The Cubs return to the field on Friday afternoon following the much-needed All-Star break. Joe Maddon’s team begins a six-game homestand against the Rangers and Mets with the first of three versus one of the top teams in the American League, the Texas Rangers.
The Cubs start the ‘second half’ of the season with a 53-35 record and the biggest lead in the majors. The Cubs enter play Friday a full seven games ahead of the Cardinals and 7 ½ games in front of the Pirates.
After playing 24 games in 24 days leading up to the break, 17 of the Cubs next 19 games are in Chicago and the only road games between now and Aug. 3 (22 games) will not require the team to board an airplane. The Cubs have three games in Milwaukee (July 22-24) and two games on the South Side (July 25-26). The next road trip is a weekend series in Oakland (Aug. 5-7).
According to Buster Olney, the Cubs have the 11th most difficult schedule out of the break among the 19 contending teams (Cardinals 12th and Pirates 19th). The Cubs have 43 games left against teams with a record currently .500 or better. And 41 of the Cubs last 74 games of the season are at Wrigley Field.
Time to fasten those seatbelts …
Dexter Fowler – Munenori Kawasaki – Roster Move
The Cubs are not expected to activate Dexter Fowler from the DL before Friday’s opener with the Rangers. The Cubs have not addressed the next step in Fowler’s rehab process. Fowler played in one game for South Bend last weekend before he decided to back off and not try to push it to play in the All-Star Game.
Fowler said during the All-Star Game that he should be back in no more than 7-10 days after the break.
The Cubs are 5-16 since Fowler landed on the DL almost a month ago (June 20).
The Cubs optioned INF Munenori Kawasaki back to Triple-A Iowa following Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. Kawasaki reported to Principal Park on Thursday ready to play before the I-Cubs kicked off the second half of the season against Las Vegas.
The Cubs will add a player to the active roster before Friday’s opener against the Rangers.
David Ross is eligible to come off the 7-day concussion DL and is expected to be activated.
The Cubs transferred RHP Joe Nathan from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa on Thursday. Nathan made his I-Cubs debut with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Nathan struck out the first two batters he faced (Eric Campbell, T.J. Rivera) and retired Kevin Plawecki on a pop out to second base. Nathan pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning on 11 pitches, eight for strikes.
Nathan’s fastball was in the 91-92 mph range and topped out at 92 mph on the strike out of Rivera. Nathan was sharp with a mid-80s slider and low-80s changeup, the same that he threw in the seven outings with Double-A Tennessee.
Joe Nathan is scheduled to pitch again Saturday. And if all goes well he is expected to be added to the Cubs’ bullpen next week.
Rob Zastryzny and Aaron Brooks
Another young arm in the Cubs’ system left a game early with an apparent injury.
Rob Zastryzny started Thursday against Las Vegas at Principal Park. Zastryzny completed five innings (75 pitches, 42 strikes) and pitched better than his line. Matt Murton misplayed a ball in left field in the fifth that led to two runs. Zastryzny was charged with three runs on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
Brooks started a rehab assignment with Iowa on June 9. Brooks missed the first two months of the year after being placed on the 15-day DL at the beginning of the season (April 3) with a hip contusion.
Brooks has struggled this season. In five games, four starts, with the I-Cubs, Brooks posted a 1-1 record with a 7.71 ERA and 1.65 WHIP. Brooks allowed 15 runs, 14 earned, on 23 hits with four walks and 12 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings. Brooks last pitched on July 4.
The Red Sox acquired left-hander Drew Pomeranz from the Padres on Thursday for right-hander Anderson Espinosa. Dave Dombrowski has been looking for a starting pitcher and he found one by trading one of the top pitching prospects in the game to San Diego.
The deal the Red Sox made for Pomeranz has been viewed as an overpay for an organization that is in win-now mode. Jim Bowden explained, “The present trade market for starting pitchers is really thin and the demand is loaded.” The Sox needed a starting pitcher and if Pomeranz pitches like he did for the Padres with the Red Sox, the deal could work out long term for Boston and San Diego.
Pomeranz put it all together for the Padres before the break and was 8-7 in 17 starts with a 2.47 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 3.18 FIP. Pomeranz is under club control through the 2018 season. The Red Sox are putting a lot on a lefty that has already completed a career-high in innings and has never pitched under the pressure he will now have to deal with in Boston.
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to the Sun-Times, Anthony Rizzo implied the Cubs took their foot off the gas.
• Comcast SportsNet explained how Kyle Hendricks became such a critical part of The Plan.
• How the Cubs finish could be all about how they start according to the Sun-Times.
• Brian Matusz is working his way back to the big leagues with the Cubs according to the Tribune.
• Sports Illustrated reported ex-Cub Bryan LaHair is an All-Star again, but he’s a long way from Major League Baseball.
• Cliff Corcoran posted his midseason leaders for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.
• Tom Verducci provided second-half forecasts for Cubs, Mets, Yankees and MLB’s top stories.
• According to the Star-Telegram, Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels has a chance to prove that he’s Theo Epstein’s equal.
• Jim Bowden posted a report on the players that are most likely to be traded.
• Ken Davidoff ran down the top 10 storylines that will dominate baseball’s second half.
• Bob Nightengale posted the five top questions headed into MLB’s second half.
• Hardball Talk reported bullpen help is the Nationals top priority heading into the non-waiver trade deadline. The Nationals, like most of the contending teams, have their sights set on Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.
• Ken Rosenthal talked to Yankees president Randy Levine and the team’s position has not changed. Brian Cashman thinks the Yankees should sell off their assets. Ownership and the team president view the Yankees as contenders. Levine said, “We’ve said it over and over again. All this talk of buying or selling at this point in time is just speculative. We believe in this team. The Yankees have never been quitters.”
• The White Sox are looking into trades for centerfielders with Austin Jackson still recovering from knee surgery on June 10.
• Rich Hill was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday with a blister. Ken Rosenthal confirmed Susan Slusser’s report and added he was told Hill “has a legitimate blister and could have taken his scheduled turn” in the rotation. But the Athletics “decided to give him a couple of extra days.”
• The Rockies have not decided what direction they will go and will wait to determine whether or not to become buyers or sellers. The Rockies have three games with the Braves and seven at home with the Rays and Braves.
• Francisco Cervelli started a rehab assignment Thursday with Triple-A Indianapolis.
• The Tribune reported demolition begins at Addison and Clark as Wrigley area is reinvented.
• Kyle Schwarber will be the Grand Marshall of the BTN Big 10K Race on Aug. 6 according to Danny Ecker.
And last, but not least, the Cubs took a not-so-subtle jab at the White Sox.
This Day in Cubstory
1997 – Cubs traded Frank Castillo to the Rockies for Matt Pool
1988 – Cubs released Jim Sundberg
1986 – Cubs released Steve Lake
1984 – Cubs traded a PTBNL and Chuck Rainey to the Athletics for a PTBNL. Oakland sent Davey Lopes to the Cubs on Aug. 31, 1984 to complete the trade. Cubs sent Damon Farmer to Oakland on March 18, 1985 to complete Cubs end of the trade.
1984 – Brandon Gomes, born
1980 – Chris Denorfia, born
1975 – Bill Madlock singled in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and gave the NL a 6-3 victory over the AL in the All-Star Game at Milwaukee’s County Stadium
1960 – Cubs traded Earl Averill and cash ($30-35,000) to the Brewers for Al Heist
1945 – Cubs swept the Giants 5-3, and 7-2, behind Hank Wyse and Hy Vandenberg in front of 43,803 fans at Wrigley Field
1942 – Cubs relief pitcher Hi Bothorn whirled toward the Dodgers’ dugout and fired a ball at manager Leo Durocher’s head during the fifth inning at Wrigley Field. Lou Novikoff and Jimmie Foxx homered for the Cubs, but the Dodgers won 10-5. Ex-Cubs Billy Herman homered and Kirby Higbe picked up the win. Another former Cubs pitcher, Hugh Casey pitched in relief.
1932 – Cubs purchased Frank Demaree from Sacramento (PCL)
1923 – Barney Friberg hit a grand slam in the 10th inning to beat the Giants 9-5. The win gave Grover Alexander a 29-28 record against the Giants.
1916 – Cubs purchased Chuck Wortman from Kansas City (American Association) for $8,000 plus two PTBNL