Bulls

Cubs ship Byrd to Boston for Bowden

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Cubs ship Byrd to Boston for Bowden

The Cubs had been shopping Marlon Byrd long before his 3-for-43 start to the season. Talks accelerated once Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury went down with a shoulder injury.

The Cubs finalized the deal on Saturday, trading Byrd and cash to Boston for right-hander Michael Bowden and a pitcher to be named later. The Cubs will pay the majority of the roughly 5.9 million remaining on the final year of Byrds contract.

The slow start didnt play any part at all, general manager Jed Hoyer said on a conference call. We had talked about some deals at the end of spring training and our feeling was weve been trying to acquire relief pitching, really, since the end of the winter.

We felt like an area where we have some surplus and some young players we want to play is the outfield.

The Cubs have options in center Joe Mather, Reed Johnson, Tony Campana until top prospect Brett Jackson shows enough at Triple-A Iowa to earn a promotion.

Bretts a big part of our future, Hoyer said, but I wouldnt read into anything with this deal as far as when we might bring him up.

The three former Red Sox executives now running the Cubs Hoyer, Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod know all about Bowden, the 47th overall pick in the 2005 draft out of Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora.

Bowden will report to Wrigley Field, likely on Monday, and take a spot in the Cubs bullpen, where there is definitely opportunity. The 25-year-old was designated for assignment on April 15 and has a 5.61 ERA in 39 career major-league games.

There is potential upside. Bowden spent most of last season as the closer at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 3-3 with 16 saves and a 2.73 ERA. He finished with 61 strikeouts against only 18 walks in 52.2 innings.

Hoyer said the Cubs have a list of pitchers from the Red Sox organization, and will select the player to be named later by the middle of May.

Byrd returns to Fenway Park, where last May he collapsed after a fastball from Alfredo Aceves fractured his face. An All-Star in 2010, he missed six weeks last season and wound up hitting .276 with 35 RBI in 119 games.

Byrd played with maximum effort, but could also be a strong, difficult personality. The 34-year-old outfielder who was hitting .070 will have something to prove in his walk year.

Youre on a big stage in Chicago, and he knows hes going to be on a big stage in Boston, Hoyer said. Hes been in a little bit of a funk here and sort of having the batting average reset (in) the American League (could) be a real good thing for him.

Id be surprised if he didnt go over there and help them. Right now, theyre in a position where theyre a little bit thin in the outfield and theyre going to be welcoming him with open arms.

Report: Bulls to hire Damian Cotter as Windy City head coach

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls to hire Damian Cotter as Windy City head coach

The Windy City Bulls are expected to name Damian Cotter their head coach, according to 2 Ways & 10 Days' Adam Johnson.

The Bulls were in search of a replacement for Charlie Henry, who took an assistant coaching role at Alabama University in April after two seasons with Windy City.

Cotter spent last season as an assistant with the Capital City Go-Go, the Washington Wizards' G-League affiliate. In 2018, Cotter was an assistant for the Long Island Nets, the Brooklyn Nets' G-League affiliate. Cotter, an Australian native, has also coached the NBL's Sydney Kings both as an assistant (2013-14) and head coach (2014-15). He has also coached U-19 men's and women's teams in Australia.

Coaching turnover isn't rare in the G-League, and Windy City is no exception. Cotter will become the team's third different head coach in four seasons since the team was founded in 2016. Nate Loenser, now an assistant under Jim Boylen and the coach of the Bulls' 2019 Summer League team, was Windy City's inaugural head coach.

Windy City enjoyed their first winning season in 2019, going 27-23 under Henry and bowing out in the first round of the postseason to the Westchester Knicks.

Myriad injuries to the NBA's Bulls meant that a half dozen Windy City alums saw time on the United Center floor at the end of last season. Those players included Walt Lemon, Jakarr Sampson, Brandon Sampson, Ryan Arcidiacono, Rawle Alkins and Cristiano Felicio.

 

Cubs know it's time to flip the script regarding road woes

Cubs know it's time to flip the script regarding road woes

As the Cubs got set to kick off the Crosstown series with the White Sox on the afternoon of June 18, GM Jed Hoyer emerged outside the third-base dugout and talked about a variety of topics regarding his team.

One such topic was the Cubs' ugly home-road splits and at the time, Hoyer said this about his team coming off a 2-5 road trip:

"It's been a source of frustration. I think we've had three subpar road trips. There's no other way to say it. It's not something I read too much into. This is a group that's had a lot of success on the road. They've won in hostile environments in the playoffs before, so it's not like they're intimidated by crowds or intimidated by travel. 

"But it's an issue with this particular group in 2019. we've played great here [at Wrigley Field]. We've played poorly on the road. If we want to reach our goals, then we're gonna have to play better on the road. All that said, we've had some really tough road series — starting out like that on the road was difficult. At Houston and at St. Louis was difficult and at Colorado and at LA — those were series that you're happy when that part of the schedule is done. 

"But there's no excuses — we have to play better on the road. I don't have any answers for it. I'd be lying to say that I really do, but I think it will change."

The issue is, it hasn't changed yet for the Cubs. 

That day was the start of a long homestand for the Cubs and the ensuing road trip — three games in Cincinnati, four in Pittsburgh and two on Chicago's South Side — didn't yield any better results for the team. They went 3-6 total, dropping their overall road record to 18-27 this season.

By comparison, the Cubs are a whopping 36-18 at "The Friendly Confines," including 7-2 over the past week-a-half.

They've enjoyed the benefit of home cooking for the last couple weeks, between the All-Star Break and a nine-game homestand to open the second half. But now they head back out on the road, with maybe their toughest task yet. 

The Cubs begin a three-game series in San Francisco Monday night against a Giants team that has been among the hottest in baseball over the last few weeks. Then there are stops in Milwaukee and St. Louis, against the two teams immediately behind the Cubs in the NL Central standings.

This will be a huge test for a Cubs team that hasn't won a series on the road since May 17-19 in Washington D.C.

"I don't feel anything different from the group," manager Joe Maddon said Sunday morning before his team's final home game of the month. "We've been through it before — it's not like it's an intimidation factor or an uncomfortable moment. I'm not getting that. We're just not playing as well. 

"I don't even know how much it's that the other teams have gotten better. I don't even know where this all comes together. But we're playing decently now. ...I want to believe that just playing better here coming out of the break that we have a better chance of starting out better on the road. We need to. To get where we want to be, we have to do that. On this coming trip, three really good foes and we gotta be on our best behavior."

Like Maddon said, they've done it before, including winning three of the four road games in the 2016 World Series, a wild Game 5 in D.C. in the 2017 NLDS and the list goes on and on.

During the previous four years under Maddon, the Cubs have posted a winning record on the road in each campaign:

2018 - 44-37
2017 - 44-37
2016 - 46-34
2015 - 48-33

In order to keep that streak going, the Cubs would have to go 23-13 on the road the rest of the way.

That's a tall order when there are still two trips each to St. Louis and Milwaukee on the schedule plus stops in Philadelphia, San Diego and a couple dates with the always-pesky Pirates in Pittsburgh.

"Obviously at home, we've won. We gotta start playing that same game on the road. It's as simple as that," Maddon said. "To get where we want to go, we have to become that road team that we've been in the past and there's no reason that we can't."

So what's been the biggest difference between the road Cubs and the home Cubs?

That would be the pitching.

On the road, the Cubs have a 4.97 ERA and allowing opponents to hit .267 with a .798 OPS. At home, those numbers drop significantly to a 3.36 ERA and .233 average and .684 OPS against.

Meanwhile, offensively, the Cubs are actually slightly more prolific on the road than they are at home.

Away from Wrigley, this lineup is scoring 5.27 runs per game while posting a .257 batting average and .798 OPS. At home, they're scoring 4.91 runs per game with a .254 batting average and .785 OPS.

In search of the culprit of the road pitching woes, the blame lies with some of the Cubs' top arms.

Kyle Hendricks has a 1.89 ERA at home and 5.44 mark on the road. Jon Lester sits at 2.95 at Wrigley and 5.09 outside of Chicago. Brandon Kintzler carries an 0.75 ERA at home, but that number jumps to 4.32 on the road. 

Only a few guys — Yu Darvish, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop — have better marks away from Wrigley than they do at home.

As the Cubs look to flip the script on the road, they'll send Alec Mills, Darvish and Lester to the mound in San Francisco against a Giants offense that ranks sixth in baseball in OPS (.833) in July.

"We came out of the break, we got a good rest and we're playing really good baseball right now on this homestand," Kyle Hendricks said. "So we're just trying to keep that momentum going on the road. Just not think about where we are and embrace it, keep playing the same baseball. It starts with us on the mound, making good pitches. Set the tone on the road, be aggressive the same way we've been doing here and hopefully turn that around."

Up until recently, Maddon didn't even realize his team had so many run prevention issues on the road.

"That's really strange for me," Maddon said. "I would not have guessed that. So apparently we need to be just a little tighter with the pitching side of things and keep what we're doing offensively. I didn't realize there was that much of disparity involved. I didn't break it down any deeper than that.

"...I know San Francisco has been on a nice run, but sounds like we need to pitch better on the road. That's what I got out of it."