The Rundown: Braves Stymie Hendricks Again, Trade Talks Heating Up, Contreras Relishes Mentor Role, Roster Limits Start Today

“When the game gets hard, hit me ooooh! Huh! You got yourself a fight.” – James Brown, Papa Don’t Take No Mess

I’m on vacation today and tomorrow so I’ll be posting a little later each day. It would have been nice if the Cubs would have sent me away with a win, but two out of three ain’t bad and at least the Cubs stopped streaking in the wrong direction. Kyle Hendricks has really struggled against the Braves and yesterday was no exception. The right-hander dropped to 1-4 with a 6.81 ERA in eight career starts against Atlanta.

“I have to go back and look, but a lot of the replays looked like stuff in the middle of the zone,” manager David Ross said. “Just leaking back. Trying to go in, pulling it middle. Trying to go in, pulling it middle.”

Now that the Cubs have ended their pathetic losing streak, trade talk is the rage among fans of Chicago’s North Side baseballers and Hendricks has heard his name mentioned a time or two. Most of the focus has been on catcher Willson Contreras because he’s in the final year of team control. There are just three members of the 2016 championship core left, and that number should shrink by August 2.

“There’s a lot of names up in the air. And Willy’s my guy, man. I love him,” Hendricks said of Contreras, who’s expected to earn his third All-Star starter selection and then get traded. “[It’s] been a special run.”

The Cubs are in full patching mode with Hendricks currently leading a rotation that includes two second-year pitchers (Keegan Thompson, Justin Steele) and two rookies (Caleb Kilian, Matt Swarmer) while veterans Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley, and Drew Smyly work their way back from the IL. Any of the four veteran starters could be traded, including Hendricks and Stroman. Shipping Hendricks and Contreras to other teams would leave Jason Heyward as the lone remaining player from 2016, and he’s not going anywhere.

Once this year’s wave of departures is complete, we should expect that Jed Hoyer and GM Carter Hawkins will begin the task of assembling a young and talented roster with an eye on playing competing baseball in the next few years. Hoyer is a little unsure of when that paradigm shift will occur, however, so we shouldn’t count on an immediate turnaround. The next core of talented players will include Brennen Davis, Owen Caissie, Cristian Hernández, and James Triantos, along with Kilian, Steele, and Thompson. Hoyer will probably fill in the gaps through free agency, though a good start would be by extending Contreras rather than trading him.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Nothing I can write will do this catch any justice.

Climbing the Ladder

“Luck will come and then slip away. You’ve got to move to bring it back to stay.” – Steve Winwood, Roll With It

Thompson was a stud in the series opener, helping to end Atlanta’s 14-game winning streak while stopping Chicago’s losing streak at 10 games. Adrian Sampson pitched 4.2  innings of one-hit ball in relief of Hendricks on Sunday. He struck out five and walked none. Contreras is now hitting .283 with 12 home runs and a .983 OPS.

  • Games Played: 66
  • Total Plate Appearances: 2,503
  • Total Strikeouts: 577
  • Strikeout Rate: 23.05%
  • Team Batting Average: .242
  • Runs Scored: 275
  • Runs Allowed: 345

How About That!

The Pirates have called up No. 3 prospect Oneil Cruz. Outfielder Bligh Madris also got the call.

If you’re looking for baseball’s next great superstar, you can’t go wrong choosing from one of Wander Franco, Hunter Greene, Julio Rodríguez, Bobby Witt, and Jazz Chisholm Jr. If it was my choice I’d select Yordan Álvarez, though I guess his inclusion wasn’t a consideration because he is not a rookie.

Michael Lorenzen hit Justin Upton in the head with a pitch and blamed the slick baseballs that are being used in games.

Reds rookie Graham Ashcraft was told by first-base umpire John Tumpane to remove his wedding ring during a foreign substance inspection in the first inning of Saturday’s start against the Brewers. Thing is, he was wearing it on his glove hand. The league is going to start enforcing that rule.

Baseball is also moving forward with its long-delayed 13-pitcher limit.

Several clubs hosted events this weekend to commemorate Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated every year on June 19. Juneteenth marks the day slavery officially ended in the United States in 1865, when Union troops finally delivered word to Galveston, TX that the Civil War had ended.

Sunday’s Three Stars

  1. Jack Suwinski – The Pirates outfielder was 3-for-3 with three home runs and three RBI, his last one a walk-off with his dad in attendance. That’s one helluva Father’s Day gift!
  2. Jerar Encarnación – The Marlins rookie was called up ahead of Sunday’s game and celebrated by hitting a game-deciding grand slam off of Mets reliever Seth Lugo in the top of the 7th inning.
  3. Mike Trout – A 1-for-4 day with a home run is nothing special, but it capped an amazing five-game in which the Angels’ superstar outfielder homered five times. The Angels took four of the five games and are 6-6 since firing Joe Maddon.

Extra Innings

Whether you’re a dad, a son, or a daughter, I hope you made the most of Father’s Day and celebrated accordingly.

Monday Morning Six-Pack

  1. The Warriors are this year’s NBA champions, and it’s their most surprising title ever.
  2. Earlier this month, the NFL punished Bears head coach Matt Eberflus for allowing too much hard contact during a May OTA. Two former Bears were pinched this week: Ron Rivera and Lovie Smith.
  3. A former Amazon employee was convicted for hacking into more than 100 million Capital One accounts, which cost the financial services company about $170 million in a class-action lawsuit.
  4. While the broader job market seems to show — at least for now — that the economy is still performing strongly and the country’s population has money to spend, the tech sector is starting to crack.
  5. The Sports Bra, a drinking establishment in Portland, OR offers an intriguing twist on the traditional sports pub. This one caters to fans of women’s sports only.
  6. “Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice.” – Charles Franklin Kettering

They Said It

  • “You have a couple of bad outings and you just gotta flush it. Everyone has tough stretches. The season is kind of up and down. You’re not always going to throw your best out there. You gotta get outs with what you have. But those good outings help build your confidence back up.” – Thompson
  • “I think one thing you’ve seen uptick — and there was a run there for a few weeks where we were one of the best offenses in baseball (from May 15 to June 7 the Cubs had a 118 wRC+, seventh in the game). You look at that run, we were stealing bases, we were taking dirtball reads, we were creating offense as a team. One thing that’s been very consistent with us is we’ve been able to walk and we’ve presented a lot of opportunities for the bases to be crowded.” – Brown
  • “I don’t care about the trade deadline.” – Contreras

Monday Walk-Up Song

Happy belated Father’s Day to all the dads.

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