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Cubs, Dempster cant stop the bleeding

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Cubs, Dempster cant stop the bleeding

PITTSBURGH Ryan Dempster has tunnel vision, never looking beyond his next start, five days out.

That helps explain why Dempsters lasted this long, rebounding from Tommy John surgery, becoming a successful closer and transitioning back to the rotation.

For everyone else, its hard to ignore the bigger picture thats forming around the Cubs, whove now lost 10 games in a row, but have an Opening Day starter that will be in demand.

Dempster is now winless in his last 17 starts after Fridays 1-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. He pitched into the eighth inning, and lowered his ERA to 2.14, but couldnt stop the bleeding.

It doesnt make coming to the ballpark fun, Dempster said afterward. We just got to fight through it. It happens to a lot of teams. You go through losing streaks and thats where you find out a lot about yourself. You just got to continue to battle.

The Cubs (15-30) hadnt had a double-digit losing streak since 1997, when they lost their first 14 games that season. This was supposed to be a transition year, but the optimism about making things interesting seems to have evaporated.

At the moment, team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and their baseball operations staff have turned their attention to the amateur draft in June.

Manager Dale Sveum is in his first year on the job, but hes been in the business long enough to know that the next six-to-eight weeks will be pivotal.

You get to that point of the year where decisions (are made), Sveum said. You get to the point where if youre not playing well, things start changing a lot. Obviously, right now, the front office is focused on doing the right things in that draft and getting the right people.

Thats part of the whole plan to build through the system. Its a lot of pressure right now to make those decisions. Its not that easy to get talent, find out the character of the talent. Its a crapshoot sometimes.

Paul Maholm who will try to break the losing streak on Saturday night at PNC Park waited out a few rebuilding plans here. The veteran left-hander had spent his entire career in the Pirates organization before signing with the Cubs last winter.

Its a different animal, just because if youre in Chicago, you have the payroll, Maholm said. Obviously, with Theo and Jed coming in, theres probably going to be a little bit of patience, but its not going to last very long. The guys in the locker room have to go out and win games.

Dempster sat on the bench next to Kerry Wood and his son last week after Kid K struck out one final batter and walked off into retirement.

Dempster, who turned 35 this month, was born 44 days before Wood in 1977, and they became close friends over the years. But it looks like Dempster still has plenty of bullets left. Its just a question of where he will be firing them.

Dempster is in his walk year and has no-trade rights. Changes to the collective bargaining agreement make it far more complicated and much less likely that the Cubs would pick up draft-pick compensation if he signed elsewhere.

Think a contender could use a strong veteran presence like this?

Dempster has accounted for at least six innings in each of his eight starts. Hes allowed two runs or less in six of those games. He still hasnt notched a victory since last August.

Hes pitched so great and we feel bad that we cant help him, outfielder Alfonso Soriano said. He pitched an unbelievable game and we didnt do anything offensively to win.

The Cubs went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and have scored in just four of their last 56 innings. In the ninth, the Pirates (21-24) watched closer Joel Hanrahan put runners on the corners before striking out David DeJesus and Starlin Castro to end the game.

You got to find a way to keep your head up and keep plugging forward, Dempster said, because that team on the other side of the field, the other 28 teams in the league, they dont feel sorry for you. They dont care. You cant feel sorry for yourself. You got to keep fighting through it.

Podcast: Blackhawks take 2-1 series lead with amazing 4-3 win over the Oilers

Podcast: Blackhawks take 2-1 series lead with amazing 4-3 win over the Oilers

Host Pat Boyle is joined by 2013 Stanley Cup champion and Blackhawks analyst Jamal Mayers as they discuss the Hawks' 4-3 win over the Oilers in a game that went down to the final 1:16. They discuss Toews' game-winning goal, the commanding lead the Hawks took in the series, and will the Blackhawks be able to close the Oilers out in game 4?

(1:15) - Biggest takeaway from the Hawks' win

(8:09) - Hawks special teams breakdown

(10:20) - Hawks' power play

(15:20) - How will the Oilers respond to being one game away from elimination?

(22:00) - Will the Hawks be able to close out the Oilers in game 4?

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

Cubs' Tommy Hottovy: 'Scary part' of COVID-19 is how fast deadly virus spreads

Cubs' Tommy Hottovy: 'Scary part' of COVID-19 is how fast deadly virus spreads

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy is home in Kansas City for a couple rare days during the baseball season. His mom wants to meet him for lunch, and his sister, a grade-school teacher in town, just had a baby that he hasn’t had a chance to see yet.

“How much would I love to go get to see her and my new nephew?” Hottovy said. “Can’t do it. Just can’t.”

Not this time. Not with what’s at stake. Not when possible threats to health and professional purpose lurk in every unfamiliar hallway, byway and unmasked face while the Cubs navigate their first multi-city road trip of the season.

Don’t believe the risk of spread and large-scale COVID-19 team outbreaks are that sensitive, extreme and potentially swift? Just ask the Marlins and Cardinals, whose outbreaks in the first week of play put their seasons on hold and threatened the status of the league’s season.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Cubs news and analysis.

“I’m not leaving the hotel. I told my family and friends and everybody [in Kansas City],” Hottovy said. “We all signed up for this, to make sure that for this to work we all have to make those kinds of sacrifices. I love my family to death and would love to get to see them, but right now this is our home.”

The Cubs second trip, which started with a 6-1 victory Wednesday in Kansas City and continues to St. Louis before finishing in Cleveland next week, coincides with stepped-up COVID-19 protocols from Major League Baseball following the Marlins and Cardinals outbreaks.

The Cubs already had protocols in place that exceeded MLB’s original mandates and that are in compliance with the new mandates. And a month into the league’s restart they remained the only team without a player having tested positive for the virus.

RELATED: Cubs better prepared than MLB to finish COVID-19 season — which is the problem

In fact, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant decided on his own to start wearing a protective mask on the bases when the Cubs played last week in Cincinnati, where three Reds players were sidelined either by positive tests or self-reported symptoms as that series opened. And first baseman Anthony Rizzo told ESPN 1000 on Tuesday that he plans to keep a mask in his pocket while in the field in St. Louis and will consider wearing it when somebody reaches base.

“No matter what measures you put in place, when you’re trying to pull off a season that requires travel in the middle of a global pandemic, it ultimately does come down to personal responsibility,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “And everyone is at the mercy of the least responsible person because of the nature of the spread of this disease.”

Nobody knows that more than Hottovy and many of the Cubs who watched their pitching coach deteriorate in real time during daily Zoom sessions in May and June until the worst symptoms of his frightening monthlong bout with the virus forced him to hand off his job duties.

Whether Hottovy’s experience led directly to the Cubs’ more extreme safety policies or the individual players’ apparent hyper diligence, MLB’s recent coronavirus outbreaks and other cases at least raise questions about whether some teams and players — or even the league — respect the potential severity of a virus that has killed more than 158,000 Americans in five months.

“I don’t think people underestimate that aspect of it; I think they underestimated how easy it was to spread,” Hottovy said of the outbreaks — including a Cardinals outbreak that reportedly was traced to one asymptomatic, outside individual familiar with the team.

Hottovy called the highly contagious nature of the virus “the scary part of this,” both in terms of the potential to quickly render an organization unable to field a team as well as the subsequent, inherent risk that poses to family members and others who might, in turn, be among those who then become severely impacted by the virus.

And the hardest part, he said, is not letting down your guard within the team bubble when it’s easy to trust that when it’s only teammates in the room that it’s OK to disregard masks, distancing and other safety measures.

“That’s when it gets dangerous,” said Hottovy, whose team talks often about assuming everyone — including each other — has the virus.

So just like in Cincinnati, neither he nor anyone else in the Cubs’ traveling party plans to go anywhere but to and from hotels and ballparks during their trip.

“Listen, you don’t have to search too far for a reason to take it serious,” Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis said.

“I have three of my close friends who got it, that are over it. But the symptoms are as real as it gets from the sounds of it. And I think you have guys who are risking stuff coming and playing this season, whether it’s Craig [Kimbrel] and his daughter [heart condition] or Anthony [Rizzo] and Jon [Lester] with their [cancer] history.

“You’re paying respect to them and doing your teammate justice by not being the one to kind of go out,” Kipnis added. “It’s one of those years where, hey, you’ve got to buckle down and stay the course. I think everybody’s going through it, so you don’t want to be the one that kind of screws this one up.

The Cubs’ 10-2 start to a 60-game season seems to further incentivize that discipline — some players in recent days even suggesting the discipline in following the protocols has carried into the professionalism on the field.

It’s impossible to know if any of it will be enough for the Cubs to keep their moving bubble secure, much less whether the two outbreaks that MLB seems to have withstood will provide the significant enough wakeup call that MLB and team officials have suggested.

“The vast, vast majority of everyone involved in this enterprise, the players and staff, are doing a solid job so far in making a lot of sacrifices,” Epstein said. “And we just have to get everybody on board. And hopefully these two outbreaks are enough to get everyone to the point where we have essentially perfect execution going forward, because that’s largely what it will take.”

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