During the previous offseason, with both the Cubs and White Sox making a bunch of moves, I was envisioning some epic battles between two talented teams this year.
Well, the Cubs have panned out the way I hoped, but the Sox haven’t lived up to expectations thus far. But still, there is a ton more buzz surrounding this series than in the past few years. It’s nice to be excited about these games again (even if they don’t mean as much as games against, say, any other team in the NL Central).
Friday’s loss was more of the same from the Cubs offense, i.e., not many runs. The managed to hit into a whopping five double plays.
However, while the hitting appeared to be dismal on the surface, the Cubs did draw seven walks on the day and were the victims of an inconsistent strike zone. They also hit a couple balls right on the screws but right at defenders.
Things don’t get any easier Saturday (in fact, they get a lot tougher), as the Cubs get to face Chris Sale — perhaps the best pitcher in baseball right now. Should be a great matchup, with Jon Lester taking the hill for the Cubs.
Hendricks solid again
A bright spot to yesterday’s game: Kyle Hendricks pitched another seven scoreless innings of five-hit ball. That’s three excellent starts in a row for him, and he has a 22.1 scoreless innings streak going.
Hendricks has been fairly inconsistent this season, but he appears to be putting things together. And boy does that help having a guy in the four-spot of the rotation who is as effective as he’s been recently.
Good news on Hammel
Cubs fans have been holding their breath (figuratively) since Monday, after Jason Hammel was pulled from his start with hamstring tightness after pitching only one inning.
Sounds like they can breathe a little easier, as an MRI didn’t show anything serious and he likely won’t be placed on the disabled list. The Cubs expect him to pitch in the second series after the All-Star break (against the Reds), according to Patrick Mooney.
So this is good news. The Cubs are already struggling to fill their fifth-starter spot in the rotation, and losing Hammel may have made things a little dicey.
Donn Roach designated for assignment
Pretty rough week for RHP Donn Roach. He went from scheduled to start last Saturday, to being bumped out of the start by a last-minute signing of Clayton Richard. And now he has been designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Mike Olt, who was reinstated from the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A.
Roach was having a pretty good year in Triple-A. We’ll have to wait and see whether he’ll clear waivers.
LHP Zac Rosscup and infielders Javier Baez and Tommy La Stella are all rehabbing in Arizona, according to Carrie Muskat. Rosscup is throwing batting practice, but Baez and La Stella don’t have a return time frame.
Jesse Rogers says Baez has been cleared to swing a bat. It really has been a shame that both of these infielders haven’t been available to the Cubs all year. Their bench could really use them.
* Jed Hoyer spoke to the media before yesterday’s game and acknowledged that the Cubs are trying to add pitching. Nothing too surprising there. With the White Sox in town, talks naturally centered on Jeff Samardzija. Hoyer said he tuned in for Shark’s most recent outing against the Blue Jays, in which he pitched a shutout, writes Patrick Mooney. He neither confirmed nor denied whether the Cubs would be interested in a trade for Samardzija, but said they wouldn’t be prevented from making a trade just because it’s the White Sox. I find it highly unlikely the two teams get together on a Samardzija trade, but we’ll see what happens.
* According to Gordon Wittenmyer, one Cubs official would “love” to add RHP John Lackey next offseason. The 36-year-old will be a free agent after this year, and is currently pitching well for St. Louis. Lackey is very close with Jon Lester from their days together in Boston, and both seem like they would welcome being teammates again. I’m not sure how excited I’d be about Lackey at this point in his career, but I’d trust the Cubs’ front office if they think he still has something left in the tank.
* If the Padres enter fire-sale mode and decide to move James Shields, the Cubs may be a good target, Buster Olney says. It makes sense to me. We know the Cubs like Shields (he was close to signing with the Cubs before ultimately deciding on the Padres — big mistake!), and he wouldn’t be a free agent at the end of the year. I’ve always liked Shields; I guess, as always, it comes down to who the Cubs would have to give up. They’re not going to mortgage the future at this point.