Bears

Cubs keeping their eyes on Wood, Marmol, bullpen help

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Cubs keeping their eyes on Wood, Marmol, bullpen help

GOODYEAR, Ariz. The Cubs bullpen is built around Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol, and right now its hard to imagine endgame situations without them.

Wood hasnt been in a game since March 18, and manager Dale Sveum doesnt expect to see the veteran reliever pitch before Thursday. Marmol will throw Monday against the San Diego Padres, his first real test since leaving a game last week with a cramp in his right hand (an MRI revealed no significant nerve injury).

Sveum has made reference to back issues, but said Sunday that it was somewhat pre-planned for Wood to get a rest as camp wound down.

It locked up on him awhile ago, (but) the back had nothing to do with it, Sveum said. Were just easing him back into the season since he had pitched already. Nothing spectacular (with) the back is going on.

Theres just no reason for any extra workload.

Does Wood have any other physical problems besides his back?

Not that I know of, Sveum said. Nothings going on there.

Sveum said he didnt think that Wood had thrown a side session in around a week. Wood has appeared in four Cactus League games, and is expected to get a few more innings before Opening Day.

Sveum has compared the situation to a starter reaching 85 pitches and then dialing back the intensity. This could be a way to preserve a 34-year-old reliever.

No matter what, the front office figures to be monitoring the market for bullpen help. When the Cubs reported to camp five weeks ago, they had already identified their eight position players, and had clear ideas about their rotation.

But the middle of the bullpen figures to be young andor inexperienced. Potential setup man Rafael Dolis is 24 years old and has pitched in only one big-league game. Lendy Castillo a Rule 5 pickconverted infielder whos never pitched above A-ball is in the mix. Its a need that could be addressed outside the organization.

You never know, Sveum said. Obviously, this is the time of spring training where people become available on waivers or (are) released because of numbers problems and they can still pitch. Yeah, theres an opportunity within the next two weeks.

Theres an above-average chance you might pick somebody up. Whether he sticks with us or not, thats another story.

Sveum repeated that nothings etched in stone when he was asked about Chris Volstad being the fourth starter, but the sense is that Randy Wells could profile well as a reliever.

Rodrigo Lopez, who could be a good veteran swingman, continued his strong spring by limiting the Cleveland Indians to two runs in 4.1 innings during Sundays 6-2 win at Goodyear Ballpark.

Andy Sonnanstine has already declined his outright to Triple-A Iowa and asked for his release, becoming a free agent. Lopez doesnt want to consider any possibility other than Wrigley Field.

My mind is in Chicago, Lopez said. This is not over yet. I wont think about that yet. Thats why I came here, asking for the opportunity to make the team and I feel like Ive been doing enough to make (it) and well see what happens.

The last two years Ive been in the same situation. Nobody says anything until the last moment.

Are expectations too high for Bears WR Allen Robinson?

Are expectations too high for Bears WR Allen Robinson?

Allen Robinson was signed in free agency to become the alpha dog of the Chicago Bears' wide receiver corps. The three-year, $42 million contract that general manager Ryan Pace signed him to is proof of how high expectations are for the fifth-year pro.

Robinson isn't coming to Chicago with a flawless resume, however. His massive breakout year in 2015 (1,400 yards, 14 touchdowns) was followed by a pedestrian 883 yards in 2016 and a torn ACL in Week 1 last year. That begs the question: Is the forecast for Robinson's impact in 2018 too high right now?

According to Bleacher Report's Doug Farrar, the answer is yes. Robinson was named as the Bear most likely to disappoint this season.

Robinson practiced for the first time since the injury during the Bears' May minicamp, but it's safe to say Chicago isn't sure what it has in Robinson. If he gets back to his 2015 numbers, that would be huge for the Bears' passing offense, but given his 2016 regression and the specter of the 2017 injury, that's a tough bet.

Robinson will have an impact that goes beyond the traditional box score, and it will happen this season. Is he a lock to reach 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns? No, but his presence on the field will be enough to see a return on investment. The Bears haven't had the kind of threat he poses to defenses in several seasons, and his ability to pull a defensive coordinator's attention away from the running game will do wonders for Chicago's offensive output.

Determining whether Robinson is a disappointment in 2018 will depend on who's evaluating his season. Sure, he may disappoint in fantasy football circles if he doesn't re-emerge as a game-changing stat monster. But if he makes the Bears offense a more well-rounded and productive group, he'll live up to the expectations set by Pace and coach Matt Nagy.

As long as Robinson is pleasing Pace and Nagy, nothing else really matters.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa victimized the Tigers pitching staff again on the next night, taking Brian Moehler deep in the 7th inning for a 400-foot solo blast.

The homer tied the game at 3, but the Cubs blew the lead in the bottom of the 7th when the Terrys (Adams and Mulholland) gave up 3 runs. The Cubs wound up losing 6-4.

The Cubs were putting together a really nice season in 1998 that ended with a trip to October. They entered the series with the Tigers with a 42-34 record, yet lost both games to a Detroit team that entered the series with a 28-45 record. The Tigers finished the season 65-94; the Cubs finished 90-73.

Fun fact: Luis Gonzalez was the Tigers left fielder and No. 5 hitter for both games of the series. He spent part of the 1995 season and all of '96 on Chicago's North Side. 1998 was his only year in Detroit before he moved on to Arizona, where he hit 57 homers in 2001 and helped the Diamondbacks to a World Series championship with that famous broken-bat single in Game 7.

Fun fact  No. 2: Remember Pedro Valdes? He only had a cup of coffee with the Cubs (9 games in 1996 and 14 in '98), but started in left field on June 25, 1998. He walked and went 0-for-1 before being removed from the game for a pinch-hitter (Jose Hernandez).