Hamilton, Reds swipe 6 bases, steal win from Cubs

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
3:08
PM CT
video

CINCINNATI -- Billy Hamilton stole his 51st base and the Cincinnati Reds swiped six in all, beating the Chicago Cubs 7-2 Thursday.

Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier each stole twice, and Kristopher Negron added one more.

The Reds stole six times in the first four innings, using six hits and four walks to build a 6-0 lead against Jake Arrieta (7-5).

Cincinnati stole three in a three-run second inning and two in a three-run fourth.

Dylan Axelrod (1-0) pitched five scoreless innings of two-hit ball and struck out eight.

Cubs rookie Jorge Soler doubled and singled in his second major league game and drove in a run. He homered and singled in his debut on Tuesday.


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Rapid Reaction: Reds 7, Cubs 2

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
2:57
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Here's a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 7-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday:

How it happened: Jake Arrieta labored through four innings as he gave up three runs in the second and three more in the fourth. Four walks hurt him as did six stolen bases by the Reds. Zach Cozart, Billy Hamilton and Todd Frazier had RBIs in the second inning and then Frazier and Brandon Phillips brought home the three in the fourth. Arrieta gave up six runs on six hits while striking out eight. The Reds added another run on a Hamilton RBI in the sixth as the speedy leadoff man was on base four times. The Cubs made Reds starter Dylan Axelrod work by getting his pitch count up but couldn't get any runners to cross the plate against him. He gave up two hits and three walks in five innings of work. The Cubs tallied twice in the ninth when Jorge Soler drove one in with a base hit and Arismendy Alcantara with a sacrifice fly.

What it means: Arrieta looked a little like his old self in walking the leadoff man in the first two innings. He wasn't sharp and it came back to haunt him, especially in the form of the Reds running game. He and catcher John Baker were burned by the most stolen bases by the Reds in a single game since 2006. It's the second time this season Cincinnati has stolen five or more bases against the Cubs.

Soler's day: Jorge Soler added a second-inning double to his early career resume then an RBI single in the ninth inning to break up the Reds shutout. In between Soler struck out twice but he's 4 for 8 with a home run and 3 RBIs in two games as a Cub.

What's next: The Cubs road trip moves on to St. Louis for a four-game series over the next three days. Kyle Hendricks (5-1, 1.78) takes on Shelby Miller (8-9, 4.26) at 7:15 p.m. CT Friday.

Theo Epstein: Money will be there for Cubs

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
10:00
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein doesn't necessarily believe his plan for a winning team has been "accelerated," but he's confident the franchise will have the wherewithal to add payroll as soon as it's needed.

[+] EnlargeTheo Epstein, Anthony Rizzo
David Banks/Getty Images

"Looking at the next 24 or 18 months, I think you'll see us add impact starting pitching from outside the organization," Cubs president Theo Epstein, at right, said Wednesday.

"I think because we have so many young players that are going to be cost-controlled over the next several seasons, we have tremendous flexibility built into our roster as it is," Epstein said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. "We'll be able to field a pretty good nucleus with a very low payroll associated with that.

"That in of itself -- and some of the savings that we made over the last offseason, for example -- will allow us the flexibility to be very aggressive if the right player or players present themselves to us."

Players in their first three years in the major leagues come at a good cost for the club. Their salary increases once they get to arbitration in years three through six and then can explode when they hit free agency.

The Cubs are in the midst of debuting a slew of young talent that won't command high salaries for several years. And the savings Epstein is referring to from last winter is related to their pursuit of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

The Cubs lost out on Tanaka but are on the record saying they were able to carry over that savings for upcoming offseason additions. It meant lesser talent on the roster for 2014, but it should mean better players for 2015 and beyond.

So the Cubs have money in the short term to add a pitcher via free agency if they wish. When players start to hit arbitration or agree to longer-term deals, Epstein is confident they'll have the money then, as well.

"As we get closer to a new television deal [in 2019], and as we realize some of the revenues associated with a renovated Wrigley field, I believe that will only enhance our flexibility," Epstein said.

In terms of the upcoming offseason, the Cubs aren't necessarily committed to adding a name pitcher.

"I never look at any one offseason as a time that we have to do something," Epstein said earlier Wednesday during the "Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I look at offseasons and trade deadlines and future offseasons together. Looking at the next 24 or 18 months, I think you'll see us add impact starting pitching from outside the organization. The major league starting pitching free-agent market is pretty good. The free-agent class is more pitching-rich than position player-rich this offseason. And, frankly, the class after that is even more impressive in the 2015-2016 offseason."

After next year, names like Jeff Samardzija, David Price, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann and Hisashi Iwakuma are set to hit the market. At that point, the Cubs will be another year closer to seeing profits they are not capturing now.

"I'm very confident in our business side, and the right television deal will be struck at the right time and we're going to realize revenues from Wrigley," Epstein said. "But that's down the road."

For now, Epstein is enjoying the successes his youthful players are experiencing, both at the major league and minor league levels.

"Nothing is accelerated. It's been a great developmental year," he said. "All of our prospects have moved forward, even the ones that haven’t been as productive."

Anthony Rizzo (back) out of lineup again

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
9:44
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is not in the starting lineup for the second straight game against the Cincinnati Reds after leaving the series opener on Tuesday with lower back tightness.

Rizzo
Rizzo didn’t play in Wednesday’s 7-5 loss to the Reds and gets another day of rest on Thursday. Cubs officials don’t believe the injury is serious. Chris Valaika will get his second straight start at first base and bat seventh.

Outfielder Jorge Soler is back in the lineup on Thursday, batting fifth and playing right field again after homering in his first at-bat in his major league debut on Wednesday night.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Cubs became the first team in history to have two players, each 22 or younger, hit a home run in their first major league games in the same season. Second baseman Javier Baez (21) also homered in his first game earlier this month in Colorado. Soler went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs in the loss.

Here’s the Cubs lineup against the Reds:

1. Chris Coghlan LF
2. Baez 2B
3. Starlin Castro, SS
4. Luis Valbuena, 3B
5. Soler, RF
6. Arismendy Alcantara, CF
7. Valaika, 1B
8. John Baker, C
9. Jake Arrieta, P

Starlin Castro's gaffe caps error-filled night

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
11:46
PM CT
By Mark Schmetzer
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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CINCINNATI -- The Chicago Cubs were already well on their way to putting together one of their less-polished performances in some time before Starlin Castro forgot to run.

Javier Baez was on second base in the top of the eighth with nobody out and Chicago trailing the Cincinnati Reds 6-4, when the Cubs shortstop launched a drive that ended up getting over center fielder Billy Hamilton’s head and off the center-field wall.

[+] EnlargeStarlin Castro
AP Photo/Al BehrmanIt was a long night for Starlin Castro, whose sure double in the eighth inning became a single when he reacted too slowly after the hit. 
Castro, at first, believed the ball was going over the wall and watched in admiration while walking out of the batter’s box. That led to him ending up with a long single. Baez, who had to hold at second in case Hamilton caught the ball, ended up at third.

Castro, playing in his second game after coming off the bereavement list, immediately knew he’d made a mistake, according to Cubs manager Rick Renteria.

“I felt bad for him,” Renteria said. “He was apologizing to everybody. He knew he should have been [on second base]. He’s got a lot on his mind. When a young man tells you he made a mistake, what can you say?”

That wasn’t the Cubs’ first blunder of the night.

Cubs fielders had committed just six errors in 881 chances over their previous 23 games since Aug. 2, a .993 fielding percentage that led the majors in that span of time. They committed three in the game, two in a span of two batters -- the first by Castro, the second by third baseman Luis Valbuena at third -- in the fourth.

“That wasn’t one of our best ballgames, obviously, but the guys kept battling,” Renteria said.

The errors forced starting pitcher Jacob Turner to reach his pitch-count ceiling earlier than anybody with the Cubs wanted to see. He needed 66 to get two outs into the fourth inning, the shortest of his 13 starts this season.

"I would've liked to have gone a little deeper," said Turner, who made 12 starts for the Miami Marlins before being traded to Chicago. "That part is frustrating. I've got to get my pitch count up. I just didn't make a few pitches when I needed to."

Rapid Reaction: Reds 7, Cubs 5

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
9:50
PM CT
By Mark Schmetzer
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 7-5 on Wednesday. Here’s a quick look at the game.

How it happened: Luis Valbuena and Jorge Soler gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the second with back-to-back home runs to start things off. Soler’s solo shot came on the fourth pitch he saw in the major leagues. But the Reds tied it in the bottom of the inning, then took advantage of two Chicago errors in a four-run fourth. Jacob Turner couldn’t get out of the fourth in his first start for the Cubs since being traded from the Miami Marlins on Aug. 8. Javier Baez just missed hitting a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth, sending center fielder Billy Hamilton to the wall to flag down his fly ball.

What it means: The Cubs fall a win short of matching their season-high five-game winning streak, which they set June 3-7.

Memorable debut: Soler made sure he wouldn’t lose the ball from his first career home run. After Valbuena logged his career-high 13th home run to lead off the second inning, Soler drove a 2-1 Mat Latos pitch 423 feet to deep left-center field, where it landed in the netting above the Reds bullpen. He is the first Cub to homer in his first MLB at-bat since Starlin Castro in the same ballpark on May 7, 2010. Soler also drove in the last of Chicago’s three eighth-inning runs with a single to left.

Bumpy start: Turner needed 66 pitches to get two outs deep into the fourth inning, the shortest outing of his 13 starts this season. His bad luck continued even after he left the game. A scoring change adjusted what originally had been an error on shortstop Starlin Castro to a Billy Hamilton infield hit and an error that allowed Skip Schumaker to score from second base.

Reversing a trend: Cub fielders had committed just six errors in 881 chances over their previous 23 games since Aug. 2, a .993 fielding percentage that led the majors in that span of time. They committed three in Wednesday’s game, two in a span of two batters -- the first by Castro, the second by Valbuena at third -- in the fourth.

Run it out: Castro also committed a mental blunder, walking out of the box while his drive to center bounced off the wall and ending up with a long single.

What’s next: The finale of the three-game series is scheduled for Thursday at 11:35 a.m. CT. Right-hander Jake Arrieta allowed two runs on three hits over seven innings in his only other start against the Reds, on June 24 at Wrigley Field. Reds right-hander Dylan Axelrod makes his first career appearance against the Cubs.

Jorge Soler excited for opportunity

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
6:06
PM CT
By Mark Schmetzer
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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CINCINNATI -- The player Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein described as having the body of an athlete perhaps more suited to the National Football League donned his jersey with a lineman’s number – 68 – and took the field at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park for his highly anticipated major league debut Wednesday.

Jorge Soler, 22, batting fifth and playing right field against the Reds, was just trying to keep his emotions under control.

[+] EnlargeJorge Soler
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It took Jorge Soler only four pitches to tally his first career home run.

“I’m so excited,” Soler said through coaching staff assistant and interpreter Franklin Font while sitting in the steamy visitors dugout about three hours before the scheduled 6:10 p.m. CT first pitch. “I’m thankful for the team giving me this opportunity. I’ve waited two years for this moment.”

Part of Cubs manager Rick Renteria’s job is to help the 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-handed slugging prospect keep his emotions under control. Renteria already has a lot of experience with that task this season, based on the number of prospects who’ve made their major league debuts with the Cubs this season. Soler will make it eight.

“I’m sure it’s pretty high and I’m hoping that, like all these guys, after the first pitch, first swing, first play, first run or whatever it is, it kind of dissipates, and then you just go out and play baseball,” Renteria said before Wednesday’s game about Soler’s level of emotion.

Soler was with Iowa in Tacoma, Washington, when manager Marty Pevey told him Monday that he was being called up to the major leagues.

“I was real surprised,” said Soler, who figured the Cubs would wait until Sept. 1 when active rosters can be expanded from 25 to 40.

Soler arrived in Cincinnati about 11 p.m. Tuesday after a day of traveling from Tacoma, so he wasn’t even in town when his arrival became even more important to the Cubs. Right fielder Ryan Sweeney left Tuesday’s game in the second inning with a left hamstring strain, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo departed in the eighth with tightness in his lower back, but not before logging his 30th home run of the season in the first inning.

Sweeney was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, along with outfielder Justin Ruggiano, who has left-ankle inflammation. Ruggiano's assignment is retroactive to Aug. 23.

Rizzo’s status was less definitive, but more hopeful for the Cubs.

“It’s day-to-day,” Renteria said. “We’ll check in throughout the day today as he’s being treated and see how he’s doing. Hopefully, we’ll have a better idea of how he’s feeling during the ballgame.”

Rizzo’s injury deprived the Cubs of immediately seeing what their lineup would look like with his and Soler’s bats present at the same time. Renteria has given little to no thought about how he will deploy the two when both are available.

“I’ll kind of figure that out as we go along,” he said. “Right now, I have him where I have him. We’ll see how he fits when everybody’s healthy and we see how some of the matchups play out. You would have to allow me an opportunity to at least see him a little bit before I start deciding on how I’m going to proceed.”

Meanwhile, Renteria was doing what he could to ease Soler’s transition.

“I welcomed him, made sure he got together with [third-base coach Gary Jones] to make sure he’s got the signs, and let him know that if there’s anything we can do for him to let us know, but to just go out there and have some fun,” Renteria said.

Did Soler have anything Renteria could do for him?

“He just smiled,” the manager said. “This is a great opportunity. They’re going to be playing on the biggest stage of the game of baseball, and you want them to feel comfortable. You want them to know that you’re here for them and you’re pulling for them. You want them to have a sense that we appreciate the situation and the circumstances they’re in, and we’re hoping that they have success.”

Reds overcome Soler's HR, beat Cubs 7-5

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
9:46
PM CT

CINCINNATI -- Skip Schumaker drove in a pair of runs and the Cincinnati Reds withstood Jorge Soler's first-at-bat homer and an RBI single for a 7-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night.

Soler, a 22-year-old prospect from Cuba, got a nine-year, $30 million deal from the Cubs. He was called up on Wednesday, started in right field and batted fifth.

After Luis Valbuena led off the second inning with a homer off Mat Latos (5-3), Soler hit a 2-1 pitch into the Reds' bullpen in center field.

Soler also had an RBI single off Jonathan Broxton in the eighth, cutting it to 6-5. Latos pitched into the eighth and gave up four runs while fanning a season-high 10 batters.

Aroldis Chapman escaped a two-on threat in the ninth for his 28th save.

Jacob Turner (4-8) made his first start for the Cubs and lasted only 3 2/3 innings.


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Cubs' Jorge Soler homers in first AB

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
7:34
PM CT
[+] EnlargeSoler
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesJorge Soler became the second top Cubs prospect in the span of a month Wednesday to belt a home run in his major league debut.

CINCINNATI -- Jorge Soler was reminded before playing in his first major league game Wednesday with the Chicago Cubs that his good buddy and teammate, second baseman Javier Baez, hit a home run in his MLB debut Aug. 5.

Soler didn't exactly match Baez, whose homer was a 12th-inning, go-ahead shot in Colorado.

But he didn't wait as long as Baez, either.

Soler hit a home run in his first at-bat, giving the Chicago Cubs a 2-0 lead in a 7-5 Cubs loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

"I was real, real happy," Soler said through coaching staff assistant Franklin Font. "My first time, my first at-bat -- very exciting. I felt real comfortable."

Indeed, if the 22-year-old right-fielder was nervous, he didn't show it.


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Epstein: Time was right for Jorge Soler

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
4:25
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Declaring it is the "right time to bring him up here," Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein says outfield prospect Jorge Soler needs the playing time after an injury-plagued start to his 2014 season.

[+] EnlargeJorge Solar
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsJorge Soler will bat fifth in his debut with the Cubs on Wednesday.
"We've been certain in our minds for a while he was going to be a September call-up," Epstein said Wednesday. "The key to the decision to bring up Soler is he was going to be a call-up for us mainly because he needs the at-bats."

The Iowa Cubs aren't looking like a playoff team, and their regular season ends Monday, so Soler will get the extra at-bats in the majors. He'll make his debut batting fifth and playing right field Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds.

Soler hurt both his hamstrings earlier this season, forcing him to miss all of April and most of May. When he finally got healthy -- thanks in part to some dramatic work by the training staff -- Soler vowed to impress.

"The turning point for Jorge was how he handled the second hamstring injury," Epstein said. "Instead of getting really down on himself and pouting, he really embraced that adversity as an opportunity to get better. At the same time, he was watching what Javier [Baez] and Kris Bryant were doing. We got the sense he wanted to catch up a little bit, as well.

"He communicated he was on a mission."

Soler caught up quickly. He hit .340 with 15 home runs and 57 RBIs in 62 games in the minors, putting himself in a position for the promotion. His plate discipline continues to be his strength, as his walk totals are more in line with a veteran hitter. His on-base percentage this season is .432. That's partly what makes him unique. That, and his physical presence.

"He was born with a very advanced approach at the plate," Epstein said. "The first things fans will notice is how impressive he is physically. He's put together like an NFL player."

A 6-foot-4, 215-pound, 22-year-old power hitter who can handle the strike zone doesn't come along very often. It's one reason the Cubs extended a nine-year, $30 million contract to him back in 2012.

"All things being equal, we prefer our higher profile prospects to break in on the road where they can just play and keep distractions to a minimum," Epstein said. "He's made tremendous strides with his swing mechanics and swing path. ... His ground balls have become line drives. His line drives have become fly balls. His fly balls tend to leave the ballpark."

Soler's promotion would never have happened without him getting healthy. After his second hamstring injury, the Cubs grew concerned there might be something chronic going on. They did a full body work-up.

"He had a disproportionate amount of his muscle mass located on the front of his body, and that was creating some inequalities and putting extra strain on his hamstrings when he made some athletic movements," Epstein said. "The training staff has tried to redistribute some of that muscle mass, make him more balanced between his anterior and posterior sides."

That's when Soler put it on himself to show the world why the Cubs had invested so much in him. Now he'll join former Iowa Cubs such as Baez and Arismendy Alcantara for a 4 ½-week learning experience.

"This is the right time to bring him up here," Epstein said.

Chicago comes together to celebrate JRW

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
1:32
PM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Jackie Robinson WestAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastChicago fans packed Millenium Park on Wednesday to celebrate U.S. Little League World Series Champions Jackie Robinson West. The event started on the South Side and included a parade to the park.
Chicago looked like a championship town Wednesday.

From the far South Side to Millennium Park, the city united to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of the 13-member Jackie Robinson West all-star team. Trolleys carried the team from its home park in Washington Heights through a buoyant South Side to its very own downtown rally, complete with celebrities and thousands of joyous fans.

All of the local networks went to live coverage of this event, with reporters interviewing third cousins, aunts, cousins and joyful South Siders just proud of this group of 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars who captivated a city and country as they won the United States bracket of of the Little League World Series.

“There is something so sweet and grassroots about all of this, an ABC 7 anchor said.

So true.

An all-black team from Chicago’s South Side is the best Little League team in the United States. And it’s very cool how this city responded with pure love. From the famous to the anonymous, a major American city rallied behind a group of pre-teens. I was awed by the absolutely packed crowd at Millennium Park as I watched.

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Anthony Rizzo (back) out of lineup

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
2:00
PM CT
video

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is not in the starting lineup on Wednesday after leaving Tuesday night's game with a back issue.

Manager Rick Renteria downplayed Rizzo's injury after the game.

"We don't think it's a serious issue," Cubs president Theo Epstein said Wednesday. "He's a big man, plays a lot of games. He's pretty flexible and achrobatic when he plays the field. The way he tweaked it [Tuesday] night with a day game [Thursday]  following a night game tonight, [manager] Ricky [Renteria] thought it made sense to give him the day off."

Rizzo, 25, hit his 30th home run of the season in the victory against the Cincinnati Reds but left the game after grounding out in the seventh inning. He was seen laboring to first base after swinging and then was replaced in the next inning by Chris Valaika. Valaika will start at first on Wednesday.

Also in Wednesday's lineup is Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, who will bat fifth. Soler, 22, will make his major league debut playing right field after compiling a .340 batting average and .432 on-base percentage to go along with 15 home runs and 57 RBIs combined at Double-A and Triple-A this season.

Soler signed a 9-year, $30 million deal in 2012 after defecting from Cuba.

The Cubs also recalled infielder/outfielder Logan Watkins on Wednesday. To make room for the additions, the Cubs placed outfielders Justin Ruggiano (ankle) and Ryan Sweeney (hamstring) on the disabled list.

The Cubs play the Reds on Wednesday night with Jacob Turner


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Theo: JRW 'rallying cry' for inner city baseball

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
12:07
PM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
As the city of Chicago celebrated its Little League U.S. champions, Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein said Wednesday that Jackie Robinson West's success should be a "rallying cry" to bring more inner city kids back to baseball.

"At industry meetings and at the Cubs, we always get together in boardrooms and suits and sit around and talk about how we can get kids playing baseball again and especially in the inner cities," Epstein said on "The Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "We throw money behind it, and we give our time, but nothing we can do can match the inspiration that these kids set out. It's just really a watershed moment I think because the way these kids played the game and the attention they are getting has a chance to make baseball cool again for young kids.

"The Jackie Robinson West program is not just a two-week phenomenon. We supported them for three years since I got to Chicago, but for decades and decades they have been impacting thousands of kids."

JRW, which was the first team from Chicago to reach the Little League World Series since 1983, defeated Nevada on Saturday to win the U.S. championship and then lost to South Korea on Sunday for the world title. They returned to Chicago as local heroes with their hometown throwing them a parade Wednesday, capped off by a rally at Millennium Park.

Baseball is still a financial success, but Epstein said the demographics of the game are disturbing.

"There's a bit of a dichotomy because the economics of the game are really good right now as an $8, $9 billion industry, but if you look at the demographics, they're terrible," said Epstein, who congratulated JRW on stage at the rally Wednesday. "We're losing young kids, especially young kids in the inner cities, and there just aren't enough kids playing baseball these days. I think that's the No. 1 priority of Major League Baseball going forward. I think we recognize it, but it's an easier problem to talk about than it is to solve.

"I do think this is a bit of a watershed moment because look who's rallying around this team. The entire community, major league players, front offices, the entire city of Chicago, so it's all of our responsibility to make sure that this doesn't fade away."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jason Hammel
WINS ERA SO IP
8 2.98 104 108
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .287
HRA. Rizzo 30
RBIA. Rizzo 71
RA. Rizzo 81
OPSA. Rizzo .889
ERAT. Wood 4.72
SOJ. Arrieta 135