Cubs

Cubs trade Welington Castillo to Mariners for Yoervis Medina

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Cubs trade Welington Castillo to Mariners for Yoervis Medina

SAN DIEGO – The Cubs ended their three-catcher experiment on Tuesday, trading Welington Castillo to the Seattle Mariners for right-hander Yoervis Medina, showing a sense of urgency in trying to strengthen an overworked bullpen.

The Cubs didn’t flip Castillo for some A-ball pitcher. Medina, 26, will first report to Triple-A Iowa, but he should get a real shot to contribute at some point, given all the volatility the Cubs have experienced in the middle innings and late-game situations.

Medina put up a 2.82 ERA in 141 appearances out of Seattle’s bullpen across the last three seasons, going 10-9 with 43 holds and two saves. He notched 140 strikeouts in 137 innings while limiting opponents to a .216 batting average.

Medina had been sent down to Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate after giving up seven walks in 12 innings and hadn’t pitched for the Mariners since May 2. His fastball, which averaged 94.9 mph last year, had dropped to 92.4 mph this season, according to the online database at FanGraphs.

Still, manager Joe Maddon compared Medina’s upside to Pedro Strop, another reliever with good stuff the Cubs fixed after a change of scenery.

[MORE CUBS: Why Cubs believe clubhouse chemistry matters]   

“Nobody’s talked to me about less velocity,” Maddon said before Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. “I’ve heard more about swing-and-miss capability, a breaking ball and sinking the ball in the ground, which are really attractive qualities.”

The Cubs almost got to Memorial Day weekend with three catchers, dragging this situation out longer than anyone expected after Theo Epstein’s front office made it an offseason priority to upgrade behind the plate.

After the Toronto Blue Jays won the Russell Martin sweepstakes, the Cubs traded for Miguel Montero and signed David Ross to be Jon Lester’s personal catcher, investing $45 million and making multiyear commitments to both players.

Castillo – who had been in the organization since 2004 after signing as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic – should get a chance to hit the reset button and maybe show that he can still become a frontline catcher.

The Mariners began the day at 17-20, needing an offensive jolt to make up some ground in the American League West, where they already trailed the Houston Astros by seven games. Seattle’s primary catcher, Mike Zunino, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, was hitting .179 with a .600 OPS.

[RELATED: Why Cubs believe clubhouse chemistry matters]

“I’m pretty sure Wely is going to help them,” said Montero, a two-time All-Star with the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I wish him the best. He’s a great guy, a great teammate, and he’s got really good potential to be one of the best behind the plate. There’s no doubt about that.”

Castillo generated 21 homers and 78 RBI during the previous two years combined and has a .717 career OPS. He is 28 years old and isn’t positioned to become a free agent until after the 2017 season.

Even with diminished playing time and no clear future in Chicago, Castillo still worked hard and maintained the same positive attitude inside the clubhouse. Stuck in the National League, he appeared in 24 games for the Cubs this season, hitting .163 in 47 plate appearances while catching only 64 innings.  

“He needs to play,” Montero said. “He really deserved to play.”

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Castillo has a rocket arm and good reflexes on balls in the dirt, but he lacked an element of creativity in calling pitches at a time when the Cubs overload their catchers with information and want a stronger veteran presence.

“Welington’s good,” Maddon said. “Seattle’s going to get a really good catcher. I’m really happy for him if it permits him to play more often. He’s really good behind the plate. He’s learning how to really call a good game. His physical skills are outstanding – the blocking and throwing are among the best.

“You hate to lose a guy like that, but you always have to give up something to get something.”

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

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USA TODAY

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — How could someone like Kyle Schwarber play the villain?

The fan favorite who’s always quick with a smile — or an Uncle Sam costume on the Fourth of July — Schwarber doesn’t fit the mold of a loathsome target of boos. But he made quite the heel turn in the minds of Washington Nationals fans Monday night, and of course he knew it was coming.

Schwarber went from getting cheered by the legions in attendance at the Home Run Derby to getting booed when he took on, and eventually lost to, hometown hero Bryce Harper in the final round.

“I was down in the tunnel saying, ‘If we get to the finals, Harp, they’re all going to be against me. I think they’re all going to be against me,’” Schwarber said Monday night. “And then I went out there and got booed after they all got pumped up for me. That’s just the beauty of it, and I was happy for Bryce that he won it in front of the home crowd.”

Harper delivered an incredibly memorable baseball moment Monday night, catching up to Schwarber’s 18 home runs with a ridiculous display of repetitive power to win a Home Run Derby for the ages. The format of this event, revamped a couple years ago, made for a dramatic and hugely entertaining evening. Harper smacked nine homers over the final 47 seconds of the final round to tie Schwarber, then bested him in bonus time. Unsurprisingly, the home crowd was going ballistic for their boy.

But earlier in the night, it was Schwarber getting all the cheers, when he made his own last-second comeback to beat Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in the second round. Schwarber was pumping up the crowd, pumping his fists and screaming while putting on a show of his own to catch and pass Hoskins' 20 home runs and advance to the finals.

How quickly the locals forgot.

By the finals — during which Schwarber looked understandably exhausted — the crowd had turned on him, trying to get every advantage for Harper.

“As soon as I got done with that round, I told myself that he had it,” Schwarber said. “I knew that he had the home crowd behind him, and I knew that he was a very prolific power hitter with a great swing. For him to come in and do that and started getting down to the wire, all of a sudden he started racking them up one at a time. You kind of just accept your fate there.”

Perhaps the night could’ve ended differently for Schwarber had he listened more closely to the advice of his teammates, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras, who were quick with Gatorade, a towel and words of encouragement on Monday. Baez hit 16 home runs in his own first-round appearance, though Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Max Muncy knocked him out.

“I was just telling him to slow down,” Baez said. “He was kind of rushing a little bit, that’s why he was jumping to the ball.”

“They were actually giving me really good advice that I didn’t take because I was really dumb-headed,” Schwarber said. “‘Make sure you take some pitches and get the pitch that you want.’ At the end, I felt like I was swinging at everything. I was just running out of gas. I felt like I had to put up as many swings just to try to put a couple out.”

Schwarber was totally content with losing out to Harper’s home-field advantage. Though as his homers flew out deep into the right-field seats Monday night, you couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Schwarber was instead taking aim at Sheffield Avenue and getting his own home-field advantage from Cubs fans.

The North Side hasn’t played host to the All-Star Game since 1990, so perhaps Schwarber will still be slugging the next time the Friendly Confines are the site of the Home Run Derby.

“That’d be really cool one day if the All-Star Game’s at Wrigley,” Schwarber said, “and to participate in the Derby, that’d be fun.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998

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AP

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th 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 went down and golfed a pitch out for his 36th homer on July 17, 1998. He smacked Marlins reliever Kirt Ojala's (who??) pitch just over the wall in center field at Pro Player Stadium for a 2-run shot that closed out the Cubs' scoring in a 6-1 victory.

 

The blast accounted for Sosa's 88th and 89th of the season. By comparison, Javy Baez currently leads the Cubs (and the National League) with 72 RBI on July 17, 2018.

 

Steve Trachsel tossed a complete game for the Cubs in the victory that day and Sosa finished with the only extra-base hits for either team (he also had a double).

 

Fun fact: Former Cub Ryan Dempster started the game for the Marlins, but lasted just 4.1 innings to run his season record to 1-4 with a 6.70 ERA.