Cubs

Cubs send John Lackey, Hector Rondon to disabled list

Cubs send John Lackey, Hector Rondon to disabled list

Two of the bigger pieces to the Cubs' pitching puzzle are going on the disabled list.

John Lackey and Hector Rondon were placed on the 15-day disabled list, with minor leaguers Rob Zastryzny and Felix Pena added to the active roster in their place, the Cubs announced Friday.

Lackey was originally announced to just receive an additional few days of rest, with Mike Montgomery taking his place in the rotation during this weekend's series against the Colorado Rockies. But the right-handed starter now went to the DL after exiting his last start this past Sunday with a shoulder injury.

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Rondon was out of action for a week and a half while dealing with triceps soreness. He returned in an ugly performance in that same game this past Sunday, giving up four runs on four hits including a pair of home runs while recording just one out in the eighth inning of a 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. He also pitched a scoreless inning in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Zastryzny's first appearance with the Cubs will be his major league debut. In four seasons in the minors, the lefty has a 4.60 ERA in 334 1/3 innings pitched. This season between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, he is 10-5 in 23 starts with a 4.31 ERA, striking out 119 batters in 135 2/3 innings.

Pena has also never made a major league appearance. In 36 appaearances this season at Triple-A Iowa, the right-handed reliever has a 3.41 ERA in 63 1/3 innings of work.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs split Crosstown and Adbert Alzolay is called up

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs split Crosstown and Adbert Alzolay is called up

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki check in from Wrigley Field after the Cubs split the first leg of the Crosstown Classic with the White Sox.

Kelly and Tony discuss the breaking news of top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay's promotion to the big leagues and what his role could be with the Cubs (2:15), and assess where the Cubs stand as they continue their long homestand, including the recent offensive downturn and Yu Darvish taking a step forward (7:30).

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Joe Maddon perplexed by the way baseballs are jumping this year: 'It's extraterrestrial'

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USA TODAY

Joe Maddon perplexed by the way baseballs are jumping this year: 'It's extraterrestrial'

On a mid-June night that felt more like the first week of April, the Cubs and White Sox combined for 2,029 feet of homers. 

As Leury Garcia hit Jon Lester's first pitch of the game 429 feet Wednesday evening, the reported temperature was in the mid 50s with winds blowing in from left field at 7 mph. That's not as chilly or windy as some of the games the Cubs have played this season, but it's still certainly not ideal hitting conditions at Wrigley Field.

Yet five home runs peppered the left and center field bleachers in the Cubs' 7-3 victory and prompted veteran manager Joe Maddon to bemuse about the way the ball is jumping around baseball today.

"Difficult conditions, but again — wind blowing in at a gale, it seemed, balls flying out easily," Maddon said after the game. "The home run that [James] McCann hit, my god, that just took off. You could actually see it from the field. You watch the flags [blowing in], it gets there, then all of a sudden it took off like a UFO. It stood still, then it took off. The first home run of the game, the first pitch, I mean my god, that ball went far. 

"I don't know what I'm witnessing. The way the ball is coming off the bat right now, it's extraterrestrial. It's like an ET kind of a thing going on out there. It's crazy. This is my fifth year here and I know what I've seen. Whenever the wind is blowing in like that, you don't see that. You don't see that."

Lester worked around those two homers from Garcia and McCann to pick up his 6th win, thanks in large part to the power supplied from his own teammates. Catcher Willson Contreras mashed his 14th and 15th homers of the season (after hitting only 10 all of last year) and David Bote smashed his 9th. 

Overall this season, the Cubs have been on an insane home run barrage, on pace to blow past the franchise mark for longballs in a year. Contreras reaching the 15-homer plateau puts five Cubs in that club this season. No other MLB team has more than three players who have reached that mark.

"I just know the ball's leaving," Maddon said. "I don't know if it's another year of maturity, but it's not just us. It's industry-wide. So it's hard to just say that we're the outlier with all this going on. I still want to see the better approach with runners in scoring position." 

Six weeks ago, Lester brought up the juiced baseball discussion after a start against the Marlins, saying he and other pitchers would like to know if MLB is juicing the baseballs. The league hasn't openly stated anything is different with the baseballs, though home runs are up at an astronomical rate across the board — in both the majors and Triple-A. And we haven't even gotten into the summer weather yet, when the ball really starts flying on warm evenings.

When asked for his thoughts on the baseballs Wednesday night, Lester shrugged it off.

"No comment," he said. "We can sit here and talk until we're blue in the face about the ball. It is what it is. Every pitcher in the big leagues has to pitch with it. You can comment on it all you want, but it just sounds like an excuse. I don't make excuses. Gotta make better pitches."