Cubs

Cubs arent hitting the panic button

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Cubs arent hitting the panic button

Dude, its only two games.

That pretty much sums up the mood inside the Cubs clubhouse. Outside those walls, people are free to overreact and have fun with small sample sizes.

First-year manager Dale Sveum projected a strong sense of calm after Saturdays 7-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. The 40,102 fans at Wrigley Field booed Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol and another late collapse. Just like Opening Day, the Cubs were four outs away from victory.

Its not a panic situation, Sveum said. Theyve done this before. They know its part of the gig when you have small leads like that. Anything can happen with one swing of the bat. A couple inches here, a couple inches there, can change the whole thing.

But its hard to ignore the trend line, trading away Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner during the offseason and plugging Jeff Samardzija into the rotation. Theo Epsteins front office knew that would create a huge void.

The bullpen already has two meltdowns, and everyone knows how damaging it can be psychologically when youre blowing games late.

This time, Wood couldnt protect a two-run lead with two outs in the eighth inning. Danny Espinosa finished off a 10-pitch at-bat by launching a 96 mph fastball into the left-field bleachers. Wood then gave up back-to-back singles, setting the stage for Marmol.

The Cubs closer walked Jayson Werth on five pitches one fastball buzzed his head and dropped him to the dirt to load the bases.

Pinch-hitter Chad Tracy played the hero again, sneaking a ball past diving second baseman Darwin Barney for a two-run single, making it 5-4. Roger Bernadina then lined an RBI double into right field, and Marmol had to answer the same questions.

I made a couple mistakes I paid for it, Marmol said. I cant grip my slider right now.

This was more hard luck for Matt Garza, who wanted back the 95 mph fastball Adam LaRoche hammered off the right-field foul pole for a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Garza stormed off the mound, screaming and flexing his muscles, but thats all the offense the Nationals could generate.

Its my job to finish what I start, so all the blame its on me, Garza said. My job is (to) go as long as I can. Six innings isnt something that I like bragging about.

Between Garza and Ryan Dempster, the top of the Cubs rotation has allowed three runs in 13 23 innings, and gotten two no-decisions. Those losses were charged to Marmol and Wood. But, really, theres nowhere else to turn late in the game.

You stay to the plan, even when it gets a little rocky or gets a little rough, utility man Jeff Baker said. We still put our faith and our confidence in those guys. Theyve done it for a long time and hopefully this is just two games and well get in that situation tomorrow and get them the ball. They can right the ship and then this will be a memory.

Two-game losing streaks dont stand out in July. But for all the optimism sparked by Epsteins new way of doing business, its easy to be cynical about this team after an 0-2 start. People have wondered just how patient this city will be for a rebuild.

We understand whats going on, Baker said. Were not oblivious to it. Its a new gig here and everyones trying to see the changes. Youve seen the changes off the field (and) everyone wants to see the changes on the field. Sometimes, it just doesnt work that way. Its baseball. The games hard and some days you go out there and you get beat.

The guy who has to talk to the media before and after every game didnt get defensive or dismissive and wasnt planning any major shakeups. The manager will be pointing toward Wood and Marmol, not listening to the noise.

The thing that quiets all that is a win and coming back and showing what youre made out of, Sveum said. (Its) character (and) doing it right again the next day. Because theyre going to get the opportunity to do it tomorrow.

With trade deadline approaching, Cubs know they can't rely on Yu Darvish

With trade deadline approaching, Cubs know they can't rely on Yu Darvish

Sunday began like most days have around the Cubs recently: No update on Yu Darvish.

But while the skies opened up over Wrigley Field about 90 minutes before game time, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein sat in the third-base dugout and spoke candidly about where Darvish is at currently and how much the Cubs can count on him during the stretch run.

Darvish threw from flat ground — 135 feet — Sunday morning and Epstein said it was "his best day in a long time. He threw really well and felt really good."

Still, there is no specific timetable for when Darvish may be back on the Wrigley Field mound, facing live hitters in a game that matters.

The next step for Darvish will be throwing off a mound, but the Cubs aren't yet talking about where or when the 31-year-old pitcher will go on a rehab assignment.

With the non-waiver trade deadline approaching in just over a week, Epstein and the Cubs know they can't simply project Darvish into the September — or October — rotation.

"I think just making an educated guess," Epstein said. "You can't be overly reliant on somebody who hasn't been able to stay healthy and perform this year. At the same time, you track the rehab closely because you know you have to try to anticipate what he might be able to give you.

"...If you put yourself in a position where you're overly reliant on something that hasn't been dependable up to this point and then it doesn't come through, it's probably more on you than on the fates."

Darvish has accounted for only 40 innings for the Cubs this season and hasn't pitched since May 20. He made it through 5 innings just three times in his eight starts on the campaign.

This is the second DL stint for Darvish this season. He had a bout of the flu in early May and then initially went back on the shelf over Memorial Day Weekend with a triceps issue. The triceps strain has morphed into an elbow impingement after Darvish made a rehab start with Class-A South Bend and he received a cortisone shot in the elbow in late June.

Mike Montgomery has taken Darvish's place in the Cubs rotation and the southpaw has had a lot of success in the role with a 3.02 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 10 starts, averaging nearly 6 innings a start.

Of course, Montgomery's insertion into the rotation has left a bit of a hole in the bullpen as the Cubs have been without their top long man and down one reliable left-handed option.

The long relief role was filled last week with the trade for Jesse Chavez, but the Cubs could probably still use another lefty in the bullpen with Justin Wilson's control issues, Brian Duensing's struggles and Randy Rosario's relative inexperience and worrisome peripheral numbers.

Whether the Cubs will acquire another starting pitcher before the trade deadline is unknown. Epstein's front office knows they need more pitching and understands it's much harder to acquire arms after July 31 than before.

But with Montgomery already filling the last spot in the rotation, Drew Smyly on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery while being stretched out as a starter and now Chavez in town, the Cubs have some veteran starting pitching depth beyond the inexperienced Luke Farrell and Duane Underwood Jr.

The starting pitching market is relatively thin at the moment in terms of arms a team like the Cubs could acquire and plug into a potential playoff rotation. And that's saying nothing of the pieces it would require to pull off such a move, as the Cubs don't have the elite-level prospects they once had to acquire Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana the past two summers.

But with Darvish's status unknown and Tyler Chatwood currently boasting more walks than strikeouts through 18 starts, the Cubs aren't exactly sleeping easy at night trying to project their October rotation.

Epstein acknowledged the front office is focused primarily on pitching ahead of the deadline and though it may be tougher to make those big-name deals compared to years past, that doesn't necessarily take the Cubs out of the running on the impact guys.

Still, don't expect Jacob deGrom or Chris Archer to be walking through that door anytime soon.

"I think we're in a more difficult position to do so. I don't think it's impossible," Epstein said. "But certain years lend themselves to being able to participate in more hands. Other years, because of the way your prospects are performing or because of your desire to keep growing the farm system or just the nature of what's available and how much you need, you have to be more selective.

"I think we're hopefully pursuing a lot of different things, but I think in terms of what's realistic for us, we have to be a little bit more targeted, more selective and a little more opportunistic. And that's fine. Sometimes those end up being the best deals. The Chavez deal is an example of that. He's probably not a name anyone had mentioned at all. We think he's a really good fit for us.

"So that's [an example of] the kind of stuff we're looking to do. While participating in everything else, but knowing that most of the stuff we talked about we won't be able to get done."

Aaron Lynch misses Bears practice with hamstring injury

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USA Today

Aaron Lynch misses Bears practice with hamstring injury

The Chicago Bears are thin at outside linebacker after only signing Aaron Lynch to provide a pass rush opposite Leonard Floyd this season. 

Lynch was considered a risky signing in March because of his injury history. He's appeared in only 28 games over the last three years and he's already off to an injured start with the Bears.

Lynch was one of several players to miss Sunday's practice with a hamstring injury, a list that includes fellow starter, Danny Trevathan.

Lynch and Trevathan missed Saturday's practice, too.

Other Bears who sat out on Sunday were Sherrick McManis (hamstring), Daniel Brown (ankle) and Joel Iyiegbuniwe (shoulder). First-round pick Roquan Smith remains a holdout.

Lynch is in a training camp battle with Sam Acho for a starting job and will have to hold off Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving as well. The more time he loses to injury, the less and less likely the chances are that he'll become an impact player on defense.

It's still early, and the Bears have an extra week of training camp because of the Hall of Fame game. There's plenty of time for Lynch to get healthy and put this hamstring issue behind him.