Notes: Winning an elixir for Lee

Notes: Winning an elixir for Lee

CHICAGO -- After 150 games last year, the Cubs were 61-89 and 19 1/2 games back in the National League Central. Derrek Lee had missed most of the season because of a fractured right wrist. He also had his own personal matters to deal with after discovering his daughter, Jada, then 3 years old, had lost vision in one eye because of a rare disease.

Fast forward to this year, and Lee and the Cubs are in first in the division with 12 games remaining. Jada, now 4, is doing well, and Lee's Project 3000, created to raise awareness of Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, has received more than $1 million in donations since it was established on Sept. 29, 2006.

"Last year was a bad year for everybody," Lee said Monday. "We lost 100 games. That's bad. This year, fighting for the division, it's a 180-degree turn. It's a lot better this way.

"What do they say -- winning cures a lot of things," Lee said. "It's fun to win."

The Cubs first baseman is the team's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, and fans can vote for Lee through Oct. 5 on Cubs.com. The award is presented annually to the player who combines his skills on the baseball field with devoted work in the community.

Winning can't cure LCA, but Lee's efforts have made more people aware. The number of people who have been tested has increased significantly since Lee and Boston Celtics co-owner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck created Project 3000.

"We have a better handle on it," Lee said. "We're just making the best of it."

Holidays: In 1965, Sandy Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the World Series because it was Yom Kippur, a Jewish holy day. In 2001, Shawn Green refused to play a playoff game against the Giants because it was on Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is Saturday, and Cubs pitcher Jason Marquis is glad to be pitching on Friday in a day game. He should be done before sundown.

"I look at it that religion is an important part of my life, but so is family and baseball," Marquis said. "To me, family takes precedent over all aspects of my life. Baseball and religion fall into place, and I try not to make one more important than the other."

He did have to pitch on the holiday when he was with the Atlanta Braves. It was his turn, and the right-hander didn't want to throw the rotation out of order.

"I pitched, went to temple the next morning," Marquis said. "It was a day game. Bobby [Cox, Atlanta manager] allowed me to show up late. It turned out well."

Flashback: If the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers end up in a tie for the division, they will have a one-game playoff Monday, Oct. 1, at Wrigley Field. In 1998, Steve Trachsel pitched for the Cubs in a one-game playoff against the San Francisco Giants to see who would win the Wild Card berth.

Trachsel and the Cubs won, 5-3, and the right-hander threw six no-hit innings to start the game, played at Wrigley Field.

"It was extremely intense, and the crowd was electric," Trachsel said. "I remember a huge Harry Caray balloon in left field. I remember the crowd going absolutely crazy in the first inning when I struck out Barry Bonds. After that, it was kind of a blur until Gary Gaetti hit the homer."

Gaetti hit a two-run homer in the game. The sellout crowd of 39,556 was hanging on every pitch.

"I remember the ovation coming off the field, and the last little popup that went to 'Gracie' [Mark Grace] and the celebration," Trachsel said. "Up until going to the playoffs with New York, it was the most fun I'd had in the game."

Trachsel doesn't remember anything unique before the game.

"I wasn't nervous, nothing like that," he said. "I was extremely focused and almost locked in all day long, which probably helped. I think I walked five or six guys, and I don't remember walking anybody. I remember seeing postgame [television analyst] Peter Gammons examining my pitches to Barry Bonds and saying I got away with all these pitches, and I'm thinking, 'That's exactly how we wanted to throw to him.'

"I was very focused and had a game plan from the morning I woke up," he said.

Trachsel can only imagine what it would be like to have postseason baseball at Wrigley now.

"Since I've come back, the neighborhood is so much more populated, and I could see it going more insane," he said. "Hopefully we get that experience."

Extra bases: Ryan Theriot was in the lineup Monday and will likely have his right ankle taped. Theriot rolled it on Saturday running the bases and blamed the wet track at Busch Stadium. ... Jason Kendall started Monday at catcher, but manager Lou Piniella is considering giving rookie Geovany Soto more playing time. "We're playing teams that score a few more runs, and we've got to score a few runs ourselves," Piniella said. "Right now, I'm going with Kendall tonight, and we'll leave it at that." ... Don't be surprised if Kerry Wood is used in the seventh or eighth innings in relief. He's been continuing to build up arm strength and has done well. ... Piniella, who has been battling a head cold, was to be examined Monday by team physician Dr. Stephen Adams. ... Cincinnati's Jorge Cantu was on Piniella's teams in Tampa Bay. "He taught me a lot," Cantu said. "He was my mentor there in tough times. I got the bad and the good from him, and that's what helped get me to be a good player."

Quote of the day: "It hasn't been a grind. It's a normal baseball season, but you add to it the fact that there's been a nip-and-tuck race for a long, long time, and it can wear on you. That's the fun of this business, too, to be involved in something like this. You'd like to be in front by a half a dozen games or so, but that hasn't been the case for anybody except for Milwaukee earlier in the season. You just keep grinding away, and sooner or later we'll be talking that we have one or two games left, and that'll be it." -- Piniella, when asked whether this season has been a grind

On deck: Carlos Zambrano will face Aaron Harang in a rematch of Opening Day starters on Tuesday night in the second game of the Cubs' three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds. First pitch will be 7:05 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.