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How Gold Glove defense could help Brett Anderson fulfill his potential with Cubs

How Gold Glove defense could help Brett Anderson fulfill his potential with Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Brett Anderson saw and heard enough at Wrigley Field in October to send Cubs fans a "Stay classy f------ idiots" message on Twitter – and eventually realize that this is exactly the type of team he wanted to join.  

It says something when Javier Baez – a defensive wizard and the co-MVP from that National League Championship Series – essentially reported to spring training as a super-utility guy without a guaranteed everyday role in the lineup.  

"There's talent across the board," Anderson said. "You see a guy like Ian Happ and there's no spot for him and he's hitting a million in spring training. It's just a testament to the front office, to the depth and the talent that's here, 1 through however many people are left in camp. 

"Hopefully, I can go out there and do my part and have fun watching the rest of the guys play."

That Anderson didn't make the playoff roster in either round – and only threw 11-plus innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season – speaks to the injuries that stunted his career and framed a one-year, $3.5 million incentive-laden deal.  

But if Anderson stays healthy – this is someone who's been on the disabled list nine times since 2010 – he appears to have the inside track for the fifth-starter job and a chance to fulfill his vast potential at a place where the manager hawks D-PEAT T-shirts.            

"He plays right into our team," Joe Maddon said. "He puts the ball on the ground. We catch the ball on the ground. It's a very exciting matchup." 

As someone who led the majors with a 66.7 groundball percentage in 2015, Anderson can point to the Gold Glove first baseman (Anthony Rizzo), a World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist), an All-Star shortstop (Addison Russell) and an NL MVP known for his defensive versatility (Kris Bryant) and say: "You couldn't ask for better people behind you."

"That was another factor," Anderson said of his free-agent decision. "Who can make the plays behind me? The defense last year was at historic levels. For what I do when I'm going right, it's groundballs, and you couldn't have a better tandem up the middle."

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The clips from Tuesday afternoon's 7-7 tie with the Milwaukee Brewers at Sloan Park won't be in next year's Cubs Convention highlight film. Anderson admittedly gave up "some crappy groundball hits" (six overall plus two runs in three innings), the Cubs committed two errors and this is supposed to be the most optimistic time of the year.  

But Anderson says he's feeling good – knock on wood – and the Cubs can assemble the best defensive unit in The Show.

"The most obvious thing this whole camp is us playing defense the same being our key to success and getting back," Maddon said. "That's the separator right now."

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

The Cubs finished Saturday's loss at the Nationals under protest after Joe Maddon saw what he believed to be an inconsistency in how illegal pitches are being called.

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out in the ninth with the Nats up 5-2. After one pitch, Maddon went to the umpires to complain. This dragged on throughout the inning.

Maddon didn't like that Doolittle's delivery involved him pausing and potentially even touching the ground in the middle of his wind up before coming home with the pitch. To Maddon, it was clearly an illegal pitch and he was fired up because that's something Carl Edwards Jr. got called for earlier in the season. By comparison, Edwards' version may be more deliberate, but Maddon thinks it is the same thing.

"That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do," Maddon said postgame in a video posted by ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "There's no judgment. If he taps the ground, it's an illegal pitch, period. There's nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It's obvious that he did, or if you can't tell that then there's something absolutely wrong."

Maddon and the Cubs protested the game as a result. If they win the protest, the game would be restarted with one out in the ninth, when Maddon notified the umpires of the protest.

Doolittle was less than amused by Maddon's protest.

"I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl, how could I do that? You can't do that. I got to say something."

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Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

Jon Lester was on a heck of a run since coming off the IL in late April, but it came to a screeching halt on Saturday.

Lester had by far his worst start of the season at the Nationals in a 5-2 Cubs loss. He labored through his start, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Lester gave up 10 hits, which matches the most he has given up since joining the Cubs. He gave up a fair number of hits in his last two starts, but was able to avoid trouble on the scoreboard. Lester gave up nine hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Brewers last time out, but only gave up an unearned run. On May 7, Lester gave up eight hits to the Marlins, but only allowed two unearned runs in six innings of work.

This time, Lester couldn’t stay out of trouble. Brian Dozier got the Nats on the board with a solo shot in the second and then the wheels came off in the third.

To open the third inning Lester gave up six straight hits. The Nats got three runs that inning and then added another in the fifth, when Lester departed the game.

Since Lester came off the IL on April 25, he had allowed just one earned run (four runs in total) in 24 2/3 innings. During that stretch, he had 25 strikeouts against just two walks. His ERA fell to 1.16, which would have led all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. It’s at 2.09 after Saturday’s loss.

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