Denorfia's ailing hamstring allows Lake to get start

Denorfia's ailing hamstring allows Lake to get start

CHICAGO -- Junior Lake got his first start Tuesday night for the Cubs because outfielder Chris Denorfia isn't 100 percent healthy after dealing with a sore left hamstring.

"Denorfia is still not 100 percent with his leg, so I don't want to push him right now," manager Joe Maddon said of his lineup against Pirates lefty Jeff Locke.

Maddon had heard that Lake was guilty of mental mistakes, but the outfielder made a good impression on the manager this spring with his play, especially his baserunning.

• With an 11-7 record, the Cubs have secured their first winning April since going 17-10 in 2008.

"My big thing is that we're trying to win every month," Maddon said. "You try to win the day, you try to win the week, you try to win the month. At the end of the season, it looks pretty good, normally. For the most part, we've been playing well."

• Has Maddon noticed a difference this year with Major League Baseball's efforts to pick up the pace of games?

"I don't know time," Maddon said. "When you're involved in the game, the game will be over and I'll say, 'What time is it?' I don't know most of the time if it's a fast or slow game. There's many times I've been involved in long games, and don't really know it's a long game. I don't focus on that at all."

• The White Sox and Orioles will play Wednesday without any fans because of safety concerns after protests in Baltimore.

"It's really unfortunate it's gotten to that point," Maddon said. "It will be very awkward for the players."

He expected most players will feel as if they're back in instructional league. Maddon recalled a Minor League game in the early 1980s in Walla Walla, Wash., when there were about 35 people in the stands.

• Outfielder Albert Almora, ranked No. 5 on MLB.com's list of the Cubs' top 30 prospects, was placed on the disabled list Tuesday with an injury he described as whiplash. Almora was injured diving for a ball in center field on Monday. He is batting .297 this season for Double-A Tennessee.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.