Cubs

Cubs bullpen in flux with Pedro Strop down and Hector Rondon sidelined

Cubs bullpen in flux with Pedro Strop down and Hector Rondon sidelined

The Cubs already had a dominant closer when they made a blockbuster trade with the New York Yankees in late July. But given Hector Rondon’s Tommy John history — and the unknown severity of Pedro Strop’s injury — Aroldis Chapman might become more of a necessity than a luxury item.

Chapman unleashed his 100-mph heat on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, blowing away the Los Angeles Angels in the ninth inning with three straight strikeouts to end a 3-1 victory that might have come at a price.

Strop is now scheduled to get an MRI on his left knee on Thursday morning, and it didn’t look good in the eighth inning as he hobbled off the field, supported by a teammate and an athletic trainer. Strop slid awkwardly and felt something while trying to field the soft groundball Yunel Escobar bounced up the third-base line.

That visual creates even more uncertainty as Rondon deals with what the Cubs are calling a sore triceps. Rondon — who hasn’t pitched in a game since Aug. 2 — played catch as part of his pregame routine but manager Joe Maddon still doesn’t know exactly when his right-handed reliever will be available.

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“There’s nothing negative,” Maddon said. “He’s trending in the right direction, not the wrong direction, so that’s where my focus is right now.”

Carl Edwards Jr. bailed the Cubs out of that eighth-inning jam, striking out Mike Trout and getting groundballs against Albert Pujols and Andrelton Simmons, again showing he’s ready for prime time, especially if Rondon (18 saves, 1.70 ERA) and Strop (21 holds, 2.89 ERA) become question marks in front of Chapman.

“It would change the entire complexion of the group,” Maddon said. “It would make ‘Smitty’ (Joe Smith) more pertinent. I’m not going to beat up C.J., for sure, I know that much. Whatever’s wrong with Stropy, he’s probably not pitching tomorrow, I know that also. So, yeah, we’re going to have to look at different folks.”

Theo Epstein: Cubs diversity committee has 'real authority' to make difference

Theo Epstein: Cubs diversity committee has 'real authority' to make difference

Cubs president Theo Epstein vowed to look inward last month for solutions to Major League Baseball’s systemic racism, highlighting his own hiring practices in baseball and how “majority” of those he’s hired have similar backgrounds as him.

“The system doesn’t fix itself,” Epstein said June 8. “It’s on each of us to take action to stand up and make some changes.”

One such change for Epstein’s Cubs was creating a diversity committee to “make sure we set better standards for ourselves and make ourselves accountable to do better on these issues.” Thursday, he said the committee has been established and had its initial meeting.

The committee is comprised of 15 members of the Cubs organization, from both the business and baseball operations departments. Epstein, president of business operations Crane Kenney and chairman Tom Ricketts are not on it.

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Epstein believes the committee has an opportunity to make a difference in several important areas that baseball has real room for improvement. Look no further than Rockies’ Ian Desmond’s powerful Instagram post this week highlighting baseball’s culture problem, from racist jokes in clubhouses to having one Black general manager and two Black managers league-wide to less than 10 percent of players being Black.

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On my mind.

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Epstein has said time and time again actions and results matter, not words, and reiterated that point on Thursday.

“So, the way the committee was structured and chartered, it has real authority and I think a real opportunity to make a difference in several important areas where we have real room for improvement,” he said. “So, I don't want to get out ahead — let our words get out ahead of our actions — but I think you can look forward and we’ll keep you updated as we turn our aspirations into real action within the organization.”

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How Cubs are reconfiguring Wrigley Field to satisfy health, safety needs

How Cubs are reconfiguring Wrigley Field to satisfy health, safety needs

The return of baseball comes with a unique arrangement of teams holding preseason training — dubbed “Summer Camp” — at their home ballparks. But with that comes a need to practice extra precaution due to COVID-19.

The Cubs have 39 players training at Wrigley Field, a smaller facility than their Mesa, Ariz. complex. Not only will they stagger workouts to limit the number of players at the park at once, but they’ve rearranged the facility in the name of social distancing.

Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters Thursday the club has spread out clubhouse lockers “by significant distance.” They’re using both the home and road clubhouses during Summer Camp and have even reconfigured other rooms by adding lockers.

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The club has also moved weight and meeting rooms outdoors “because I think all the public health officials have consensus on the fact that being outdoors is a lot safer than being indoors,” Epstein said.

Epstein declined to discuss the results of the Cubs' coronavirus intake testing process, which is still ongoing. Going forward, they will continue making adjustments to Wrigley as needed.

“We're going to continue to make adjustments as we go,” Epstein said. “I think we've been setting up the park based on the protocols and based on an understanding of in our mind how this is gonna operate. 

“So, we’ll experience it for the first time [Friday] and I'm sure we'll make a lot of adjustments on the fly as theory becomes reality and we start to see what it's like to conduct a spring training of sorts with these new protocols in place.”

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