Cubs win! (So far)

They're not jamming the ballot boxes the way Red Sox Nation is, but fans of the Chicago Cubs have two of their hometown players on the cusp of making history in this summer's All-Star Game.

In the first returns of National League voting released yesterday, Cubs rookie Geovany Soto leads at catcher, and two teammates, Alfonso Soriano and rookie Kosuke Fukudome, rank 1-2 in the outfield.

Soto is trying to become the first rookie catcher to start for the National League, and Fukudome is in line to be the first starting first-year outfielder for the NL since a 21-year-old Phillies centerfielder by the name of Richie Ashburn in 1948.

It's clear that Cubs fans love Cubs players. Derrek Lee, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez are either third or fourth in the balloting at their infield positions.

Still there

Followers of the Phillies were hoping Freddy Garcia would fade from view after his 1-5, 5.90 ERA showing on a $10 million contract for the home team last season.

He's not.

According to, Garcia, who underwent shoulder surgery last August, is working with a personal trainer at his Miami home and recently began throwing off a mound. His agent, Peter Greenberg, hopes that he will be ready in July to audition for pitching-strapped teams, with an eye toward a comeback in August or September.

"It's pretty slim pickings on the trade market," Greenberg told the Web site. "So as long as Freddy is healthy, there should be interest. Even if he's 80 to 90 percent, that's better than most pitchers at 100 percent."

Wanna bet?

Perfect script

If a young phenom intends to make a splash in his major-league debut, he might try to follow the example set by Cincinnati centerfielder Jay Bruce.

Bruce's line Tuesday: 3 for 3 with a walk, a double, two runs scored, two RBIs, and a stolen base.

"I couldn't have written it any better. I had a blast," said Bruce, of Beaumont, Texas, the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 2005 draft.

Before the game, Bruce stood in front of a swarm of reporters and talked about his imminent debut.

"I'm pretty confident," he said. "I think you have to be confident in order to be successful. I'm just going to take a positive attitude toward it and see what happens."

So far, so good. Yesterday, the Reds sent veteran centerfielder Corey Patterson to their triple-A affiliate in Louisville. Manager Dusty Baker said Patterson, who was batting .200, would work on his hitting.

"He said, 'I've got to get my act together. I've got to change some things,' " Baker told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He knows he's better than he played. He's still got the skill, the talent. It's a good move to go down, stay a while, and get his stuff together."


Reliever Jorge Sosa, released last week by the Mets, signed a minor-league contract with Houston. The 31-year-old righthander was 4-1 with a 7.06 ERA in 20 appearances for New York. . . . Pittsburgh lefthander Zach Duke will get an extra day before his next start to take care of a callus on the middle finger of his pitching hand. He was scheduled to start tonight at Cincinnati. Instead, lefthander Phil Dumatrait will start on four days' rest.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or