Thursday, April 28, 2011Posted: 2 p.m.
Cubs (10-13) at Diamondbacks (10-13)
Thursday: 8:40 p.m. on WGN
Friday: 8:40 p.m. on CSN
Saturday: 7:10 p.m. on CSN
Sunday: 3:10 p.m. on WGN
Thursday: Ryan Dempster (1-2, 7.63) vs. Barry Enright (0-2, 6.65)
Friday: Carlos Zambrano (2-1, 5.28) vs. Armando Gallaraga (3-1, 6.00)
Saturday: Matt Garza (0-3, 4.11) vs. Ian Kennedy (3-1, 4.02)
Sunday: Casey Coleman (1-1, 7.43) vs. Daniel Hudson (1-4, 5.64)
The Cubs lost both games against the Rockies this week, with the finale being rained out on Wednesday. In Chicago's last game - a 4-3 loss to Colorado on Tuesday - Alfonso Soriano hit his seventh homer of the season and Darwin Barney finished with two hits and a run scored in a losing effort.
The Diamondbacks took a series from the Phillies this week, winning two of three matchups in the desert. The one loss came in Wednesday's series finale, an 8-4 defeat in which Chris Young hit a pair of homers and Melvin Mora had two hits in defeat.
The Cubs won two of three home games against the Diamondbacks earlier this month, in their second series of the season. The pitching star was Randy Wells, who allowed one run in six innings in the series opener. Offensively, Soriano went 4-for-10 with two homers in the series.
Barney is hitting .353 over his last seven games. Jeff Baker is 8-for-16 with three RBIs in his last four games. Lefty Sean Marshall has allowed just one earned run in 11 innings this season.
StorylinesThe Cubs could use some consistency in their starting rotation. Unfortunately, Dempster is just 2-7 with a 6.24 ERA in 14 career starts vs. Arizona. ... The D-Backs' Gerardo Parra and Stephen Drew are a combined 9-for-16 lifetime against the Cubs' righty. ... Chicago has scored just three runs in each of its last three games, but Arizona pitcher Enright has struggled dating to last season, going 0-7 with a 7.40 ERA in his last nine starts. ... Geovany Soto has gone 2-for-20 in his last six games, dropping his average to .227.
Do you think Starlin Castro's long-term future is at shortstop?
With Anthony Rendon officially joining the Angels, the Nationals have a vacancy at third base.
Washington has options to replace Rendon; Josh Donaldson is still available in free agency, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could potentially be had via trade.
The Nationals have reportedly inquired with the Cubs about Bryant, and while they “love” the 27-year-old, their focus is on Donaldson, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Cubs would likely seek center fielder Victor Robles in a deal, a holdup on Washington's end, Heyman said.
From the Cubs perspective, it would make all the sense in the world to ask for Robles. He’s 22 years old, plays excellent defense (22 DRS in 2019, No. 1 in MLB by center fielders) and is only scratching the surface as a big-leaguer. Robles is projected to be a star, but Bryant already is one. If the Nationals want Bryant badly enough, they’ll have to sacrifice talent in a deal.
On the other hand, it’s easy to understand why Washington would be unwilling to trade Robles, who's under team control through 2024. Bryant will hit free agency after 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he'll hit the open market after next season.
Nonetheless, if the Nationals do engage in Bryant trade talks, you can bet the Cubs will at least ask for Robles in return. A trade could be worked out without him, but for a Cubs team searching for better center field production, you've got to wonder who could be more enticing than Robles.
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With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.
It didn’t take long for Willson Contreras to introduce himself to Major League Baseball. On the first pitch he saw as a big-leaguer, the Cubs catcher cranked a two-run home run to center field — on Sunday Night Baseball, nonetheless.
That moment was a sign of things to come for Contreras, who has since established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball. The 27-year-old holds a career .267/.350/.470 line with a 117 wRC+ and 67 home runs in four seasons. He’s started back-to-back All-Star Games, the first Cubs catcher to do so since Gabby Hartnett (1937-38).
Contreras offers so much to the Cubs besides his bat. His cannon of an arm and athleticism behind the plate are integral to the Cubs controlling opposing run games. His pitch framing is a work in progress, and admittedly, he could improve in this area by throwing behind runners less, ensuring he gets strikes called.
However, back-picking is part of Contreras’ value. He may lose some strike calls by not sticking a frame, but there've been plenty of occasions where Contreras' arm has provided the Cubs with a spark. His boundless energy is unmeasurable, but its importance to the Cubs — who feed off of it — cannot be overstated.
There are areas where Contreras can improve, and that's a scary thought. But he's already is one of the best backstops in baseball and has earned the starting catcher spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team.
Also considered: Welington Castillo, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Geovany Soto