Few expected the Chicago Cubs to be competitive in their first year rebuilding under team president Theo Epstein's regime, and the changes keep on coming.
Hours after the trade of outfielder Marlon Byrd, the Cubs play Sunday's series finale against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.Chicago placed opening-day starter Ryan Dempster on the disabled list with a strained right quadriceps prior to Saturday's 6-1 win over the Reds -- a game in which Byrd was held out of the lineup.Later that night, the Cubs (4-11) dealt Byrd to Boston -- Epstein's former team -- for reliever Michael Bowden and a player to be named. They also will pay part of Byrd's $6.5 million salary this year."Marlon took it as you would expect," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "He was really professional about it."The 34-year-old Byrd is hitting .070 (3 for 43) and apparently wasn't part of the future plans for Epstein's Cubs. Some felt the trade might clear a spot for top prospect Brett Jackson to play center field, but Hoyer said he'll stay in Triple-A Iowa for now."(Jackson) hasn't had that many plate appearances down there. He still has work to do," Hoyer told the team's official website. "We feel he's a big part of our future, but I wouldn't read into anything as far as timing."Bowden, a 25-year-old right-hander, made Boston's opening-day roster and had a 3.00 ERA in two relief appearances before he was designated for assignment last Sunday. He's expected to join the Cubs on Monday.Byrd's slow start is in conjunction with the Cubs' overall struggles, though they snapped a six-game losing streak Saturday.Starlin Castro, who has a major league-worst seven errors after committing two Saturday, had an RBI triple and is batting .417 in his last nine games. Darwin Barney and Steve Clevenger each went 3 for 4 with an RBI as Chicago finished with a season-high 14 hits.Dempster's trip to the DL, though, will cause him to miss at least two starts, including Sunday's scheduled outing."(The move is) just precautionary," manager Dale Sveum said. "Let him miss a couple of starts and hopefully end up with 31-32 starts when the season's over -- if this thing doesn't linger and he's able to pitch the way he's capable of pitching."Randy Wells will make his first start for the Cubs this season after going 1-0 with a 9.42 ERA in three outings with Triple-A Iowa. He was 7-6 with a 4.99 ERA in 23 starts for Chicago in 2011."He's a veteran guy that knows how to pitch," Sveum said. "Sinks the ball and has a good changeup."The right-hander is 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA in nine career starts against Cincinnati, which scored only one run for the seventh time Saturday.The Reds (6-9) had scored a combined 15 runs in winning their previous two games, though manager Dusty Baker didn't seem worried."No more pressure, just go out and play," Baker told the team's official website. "We've got our man going tomorrow, Johnny Cueto, so we feel our chances are good."Cueto (1-0, 1.89 ERA), though, has received only six runs of support over 19 innings in three starts. He allowed one run and struck out five in seven innings of a 2-1 loss in 10 innings to St. Louis on Tuesday.Cueto is 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA in his last six starts against the Cubs, but he left his most recent outing against them after 3 2/3 innings due to an injury.The right-hander strained a back muscle in the Reds' 7-2 victory Sept. 14, finishing his season prematurely after ending that contest with a major league-leading 2.31 ERA.The Reds had won four straight over the Cubs prior to Saturday's defeat, and the teams have split the last six at Wrigley Field.Joey Votto hasn't homered in 21 consecutive games against Chicago. The 2010 NL MVP has not gone deep in 13 straight overall and has just two homers in 31 games going back to last season.