CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs were pummeled by the San Diego Padres on Thursday at Wrigley Field. Here’s a quick look at the contest:
How it happened: For the second night in a row, the Padres jumped out to an early lead on the Cubs. After quickly retiring the first two batters of the game, Edwin Jackson gave up a bloop single to Seth Smith. Yasmani Grandal followed with a hard-hit ground ball down the right-field line for an RBI triple. Grandal came around to score on Will Venable's broken-bat single to put San Diego up 2-0 early. The Cubs cut the lead in half with Luis Valbuena's RBI single in the fourth, but the Padres got the run back almost immediately on Rene Rivera's solo home run in the top half of the fifth. The Padres broke the game open with a nine-run sixth that saw 14 batters come to the plate and went on to defeat the Cubs 13-3.
What it means: Jackson went five-plus innings and gave up five runs (four earned) on seven hits while striking out four and walking one. Jackson was having a relatively solid outing but allowed the first two men to reach in the sixth before being removed with cramping in his right hand. Both men came around to score in the Padres' big inning. Jackson, who still has two years remaining on his four-year, $52 million deal, is having another rough season for the Cubs and saw his ERA balloon to 5.68.
Outside the box: A pair of top prospects made their debut Thursday night after being promoted a level. Albert Almora went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his first game at Double-A Tennessee. Jorge Soler fared better in his first game with Triple-A Iowa, going 1-for-3 with two walks.
Up next: The Cubs open a three-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field on Friday at 3:05 p.m. CT with Travis Wood taking the mound against Joe Kelly.
CHICAGO -- Tyson Ross struck out a career-high 11, and the light-hitting San Diego Padres broke out for a season-best nine runs in the sixth inning in a 13-3 rout of the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night.
Ross (9-10) allowed one run, five hits and one walk in six innings to reach a career high in wins. He went 3-2 in five July starts, but gave up just four earned runs in 35 innings.
Rene Rivera had three hits, including a home run, and drove in three runs. Will Venable had three hits and two RBIs, and Alexi Amarista and Chris Nelson also drove in two runs apiece with singles in the sixth-inning outburst that gave the Padres their highest scoring output this season.
Edwin Jackson (5-11) left in the sixth because of a cramp in his right hand and took the loss.
“He’s fine,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said after the team’s 13-3 loss. “He started developing some cramps in his hand. Kept shaking it out, we saw it and it was just best to not take a chance. But he’s fine. We’ll know more tomorrow.”
Jackson walked Yasmani Grandal to lead off the sixth, then allowed a single to Will Venable before Renteria and trainer PJ Mainville came to the mound and eventually removed Jackson from the game. Both runners would end up scoring in a nine-run inning for the Padres.
Jackson said he has experienced the issue once before in his career, but it didn’t cause him to miss any time and he expects to be ready to make his next start.
He said the previous incident was due to dehydration, but he didn’t believe that was the case in this instance.
“I felt it at the beginning of the inning,” Jackson said. “It’s just kind of unfortunate that the bullpen has to come in in a game like that. I was still feeling pretty good and then all of sudden you can’t throw a fastball for a strike.
“I still would rather stay out there and try and battle with it than have the bullpen come in. They’ve been having a little tough run having to come early in games. It’s just a little frustrating when you go from feeling pretty good, feel like you can go deep into a game, and then all of a sudden you can’t throw a strike.”
Jackson is in the second campaign of a four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs and has struggled for much of his time with the team.
He tossed five-plus innings and gave up five runs (four earned) on seven hits, while striking out four and walking one in Thursday night’s loss. Jackson fell to 5-11 with a 5.68 ERA on the season.
Renteria’s first season on a big league bench was in 2008 with the San Diego Padres. Maddux made 26 starts with the Padres that season, his last in the majors.
"He was a very intuitive," Renteria said of the 20-time Gold Glove winner. "He could literally sit in the dugout and say, 'This guy is going to hit this ball right between his legs right now,' and, sure enough, boom, the guy would hit it right between his legs.
"He had a knack of recognizing and knowing where a ball was going to be projected. It was evident when you saw him fielding when he pitched. Many times he’d already be moving to the area where the ball was going to be batted to and had a step up on fielding the ball."
Renteria marveled at Maddux’s longevity and ability to stay healthy, something that’s become rare for today’s pitchers. Maddux played 23 seasons in the big leagues and during that time had just one stint on the disabled list. He tossed more than 200 innings 18 times in an era when reliever use increased significantly.
"I think that the ability for him to stay healthy and do what he did is a gift," Renteria said. "You’re either born with the genes to be able to do things like that or you’re not.
"I think there’s some things that contribute to the deterioration of the body at some point, but he was able to find something that kept him on the field a long time."
Maddux played the first seven years of his career with the Cubs, winning the first of his four consecutive Cy Youngs in 1992, before returning for parts of three seasons, beginning in 2004.
Maddux won 355 games with a 3.16 career ERA.
He’ll join Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre as 2014 Hall of Fame inductees.
Opinions vary on Castillo’s potential, but those who like the right-handed free agent believe he has a chance to impact a big league roster soon with his speed and surprising power.
Though he hasn’t seen live pitching in a while, Castillo is said to be very coachable and has even improved his swing since leaving Cuba. An explosive athlete, the 27-year-old Castillo is apparently in great condition but currently not in baseball shape.
At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Castillo is well built, but a smaller, stocky player who has enough speed to be able to stay in center field for a few more years. The complimentary comparisons start at Brett Gardner and go as high as Minnesota Twins Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.
However, the evaluations aren’t all positive for Castillo.
While Castillo's numbers look strong, they don’t represent the type of dominance seen from recent Cuban sensations Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes, which draws concerns from talent evaluators.
There is a prevailing sentiment that after age 24 or so, Cuban players aren’t challenged enough by the pitching in their home leagues, thus limiting their development and making it hard to determine just how much of an impact an older defector may have in the majors.
There are also significant questions about Castillo’s plate approach, as he has a reputation of being a free swinger, which certainly has to be an issue for a front office that often focuses on acquiring patient offensive players. Add in the fact he’s right-handed while the Cubs are in need of lefty talent, and one has to wonder if he’s the right fit for this organization.
With five years of experience in Cuba's top professional league, Castillo is exempt from MLB's international spending restrictions. Any interested team will only have to pay money to obtain Castillo’s services, as opposed to giving up a draft pick or trading away prospects. With that in mind, the bidding for Castillo will almost certainly go quite high, and the Cubs will have to weigh the positives and negatives before deciding whether investing big money in him is the right move for them.
The Cubs have done quite a bit of homework on Castillo, and, while Saturday’s workout certainly won’t be the deciding factor for the Cubs, it will be a good opportunity for some of their advanced scouts to get their eyes on him and evaluate his skill set.
As the Cubs have shown, they’re of the philosophy that one can never have enough bats in the system. If the right people come away impressed with Castillo, expect the Cubs to be in on the bidding.
"When [La Russa] came to Chicago, I was a fan; I didn't own the team at the time," Reinsdorf said. "He came up sometime in the 1979 season and managed in 1980, and I bought the team in 1981.
"I remember at the time I bought the team, I thought 'Well, one of the first things I'm going to have to do is fire the manager,' because the broadcasters, [Harry] Caray and [Jimmy] Piersall, kept talking about how bad he was. And then I met him and realized how wrong they were."
Eventually Ken "Hawk" Harrelson was unable to realize the greatness as well during a brief turn as general manager, and he fired La Russa at the start of the 1986 season. It is the moment in Reinsdorf's ownership that he seems to regret the most.
Despite La Russa moving across the country to manage the Oakland Athletics, Reinsdorf stayed close with his former manager and the two have a unique bond to this day.
"Over the years we've really become like brothers," Reinsdorf said. "It's just a very, very special friendship. As great a manager as he is, he's a better human being. He's just a great person."
La Russa wasn't a very accomplished major league player, seeing time in 132 career games with the Kansas City/Oakland A's, the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs. And as a manager he raised eyebrows with his use of the bullpen and a sporadic strategy of using the pitcher in the No. 8 spot in the lineup.
But he is recognized as changing the game, especially with how relievers are used.
That is at least part of the reason La Russa will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. Former White Sox player Frank Thomas also will be inducted.
"Obviously having two people connected with the White Sox going in at one time is special, but it's really special for me to see Tony go in knowing how he suffered early in his career and the abuse he took and to see that he proved all the critics were wrong," Reinsdorf said. "I just wish Harry Caray were alive."
CHICAGO -- The National League home run leader must be crushing the baseball this season, right? Anthony Rizzo couldn't have set a career high in home runs already by slapping the ball all over the field. He couldn't have raised his batting average from .233 at the end of 2013 to .285 heading into Thursday night’s game against the San Diego Padres by blooping balls in.
Or could he?
According to Mark Simon of ESPN Stats and Information, Rizzo is surprisingly making softer contact this year than he did last when he hit 23 home runs. He has 25 and counting this season.
Simon writes: “Last season, Rizzo hit the ball hard in 21 percent of his at-bats, which ranked 30th among the 356 players with at least 200 plate appearances. That put him in the top eight percent of players. He was right alongside Orioles slugger Chris Davis. This season, one in which Rizzo has already surpassed his 2013 home-run total, he’s only hit the ball hard in 16 percent of his at-bats (coincidentally, his rate is the same as Davis’ again). That ranks 138th out of 258 players. Yes, that’s right. Rizzo is hitting the ball hard at a below-average rate.”
That’s counterintuitive considering how often Rizzo has left the park and been on base. But Rizzo only has 15 doubles compared to the 40 he hit last year. He’s simply taking more advantage of the balls he’s squaring up. Instead of a double to the gap he’s leaving the park as he’s done 25 times on 57 hard hit balls. Last year he did it just 23 times on 129 hard-contact hits.
Rizzo, 24, delivered that night against the San Diego Padres, hitting No. 24 in the third inning and No. 25 in the seventh to take over the National League lead.
Barely into his professional career after being drafted by the Boston Red Sox, an 18-year-old Rizzo was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma in 2008. He went through six months of chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free.
"This one hit more at home for me," Rizzo told the Cubs website of his meeting with Mike and his family. "I usually don't get flashbacks, but I did this time."
The Cubs had four players in the midseason top 50 prospect rankings by ESPN.com's Keith Law, including three in the top 10. Kris Bryant is the top overall prospect, the recently acquired Addison Russell is fourth and Javier Baez is eighth. Jorge Soler, who was promoted to Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday night, is at No. 28. That ranking doesn't include the recently promoted Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Schwarber, who was just drafted in June, and 2012 top pick Albert Almora, who was moved up to Double-A Tennessee this week.
"That's nice in that it reflects a lot of hard work by our scouts, our player development people and the players themselves," Epstein said. "But it really doesn't mean anything. We're in last place, so almost by definition, our work lies ahead of us."
Epstein says he and his staff can't focus on those rankings, but he understands that it's fun for fans.
"True baseball fans really like young players," Epstein said. "They like following players along the whole journey, players who are homegrown they get to know and they can see play here ultimately. They really enjoy that part of it. If all goes according to plan, we'll be able to provide them that experience. Maybe a whole group players that they can get to know for a decade and appreciate and win together."
Epstein said the Cubs have work to do this offseason and even when the prospects arrive at the big league level, it will hardly be smooth sailing for a team that is headed for a second straight last-place finish.
"So what do we have to do [this offseason]?" Epstein asked. "We have everything to do. We have to continue to build an organization, and we have to continue to improve the major league team. That generation [of prospects], they're going to break in at some point and then the process of adjusting to the big leagues starts. A lot of times they have to go struggle and fail and make adjustments and find themselves. Look at [Anthony] Rizzo, look at [Starlin] Castro as great examples. We all have to be prepared for that for these young players."
The St. Louis Cardinals were unlikely winners Wednesday when they secured a bonus draft pick in Major League Baseball's competitive-balance lottery.
Theo Epstein, for one, couldn't deny feeling a tad bitter about the Cardinals' good fortune.
"They do extremely well from a baseball standpoint and from a revenue standpoint," the Chicago Cubs' president of baseball operations said Wednesday. "It's probably the last organization in baseball that needs that kind of annual gift that they receive."
The competitive-balance lottery was introduced in 2012 as a way for small-market and low-revenue teams to gain extra draft picks. There were 15 teams eligible in this year's lottery, which was made up of the clubs in the 10 smallest markets -- including St. Louis -- and those with the 10 lowest revenues.
The odds of gaining an extra pick in Round A, which takes place between the first and second rounds of the draft, are calculated in reverse order of last year's standings. But the reigning National League champion Cardinals, the least likely team to land a Round A pick, beat the odds by winning the third selection in the round.
"It's not necessarily the type of thing [the Cardinals] need, given their performance on the field and off the field," Epstein said. "They do a fantastic job, and it just doesn't seem like something they need at this point."
Competitive-balance picks are eligible to be traded, meaning the Cardinals also gained a potential trade chip just over one week before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
CHICAGO -- The San Diego Padres took care of business Wednesday at Wrigley Field, running past the Chicago Cubs 8-3. Here’s a quick look at the game:
How it happened: The Padres got on the board early as Yangervis Solarte tripled home Chris Denorfia with no outs in the first, then came around to score on a Carlos Quentin sacrifice fly. San Diego extended its lead to 3-0 in the fourth, when Chris Nelson doubled in Jeff Francoeur. In the bottom half of the inning, however, Luis Valbuena tied things up with one swing of the bat, driving a three-run homer through a strong wind and into the right-field bleachers. The Padres came right back in the fifth with a two-spot, coming off a Tommy Medica double and Rene Rivera's bases-loaded walk.
What it means: It's hard to get hung up on wins and losses with the Cubs right now, so the focus has to be on players who could be a part of the future. Despite being age 33, starter Tsuyoshi Wada is in the discussion to fill one of what could be numerous holes in the Cubs' 2015 rotation. Wada struggled in his second big league start, lasting just four innings while giving up five runs on five hits, striking out four and walking four. Wada may get another look, but there are other options knocking on the door.
Up next: The Cubs wrap up their three-game set with the Padres with Edwin Jackson taking on Tyson Ross at 7:05 CT Thursday night at Wrigley Field.
On a cool, unseasonably summer night in Chicago, Kennedy (8-9) won his third straight decision. He allowed three runs, three hits, while striking out six and pitching around a season-high five walks. He worked out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth inning.
Medica finished with three hits and drove in two runs for the Padres, who came into the game with baseball's worst batting average at .215.
Luis Valbuena hit a three-homer for the Cubs, who have lost 12 of its last 15 games.
Cubs starter Tsuyoshi Wada (0-1) allowed five runs on five hits and four walks in four-plus innings. It was his second career start after receiving a no-decision against the Reds on July 8.
Epstein on why the Cubs felt it was time to move outfield prospect Jorge Soler up to Triple-A Iowa from Double-A Tennessee, where he was 415/.494/.862 in 22 games:
"With Soler, we talked about how he really looked like he was on a mission. He came off the DL without missing a beat; it was really remarkable for him to not show any signs of rust. In fact, the opposite. “Now is my time” is what he said when he was ready to come off the DL. And he just went out and kind of made a statement. It wasn’t just the numbers, but it was the quality of at-bats he was having. He was laying off tough breaking pitches, he wasn’t being overaggressive when pitchers weren’t giving him pitches to hit. He was doing a much better job of getting the ball in the air, leveraging the baseball. He hit a lot of balls hard in the past, but they’d been on the ground or hard line drives down the third-base line. Now that he’s on time and he’s feeling comfortable at the plate, he’s using the entire ballpark. He’s hitting balls out to straightaway-left field, he’s hitting balls out to right-center and he’s getting balls in the air. When you’re as strong as he is, you hit the ball as hard as he does and you can manage an at-bat as well as he does, hitting the ball in the air is a good thing and the results are going to come after that. He’s just not getting pitched to there, and he’s on a mission and we think that Triple-A is the appropriate level for him to be challenged."
Epstein on questions about Soler’s maturity and makeup:
"I think he’s always been a pretty mature kid. I think a lot of people rush to judgment with respect to his on-field makeup because of what they saw in the fall league. That’s when a lot of scouts saw Soler for the first time and he was playing hurt. He was just coming back from the stress fracture, and we asked him to take it easy on his leg. So a lot of scouts saw him jogging to first base, walking out to his position at times, and that was done in an effort to protect his leg. Now that he’s healthy, he’s playing with a little more passion. He’s on a mission. To that extent, we’ve been impressed with how he’s taken responsibility for his own development, taken accountability for being on the field and for getting where he wants to be. He basically told us, “It’s my time, watch me,” and he’s gone out and done it. And done it not only with results, but done it in a way that’s gotten our attention. And we’re rewarding him, because he looks like he’s on a mission to get to the big leagues."
Epstein on the promotion of center fielder Albert Almora from Hi-A Daytona to Tennessee after he started to turn things around with a .988 OPS in his past 27 games:
"We’ve been walking a fine line with Albert, much like with Starlin [Castro]. We asked him to focus on pitches he can drive. Instead of just being aggressive for the sake of being aggressive, be aggressive on pitches you can drive. And he really started doing that. It doesn’t always manifest in his walk totals. That’s fine. That’ll come with time to a certain extent. But he’s being more aggressive on pitches he can drive. And because of that he’s hitting the ball with more authority, he’s hitting with power and he’s had a fantastic last month. And he’s the type of player who I think plays up to the level of competition and rises to a challenge. He’s played with guys older than him his entire career, amateur and professional. We think this is a nice challenge for him. Sort of write a different story for his 2014 season. He has a chance to have a really productive development year after getting off to a tough start for a lot of different reasons."
Epstein on the demotion of third baseman Mike Olt after he produced a slash line of .139/.222/.353 in 72 games with 12 home runs and struck out in 39.6 percent of his plate appearances:
"Mike actually took the news extraordinarily well. He acknowledges that he’s gotten into a few bad habits at the plate -- bad habits that he couldn’t break out of at the big league level, especially playing sporadically. I think playing every day will be good for him. And we think that he’s got a chance to right himself just by playing every day -- being a little bit more relaxed, taking some of the things he’s practicing in the cage into the game with him and righting himself and getting back up here. I think it was the appropriate move at the appropriate time. He handled the news well, and I think he looks at it as an opportunity."
Epstein on the upcoming trade deadline:
"We certainly made our big move already; that one came on July 4. We’re not in a rush to make moves. Obviously if there’s a chance to acquire talent that could help us in the future, we’re always interested in that. At the same time, especially with the players we control beyond this year, we have to factor into the calculus how well those players fit in going forward. How well they fit into the clubhouse, what they can do for us on the field, how they mesh with the next generation of talent that might be coming up, especially for complimentary-type players. There’s value to keeping players who have roles here for the sake of continuity, leadership and performance on the field. Especially the players we control beyond this year, we’re not in any rush to make trades for the sake of making trades. The guys who are free agents at the end of the year, obviously there’s a lot of talk about those kinds of players this time of year. We’ll see what happens."
Epstein on the St. Louis Cardinals once again receiving a competitive balance draft pick:
"I could talk all day about the Cardinals and how we hold them in high regard. That’s a fantastic franchise. They have been for the better part of a century. They do extremely well from a baseball standpoint and from a revenue standpoint. It’s probably the last organization in baseball that needs that kind of annual gift that they receive. It’ll just make it that much sweeter when we get to a point where we can compete with them and ultimately, we hope, prevail. It’s not necessarily the type of thing they need, given their performance on the field and off the field. They do a fantastic job, and it just doesn’t seem like something they need at this point."