Cubs ready to unleash Wade Davis for showdown against Cardinals

Cubs ready to unleash Wade Davis for showdown against Cardinals

Cubs manager Joe Maddon is tightening the circle of trust and ready to unleash All-Star closer Wade Davis out of the bullpen.

After dealing with the fallout from how he handled Aroldis Chapman during last year’s World Series run, Maddon took a more conservative approach with Davis and a big-picture look at his relievers (without publicly second-guessing himself about Game 7).

But after getting swept by the Milwaukee Brewers last weekend, Maddon finally sensed the moment and asked pitching coach Chris Bosio to broach the subject of Davis working multiple innings and getting four- or five-out saves in a tight three-team division race.     

“I’ve already had the conversation with him,” Maddon said Thursday. “He’s aware. He’s onboard. But I’m trying to avoid that as long as we possibly can.”

Maddon might not have a choice during this weekend’s showdown against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The Cubs just moved lefty swingman Mike Montgomery to the bullpen, in part, to cover for Justin Wilson, who was supposed to be another high-leverage guy but has bombed since getting traded from the Detroit Tigers at the July 31 deadline (14 walks, 14 hits, 6.39 ERA in 16 appearances).

[MORE: How Cubs are mapping out the potential returns of Jake Arrieta and Addison Russell]     

Maddon pulled Wilson in the middle of the ninth inning during Tuesday’s 8-3 win over the New York Mets, forcing Pedro Strop to get the last two outs. The Cubs also appeared to be phasing out Koji Uehara, who has been sidelined with an infection in his right knee and struggling near the end of his age-42 season.

With 11 games against the Cardinals and Brewers still looming this month – and less than three games separating those three teams – it now looks like Maddon trusts four relievers in critical situations beyond Davis: Strop, Montgomery, Brian Duensing and Carl Edwards Jr.

“It is a concern,” Maddon said. “I can’t deny that. Absolutely. That’s such a big part of this time of the year. It’s a big part of the playoffs.

“The threat, the concern, is that if you don’t get enough viable arms, you are going to wear somebody out. When you’re trying to not wear people out – and now all of a sudden you’re going to wear them out – that would be very detrimental.

“There’s no question we have to solidify the bullpen in different roles. To have to warm people up in blowout wins is really disconcerting and it makes it much more difficult.”  

After Chapman headlined a record-setting winter for closers – and a franchise record 29-for-29 in save chances so far – Davis will cash in as a free agent. But first the Cubs can deploy Davis as a weapon for the game’s biggest outs, the way the Kansas City Royals got creative and aggressive with their bullpen decisions while winning back-to-back American League pennants and the 2015 World Series.      

“He’s aware it’s any time right now,” Maddon said. “He’s ready to do it."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 49th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 49th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 49th homer of the season came with a runner on 1st and one out, when Oriel Hershiser served up a high fastball that Sammy belted 415 feet into the last few rows in left-center field. 

Sosa would later start the game-winning rally in the bottom of the ninth, scoring the game-tying run on a Henry Rodriguez single through the right side of the infield. Jose Hernandez would step in the next at-bat and walk it off with a base hit that scored Mark Grace, as Sammy and the Cubs bested the Giants 6-5. 

Fun Fact: A 33-year-old Barry Bonds would hit home run No. 25, finishing the season with 37 homers. He would finish the next season with 34 dingers but would string five consecutive seasons with at least 45 home runs, of course hitting a record 73 home runs in 2001. 

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist). 

The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started. 

According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.

The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 32-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled. 

At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.  

Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were hopeful Darvish would be healthy by the time rosters expand in September. 

Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central. 

But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans.