Cubs

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."

MLB, MLBPA 'increasingly focused' on plan to start 2020 season in May — in Arizona

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USA TODAY

MLB, MLBPA 'increasingly focused' on plan to start 2020 season in May — in Arizona

The start of the MLB season has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but baseball could return sometime next month.

Late Monday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Major League Baseball and the Players Association are “increasingly focused” on a plan which could allow the 2020 season to start in May. 

According to Passan, the plan would dictate all 30 teams playing at games in the Phoenix area without fans. Potential sites include the area’s 10 spring training ballparks, as well as Chase Field — home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

Players, coaches and other essential personnel would live in “relative isolation” in local hotels, only traveling to the stadium and back. Per Passan, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are supportive of a plan for MLB’s return that follows social distancing and self-isolation protocols.

The plan depends on if the country sees a significant increase in the number of available coronavirus tests, ones with quick turnaround times. Some officials believe this may make June more realistic for baseball’s return, Passan said.

The plan would necessitate the approval of the players, who would be agreeing to leave their families for upward of four-and-a-half months. Passan said there’s hope among union and league leadership that players will be convinced to play, citing the paychecks they’d receive, and the distraction baseball could provide the nation.

If the players and league agree to a deal, teams would head to Arizona in May — assuming the necessary housing, transportation and security are in place. 

Adam Silver gives inside look at conference call with President Trump

Adam Silver gives inside look at conference call with President Trump

On Monday evening, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke on Twitter Live in an extended interview with TNT broadcaster Ernie Johnson.

In the discussion, Silver was asked about a possible timetable for the NBA resuming play and also the phone call he and the other professional sports commissioners had with President Donald Trump on Saturday, April 4.

"It was an old-school conference call," Silver said. "No video. I was notified, and the league, I think all the leagues were notified earlier in the week that it was something the President wanted to do. The specific time wasn't set until Friday afternoon. We were notified it was going to take place at noon on Saturday.

"It lasted about 45 minutes. And it was more like a conventional conference call. You were given a call-in number and a participant number that was specific to you, I assume, for security purposes. I don't know who was on the line with the President from his office because only the President spoke, but he made some introductory remarks again just in terms of the fact that he is a passionate sports fan and the fact that he missed seeing live sports on television. He mentioned he'd been watching some classic telecasts of games in all sports and he went on to say, 'I'd love to hear from all of you,' and I think we all just took turns."

From there, Silver said each commissioner offered updates on the status of their leagues. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert provided a rundown on the W's virtual draft scheduled for April 17 and the recent postponement of their season. Silver discussed the aforementioned "NBA Together" intiative, which strives to circulate best practices for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 — from social distancing and hand washing and sheltering at home protocols.

"Early on I think there was particular concern from the government that young people in particular, who are known to feel a little invulnerable in life," Silver said of the demographic he hopes the league's messaging will resonate with. "I think at this point we've had roughly 30 public service announcements including from players like Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert that were some of the initial well-known people to test positive in this country. So it gave them a chance also to remind young people in particular — even to the extent that the data is showing young people, while at risk, are not as at-risk as older people or people with preexisting conditions — that they owe it to their fellow citizens to sacrifice and to stay at home and observe those protocols."

Moreover, Silver said the commissioners and President Trump discussed the economic and societal good that sports returning might have on a country that is in for a long relief and recovery process as a result of the pandemic.

"I know all the leagues share this view that we'd love to be part of the movement to restart the economy," Silver said. "Of course that can't come in a way that would compromise safety. But I think we also have to recognize that it's a public health matter to shut down the economy and leave tens of millions of Americans unemployed. It's a public health matter to isolate people."

But of course, that is a secondary priority to solving the problem in the first place. Silver understands that point.

"Again, all done for good reason right now. Health and safety have to come before any commercial interests. It's a balance but even in terms of psychological impacts of isolating people.  I think there's no doubt at this point that as a country we are following the right course."

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