Cubs

Byrds suspension unlikely to impact bottom line for Cubs

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Byrds suspension unlikely to impact bottom line for Cubs

Marlon Byrds stock had fallen so far that the Cubs had to pay most of the roughly 6 million remaining on the final year of his contract when they traded him to the Boston Red Sox.

The deal was made in late April, or less than two years after Byrd made key plays that helped the National League win the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif.

The Cubs looked into the financial implications once Major League Baseball suspended Byrd for 50 games after testing positive for Tamoxifen, a performance-enhancing substance typically associated with breast cancer treatment, or masking potential side effects from steroid use. But the punishment isnt expected to impact their bottom line.

Im still trying to get to the bottom of the situation, general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. My initial sense right now is that it doesnt. Ill probably have more to say on that in a couple days once I know for sure. But it looks like (because) hes a released player, its termination pay, and therefore I dont think that either of the teams are going to save money based on the suspension.

Earlier this month, the Red Sox released the 34-year-old outfielder, who was guaranteed 6.5 million this season. Industry sources said that a wrinkle in the collective bargaining agreement means Byrds suspension will be based off the prorated veterans minimum salary. In essence, it will cost closer to 150,000 than 2 million.

Byrd released a statement through the Major League Baseball Players Association on Monday apologizing for an inexcusable mistake made to deal with a private medical condition. The free agent said he was mortified by his carelessness and hopeful to help a team after the suspension is lifted Aug. 20.

For years, the commissioners office suspiciously viewed Byrds working relationship with BALCO founder Victor Conte. In a text message, Byrd told USA TODAY that Victor had nothing to do with this.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he was off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and only making it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."