White Sox

Cubs patience starting to run thin with Volstad

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Cubs patience starting to run thin with Volstad

MILWAUKEE Chris Volstad dropped his glove onto his head for a moment, and it must have felt like everything was caving in again.

Fireworks were going off at Miller Park on Saturday afternoon, and the 42,339 fans in here were getting loud. Edwin Maysonet was a 30-year-old utility guy who had one home run on his major-league resume until that moment.

Maysonet had just crushed a sinker, which Volstad graded out as not a terrible pitch, just one that didnt move in far enough. It smashed off the ledge above the T.G.I. Fridays restaurant in left field for a grand slam.

That snapshot in the sixth inning told you pretty much everything you needed to know. The Milwaukee Brewers (15-18) were rolling toward an 8-2 victory, while the Cubs had a big question mark at the back end of their rotation.

The Cubs are 0-7 when Volstad pitches, and 13-13 when he doesnt. Thats obviously an oversimplification, but Volstad now has a 6.92 ERA and hasnt notched a win since July 10 last summer, when he was with the Florida Marlins.

Will the Cubs look to make a change in that spot?

Yeah, youre going to consider it, manager Dale Sveum said afterward. Theres options and theres things you can try other people you can try. When that time comes, we dont know, but obviously were all frustrated with the starts (and) the five shutout innings and then one big inning.

Were all frustrated with that and were trying to get a grip on it. But (its seven) starts in (and) we can't.

Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer made pitching depth the No. 1 priority last winter. Travis Wood and Randy Wells have already been called up from Triple-A Iowa for spot starts at different points this season.

The Cubs like Volstads size (6-foot-8), age (25) and first-round pedigree and thought he could put it all together with a change of scenery after the Carlos Zambrano trade.

It could still happen. Team officials see the potential. But Sveum was troubleshooting after watching Volstad hold the Brewers to one run through five innings, only to have it all unravel in the five-run sixth. It fit the pattern.

Thats the way its been for every game, Volstad said. Ive done so well except for one inning. Its hard to pinpoint the difference. You just got to keep working.

Sveum mentioned a different grip for Volstads slider, using the curveball more often andor throwing more changeups to right-handed hitters. At this point, the Cubs have to be open to new ideas.

It just got away from him again, Sveum said. The slider got him in trouble again. That thing is something that we got to work on, because its a pitch he needs, but its getting hit too often and too hard. It just got out of hand again.

The Cubs hadnt lost any of their previous five series, and almost all of that momentum was generated by their rotation.

Volstad isnt blind to that, and listening to his voice and reading his body language, you could tell he had to gather himself while speaking with the media.

Its been really hard, frustrating, Volstad said. Im working my (butt) off and not really having a lot to show for it.

White Sox free-agent focus: Bryce Harper

White Sox free-agent focus: Bryce Harper

This week, we’re profiling 10 of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

A week and a half ago, you probably would’ve laughed out loud at the very concept of Bryce Harper in a White Sox uniform, but last week’s GM Meetings kicked off with a report that the South Siders are interested in the services of the free-agent market’s biggest fish.

Harper’s expected to command one of the biggest contracts ever if not the biggest contract ever, and while other deep-pocketed clubs will surely be in the running, the White Sox have practically no long-term financial commitments, giving them the flexibility to be in on big-ticket items. And it sure seems like they have a willingness to do so.

While 2019 doesn’t figure to be a season in which the rebuilding White Sox are ready to contend for a championship, there’s no doubt that adding Harper would match up with their long-term plans. Harper figures to be under contract for several very expensive years, enough time to get the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal to the big leagues and start making the planned annual runs at a World Series title.

The key word there, however, is “planned,” and the White Sox biggest hurdle in their pitch to Harper figures to be that their success is merely on paper right now and a large amount of their young talent is still developing in the minor leagues. The future is bright, but it’s hardly guaranteed. Meanwhile, teams like the Cubs, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and even the Philadelphia Phillies can pitch win-now rosters to go along with a monster contract.

Obviously Harper would be an upgrade to a team that lost 100 games last season and he’d slide into the middle of the lineup and most likely into right field, where only Avisail Garcia and his one year left of team control is planned at the moment. The White Sox have a lot of outfield depth in the minor leagues, but if you can sign Harper, you don’t worry about him blocking Micker Adolfo or Blake Rutherford. Suddenly, then, the outfield becomes a reservoir of minor league talent that could be dealt from in order to add other pieces to the big league team.

Is Harper a fit for the White Sox? Yeah, duh. He’s a fit for the White Sox and 29 other teams. He’s one of the best players in baseball. But being willing to offer a huge contract and convincing Harper to sign on the dotted line are two different things.

MORE BRYCE HARPER NEWS

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Monday is dedicated to Nationals slugger Bryce Harper.

Cody Parkey could possibly practice kicking at Soldier Field this week

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Cody Parkey could possibly practice kicking at Soldier Field this week

Matt Nagy: It’s possible Cody Parkey could practice at Soldier Field this week

Matt Nagy Monday said it’s possible beleaguered placekicker Cody Parkey could practice at Soldier Field this week after missing two PATs and two field goal attempts in Sunday’s 34-22 win over the Detroit Lions.

Nagy and Parkey both said after Sunday’s game practicing at Soldier Field wasn’t a plan and/or wouldn’t be beneficial. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor indicated the same thought in his weekly press conference last Thursday, too. 

But with a night to sleep on it, Nagy admitted “there’s a possibility” Parkey could do what former Bears kickers like Robbie Gould and Kevin Butler did and practice kicking during the week at Soldier Field. There aren’t any logistical concerns with shuttling Parkey and the field goal battery back and forth from Halas Hall to Soldier Field in traffic, if that decision is made. 

“If that's something that we decide to do then we'll get it done,” Nagy said. 

Nagy re-iterated the Bears will not look at kickers to potentially replace Parkey, which he said on Sunday was not a consideration. 

Nagy on Sunday said Parkey’s woes affected his playcalling for the offense, but said his trust in the kicker with the third-highest guaranteed money figure ($9 million) in the NFL was “not shot.” But while seeing Parkey make kicks during practice or in pregame warmups is good, Nagy will need his kicker to make sure his brutal day against the Detroit Lions doesn’t happen again. 

Perhaps kicking during the week at Soldier Field will be a part of those efforts. 

“As we get going on into the season here, the end of the regular season, these are huge now,” Nagy said. “You've gotta make them. It's just too important. They're too crucial. 

“You go back to a few weeks ago when Mason Crosby missed a few for Green Bay (in a loss to Detroit) and then the next week he ended up kicking the game-winner (against San Francisco). It's just a crazy cycle and it's just a matter of your patience that you have with it and fortunately for us yesterday we did have the lead, but I think in these situations, as long as you're authentic, you're real with each other. But now, he also needs to take the next step of trying to figure out how he can get better and we'll go ahead and do that.”