Cubs

LIVE: Cubs facing Diamondbacks at Wrigley

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LIVE: Cubs facing Diamondbacks at Wrigley

Monday, April 4, 2011
Posted: 9:24 a.m.

(AP) -- Randy Wells thinks his struggles in 2010 will make him a better pitcher this season.

The Chicago Cubs right-hander will try to get this campaign off to a strong start and help his team bounce back from a disappointing loss in Monday's opener of a three-game home series with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Wells' first full season as a starter in 2009 was a surprise as he finished 12-10 and led all Cubs starters with a 3.05 ERA after being called up in May.

Wells, though, won only eight times last year, going 8-14 with a 4.26 ERA. After opening with three consecutive victories, he was 2-12 over his next 21 starts.

READ: No excuses, Cubs can't close deal for Garza

"I hit a little rough patch and didn't really know how to deal with it," Wells said. "I think it was a big learning experience. You learn a lot about yourself when you're going through that kind of adversity. I think it's really going to be beneficial for me this year."

The Cubs (1-2) could use a solid effort from their right-hander after failing to win their season-opening series versus Pittsburgh on Sunday as closer Carlos Marmol allowed two ninth-inning runs in a 5-4 loss. Shortstop Starlin Castro, who had two triples among his three hits, made a throw that pulled first baseman Carlos Pena off the bag, allowing Neil Walker to score the go-ahead run.

"A tough one for sure," manager Mike Quade said. "My sense is we'll be in a lot of (close) games. You work like heck and eliminate the mistakes."

The Diamondbacks (1-1) didn't get the chance to play Sunday as a mix of rain and snow postponed their series finale in Colorado. The previous day, they experienced a record 84-degree weather in Denver before losing 3-1.

Arizona had six hits in that game after collecting 15 in its season debut, a 7-6 win in 11 innings. Ryan Roberts said that opener gave the Diamondbacks a boost confidence.

"This team is capable of coming back and we showed it," he said. "This is a team that can hit and score runs late in games."

READ: Leading off, Castro only scratching the surface

Joe Saunders, who was scheduled to start Sunday, will get the ball for the series opener and bump Barry Enright to Tuesday.

"The guy's on my team. He's a veteran. I feel great about it," manager Kirk Gibson told the team's official website. "He was behind on his innings, but he got up around 100 pitches in his last outing. ... He'll be fine."

Saunders will try to rebound after suffering the most defeats in the majors in 2010 with Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels. The left-hander, who was 9-17 with a 4.47 ERA in a career-high 33 starts, didn't give many promising signs of a rebound during spring training as he was 1-3 with a 12.46 ERA in six outings.

Enright went 6-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 17 starts after his contract was purchased from Double-A Mobile on June 30. He won his major league debut in St. Louis but lost to the Cubs at home in the next outing.

Saunders dropped his only outing against Chicago on June 20 when he was tagged for eight runs - five earned - in 2 2-3 innings at Wrigley Field.

Wells is seeking his third win in as many starts against Arizona and will try to guide the Cubs to their seventh straight victory in the series.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes/failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs, and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who’s struggled immensely at the plate for the last season-and-a-half at the plate.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora recently refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined, and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

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Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

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USA Today

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

For those who follow such things, Keith Law's yearly Top 100 prospect rankings is always a highly anticipated read. What would baseball twitter even do with their time if they couldn't spend it vocally disagreeing with subjective lists? Having a handful of Top 100 guys is always a shot in the arm for franchises that maybe aren't doing a whole lot of winning at the major league level; when you know you're not winning a World Series, the debuts of these prospects are high points of the summer. 

There wasn't a whole lot of Cubs' representation this season, which isn't a surprise by any means. Only guys two made Law's list: Brennen Davis at 55, and Brailyn Marquez at 80.  

Law claims Davis has the highest upside of any Cubs' prospect, but isn't necessarily close to a debut: 

Davis is lanky and has barely begun to fill out, so there’s likely to be more power to come, while he’s already shown he can manage at-bats and use the middle of the field to get himself on base. Despite his 6′4″ frame he already has a very balanced swing, and the Cubs will just have to tighten up some mechanical things since he’s got such long levers. A former shortstop, he’s adapted quickly to center field; he projects to stay there and add value with his range. 

He also loves Marquez's stuff – comparing it to Aroldis Chapman's – and says it's the reason why he's team's best pitching prospect since Dylan Cease. You can see the entire rankings, which go pretty in-depth, right here.