Cubs

Cubs looking at options with Wada’s status up in the air

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Cubs looking at options with Wada’s status up in the air

The Cubs are looking at options with Tsuyoshi Wada’s status still up in the air.

The Cubs will continue to explore the trade market for a rotation upgrade, but the short-term issue is Wada’s sore left shoulder and who faces the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday at Busch Stadium.

“We’re not prepared yet to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the next start,” manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday at Wrigley Field. “We’re going to wait probably just a little while longer to evaluate all that. From what I was told, it was better, but we want to be very certain about that.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Wada – who’s been essentially pitching for his job – left Monday’s 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the top of the third inning because of cramping in his deltoid muscle.

The Cubs have two former All-Star starting pitchers in their bullpen – Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson – but could look to Triple-A Iowa for their backup plan.

[MORE: After Kershaw and Greinke, Cubs believe they can beat the best]

Maddon doesn’t like the idea of removing Wood from the bullpen equation, believing he’s become too valuable as a left-handed reliever. Jackson isn’t really stretched out at this point and it’s a bit of a reach to expect him to throw four-plus innings.

The Cubs could go with Donn Roach, a 25-year-old right-hander who’s 7-1 with a 2.29 ERA in 14 starts with Iowa. The Cubs claimed Roach off waivers from the San Diego Padres last November.

“We’ve been talking about some different options,” Maddon said. “You look at the obvious kind of stuff – the guys that are here – but there are a couple different directions we can go if (Wada) is unavailable.”

It didn’t sound like Jacob Turner was on the radar anyway, but the Cubs said the 24-year-old right-hander – who’s on the 60-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation – had to shut down his rehab assignment at Double-A Tennessee because of an elbow issue.

Podcast: Albert Almora Jr. dishes on his role and the Cubs’ unsung hero that keeps things loose behind the scenes

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Albert Almora Jr. dishes on his role and the Cubs’ unsung hero that keeps things loose behind the scenes

Albert Almora Jr. joins Kelly Crull on the Cubs Talk Podcast to weigh in on a variety of topics, including his budding bromance with rumored Cubs target Manny Machado, his expanded role and how he spends his time off away from the ballpark.

Plus, Almora has a surprise pick for the organization’s unsung hero, stating the Cubs would’ve never won the World Series without this guy.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

There's a legit case to be made that Ian Happ has been the Cubs' second-best hitter in 2018.

Yes, really.

Happ ranks second on the Cubs in OPS (.895), behind only Kris Bryant (.995) among regulars, though a recent hot streak has buoyed that overall bottom line for Happ.

Still, it's been a pretty incredible hot streak and it's propelled Happ back to where he began the season — at the top of the Cubs order. 

Happ has walked 10 times in the last 6 games and hammered out 3 homers in that span, including one on top of the Schwarboard in right field as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night.

Even more jaw-dropping: He's only struck out 5 times in the last 9 games after a dreadful start to the season in that regard.

"It was just a matter of time until things clicked a little bit," Happ said. "That's why we play 162 games and it's a game of adjustments. At the end of the day, it all evens out.

"Look at the back of Tony [Rizzo's] baseball card — it's the same thing every single year. That's how this thing goes. You're gonna have your ups and your downs and I'm just trying to be as consistent as I can. If I can level it out a little bit and be more consistent over a period of time, that'll be better for our team."

So yes, Happ is on the upswing right now and he'll inevitably have more slumps where he strikes out too much and looks lost at the plate.

Such is life for a 23-year-old who is still a week away from his 162nd career MLB game.

The league had adjusted to Happ and he had to adjust back, which he'd been working hard doing behind the scenes.

"I just try to get him to primarily slow things down," Joe Maddon said. "Try to get him back into left-center. And I did not want to heap a whole lot of at-bats on him. When you're not going good, if you heap too many at-bats on somebody, all of a sudden, that's really hard to dig out of that hole.

"So a lot of conversations — a lot of conversations — but nothing complicated. I like to go the simple side of things. I wanted him to try not to lift the ball intentionally, really organize his strike zone."

Maddon believes Happ had lost sight of his strike zone organization, chasing too many pitches out of the zone — particularly the high fastball.

Now, the Cubs manager sees Happ using his hands more and less of his arms in his swing, working a more precise, compact path to the ball.

The Happ experiment at leadoff was a disaster to begin the year — .186 AVG, .573 OPS and 22 strikeouts in 10 starts there — but all the same tools and rationale exist for why Maddon likes the switch-hitting utiliy player in that spot.

And that's why Happ was leading off Wednesday with both Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. getting the night off.

"We're gonna find out [if he can stick at leadoff]," Maddon said. "I just thought he's looked better. He's coming off a nice streak on the road trip. [Tuesday night], pinch-hitting. I know the home run's great and of course that's nice.

"But how he got to the pitch that he hit out, to me, was the important thing. Got the two strikes, took the two borderline pitches and then all of a sudden, [the pitcher] came in with a little bit more and he didn't miss it.

"That's the big thing about hitting well, too — when you see your pitch, you don't either take it or foul it off. You don't miss it. He didn't miss it."