Cubs

Cubs can't turn bling magic into runs in shutout loss to Dodgers

Cubs can't turn bling magic into runs in shutout loss to Dodgers

OK, now the 2017 season can truly begin for the Cubs.

The championship banner has been raised and flaps in the wind in right center at Wrigley Field. The epic 108-diamond-studded and goat-encrusted World Series rings are in the possession of their rightful owners.

Wednesday night marked the end of the look back at the magical 2016 season, even if the 45-degree mid-April evening finished with the Cubs losing to the Dodgers 2-0.

Roughly a half hour after the ring ceremony, Andrew Toles brought the entire stadium back to Earth with a leadoff homer into the blistering wind in right field.

That was the only run of the game until the top of the ninth. Hector Rondon had Toles swinging on strike three in the dirt, but instead of ending the inning, Willson Contreras threw the ball off Anthony Rizzo's glove and into right field, allowing Chase Utley to motor all the way around from first base for an insurance run.

Rondon was injured on the play in an awkward collision while trying to tag Utley out at home plate and had to be removed from the game.

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The Cubs had nine baserunners on the night on five singles, three walks and Albert Almora Jr. reaching on an error in the eighth inning. But no Cub advanced past second base against Brandon McCarthy and a trio of Dodgers relievers.

John Lackey settled in to strike out 10 through six innings, allowing four hits, three walks and the lone run.

The distractions have now concluded, and the Cubs can get back to focusing on the task at hand on the diamond.

"The celebration's over," Lackey said. "Now it's time to start working on another one."

The Cubs' "new" season begins Thursday afternoon on CSN and streaming right here on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Cubs Pregame Live.

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior 'likely' to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior 'likely' to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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