White Sox

Barney looking toward the future for Cubs

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Barney looking toward the future for Cubs

When Theo Epstein took over the Cubs little more than a year ago, he made it clear from the outset that 2012 was going to be a stepping stone year as the new front office nails down potential building blocks for the future.

Darwin Barney emerged as a cornerstone piece, parlaying a tremendous defensive season into an NL Gold Glove Award and beating out Brandon Phillips -- who took home three of the last four awards -- in the process.

"Being in only my second full year, it wasn't one of my aspirations to be a Gold Glover," Barney said Wednesday evening on Chicago Tribune Live. "Obviously that's what you're working toward individually, but we had some different team goals this year for sure -- getting better and trying to put ourselves in a good position for the future."

When asked about Phillips, Barney stayed diplomatic and flashed the qualities that have made him a valued member of the clubhouse the past two seasons.

But he opened up a bit more when asked about the future of the Cubs.

"You can look at it a couple ways," Barney said. "I try to not be the GM. I just worry about myself and my job, especially in the offseason. I trust in Theo, Jed Hoyer and those guys and what they're going to bring in.

"I know there's definitely holes to fill. If I were to try to point out a hole, it would be saying something negative on one of my former teammates. That's not my place to do that."

Some of the holes for the Cubs include third base and starting pitching, as well as an outfielder while Brett Jackson gets some more seasoning down in the minors.

The Cubs have three-fourths of their infield set with shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Barney, who turns 27 next week.

"We're happy with some of the core guys we've got. I'm really hoping I'm part of that," Barney said. "We're all going to continue to try to get better and turn this organization around in the near future."

2012 was a banner year for teams jumping from cellar-dwellers to contenders. The Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles came out of nowhere to overtake the powerhouse Texas Rangers (in the division and Wild Card game, respectively) and advance to the Division Series.

Everything would have to break completely right for a Cubs squad coming off a 107-loss season, but Barney isn't counting things out heading into the winter.

"Hopefully it can happen next year," Barney. "Hopefully we can put some pressure on upper management to make moves in the opposite direction, so we don't have to say goodbye to all of our friends after the trade deadline.

"You just never know what a season is going to turn into, but you have a lot of control into what it starts out as. So we're going to work for that."

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

As encouraging as the reports are on many of the White Sox’s minor-league pitching prospects, Carlos Rodon’s effort against the Athletics on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field could prove just as significant to the rebuild on the South Side.

Looking much like the ace the Sox envisioned prior to Rodon’s rough 2017 season that ended with shoulder surgery, the left-hander put together his most successful effort of ’18 during a 10-3 drubbing of the Athletics before a sun-drenched crowd of 21,908.

Making his fourth start of the season, Rodon matched a career-high by going eight innings. He yielded two runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Rodon earned his first win of the season to help the Sox salvage a split of the four-game series.

“I felt good today—a lot of strikes,” Rodon said. “It was good to go eight and just be ahead of guys.”

Helping matters for Rodon was an offensive explosion by the Sox, led by Yoan Moncada’s career-high six RBIs. After falling behind 2-0, the Sox plated five runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings as Moncada cleared the bases with a double off the base of the wall in the fifth and launched his 10th home run of the season to drive in three more an inning later.

“Today was a great day,” Moncada said via a team interpreter. “I just went out to play the game the way that I play. Just to have fun. It was a very good game for me.”

Daniel Palka and Yolmer Sanchez also homered as the Sox won for just the second time in their last 11 games.

Rodon was the happy recipient of the run support to win his first game since Aug. 21, 2017, against the Twins. On Sunday, he threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes and was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball.

“I’m looking to do that every time out,” Rodon said. “Just show up and establish the strike zone with the fastball and be aggressive.”

The 25-year-old’s second-inning strikeout of Khris Davis was the 400th of Rodon’s career. It is a career that is continuing after a surgery that was a setback, but one that did not derail Rodon’s confidence that he would again pitch effectively.

“There are up-and-down days when you go through shoulder surgery or any surgery for any player,” Rodon said. “You've just got to work through it and try to make your way back. I'm here now and it’s looking up and I’m trying to get better.”

So is it reasonable to view Rodon as the future ace after all?

“You certainly can’t discount that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has to go out there and continue to get his feet underneath him and get through the rest of the season healthy and climbing.”

In other Sox pitching news, Renteria said starter Dylan Covey, who was removed in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game due to a hip flexor injury, “felt better” Sunday and the team will continue to monitor the right-hander’s progress.

Meanwhile, veteran Miguel Gonzalez made a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte as he continues to recover from inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Gonzalez went three innings and allowed one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez belted his first homer for the Knights in the game.

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.