HOUSTON The first two games of this weekend's series between the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros have been postponed because of the potential impact of Hurricane Ike.
Baseball officials also were anticipating that Sunday's series finale also might be postponed. One of the scenarios under consideration was to play a doubleheader Monday, and make up the third game on Sept. 29 if it's needed to decide a playoff berth. The Cubs and Astros have no common off days after Monday.
"It'll be a fluid situation in regard to how the storm moves and other issues that may or may not occur," Houston general manager Ed Wade said.
Ike had sustained wins of near 100 mph on Thursday and was expected to make landfall on the Texas coast late today or early Saturday. Some forecasts projected that Ike could strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane with winds of at least 131 mph.
The Cubs were finishing a series in St. Louis on Thursday night and pitcher Jason Marquis wondered why the teams couldn't agree to meet in another city.
"Why don't we play at a neutral site?" he said. "It's ridiculous."
Wade said other venues were considered, but he would not be specific. Astros second baseman Mark Loretta said he heard that the Cubs wanted the Astros to meet them in Milwaukee which is a one-hour drive from Chicago and would draw a ballpark filled with Cubs' fans.
"We didn't think that was a very good idea to try to evacuate our families and take off and leave them behind and all that stuff," Loretta said. "I think that was quickly nixed."
St. Louis was also considered, but an assistant to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said the Astros didn't like that option, either.
Houston manager Cecil Cooper was adamant about keeping the games in Houston.
"Minute Maid is where we should play them," he said.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry expects commissioner Bud Selig to come up with a backup site by Friday if games can't be played in Houston. The Cubs planned to fly back to Chicago after Thursday's game and practice Saturday at home.
"We'll plan on playing somewhere Sunday and Monday," Hendry said. "Is everybody going to be inconvenienced a little bit? Absolutely. What can you do about it? You go to bed tonight hoping the storm weakens and there's no disaster in that area."
Chicago started Thursday with a 4 1/2-game lead in the NL Central, but lost seven of its previous nine games. The Astros began Thursday four games behind Milwaukee in the race for the NL wild card.
Loretta expected the teams play a doubleheader on Sunday and finish the series on Monday.
"You have to start with the premise that it's a series of choices among not so convenient alternatives," he said. "You know it's going to be inconvenient for the players, the organizations, the fans, everything else. Just as the hurricane itself is inconvenient.
"This is all based on current weather models. We're hoping the Cubs can get in at a reasonable hour on Saturday. Assuming that, I think we'll be fine."
Later Thursday, the Houston Texans announced that their game against the Baltimore Ravens scheduled for Sunday afternoon has been postponed and moved to Monday night.
STEINBRENNER SAYS YANKEES MADE MISTAKES: Hank Steinbrenner is disappointed the New York Yankees could be eliminated from postseason play during Yankee Stadium's final homestand.
"We're going to have to look at what has been done wrong over the last five years, which I've had one year to try and figure out," he said Thursday at the Yankees' spring training complex. "Clearly, a lot of mistakes were made."
Hank and his brother Hal took over most of the Yankees' day-to-day operation last fall. Their father, George Steinbrenner, bought the Yankees in 1973.
"I'm going to be reviewing the entire organization," said Hank Steinbrenner, a team co-chairman along with his brother Hal.
New York opens a 10-game homestand tonight against Tampa Bay. The Yankees, fourth in the AL East, are 8 1/2 games behind AL wild-card leader Boston with 16 games left.
"We're going to do everything we can to win next year. We're not going to wait," Steinbrenner said. "Do everything we can that makes sense. "We're going to fix what we have to fix."
New York is expected to be active in free agency. Pitchers CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets and A.J. Burnett, and first baseman Mark Teixeira are among the players whom the Yankees might be interested in signing.
ROCKIES REPLACE HERNANDEZ IN ROTATION: The Colorado Rockies are replacing veteran Livan Hernandez with rookie Greg Reynolds in their rotation.
Manager Clint Hurdle announced the move Thursday, one day after Hernandez gave up four runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings during a 9-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Hernandez is 1-3 with a 9.85 ERA.
"I told him we were going to make a change because we were not getting the results that we had wanted," Hurdle said. "And it wasn't from lack of effort. The effort is there. The results haven't been what we needed or wanted."
Reynolds was 2-6 with a 6.71 ERA in 11 starts between May 11 and July 4 before he was sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs on July 5.
Hurdle said Reynolds responded to the earlier demotion the way the team hoped.
"When you're told you've got to leave, it hits you between the eyes and you go down there one way or the other," said Hurdle of Reynolds, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft. "You go down there bitter or you go down there to get better. He went down there to get better."
Reynolds was recalled on Sept. 2 and struck out two of the three batters in a perfect inning on Wednesday night, his first career relief appearance.
CREDE TO GET SECOND OPINION: Frustrated by his latest bout with a sore back that has left him sidelined during his team's push for the playoffs, Chicago White Sox third baseman Joe Crede will seek a second opinion.
Crede, who is eligible to be a free agent after this season, had back surgery last year but appeared to have bounced back with a decent first half in 2008. When his back flared up, he spent a month on the disabled list from July 25-Aug. 24 and most recently hasn't played since Sept. 2, when it acted up again. He received his second injection of the year last Friday to help with the pain.
"Right now for me personally it's just beyond frustration," Crede said Thursday. "It's just really hard to talk about, you know, because you are so used to doing the same thing every day and getting to the field and hitting and going out on the field and stretching with the guys. ... It's not only frustrating for me but as well as my family because they all want to see me go out there and do well." Crede batted .252 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs in the first half. But he's batting .216 with one homer and six RBIs in 11 games during the second. He was 4-for-23 after coming off the disabled list before being sidelined again.
BREWERS' KAPLER TEARS SHOULDER MUSCLE: Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Gabe Kapler has a torn muscle in his right shoulder and could miss the rest of the season.
Kapler will stay in Milwaukee and undergo physical therapy with the team in an effort to determine whether he can return this year.
The team said Thursday that Kapler is hopeful he can return this year, but gave no timetable for his recovery.
He left Wednesday's game after making a hard throw to the plate in the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds.
With the Reds leading 3-1, Kapler's throw kept Edwin Encarnacion from attempting to score on Jay Bruce's single, but Kapler, in the lineup for struggling All-Star Corey Hart, immediately winced in pain and grabbed for his shoulder.
Milwaukee went on to rally for a 4-3 win, thanks in part to Kapler's effort.
Kapler, who retired from baseball for a year due to injuries and became a manager, is hitting .301 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 229 at-bats this season after signing as a free agent with the Brewers.