Cubs

Cubs lose Cole Hamels to injury right as Craig Kimbrel returns

Cubs lose Cole Hamels to injury right as Craig Kimbrel returns

During his pregame press conference Thursday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon shared a laugh about his club’s NFL-esque injury report with one reporter.

“Questionable, probable,” Maddon said with a smile about his team’s long list of injury updates.

As funny as the moment was, there was some truth to it. Ahead of Thursday’s series opener against the Cardinals, the Cubs announced that:

-They activated Craig Kimbrel (elbow) off the 10-day injured list and Addison Russell off the concussion IL
-Cole Hamels will miss his start on Saturday due to left shoulder fatigue

To add to the fun, the Cubs announced 20 minutes before Thursday’s game that Anthony Rizzo was returning to the starting lineup just four days after badly spraining his right ankle.

Got all that?

While the Rizzo announcement was shocking, the Hamels news came as a surprise. The 35-year-old has struggled since returning from an oblique strain on Aug. 3, holding a 6.39 ERA in his last nine starts. He’s failed to pitch five innings in five of those games, including the last three.

Maddon didn’t express terrible concern over Hamels missing this weekend’s start, though he pointed out how the team has to be careful with injuries this time of year, as an extended absence could be the end of one’s season.

“Eh, I shouldn’t say heavily concerned, but anytime a guy like that says it’s bothering him a bit, you have to absolutely believe it,” Maddon said. “Especially at this time of the year, how much he loves to compete and play right now.

“There’s always some concern with that. We’ll just take his word and what the doctors have to say and then try and get him back as quickly as possible.

“If Cole says he’s hurting, he’s hurting, man.”

The Cubs expect Hamels to start next week, but whether that comes against the Pirates or the Cardinals is to be determined. Point being, the Cubs want to make sure Hamels is good to go before throwing him into the fold.

“I don’t know yet. I had a great conversation with him,” Maddon said. “This guy is so straight forward, pragmatic and honest. Let’s just continue to work with it daily and then see where it takes us.”

Maddon also mentioned how Hamels not starting this weekend has some positive repercussions. Not only does it give him extra rest, but the same can be said about Jose Quintana, who originally was slated to pitch Friday but will now start Saturday. Alec Mills – who has quietly been pitching well – will now start on Friday. Starting Mills also means Tyler Chatwood can stay in the hybrid relief role he has succeed in lately.

“Combined with the fact that Cole’s not doing that well, Alec has been pitching well and it gives Q one extra day," Maddon said. "All those things are in a way positive that we can fit it in this way. Having Alec throwing as well as he has to fit in there and not have to take Chatwood out of the role that we’ve got him in right now is also very helpful.

"You saw what Tyler did last night. Part of that little quick dab in and out last night is so that we can possibly use him more often. In a weird way, having this great depth that’s able to cover these particular maladies, I think we’re covered."

Kimbrel didn’t go on a rehab assignment, as the seasons of the Cubs minor league affiliates all have concluded. However, like Hamels, Kimbrel knows his body best and therefore, Maddon trusted that his closer was ready to return.

“I was very encouraged, from what I saw yesterday," Maddon said. “I thought he looked pretty normal, and again, when you talk to the guy conversationally, it’s very upbeat.

“He feels really good about himself, and he knows better than anybody how good he feels. I’m eager about it.”

Kimbrel returns to a Cubs bullpen that stepped up big time in his absence. Entering Thursday, the Cubs ranked No. 1 in MLB with a 2.35 ERA by relievers in September. Kimbrel’s numbers this season aren’t eye-popping – 21 games, 5.68 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 13-of-15 in save opportunities – but his impact on the Cubs bullpen goes beyond numbers.

Rather than go with a committee approach, Kimbrel gives the Cubs a bonafide closing option. In turn, the likes of Steve Cishek, Rowan Wick, Chatwood and Brandon Kintzler – who is nearing a return and will throw a bullpen session Thursday or Friday – can pitch earlier in games, lengthening the Cubs bullpen.

“When that happens, that permits us to move it back…Chatwood becomes available earlier, Rowan becomes available earlier. They all become available earlier, which lengthens the whole thing out.

“But when you have that one guy at the end that you know is at the end, all of a sudden, these first eight innings [are[ wide open, man. Just go for it.

With the season winding down, it’s all hands on deck for the Cubs. With a playoff spot still in reach, go for it they shall.

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Classic Cubs games we'd like to watch again during baseball's hiatus

Classic Cubs games we'd like to watch again during baseball's hiatus

Man, do we miss baseball. All we have for now are rebroadcasts of old games, but those can be a lot of fun to watch as well.

In the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, the Outside the Ivy guys — Danny Rocket, Luis Medina and Michael Cerami — discuss which old Cubs games they would like to watch again. We asked the members of our Cubs content team to tell us what past game is must-see (again) TV.

Gordon Wittenmyer — vs. Pirates, Sept. 24, 1984

Even three months after joining the Cubs in a trade from Cleveland, Rick Sutcliffe didn’t understand the historical significance of the playoff berth he was driving the Cubs toward in September of 1984.

As he walked to the bullpen near the stands at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium for his final start of a Cy Young season, Sutcliffe saw a family of Cubs fans holding up a sign: “39 Years of Suffering is Enough.”

“I always used to find a kid to give my warmup ball to. And as I got done warming up, I brought the dad and kid down,” Sutcliffe recalled during a recent spring training. “And I said, ‘What does that sign mean?’ He said, ‘Well, we haven’t been to the playoffs in 39 years.’

“I wasn’t trying to be cocky or anything, but I said, ‘Here, hold onto this ball, because I’m telling you right now, after tonight that’s all going to change.’ “

RELATED: 13 best trades in Cubs franchise history

Talk about making good on a promise. Sutcliffe drove in the second run of the game with a two-out single in the second and pitched a complete game that Sept. 24 night to earn a 4-1 victory as the Cubs clinched their first playoff berth since 1945.

Sutcliffe, who struck out nine without a walk in a two-hit gem, picked off Joe Orsulak at first to end the sixth and then retired the final nine batters he faced. The only run he allowed scored on a grounder after a leadoff triple by Orsulak in the fourth.

History? Playoffs?

“Until that time, I didn’t know,” he said. “I wasn’t a real history guy.

“I came from Cleveland so we didn’t need to worry about playoffs.”

Tim Stebbins — vs. Mariners, July 31, 2016

If you watch this game with zero context, you'll think I'm crazy. The Mariners jumped out to a 6-0 lead after three innings, hitting three two-run homers off spot starter Brian Matusz — whom the Cubs signed to a minor league deal a month prior.

Trailing by three entering the ninth, the Cubs plated two runs off Steve Cishek to get within one. Down to their last strike, they knotted things at six on a Cishek wild pitch (emphasis on wild). A Jason Heyward double put the Cubs in business in the 12th, and after advancing to third on a flyout, Heyward scored the winning run on a Jon Lester walk-off bunt.

Yes, a Lester walk-off bunt. 

RELATED: All-time best Cubs players by jersey number

Before the exciting finish, Joe Maddon moved reliever Travis Wood (who already tossed 1 1/3 innings) to left field, and Wood made a catch against the ivy in the seventh that would've been tough for an actual outfielder. 

A Jon Lester walk-off and Travis Wood outfield appearance? This game was something else.

Nate Poppen — vs. Brewers, Sept. 12-13, 1998

The back-to-back walkoff wins against the Brewers Sept. 12-13, 1998 at Wrigley. Orlando Merced’s three-run bomb on Saturday capped a five-run bottom of the ninth to give the Cubs a 15-12 win. Then on Sunday, Mark Grace’s solo shot in the bottom of the 10th was the difference in an 11-10 victory. Fifteen-year-old me had no idea September baseball could actually mean something.

Lou Melgarejo — vs. Cardinals, April 22, 1980

The 16-12 win over the Cardinals on April 22, 1980. Barry Foote hit a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth to tie it at 12, and added a walk-off grand slam in the ninth as the Cubs erased a 12-6 deficit to win 16-12. By the way, Foote went 4-for-6 with 8 RBIs in the contest.

Jeff Nelson — vs. Mets, Aug. 7, 1984

I was lucky enough to attend the Aug. 7, 1984 doubleheader against the Mets at Wrigley. The Cubs scored six times in the fifth inning of the opener and went on to an 8-6 win. In the nightcap (or daycap, since Wrigley didn’t have any lights at this time), the Cubs scored five runs off Mets starter (and future Cub GM) Ed Lynch in an 8-4 victory.

The division lead was up to 3 1/2 games, and the Cubs never looked back en route to their first playoff appearance in 39 years.

Mike Piff — Sept. 28, 1998

Sept. 28, 1998. Game 163 at Wrigley between the Cubs and Giants. Michael Jordan, wearing a Sammy Sosa jersey, threw out the first pitch. Steve Trachsel threw 6 1/3 shutout innings, Gary Gaetti homered and Rod Beck got the save as the Cubs won 5-3 to advance to the playoffs.

RELATED: How Cubs’ Nico Hoerner is making an impact in Chicago during shutdown

Joe Collins — Sept. 27, 2003

Sept. 27, 2003. The Cubs swept a doubleheader from the Pirates, winning the opener 4-2 with Mark Prior getting his 18th win of the year. Then in the nightcap, a five-run second inning propelled them to a 7-2 win, clinching the NL Central. I went as a fan for both games, and immediately after the final out I went to work for CLTV gathering postgame sound. Fun times.

Lou Melgarejo — Oct. 1, 1932

Oct. 1, 1932. Game 3 of the World Series between the Cubs and the Yankees. Did Babe Ruth really call his shot? The television broadcast is sure to give us an answer.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: The Outside the Ivy crew explores ways to start the season

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Outside the Ivy crew explores ways to start the season

In for David Kaplan, Jeff Nelson is joined by Luis Medina, Danny Rocket, and Michael Cerami of Outside the Ivy as they discuss creative ways Major League Baseball can start its season, how has this impacted baseball fans everywhere, and will the new rules the MLB will use will benefit new manager David Ross.

(1:20) - Staying busy with no baseball to talk about

(8:00) - How will David Ross manage in his 1st year?

(14:00) - How can baseball start without fans?

(21:20) - Electronic strike zones possibility

(27:00) - Mic'ing players up who would sit in the stands

Listen here or in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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