Cubs

Cubs: Jake Arrieta gets one more shot to make Cy Young case

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Cubs: Jake Arrieta gets one more shot to make Cy Young case

CINCINNATI – Jake Arrieta has meant so much to the Cubs that he should be in the National League MVP discussion and not just a Cy Young Award frontrunner.

With a questionable rotation and as many as four rookies in the everyday lineup, the Cubs have won 75 percent of Arrieta’s starts (24-8), making the leap from fringe wild-card team to 94-win contender during his second-half transformation.

Arrieta (21-6, 1.82 ERA) will get the chance to make a final impression on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters on Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park (7:10 p.m./CSN).

[MORE: What if Cubs had traded for Jonathan Papelbon?]

Arrieta has made 19 consecutive quality starts, going 15-1 with a 0.89 ERA. He’s hit as many homers (two) as he’s given up (two) during that stretch. His 0.80 ERA since the All-Star break would be the lowest in major-league history.

Arrieta – a great talker and a deep thinker – might be preparing his acceptance speech if not for the Los Angeles Dodgers and their 1-2 punch.

Zack Greinke is 18-3 and leads the majors in ERA (1.68) and WHIP (0.85). Clayton Kershaw (16-7, 2.16 ERA) – the reigning Cy Young/MVP winner – leads the majors in innings (229) and strikeouts (294).

“I know what (Greinke’s) doing,” Arrieta said. “He’s pitched at a super-high level his whole career. The same thing with Kershaw. It’s fun to see, because you have such a great deal of respect for Kershaw and Greinke. You understand how difficult it is to do what they’ve done for such a long period of time. It’s been a great year for those guys, absolutely.”

This will be a final tune-up for Arrieta before next week’s wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the Cubs planning to limit their ace to around 85 or 95 pitches before unleashing him in the playoffs.

[NBC SHOP: Get your Cubs postseason gear right here]

Whatever happens, Greinke and Kershaw will get the chance to answer, making their final starts on Saturday and Sunday against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium, with a division title already won.

And Arrieta is envisioning a much bigger prize – a World Series ring.

“The individual awards are nice,” Arrieta said. “But when you’re a part of a group of guys like this, and you’re able to win for the team and perform at a high level to propel your team forward (into) a playoff environment, that’s more meaningful to me, because that’s an experience that we’ll all receive together as a group.

“Those types of things are rare. Not a lot of people get to be in an environment like this even once in their career. So that’s what I want all of us to take advantage of and really, really focus on.”

Cubs first round pick Nico Hoerner makes unexpected visit to Wrigley Field

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USA TODAY

Cubs first round pick Nico Hoerner makes unexpected visit to Wrigley Field

There is nothing quite like visiting Wrigley Field for the first time, and for Cubs 2018 first round draft pick Nico Hoerner, his first visit to his future home park was special despite the circumstances being less than ideal. 

The 21-year-old shortstop drafted out of Stanford will miss the rest of the season due to a left elbow injury, which was examined by Cubs team doctors Thursday morning. It was concluded Hoerner suffered an injury to a ligament in his left elbow, but would not require surgery. 

But after finding out his season was likely done, he figured he'd at least stick around for the Thursday night Cubs game against the Cardinals. 

"I had no idea this was going to happen today," Said Hoerner. "I flew in from the Quad Cities this morning, saw the doctor and said [to the Cubs] 'Hey can I come to the field?" 

Hoerner was able to spend time with the Cubs during batting practice this afternoon, mentioning the conversations he had with the players, in particular, Anthony Rizzo who made a lasting mark on the young Cub prospect. 

"Rizzo pulled me over and introduced me to the group. He actually clumped everyone into guys who were drafted in the first round and guys who weren't." 

Hoerner also got the chance to speak with Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis, who seemed to have struck a chord with the shortstop. Hoerner said the conversation was 'refreshing' and focused less about what he needed to do with his swing and more about competing with the pitcher. 

As for the future for Hoerner, he'll start rehabbing in Arizona and focus on getting right for the start of next season. It wasn't clear if the Cubs planned on trying to get their top pick back on the field in 2018, but Hoerner looked impressive during his short time in the Cubs minor leagues. 

Slashing 327/.450/.571 in 60 professional at-bats, Hoerner was showing he belonged in this league, having just recently being promoted to the Cubs Low-A South Bend Cubs.

But he only managed four games before injuring his left elbow making a diving stop to his left. But Hoerner seemed in good spirits, showing a resiliency that exemplifies his future ballclub. 

"It's always a work in progress. Just like everybody, I'm working to get better." 

 

Brandon Morrow and the state of the Cubs bullpen ahead of the trade deadline

Brandon Morrow and the state of the Cubs bullpen ahead of the trade deadline

Brandon Morrow is getting an extended All-Star Break.

For the second time in the last month, the Cubs closer is heading to the disabled list to get another break, this time with inflammation in his right biceps.

That leaves the Cubs without their best relief pitcher — a guy with a 1.47 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 22 saves in 24 chances — for the next week as the team hits the ground running in the second half with 12 games in 11 days against the Cardinals and Diamondbacks.

"It's been bothering him a bit, but we thought it was manageable," Joe Maddon said before the Cubs kicked off play Thursday evening. "But now it's not [manageable], so just have to take a little bit of a break. 

"We don't anticipate him being gone for a long time, but it seems to be prudent to go this course right now."

Maddon pointed to a bit lower velocity Morrow had in San Diego Sunday and believes now is "the right time to back off for the latter part of the season."

The Cubs do have Carl Edwards Jr. back from the paternity list and the 26-year-old flamethrower already got a "break" of his own earlier this season when he missed about 5 weeks with a shoulder issue.

The word "break" is key here because that's how Maddon and the Cubs characterize these little stints on the disabled list.

After all, they are "breaks," even if they're not built into a season like the All-Star Break.

The Cubs want both Morrow and Edwards to be healthy and dynamic in late September and throughout the postseason in October. They've been uber-cautious about the two pitchers throughout their respective Cubs careers and a stint on the disabled list serves to save bullets and wear and tear on their right arms in the dog days of the season.

After all, Morrow has already appeared in 35 games this season, which he's only done once since 2008 — last year, when he pitched in 45 games. Morrow has a long history of arm issues, so the Cubs have given him plenty of slack as they try to keep him healthy for the most important stretch of the season.

But that's also why the Cubs are looking to add some reinforcements to the bullpen before the trade deadline. They were linked to Brad Hand before the lefty was traded to the Cleveland Indians Thursday and they've also been linked to Orioles closer Zach Britton.

If Britton's healthy, he could serve as a perfect fit for the Cubs as a rental with closing experience and a guy from the left side to help fill both needs in the Chicago bullpen.

The Cubs currently have Justin Wilson, Randy Rosario and Brian Duensing as left-handed options in the bullpen, but all are at varying levels of confidence at the moment.

Wilson still has some issues with control, but otherwise has been very good of late. Rosario is a rookie and his outlying numbers indicate his 1.95 ERA is a bit of a mirage. Duensing just recently returned from the DL himself and currently boasts a 6.59 ERA and 1.83 WHIP on the season.

Then there's Mike Montgomery, who right now has a stranglehold on a spot in the Cubs rotation while Yu Darvish gets healthy. There is currently no update on Darvish, which means Montgomery won't be moving back to the bullpen anytime soon.

With less than 2 weeks left until the trade deadline, Maddon would be all for adding another arm or two to his pitching staff.

"Sure. All of the pitching, they're definitely going to want to look at it," Maddon said. "Our numbers are among the best in the NL both overall and as a bullpen and then even into the starters.

"But you're always looking to make it better. That's what GMs do. We'll see how it all plays out. We're hoping the [Morrow] thing is a shorter situation, which we believe it will be."