Cubs

Cubs cant afford to swing and miss in this draft

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Cubs cant afford to swing and miss in this draft

SAN FRANCISCO Theo Epstein has called it the most important day of the year. Jason McLeod has described it as their Super Bowl.

But as much as Cubs executives respect Dale Sveums evaluation skills, and have promised that he will have a voice in shaping the teams identity, it doesnt do the manager much good right now.

More than 2,100 miles away from the draft room, Sveum sat down in his office late Sunday afternoon. He wasnt complaining or pointing fingers after a 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

But its easier selling the future the draft starts Monday night than explaining away 15 losses in 18 games.

Its the same press conference every day, Sveum said. Its a broken record. I dont even know what to say to come up with something different.

Outside of Alfonso Sorianos three-run shot in the ninth on Friday night, the Cubs have scored one run in 26 innings here. Theyve scored a run in only nine of their last 81 innings on the road.

The Cubs (18-35) clearly need impact talent, and the organization has a lot riding on this draft. Through the first three rounds, they will be picking at Nos. 6, 43, 56, 67 and 101.

McLeod made a name for himself with the Boston Red Sox by choosing Dustin Pedroia out of Arizona State University at No. 65 in the 2004 draft, and watching him develop into American League MVP four years later. Jacoby Ellsbury McLeods first-round pick out of Oregon State University in 2005 nearly won that award last season.

Imagine someone like that in a lineup next to Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

Sveum has watched video of certain draft prospects to see how their swings and hands will translate to the next level. Last week at Wrigley Field, he also threw batting practice to Carlos Correa of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. But he hadnt really spoken to the front office in a few days.

Theyre in lockdown right now, Sveum said. Theres a lot going on in their life right now. (So) you do all your due diligence. You want that to be the right pick (and) you want to find those diamonds in the rough.

People dont even fathom how much stuff goes into that draft to make sure you find a few players that can impact the big-league team.

Travis Wood the 25-year-old left-hander acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in the Sean Marshall trade last winter allowed one run across seven strong innings.

Wood couldnt quite match Barry Zito, who left to a standing ovation in the ninth inning, and could have used some more help from his defense. Catcher Koyie Hill couldnt hold onto the ball during a play at the plate, and Soriano had trouble making a few plays out in left field on his bad knees.

The Cubs plan to get faster and more athletic and prioritize defense moving forward. But look at the organizations overall record in the minors (97-123 entering Sunday) and you know they need more power arms.

Pitching will definitely be a focus, McLeod said. Its not going to be a need-based pick, especially our first pick, but once we get past the first pick, it could be a pitcher.

It is something that were certainly going to try to address. It is a need for the organization. Were not going to overdraft pitching just because we need it. Its got to fit the criteria that were looking for in that area of the draft. (But) Id be really surprised if when the drafts over, (we dont) feel really good about the pitching.

The Giants (30-24) won their World Series in 2010 with a rotation built around first-round picks Matt Cain (No. 25 in 2002), Tim Lincecum (No. 10 in 2006) and Madison Bumgarner (No. 10 in 2007).

They were throwing to a franchise catcher in Buster Posey, the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft. The eccentric closer Brian Wilson, a 24th-round pick in 2003, was waiting to run out for the ninth.

The Cubs can dream, but Sveum knows that there are no sure things in the draft.

Its like gambling, Sveum said. You take a shot and everybody agrees on this guy and that guy and, boom, you pick him. You wish that they pan out the way you grade them out.

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

The Wrigley Field basket has played a huge role in this week's Cubs-Reds series.

In Monday night's game, Cincinnati catcher Curt Casali hit a game-tying homer into the basket in the seventh inning of a game the Cubs went on to lose.

But the basket giveth and the basket also taketh away.

Tuesday night, it was Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs who were singing the praises of one of the strangest ballpark quirks in baseball.

Schwarber connected on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning off Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, hitting a fly ball through the impossibly-humid air and into the basket in left-centerfield for a 4-3 Cubs win.

"Whoever thought about that basket — whenever that occurred — tell them, 'thank you,'" Joe Maddon said. "Although it did work against us [Monday]. When it works for you, it's awesome."

Schwarber has stood under the left-field basket many times with his back against the wall, thinking he might be able to make a play on a high fly ball only to see it settle into the wickets and turn into a chance for a Bleacher Bum to show off their arm. 

But is he a huge fan of the basket now that it worked in his favor?

"I guess so," Schwarber laughed. "Yesterday, it cost us, but today, it helped us out. It's just the factor of Wrigley Field. Happy it worked out today."

It was Schwarber's first career walk off RBI of any kind.

It was the Cubs' fourth walk-off homer of the season, but their first since May 11 when Willson Contreras called "game" on the Milwaukee Brewers. 

The Cubs are now 4-1 since the All-Star Break and hold a 2.5-game lead in the division.

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease picked up a win in his first start, but his second did not go as well.

Cease pitched six innings Tuesday at the Royals and gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk. He struck out seven, but took the loss in an ugly game for the White Sox.

The game got off to an ominous start with Eloy Jimenez getting injured on the first batter Cease faced. The White Sox defense didn’t help Cease much either with three errors (Cease had one of those on an errant pickoff throw).

After giving up six runs in the first four innings, Cease settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced. He finished with seven strikeouts against just one walk and threw 67 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Cease struck out six in his first start and is the first pitcher in White Sox history to strike out six or more in each of his first two career appearances.

A deeper look at Cease’s numbers show his swing and miss stuff hasn’t quite caught on as expected so far. Cease got 13 swinging strikes in 101 pitches in his major league debut. He got 12 whiffs on 108 pitches on Tuesday. His slider did get five swinging strikes on 25 pitches against the Royals.

Fastball command remains a key part to Cease’s success. He only threw 26 out of 54 fastballs for strikes in his debut. Cease improved upon that with 31 strikes on 50 fastballs against the Royals.

Most of the Royals’ damage came against Cease’s fastball as well. Six of the Royals’ eight hits off Cease, including all three extra base hits, were off heaters. Cease also gave up four hits with two strikes.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Cease since he joined the White Sox, but he hasn’t hit the ground running in the majors just yet. Having 13 days between the first two starts of his career due to the all-star break and the White Sox giving him some extra rest also isn’t the ideal scenario for a young pitcher.

Cease’s ERA is now at 5.73, which isn’t going to set the world on fire. Still, there have been enough positives in his first two starts to see where reasonable improvement could lead to Cease becoming the pitcher the White Sox expect him to be.

 

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