; it represents everything that is Cubs for us. So, for that to be Boeing Field or something, it wouldn't be the same. It would change something that is near and dear to a lot of people's hearts," said fan Andrew Newton.

New Reserve Player Up, Murton, Marshall Back to AAA

The Cubs set their opening-day roster by optioning OF Matt Murton and LHP Sean Marshall to Triple-A Iowa.

Carmen Pignatiello, a left-handed pitcher who was born in Indiana and went to high school in New Lenox, Illinois, beat out Sean Marshall for a bullpen spot.

"During the spring, you never know what can happen. That's why you having to out there and be ready to compete. I did a good job of that this year," said Carmen Pignatiello, Cubs Reliever. "To be here opening day is an unbelievable feeling."

According to his manager, Lou Piniella, the Illinois-born player certainly deserves this opportunity.

"Pignatiello earned the job. We talk about Woody earning the closers job, which he did. Pignatiello really gave up one run all year, all spring and he pitches as well as anybody. He was like a long shot candidate and he kept working his way through the ranks. As the numbers dwindled, he stayed around because he was doing the job, and he gets rewarded," said Lou Piniella, Cubs Manager.

Matt Murton lost a spot as a reserve when the Cubs signed outfielder Reed Johnson late in the spring.

Sox play Cleveland

The Chicago White Sox were in Cleveland for the first of a three-game series against the Indians. It's the Indians' home opener.

C.C. Sabathia says he's excited to be the starting pitcher today for the start of the 2008 season against the Chicago White Sox. Mark Buehrle will take the mound for the Sox. He has pitched opening day six times in the last seven years.

The Sox have played their season opener against the Cleveland Indians for the last four years. Last year, they lost after giving up 12 runs.

Manager Ozzie Guillen says he is not putting added pressure on the team just because it's the opener.

"I told the players don't think we have to win this game to make people happy or make them believe in what we can do. It's what we're going to do in all the 162 games. The only thing you have to remember opening day is we have that. When June, July starts, you have only the second day of the season. Take it one day at a time. We're in the situation right now we have to go out there every day and perform the way we should be performing. We cannot make that many mistakes. I have confidence to know that we have the people here to win," said Ozzie Guillen, Sox manager.

The 2005 World Series champs finished 72-90 last season and finished fourth in the AL Central.

First basemen Paul Konerko said the South Siders can't afford to fall six or seven games back early- because they may not be able to gain it back.

The Indians won 96 games last season and lost to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. The team is not only picked to win its division by many, but a lot of people think they will go to the World Series or at least have a very good chance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.


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