White Sox

Cubs' bullpen hurting after losing Wood

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Cubs' bullpen hurting after losing Wood

Updated: 5:53 p.m.

Despite a 71-91 season last year, the Cubs' one consistent strong point was their bullpen, which finished ninth in the MLB in ERA at 3.51.

Considering the weaknesses throughout the rest of the roster and in the farm system, new front office executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer decided to leverage some of that strength.

Left-handed stalwart Sean Marshall was traded to the Reds for three young players while flame-thrower Andrew Cashner was dealt to the Padres for first base prospect Anthony Rizzo. On top of that, Jeff Samardzija moved to the rotation, leaving three vacancies in the bullpen.

The Cubs' relief corps took another hit Friday as veteran Kerry Wood was placed on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue. The move is retroactive to April 14. In a corresponding move, the Cubs called up 27-year-old lefty Scott Maine.

"We felt just to be safe and get him completely ready to go instead of waiting a couple days to see how things went after tossing or throwing off the mound," manager Dale Sveum said. "We had to shore up the bullpen to make sure. The move is back-dated anyway, for last Saturday. We should be OK. Hopefully he'll be on the DL just about eight days."

This is Wood's 16th trip to the disabled list in his 15-year career. Sveum is hoping the DL stay will help keep this latest shoulder issue from extending through the rest of the season.

"I think that's part of the reason why we decided to just DL him because we don't want this to carry on," Sveum said. "We wanted to get it done and get him strong for the rest of the season.

"So far, it sounds like the injection has helped a lot."

Wood has made four appearances this season and is 0-1 with an 11.57 ERA. Cubs relievers have struggled all season, ranking near the bottom of the league in ERA, which took another hit Friday after Shawn Camp, Lendy Castillo and Rafael Dolis each allowed an earned run in their respective inning of work.

Maine was the only Cubs pitcher to escape unscathed against the Reds Friday, striking out two and walking one in a scoreless inning.

Maine, 27, was part of the group of lefties vying for a spot in the Cubs' bullpen in spring training. The Cubs opted to break camp with only one left-handed reliever -- James Russell -- on the roster, sending Maine down to Triple-A.

"I'm not going to say I wasn't disappointed," Maine said. "I understand where they were coming from because I did walk a few people in spring training. But I went down and threw well and the opportunity opened up here, so hopefully I can capitalize."

The past two seasons, the Cubs haven't had to worry about a left-hander reliever with Marshall in town. But all that changed shortly before the turn of the calendar when the Cubs dealt the 29-year-old southpaw to the Reds for Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes.

Marshall made his return to Chicago Friday and met with the media before the game, but did not pitch against the organization that selected him in the sixth round of the 2003 draft.

It was the first time he had stepped foot on Wrigley Field as a member of the visiting team.

"It's different," Marshall said. "I'll always be a Cub. I loved all my days playing here at Wrigley Field and playing for the Cubs. But I understand it's baseball and I've been lucky so far. So I just have to move on and do my best to win a championship.

"It's good to see familiar faces," Marshall said when asked how it would be to face off against old teammates. "I got to say 'Hi' and talked to some guys in spring training and then again here today before batting practice. It's cool and I'm always up for a challenge."

Marshall trained with Wood some this winter and was disappointed to see the longtime Cub land on the DL.

"I hate to see Woody hurt," Marshall said. "He's a great person. He's always a wonderful teammate. I played catch with him nearly all winter this year. It's tough to see him have a little setback. He'll be fine. He's in good shape. He was working out hard and in the best shape I've ever seen him in this winter."

Remember That Guy: Rob Mackowiak

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AP

Remember That Guy: Rob Mackowiak

Not too many players from the Chicagoland area make it to the Majors. Oak Lawn’s Rob Mackowiak did. And he even made his way to the South Side to play for the White Sox.  

After attending South Suburban College in South Holland, he was a 53rd round pick of the Pirates in 1996. That’s something that could never exist today. The MLB Draft capped at 50 rounds in 1998, then lowered again to 40 rounds for 2012.

Mackowiak, primarily an outfielder but also occasionally seeing infield duty, worked his way through the minors from 1996-2001. He suited up for the Lynchburg (VA) Hillcats, the Augusta (GA) GreenJackets, the Altoona (PA) Curve and the Nashville Sounds before debuting for Pittsburgh May 19, 2001 at PNC Park against the Brewers. His first career at-bat a strikeout against Ben Sheets. He collected his first career hit a few days later at Veterans Stadium off the Phillies’ Robert Person. His first home run came May 30th in Pittsburgh off the Marlins’ Braden Looper.

He hit .266 in 83 games in 2001, then hit 16 home runs in his first full season the following year. 2003 started out rough, hitting .183/.280/.256 through 44 games before he was able to find his groove at Triple-A Nashville. When he returned to the Pirates on August 20, he went 4 for 5 with 2 home runs. From that point on, he hit a scorching .348/.400/.609 in 100 plate appearances to finish the season.

He had as good a day as you could possibly imagine on May 28, 2004. Early that morning, his son Garrett was born. Then with the hospital band still on his wrist, he headed to the ballpark for a doubleheader against the Cubs. In Game 1, he hit a walkoff grand slam off Chicago closer Joe Borowski. In Game 2 he came off the bench in the 7th inning and hit a game-tying 2-run home run in the 9th off LaTroy Hawkins. If that wasn’t enough, he came back to terrorize the Cubs once again the next day going 2 for 4 with a home run and 5 RBI. A three-game total of 4 for 10 with a double, 3 home runs and 11 RBI (with a walk). He was named co-NL Player of the Week from May 24-30, sharing the honor with teammate Daryle Ward. He finished the year hitting .246/.319/.420 but racked up career highs in home runs (17) and RBI (75). In 2005, his final season in western Pennsylvania, he rebounded with a .272 average and .337 OBP but took a step back in the power numbers (9 HR, 58 RBI).

In 2006 he joined the White Sox in a deal sending Damaso Marte to the Steel City and hit .290/.365/.404 – career highs in BA and OBP. His first home run in a White Sox uniform was a memorable one. On May 22, 2006 the Oakland Athletics visited US Cellular Field. It was the first time Frank Thomas played a game against his formal team, and the Big Hurt delivered with a pair of home runs. Oakland was poised to win the game with a 4-1 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. After Jermaine Dye homered to cut the deficit to 4-2, Juan Uribe doubled which caused manager Ken Macha to summon his closer Huston Street. Ozzie Guillen countered by taking down Brian Anderson and sending up Mackowiak, who delivered a pinch hit 2-run homer to knot the game at four. Pablo Ozuna won the game for the Sox in the 10th with a walkoff bunt scoring A.J. Pierzynski from third.

What was a solid hometown run ended at the 2007 trade deadline when the Sox sent Mackowiak to San Diego for reliever Jon Link. He finished the season with the Padres and played 38 games with the Nationals in 2008 before being released in June. He tried to catch on with minor league stints with the Reds, Mets & Indians in 2008-09 but he never made it back to the show.  He did hit .323/.418/.545 with 14 HR in 82 games with the independent Newark Bears to finish 2009.

Rob Mackowiak’s 8-year MLB career featured a respectable .259/.332/.405 slashline with 64 home runs and 286 RBI in 856 games. In 197 games with the White Sox, he hit .285/.360/.411 with 11 HR and 59 RBI. After his baseball career Mackowiak briefly worked as the hitting coach for the Windy City Thunderbolts (Frontier League). Later, he coached his son’s little league teams and worked as an instructor at Elite Baseball Training in Chicago.

A 53rd round pick. An unforgettable introduction to fatherhood. A Chicago Major League homecoming. Rob Mackowiak’s story is a special one.

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

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NBC Sports Chicago

From one GOAT to another: "Greatest comeback I've ever seen"

 

Michael Jordan is no stranger to amazing comebacks.

The man widely agreed upon to be the greatest player of all time, won six NBA Championships, with three of them coming after a full season sabbatical in which he played minor league baseball with the White Sox affiliate. And of course, MJ had his even later comeback with the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003, in which the year 40-year old Jordan averaged 21.2 PPG over two seasons to close out his career.

That is why Jordan’s effusive praise of Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory should not be taken lightly in the greater context of sports history.

In an article written by The Athletic’s David Aldridge, Jordan talks about how he holds Woods’ 2019 Masters win in extremely high regard, calling it “the greatest comeback I've ever seen."

Jordan, a famously avid golfer himself and a friend of Woods, stated, “I’ve been a fan for I don’t know how long.....I never thought he’d get back physically.....He didn’t think he’d get back physically.”

Major success had escaped Woods--who only had one victory in 2018--due to a litany of back injuries and subsequent surgeries.

With Woods having a major victory under his belt for the 2019 season, he certainly has momentum rolling in his favor. That momentum could carry Woods to another major run of PGA Tour success, and MJ agreed that Woods’ belief in himself was perhaps the biggest factor in his 2019 Masters win.

“No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He's probably the only person who believed he could get back.”