Tsuyoshi Wada knows Cubs could make changes to rotation


Tsuyoshi Wada knows Cubs could make changes to rotation

WASHINGTON – The Cubs don’t have the pitching equivalent of a Javier Baez or a Kyle Schwarber down in the minors.

There’s no first-round pick on the verge of joining the rotation, no obvious future No. 1 starter ready to live up to the Baseball America hype, no one for Cubs fans and the Chicago media to obsess over right now. 

Theo Epstein’s front office will be looking to upgrade the rotation between now and the July 31 trade deadline, because Friday’s 7-5 loss to the Washington Nationals again showed why the Cubs will need more to stay relevant into October.

Tsuyoshi Wada couldn’t finish the fourth inning at Nationals Park, getting booed by the crowd of 36,124 as he ended his night by intentionally walking Washington superstar Bryce Harper to load the bases.

Combined, the Cubs are paying Wada, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood almost $21 million this season, and they wish someone would have stepped forward and grabbed the fifth-starter job by now. They didn’t want to picture those three pitchers lining up in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings in Game 53.

[MORE CUBS: Is Rafael Soriano an answer for Cubs bullpen?]

“I do understand that there are two possible rotation guys in the bullpen,” Wada said through his interpreter, Nao Masamoto, the major-league video coordinator and Pacific liaison.

“If I said I don’t feel the pressure, I would be lying. But it’s just the same as last year. I understand the situation I’m in. I have to pitch every time.”

Wada made an impression during last season’s 13-start audition (4-4, 3.25 ERA), filling in after the Cubs traded away 40 percent of their rotation and earning a major-league contract.

But Wada (0-1, 4.19 ERA) hasn’t thrown six innings in any of his four starts for the Cubs this season. The Nationals (30-25) had already seen Wada on Memorial Day, and the 34-year-old lefty has trouble facing a lineup the second and third time through the order.

So it wasn’t a total surprise when Danny Espinosa launched a three-run homer that flew over the visiting bullpen and into the left-field seats in the second inning. Wada, who gave up five runs on nine hits, needed Jackson to bail him out of that bases-loaded jam by getting Anthony Rendon to pop out.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Wood’s two scoreless innings made you wonder if the Cubs could turn to someone who earned an All-Star selection in 2013 and made 30-plus starts in each of the last two seasons. 

“I have not even gone there,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I really think Wada’s done a nice job. You saw what Woody did out of the ‘pen tonight. That was outstanding, too. For the most part, Woody out of the ‘pen’s been really good.

“If Wada had his good stuff, and they had got on him a little bit like that, then I might be…I don’t know you want to use the word concern.”

Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel have combined for 22 of the team’s 27 quality starts, and the Cubs seem to believe Kyle Hendricks will help solidify the back end of the rotation.

If not, there will be times where the Cubs (28-25) will waste a two-homer night from Anthony Rizzo, who drove another ball toward the left-center field wall before Denard Span made a great catch to rob the All-Star first baseman.

Maddon talks about coming from The Land of Run Prevention, where the Tampa Bay Rays won with pitching and defense. The Cubs won’t generate any real momentum if they don’t know what they’re going to get out of their rotation.

“We were entitled to score eight runs today, too,” Maddon said. “We chose not to score eight runs, and that was a big part of our loss, so I don’t look at it that way. We’ve been more offensively challenged than anything recently. And that’s where we got to get rolling a little bit. Just get some guys back on track, because you got to win once in awhile 6-5, 7-6.”

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Baseball players don't forget grudges. Javy Baez and Reds pitcher Amir Garrett gave an example of that on Saturday.

Garrett struck out Baez in the seventh inning of the first game of the Cubs-Reds doubleheader. Garrett showed some excitement with the strikeout and then said something to Baez. They both started jawing at each other and suddenly the benches cleared.

At first glance, it looked like Garrett was a bit too excited to get a strikeout with no one on base. Turns out Baez had his own bit of swag for Garrett last year (Friday was the one-year anniversary) in the form of a grand slam at Wrigley Field.

This time Garrett got Baez and wanted to even things up a bit.

Things didn't get too feisty despite the benches clearing, but Anthony Rizzo did rush to Baez's side at some speed. This could be a matchup to keep an eye out for in the future.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark


Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

Siera Santos, Kelly Crull, and David DeJesus go into the audio archives to break down the biggest games for the Cubs in Cincinnati.

David DeJesus gives us his top 3 ballgames with such gems as The Schwarber Game, The Kris Bryant Game, Starlin Castro’s debut, and Jake Arrieta’s second no hitter.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: