Category Archives: Blogs

White Sox Prospect Lucas Giolito Throws No-Hitter Thursday

(CBS) Lucas Giolito found his best form on Thursday night in Charlotte and threw a seven-inning no-hitter. Pitching in the first game of a doubleheader — minor league rules bring seven innings for doubleheader games — Giolito went the distance without giving up a hit. He walked three and struck out three in a 4-0 Knights win over the Syracuse Chiefs.

Giolito was acquired by the White Sox in December as part of a deal that sent outfielder Adam Eaton to the Nationals. The White Sox also received prospects Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning in return. The 22-year-old Giolito made his MLB debut last September with Washington but started this season in Triple-A with Charlotte. He has struggled thus far, with the no-hitter bringing his record to 2-5 with a 5.44 ERA on the season. Giolito is now 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA in the month of May.

Levine: Jeff Samardzija Is A Quality Fit For Cubs’ Needs

By Bruce Levine– CHICAGO (CBS) — Watching Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija pitch against his former team Thursday afternoon may have ignited some fresh thoughts in the minds of a Cubs front office in search of a big-time arm and a controllable contract. Although Samardzija and the Giants fell 5-1 at Wrigley Field, he pitched seven strong innings, allowing three runs, all earned on solo homers, on six hits and a walk while striking out eight. It was the sixth time in his last eight starts that Samardzija threw at least seven innings. The Cubs have made no secret their desire to obtain pitching for this year’s run at the playoffs and into the future. The team is scouting all possible trade candidates as the non-wavier trade deadline on July 31 starts to come into focus. Why not look into Samardzija? Until recently, it wouldn’t have made sense to scout the Giants starting pitchers, but the dynamic has changed in San Francisco with the prolonged absence of ace Madison Bumgarner and the team’s worst start in more than 15 years. After Thursday’s loss, the Giants are 20-29, residing in fourth place in the NL West and trailing the division-leading Rockies by 11 games. The chatter has been that the Giants could look to pull off some quick rebuilding moves this season, much like the Yankees did in 2016 when they traded relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. That thought would be to dump some big contracts of big-name players in an effort to replenish the farm system. It’s worth keeping in mind that Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto can opt out of his mega-contract after this season. He’s in the second season of a six-year, $130-million deal. That and the potential removal of Samardzija money from the Giants’ books would open up tremendous payroll relief. As of today, the Giants owe the 32-year-old Samardzija about $66 million through 2020. He signed a five-year, $90-million deal ahead of the 2016 season. While the traditional numbers suggest he’s had a rough season with a 1-6 mark and 4.50 ERA, the advanced metrics and eye test suggest Samardzija is throwing the ball as well as he ever has. He has a strong 1.12 WHIP, and he entered Thursday with a career-high strikeout rate (10.5 per nine innings) and career-low walk rate (1.5 per nine innings). Samardzija was 12-11 with a 3.81 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 2016. With Cubs starters Jake Arrieta and John Lackey set to become free agents after this season, obtaining a pitcher of Samardzija’s profile is essential for the Cubs moving forward. Samardzija has been extremely durable, averaging 205 innings per season since become a full-time starter in 2012. He spent 2008 until July 2014 with the Cubs, who then traded him to the Athletics in the deal that netted them All-Star shortstop Addison Russell. Before that trade, the Cubs and Samardzija’s representation were in preliminary discussions on a five-year, $85-million deal. “It is always kind of weird,”Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said about facing Samardzija, one of his closest teammates of the past. “Jeff was here for a long time. He was around for part of the rebuild and then we got Addison for him in a trade. It is always tough losing your friends and teammates.” Samardzija can block a trade to 22 different franchises. He must give the Giants a list of eight teams that he would accept a trade to each season. “I don’t think about that,” Samardzija said when asked him if he could envision coming back to the Cubs. “I do hope I play a long, long time. I might check off a lot of teams on the list. This is a business. You can’t take anything for granted in this sport. I am just happy where I am at. We will see what the future holds for me.” Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Emma: Heyward Trusting Swing Technique, Hitting Balls Hard

By Chris Emma– CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward stood in front of his locker decked out in a ’70s-style brown checkered suit looking quite comfortable. Months removed from the greatest professional struggles he has faced, Heyward looks like himself again. The 6-foot-5 specimen of an athlete is again generating power with his swing. All of that work this past offseason has paid early dividends, with Heyward consistently producing hard contact. “He looks very confident,” manager Joe Maddon said Thursday. “He’s very confident. It’s nice to see that.” Whammy! Cubs travel to Los Angeles dressed for ‘Anchorman’ theme Well, self-confidence can be tested when you’re dressed as an “Anchorman” character, part of the Maddon-led themed road trip to Los Angeles. But that’s just life on this Cubs team, one that was back in a first-place tie at the conclusion of a 5-1 win over the Giants on Thursday at Wrigley Field. They slugged out 20 home runs in a 7-2 homestand, with Heyward hitting a pair in his first five games off the disabled list. Heyward has been a key part of the Cubs’ offensive efforts in his second season. He has five homers and 19 RBIs, along with a .763 OPS through 33 games. Heyward entered Thursday registering hard contact 28 percent of the time, and that was before crushing a homer at 107.8 miles per hour. Last season was nothing short of miserable for Heyward, who hit .230 and posted a career-worst .631 OPS. His seven homers were also a career-worst. He’s on pace for nearly 20 this season. As for last season, Heyward has moved past it — the highs of a World Series run and the lows of a disappointing first season in Chicago. “We don’t care about last year,” Heyward said. While Heyward held a media session after Thursday’s game, a reporter asked if the “pre-2016 Jason Heyward” had returned. He chuckled while politely holding back what he probably wanted to say. Heyward’s demeanor hasn’t changed, from his arrival in Chicago after an eight-year, $184-million deal in December of 2015 through struggles of 2016 and now to early successes this season. This offseason, Heyward traveled down to Arizona fresh off the championship celebration and began to work. He joined hitting coach John Mallee and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske in reforming that troubled swing. Now, Heyward can simply rely on his technique. If struggles hit this season — and there may be a point where that comes — he can fall back on that swing. Heyward brings the hands back, keeps the step easy and unleashes on the baseball. In fact, he leads the Cubs with an average 89.1-mph exit velocity. “That’s just something to say about putting consistent good swings on the baseball and see what you can do,” Heyward said. “If that’s something to fall back on, there’s that. Just put good swings on the ball and see what happens.” Heyward has produced plenty of good swings so far this season. Then came a stint on the disabled list earlier this month for a finger injury. He had to break from swinging the bat and heal. When given clearance to swing again, Heyward kept his hands back and put his force into the ball. Nothing had changed after the layoff. It’s all about the muscle memory, and he has it down after all that work. Heyward took home a Gold Glove in 2016 for the fourth time in his career. He played a key part in the Cubs’ championship run, and not just because of his speech during the World Series Game 7 rain delay. But the offense was missing all year long. Now, he’s driving the ball hard and all over the field. It seems the Cubs finally have the Heyward they envisioned. Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

Whammy! Cubs Travel To Los Angeles Dressed For ‘Anchorman’ Theme

(CBS) The Cubs know how to have a good time. After their 5-1 win Thursday over the Giants, the Cubs packed up and prepared for a trip to Los Angeles with a twist. Joe Maddon prepared the team’s first themed trip of the year, with the Cubs dressing up after “Anchorman,” the 2004 hit comedy featuring Will Ferrell. Maddon unveiled the trip as the “Ron Burgundy, Brick Tamland Tribute Road Trip, sponsored by Sex Panther.” Players dressed appropriately for the movie theme and even had Sex Panther cologne to complement the look. Check out some of the best images from the day:

Cubs Conclude Strong Homestand With 5-1 Win Against Giants

CHICAGO (AP) — Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist hit solo homers, and the Chicago Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants, 5-1, on Thursday for their third straight win. Heyward went deep for the second time in three games and has a five-game hitting streak since a sprained finger in his right hand caused him to miss 12 games. Zobrist added two singles as the Cubs took three of four games from the Giants and finished a 7-2 homestand. Spot starter Eddie Butler (2-0) allowed one run and four hits in five innings, rebounding from a sloppy outing last week against Milwaukee, when he walked five over three innings. Mike Montgomery pitched one-hit ball over four innings for his first professional save. Jeff Samardzija (1-6) gave up three runs and six hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts. He also gave up three home runs against Arizona in his first start of the season on April 6. San Francisco went 3-4 on its trip, losing its final three games. Brandon Belt hit an RBI double in the first, but Bryant tied the score in the bottom half with his 11th homer, a drive to left into a 15 mph wind that was caught by a fan with a glove. Heyward’s leadoff homer in the fifth put the Cubs ahead, and Zobrist connected starting the sixth, a drive halfway up the right-field bleachers. Josh Osich threw a run-scoring wild pitch in the eighth, and a throwing error by catcher Buster Posey allowed another run to score. CONTROL FREAK Samardzija went 154 consecutive batters without a walk before putting on Ian Happ with two outs in the sixth. DIAL Z Zobrist reached base for the 22nd straight game, one shy of his career high set with Tampa Bay in 2011. TRAINER’S ROOM Giants: INF Eduardo Nunez (left hamstring soreness) was scratched from the lineup before the game. Cubs: SS Addison Russell got the day off and Javier Baez started in his place. UP NEXT Giants: RHP Matt Cain (3-2, 4.91) faces Atlanta lefty Jamie Garcia (1-3, 4.07) as San Francisco opens a six-game homestand on Friday night. Cubs: RHP Jake Arrieta (5-3, 4.80) is to start at the Los Angeles Dodgers against LHP Alex Wood (5-0, 1.88) on Friday night. Arrieta allowed just one unearned run in six innings in his last start after a string of sub-par outings when he gave up 21 earned runs over 26 innings. Wood has pitched 18 1/3 straight scoreless innings. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr. Managing Well With Reduced Role

(CBS) On a Cubs team that has several everyday players and many more role players, outfielder Albert Almora Jr. is taking his job to heart, even if it means lesser playing time. The Cubs recently called up 2015 first-round pick Ian Happ, who has played a key role in the outfield. That means Almora, the 2012 first-round pick, has seen a reduced role. It’s something manager Joe Maddon agonizes with as he writes out the Cubs’ lineup card. As for Almora, it’s all a part of being on this team. He spoke of that with the Spiegel & Parkins Show on Thursday. “This is not about me,” Almora said. “This is about the Chicago Cubs. We want the best nine out there every day to contribute to win. Whatever gets put out there, that’s what we got to go with. It’s pretty simple for me, man, I’m not that type of guy. “Obviously, I’m a competitor. I want to play, I want to help. But whatever my job is, that day if it’s to come off the bench and to try to contribute off the bench, then so be it. This is not about me, this is about the team. I’m just happy to be part of such a great organization.” Almora is playing his first full season in the majors after coming up last summer and playing a role in the Cubs’ first World Series championship in 108 years. With the departure of Dexter Fowler, it was expected that Almora would see more playing time in center field. Instead, Maddon is left mixing him with Jon Jay and now Happ, while occasionally moving Jason Heyward to center and Ben Zobrist in right field so Javier Baez can also see playing time. Staying in rhythm has not been a problem for Almora, even if that means fewer starting nods. “I have a routine,” Almora said. “I  know it’s not the same as when you’re playing. But you do what you’re dealt. My goal is to try to help every day I’m out there. This game is more failure than success. So if you don’t have a game that you do well, you just learn from it, move on and grow from it. “I think of every game as a learning experience, even if I’m playing or not.” Almora has managed many peaks and valleys since joining the Cubs last season. He became a World Series hero in scoring the go-ahead run in Game 7 last November. Playing for the Cubs is something Almora takes great pleasure in. He enjoys the game of baseball. “The love of the game for me runs in my veins,” he said. “I really can’t picture myself doing something else. “I was born with the love. It’s getting bigger and bigger as the days go on.” Listen to Almora’s full interview below. < div id="embed-audioplayer-1" class="embed-item embed-audioplayer shortcode" >

Bears Set To Sign WR Victor Cruz On 1-Year Deal

By Chris Emma– (CBS) The Bears are set to sign veteran receiver Victor Cruz to a one-year deal, the latest addition to their receiving corps. Cruz went to Instagram to make official his agreement, which was first reported by the NFL Network on Thursday afternoon. The Bears have since confirmed the agreement in principle. “The Giants will forever be family,” Cruz said. “But for now, Bear down!!!” Cruz, 30, joins a revamped receiving core that has been altered after losing Alshon Jeffery in free agency. Cruz had 39 receptions for 586 yards and a touchdown last season. Prior to 2016, he had played just six games the last two seasons.

Cruz reportedly visited the Bears and Jaguars this month after being released by the Giants in March. Jacksonville’s front office is run by his former head coach in New York, Tom Coughlin. Cruz posted his best seasons in 2011 and 2012, recording a combined 168 catches for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns. This offseason, the Bears have added Cruz, Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, Reuben Randle and Titus Davis at receiver, joining the likes of Kevin White, Cameron Meredith, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson and Daniel Braverman. The Bears lost Jeffery to free agency when he signed with the Eagles in March and recently released Eddie Royal. Cruz is likely to assume a role in the slot previously held by Royal, with Meredith set to work the outside. Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

Levine: For Young Cubs Like Javier Baez, Trade Rumors Are Part Of The Deal On Deep Team

By Bruce Levine– CHICAGO (CBS) — There are several key points to make regarding Cubs infielder Javier Baez and the trade market. One, don’t expect him to be traded for a top pitcher anytime soon. And two, don’t expect opposing teams to stop calling about him either. That’s simply a fundamental dynamic that will be in play for as long as the Cubs search for another top-flight pitcher, as is their current goal and challenge. In the present, the Cubs don’t expect such activity, as most executives are focused on the amateur draft in early June. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein expects talks to heat up come early July and then the last week of that month. “Trades are not made this time of the year,” Epstein said “Trades are made in July. I don’t think we have been overly patient to this point. We have shown an appropriate sense of patience but also the desire to get it locked in. Right after the draft, everyone takes a day or two, catches their breath and decides what they need. That is when more chatter picks up. Trades are basically made at the same time every year. There is a little flurry around July 2. It ticks up again in mid-July and then plenty in late July.” Baez is one who finds his name in trade rumors consistently because he doesn’t have an everyday starting spot with the Cubs. He could be a quality starting shortstop for 15 or so clubs across MLB, but for the Cubs, he’s a super-utilityman who can play anywhere in the infield and is one of the game’s most electric defensive players. “Sometimes people are being pushed to the front of the line when trades come up and they are not doing well,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Another part of trade narrative is based on depth. If you have other pieces like that, other people are going to promote those ideas.” The fact that the 24-year-old Baez is young, talented, affable, marketable and versatile will make him a prime target for opposing teams who are interested in a mega-deal with the Cubs in the near future. Baez is hitting .268 with seven homers and 22 RBIs this season. He’s tied for second on the team in RBIs despite having fewer at-bats than six others who play more regularly. “Javy will be in that position for a bit,” Maddon said of Baez trade rumors. “With no intent on our part, he is still going to be mentioned in those moments. The reason, as I mentioned, when he is going well you say, ‘They will never trade him.’ When he is going poorly, it would be more difficult. I just think with the nature of our team, young guys are going to hear (trade rumors). If you are going to attempt to get pitching, you are going to hear the typical names mentioned. From our players’ perspective, I hope they don’t take it to heart that often. If they hear it enough and are asked that question enough, of course it will leave a mark.” Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Baffoe: 2020 Cubs-White Sox World Series Preview

By Tim Baffoe– (CBS) In this cutthroat world of media in which everyone is trying to be “first” with a story no matter how flimsy, I’m getting out ahead of the pack and giving you the 2020 World Series preview between the White Sox and Cubs that you need and before anyone else. With their well-established core, the Cubs seek to win their third championship in five years, something once unthinkable during the days of the Lovable Losers that seem decades ago. The White Sox may have won the race to win Chicago’s first World Series in generations when they took home the crown in 2005, but an entire generation of fans knows that championship as mere knickknacks in their parents’ basements. And nothing would be sweeter than thwarting the North Siders in for what on the South Side is forever an imaginary Civil War. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn’s rebuild that began in 2017 in the style of the Cubs earlier that decade built a farm system that has exploded onto the big league scene, propelling the White Sox to their first postseason since 2008 after falling short of a 2019 wild-card berth by just two games. After more than a century of having the privilege of two Major League Baseball teams in this town without the luck of both being great at the same time, the stars — cosmic and prospective — of both clubs have finally aligned to create a destined Red Line Series. Second-year Cubs manager David Ross is looking to legitimize his place in the non-player side of Cubdom after taking over for the retired Joe Maddon following the 2018 title. 2019 saw the Cubs unceremoniously swept in the divisional series by the Colorado Rockies, leaving Ross answering questions from a fan base now used to nothing less than perfection. “Hey, these fans should expect nothing short of a championship,” Ross said. “I’m proud that I was part of the team that gave them their first taste of a title, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” The postseason is largely a crapshoot, though, and Ross’s handling of his lineups and staff this postseason have gotten the Cubs this far. The no-brainer “decision” he’ll make in Game 1 is starting the Cubs’ biggest offseason free-agent signing and juiciest narrative tidbit in this series, Chris Sale. While Sox fans will surely be making cut-up jersey jokes, while Sale will look to parlay his MLB lead in strikeouts into carving up hitters for two victories on the mound over his old team. He’ll likely square off against White Sox right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, giving veteran Carlos Rodon a full rest following his victory in Game 6 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees. Game 2 may be the craftiest on pitching matchups between Rodon and Kyle Hendricks, who may be making his final appearance(s) as the heir to Greg Maddux at Wrigley Field before heading into free agency. Games 3 and 4 will feature Old Schoolers and then New Schoolers respectively, as Jose Quintana — someone who most were positive would be traded in the rebuild — will go against Jon Lester, then fireballer Michael Kopech will take on Dylan Cease. Obviously, baseball’s biggest stage is old hat for Cubs hitters who years ago faced questions as to whether they could handle the pressure of sports’ most historic drought. That same skepticism now shifts to the South Side youngsters, who have grown together into a force with a lot of swagger. Credit White Sox manager Rick Renteria for his paternal workings in keeping these kids loose while demanding their best at all times, even when that meant sitting Micker Adolfo in September after the frustrated outfielder failed to hustle out an infield popup in Minnesota that was dropped. (Sidenote: Credit also goes to the rest of Chicago media for avoiding the easy bait of forcing the Renteria-as-former-Cubs-manager narrative; although, maybe most of us just forgot about those B.C. — Before Championship — years.) “We’re focused,” White Sox outfielder Luis Robert said. “Ricky has talked to us about focusing on the fun of this more than anything about pressure.” Yoan Moncada and Zack Collins are both ready to go after both playing through minor injuries this postseason, Renteria said, and they will have to be if the White Sox expect to match the relentless Cubs lineup featuring usual suspects Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and reigning MVP Addison Russell, not to mention the leader among second basemen in home runs in Ian Happ. This series ultimately has the feel of whose bullpen locks the other team down best. The Cubs bullpen led the NL in ERA this regular season, but if games get to White Sox closer Zack Burdi, they’re basically fait accompli — except for his blown save in June when Willson Contreras hit a walk-off three-run homer off him. Wonder if that sticks in the back of Burdi’s brain. Seven games only seems fitting for this series that Chicago has waited forever for. And it feels like it’s finally time for the White Sox, who I predict take Game 7 for bragging rights until a potential rematch in 2021. Remember that you got this preview here first, people. Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.

Maddon, Cubs Staying Classy With ‘Anchorman’ Themed Road Trip

CHICAGO (AP) — For previous road trips, manager Joe Maddon has put his players in onesie pajamas and zany suits. This time, his Chicago Cubs are staying classy. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and company will pay homage to the Channel 4 news team, dressing as characters from the movie “Anchorman” on their upcoming trip to Southern California. Known for organizing wild themes for team flights, Maddon has turned to Ron Burgundy, Brick Tamland and Brian Fantana for inspiration. The Cubs will wear the outfits Thursday when they fly out to Los Angeles, then again for the return trip from San Diego — where the comedy takes place — following a game May 31. The Cubs had bottles of “Sex Panther” — Fantana’s preferred cologne — in the clubhouse prior to Wednesday’s game against San Francisco. Maddon has jokingly dubbed it the “Ron Burgundy/Brick Tamland/Tommy La Stella Tribute Road Trip” because he sees a resemblance between the utility infielder and Tamland, the movie’s weatherman. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.