Preps Talk

Wells looking for ways to stick with Cubs

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Wells looking for ways to stick with Cubs

PHILADELPHIA Randy Wells has no idea whats going to happen next. A return trip to Des Moines? A spot in the bullpen? The Cubs arent saying.

Well make those decisions when they all come up, manager Dale Sveum said Friday. Well see what happens, but we havent got to that step yet.

Wells will get the ball on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park for a showcase start against the Philadelphia Phillies. Thats about the only guarantee, with Ryan Dempster (strained right quad) back running and throwing and expected to be taken off the disabled list next week.

That will again leave the Cubs with six starters for five spots.

Wells was blindsided in late March, when he found out he was being optioned to Triple-A Iowa. But he didn't lash out and handled the news as well as he could have, sitting in front of his locker, calmly and patiently answering all the questions.

Obviously, you got thoughts in your head about where youre at and what youve done, Wells said. Im not going to sit here and defend my years in the big leagues. But I think if you look internally at the numbers, theyre not quite as bad as everybody made it out to seem. But thats not for me to make the judgments.

All I can do is pitch and show up every day and work hard and if my names here, then thats it. I know thats such a clich. But its really how I feel.

If I start getting into trying like I said in spring training to play GM or whatever, thats just going to take away from me as a baseball player. So either way, whatever happens, Im cool with it. But, obviously, you want to be in the big leagues.

Wells entered this season with a 27-30 career record and a 4.01 ERA in the majors. He didnt blast the organization, which essentially made him a 2.705 million insurance policy for the rotation.

When the Washington Nationals demoted John Lannan just before Opening Day, the left-hander with a 5 million salary requested a trade and e-mailed the beat writers to let them know.

Its not my style to ruffle any feathers or cause a scene, Wells said. They thought thats the best for the team and thats the kind of player I am. Ill do whatever to help the team.

If Wells tries to lean on clichs, its probably because he was so hard on himself after bad starts, ripping his own performance in the interview room.

That might have warped perception, along with people unfairly questioning his work habits and blowing his nightlife activities out of proportion.

Theres a lot of things (where) people get the wrong impression of me, Wells said. All you can do is pitch good and everybody forgets about it.

The Cubs saw higher potential upside in Jeff Samardzija and Chris Volstad, and Paul Maholm got the free-agent contract and gives the rotation a left-handed look. Right now, the bullpen doesnt have much depth or a real long man.

Hopefully, I can have a good start (Saturday) and maybe change some plans, Wells said. I definitely want to stay in any capacity. If it is a bullpen role, then youre just going to have to take that as a new challenge and Ive done it (before in the minors).

Its nothing that Im not used to. I can do it and Id certainly be willing to do it. Who knows, maybe at this point in your career, if thats something Im good at, maybe itll give me new life.

Im not thinking about that. Im thinking about starting. I definitely want to stay a starter. But you also want to do whatever you can do to help the team win.

Wells went five innings the last time out, giving up two runs on six hits and five walks and getting a no-decision in a 4-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Hell have to be better than that to force the issue.

Back in 2002, the Cubs drafted Wells in the 38th round as a catcher, and its been a long trip. Hes not looking for an easy out or a change of scenery.

Ive been here my whole career, Wells said. I grew up in this organization, from 19 years old to almost 30. That means a lot to me to stay here and definitely be a part of when we turn this thing around and win.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”