Cubs

Angels star rookie just isn't slowing down

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Angels star rookie just isn't slowing down

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Earlier this week, Mike Trout had a chance to meet Al Kaline, the Hall of Famer who played for the Detroit Tigers and won a batting title in 1955 when he was 20 years old. After another four-hit night, Trout looks like he's on his way to a similar feat. Trout raised his American League-leading average to .355 on Tuesday night with the fourth four-hit game of his spectacular rookie season. His 430-foot shot in the second inning was the second of five Los Angeles homers, and the Angels went on to rout the Tigers 13-0. Trout, who turns 21 next month, said he met Kaline on Monday. "My mom lived in Michigan. She was a big fan of him growing up," Trout said. "That was pretty neat meeting him." Trout, Mark Trumbo and Albert Pujols all homered off Jacob Turner in the first two innings, and Alberto Callaspo and Kendrys Morales went deep later in the game. The Tigers were shut out for the first time in 159 games, a franchise-record streak that began last July 17 -- exactly a year earlier to the day. Garrett Richards (3-1) allowed three hits in seven innings, easily outdueling Turner (0-1) in a matchup of top pitching prospects. The Detroit right-hander lasted only two innings, giving up seven runs and six hits on a 100-degree night. "Jacob is a potential top-of-the-rotation guy who just needs more seasoning," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I still expect to see him high in a rotation someday, but he's not ready yet." The Angels lead the major leagues with 14 shutouts. Pujols opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first, and Trumbo followed with his 26th homer of the year, a three-run shot. Trout's two-run homer in the second was the most impressive -- an opposite-field drive to right-center that made it 6-0. "It felt good off the bat," Trout said. "I was running pretty hard, because it's a big park." Pujols added a solo shot in the second. Trout now has 100 hits this season in 69 games. He entered the day with a 20-point lead over Joe Mauer in the AL batting race. Pujols and Howard Kendrick had three hits each. Trumbo has six homers in his last eight games. Detroit needed to send Turner to the mound because of an injury to fellow rookie Drew Smyly. Leyland talked a bit before the game about the challenges young pitchers face when they have to learn on the job at the major league level. The 21-year-old Turner was recalled from the minors before the game to make his fifth career start, and he was in trouble from the beginning in a game that began amid triple-digit heat. Trumbo's homer went an estimated 415 feet to left. Trout's was even longer, landing in the outfield seats and bouncing up onto a concourse above Sparky Anderson's retired No. 11. Trumbo playfully disputed the estimated distances of the homers, which put Trout's farther than his by 15 feet. "That didn't go farther," he said. "Conspiracy. League-wide conspiracy. You've got to hit it to the middle of the field, I'm convinced now." Pujols' homer was the 461st of his career, tying Chipper Jones for 33rd on the career list. The Angels put their leadoff man on in each of the first six innings. Morales drove in another run in the sixth with a single, and Callaspo's three-run homer later that inning made it 11-0. In the bottom half, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera hit a line drive to right, but Torii Hunter made a diving catch. Richards, who is three years older than Turner, walked four but pitched comfortably with a big lead. Morales hit a solo homer in the eighth, and Peter Bourjos hit an RBI double in the ninth. NOTES: Detroit's Doug Fister (3-6) takes the mound against C.J. Wilson (9-5) of the Angels on Wednesday night. ... Angels RHP Dan Haren (lower back stiffness) made a rehab start Monday night, pitching five innings for Class A Inland Empire. OF Vernon Wells (right thumb surgery) is expected to start a rehab assignment this weekend. ... Trout's homer was his 13th of the year. Pujols' was his 16th. ... Detroit's Austin Jackson had his streak of 13 games with a run snapped. ... Detroit's last game without a run was last July 16, a 5-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

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USA TODAY

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

The Cubs now apparently believe they are a stronger organization without Chris Bosio, firing a pitching coach known for his strong convictions, brutal honesty and bottom-line results in a move that doesn’t seem like an actual solution.

Hiring Jim Hickey – who has a good reputation from his years with the Tampa Bay Rays, a close friendship with Joe Maddon and what looks like a slam-dunk interview lined up for Monday – might make the manager feel more comfortable and less isolated.

But the new-voice/different-direction spin doesn’t fundamentally address the pitching issues facing a team that needs to replace 40 percent of the rotation and find an established closer and has zero expectations those answers will come from within the farm system.

This is an operation that won a seven-game World Series last year without a homegrown player throwing a single pitch.     

If the Cubs can say thanks for the memories and dump “Boz,” what about “Schwarbs?”

Advancing to the National League Championship Series in three straight seasons doesn’t happen without Bosio or Kyle Schwarber. But the fastest way for the Cubs to dramatically improve their pitching staff isn’t finding someone else who thinks it’s important to throw strikes. It could mean breaking up The Core and severing another emotional attachment.   

Theo Epstein saw Schwarber play for Indiana University and used the Fenway Park frame of reference, envisioning him as a combination of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia with his left-handed power and energizer personality.

Epstein wasn’t the only Cubs official to develop a man-crush on Schwarber, but he’s the only one with ultimate control over baseball operations. Epstein’s style isn’t pounding the table as much as the ability to frame questions in the draft room, gather as many opinions as possible before the trade deadline and at the winter meetings, trying to form a consensus.

“I will say that it’s really an organization-wide evaluation of this player, but I’m not skirting responsibility,” Epstein said. “I’ll happily endorse him as the type of player that we want to win with here at the Cubs, and have won with. I don’t know, the fact that he hit 30 bombs in a bad year is a good start.

“But power is not everything. I think he fell into this year becoming more of a slugger and less of a hitter than he really is. It’s important for him to get his identity back as a dangerous hitter. Honestly, I think we feel he has the potential to be an all-around hitter on the level of an Anthony Rizzo. When he reaches his prime, that’s what he could be.”

Where will that be? As a designated hitter in the American League? That’s obvious speculation, but Schwarber has improved as an outfield defender – his strong throw at Dodger Stadium led to another NLCS Maddon Moment where the manager compared the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax.      

A 43-45 record at the All-Star break also exposed some of the weaknesses in the clubhouse and downsides to Maddon’s methods. The Cubs flipped a switch in the second half, got hot in September and had the guts to beat the Washington Nationals in the playoffs. But that doesn’t completely wipe away the concerns about a group that at times seemed too casual and unfocused and didn’t play with enough edge. For better or worse, Schwarber approaches the game like a blitzing linebacker.

“He’s got a certain toughness and certain leadership qualities that are hard to find,” Epstein said, “and that we don’t necessarily have in surplus, in abundance, running around in this clubhouse, in this organization.

“A certain energy and grit and ability to bring people together – that’s important and we rely on it. But the biggest thing is his bat. We think he’s the type of offensive player that you build around, along with a couple other guys like him.”

Maddon would never admit it, but was the Schwarber leadoff experiment a mistake?

“I’ll judge that one based on the results and say yeah,” Epstein said. “I think we can talk about the process that went into it. Or in an alternate universe: Does it pan out? But those are just words. It didn’t work.

“Everything that went into Kyle’s really surprising and difficult first half of the season, we should look to correct, because that shouldn’t happen. He’s a way better hitter than that. What he did after coming back from Iowa proves it.”

In the same way that Maddon should own what happens with the next pitching coach, Epstein will ultimately have to decide Schwarber’s future.

Schwarber didn’t complain or pout when he got sent down to Triple-A Iowa this summer, finishing with 30 homers, a .782 OPS, a .211 batting average and a 30.9 strikeout percentage.    

Trading Schwarber would mean selling lower and take another team having the same gut instincts the Cubs did in the 2014 draft – and offering the talented, controllable starting pitcher that sometimes seems like a unicorn.

Is Schwarber still the legend from last year’s World Series? An all-or-nothing platoon guy? An intriguing trade chip? A franchise player? Eventually, the Cubs are going to find out.

“We have to look to do everything we can,” Epstein said, “and more importantly he has to look to do everything he can to get him to a point where he’s consistently the quality hitter and tough out and dangerous bat in the middle of the lineup that we know he can be.

“He wasn’t for the first half of this year – and he knows it and he feels awful about it. He worked his tail off to get back to having a pretty darn good second half and getting some big hits for us down the stretch.”

And then the offseason was only hours old by the time the Cubs showed they will be keeping an open mind about everything this winter, not afraid to make big changes.

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

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USA TODAY

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

It's become a tradition that Jake Arrieta shaves his beard after the season ends.

The 31-year-old did it again days after the Cubs were eliminated from the 2017 postseason, and it's still a sight we'll never be used to seeing.

Check it out:

Weird, right?

Here's how he looked following the Cubs' World Series win in 2016:

And again in 2015:

It's crazy how much younger he looks.