Cubs-Reds washed out after four-hour rain delay


Cubs-Reds washed out after four-hour rain delay

CINCINNATI - Weather forced the Cubs and Reds to postpone Saturday's contest after a rain delay totaling four hours, 13 minutes at Great American Ballpark.

No makeup date has been announced yet.

Rain hit the Cincinnati area hard Saturday morning and did not let up into the afternoon. Neither team even took the field to start the game.

"That's the way it works sometimes," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "The only thing I'd like to say is I thought the umpires did a great job in the end of trying to put this whole thing together conversationally. I really appreciated how they handled it.

Since the game hadn't started yet, the umpires weren't allowed to call it themselves. The call had to come from the Reds, who had a sellout crowd expected as they celebrated the 25th anniversary of the 1990 World Series champion team.

"I know they wanted to get it done for the full house," Maddon said. "I understand that. Totally get it. I'm not gonna denigrate the Reds for doing what they think was the right thing to do. Never. Everybody's got their own house to keep. I'm not going there. But I understand that had to play somewhat into the delay."

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The lengthy rain delay was frustrating for some, including Cubs projected starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, who likes to spend 40 minutes warming up before the start of the game, Maddon said.

The start time of the game was pushed back three different times before the contest was finally postponed, creating a tough situation for both teams, who played a nearly four-hour long game Friday night in the series opener.

"Obviously, if it's our last trip to Cincinnati, different story," Maddon said. "If it's our last trip to any city, different story. But the ability to come back here several other times, even with some common open dates, made it more difficult.

"You play a game at night [Friday], you get here early in the morning [Saturday], you sit around here all day with another day game the next day."

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Maddon said Arrieta never even warmed up, so he will be pushed back to Sunday for the series finale, slated to start at 1:10 p.m. Central Time.

Maddon also said the lineup should remain the same as the Reds also pushed back starter Anthony DeSclafani.

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Who was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick with the Cubs?

The answer to that trivia question will always and forever be Albert Almora Jr. picked sixth overall in the 2012 amateur draft.

In some ways, the young outfielder from Florida became the forgotten man in the stable of can’t-miss prospects that Epstein and top lieutenants Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod amassed since their arrival over six years ago. While players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ zoomed through the minor leagues on their way to the majors, Almora took a different path – one that included seven different stops over parts of five developmental seasons before he broke into the big leagues during the 2016 season.

But Almora’s road to the majors began years before he was selected by the Cubs, when he began playing for Team USA as a 13-year-old. Over the next several years, Almora played for the Red, White & Blue seven times, his final appearance coming in 2015. The seven appearances are the most in the history of USA Baseball, and Almora recognizes the impact his time with the national squad had on his playing career.

“[It was] one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "Every year I had something special to play with, unbelievable guys, went to crazy places, and out of those six years, five of them came with a gold medal so that was pretty special as well. Also, that helped me in my baseball life, how to experience things and learn from those type of experiences.

“I’m a Cubbie and that’s what’s on my chest right now, but Team USA will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Almora carries those national team experiences with him every day, his main focus coming into the 2018 season is becoming a consistent difference-maker. Almora made only 65 starts during the 2017 campaign, and 63 percent of his at-bats last year came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit a robust .342. That led to a platoon role in a crowded outfield, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all taking turns on the merry-go-round. But with the departure of Jay, Almora believes his time is near.

“I have the most confidence in myself that I can play every day, but I try not to think about that kind of stuff because it’s out of my control," Almora said. "All I control is like last year what I did; whenever I was given an opportunity, I tried to do my best and help the team win.”

Almora’s ultimate role on the 2018 Cubs remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Theo’s first Cubs pick will earn whatever role he ends up with, and the foundation of Almora’s journey to Clark and Addison was laid many summers ago during his time with Team USA.

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

News broke to Willson Contreras that the league will be limiting mound visits this upcoming season, and the Cubs catcher —notorious for his frequent visits to the rubber — is not having it.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If you have to go again and pay the price for my team, I will," he said.

The new rules rolled out Tuesday will limit six visits —any time a manager, coach or player visits the mound — per nine innings. But, communication between a player and a pitcher that does not require them moving from their position does not count as a visit.When a team is out of visits, it's the umpire's discretion to allow an extra trip to the mound.

But despite the new rules, Contreras is willing to do what's best for the team.

“There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? They cannot say anything about that. If you’re going to fine me about the [seventh] mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”