Cubs

Why the Cubs were ready for an intrasquad scrimmage on Day 2 of Summer Camp

Why the Cubs were ready for an intrasquad scrimmage on Day 2 of Summer Camp

The American flag waved in the breeze over an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at Wrigley Field. It wasn’t the production the venue had come to expect on Fourth of July.

“This is one of those days that screams America’s pastime,” Cubs manager David Ross said.

Without fans in the stands, the whirl of the press box ceiling fans filled the silence between pitches. But any kind of baseball on the holiday was a victory during the coronavirus pandemic. It was just the second day of Cubs Summer Camp, and already the team had advanced to game simulations. Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks each took the mound, Darvish for two innings and Hendricks for three, with half the Cubs donning white jerseys and the other half blue.  

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"There's no substitute for live looks," Ross said.

The fact that Darvish and Hendricks were ready to throw multiple innings bodes well for the Cubs. From examining the results of a shortened 1995 Spring Training, some in baseball are concerned that this season’s schedule could put pitchers at higher risk for lower-body soft-tissue injuries.

“Overall as a group, we did an unbelievable job talking to individual guys of staying on routine, staying on programs,” Hendricks said of the pitching staff. “A lot of guys threw a lot throughout the quarantine. I feel really good where I’m at as far as schedule-wise. I think I can say the same for most guys around here.”

Hendricks stayed in Arizona after Spring Training shut down, which even gave him opportunities to throw to live batters before reporting to Summer Camp.

During the hiatus, hitters also faced restricitons when looking for batting practice. Ross said everyone on the team at least had a tee and a net to hit into, but several found opportunities to stand in against live pitching in Arizona, including Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and Ian Happ.

“I think more than we were expecting, as players,” Jason Heyward said. “And I don’t say that in a way of not wanting to work, but just given the situation, we all want to be careful. I’m just happy guys found a way to do that.”

Heyward said during the break he only had one day of live batting practice before returning to Chicago a little over a month ago. But he settled in quickly on Saturday, hitting a hard ground ball into center field for the first hit of the game.

Technically, the two-and-a-half inning scrimmage ended in a scoreless tie. But it had some quirks.

“The pitch counts will be limited per inning,” Ross said before the game, “so we may clear the bases if we need to.”

They did. Hendricks loaded the bases in the top of the second inning. But he was saved by the pitch count as Anthony Rizzo stepped up to the plate.

“I put up a zero, so that’s what I’m going to take from it,” Hendricks said, laughing. “I wasn’t wanting to get off the field there, no. I’m sure (Rizzo) wasn’t either.”

Light-hearted boos sounded from the first-base dugout as the Blue team jogged in to grab their gloves.

“I think everybody had fun out there” Hendricks said.

 

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Cubs' Colin Rea to start on Saturday, Tyler Chatwood possibly Monday

Cubs' Colin Rea to start on Saturday, Tyler Chatwood possibly Monday

The Cubs plan to start swingman Colin Rea on Saturday against the Brewers, manager David Ross said after Friday's game.

Alec Mills was originally slated to pitch Saturday but was bumped up to Friday because Tyler Chatwood was scratched with mid-back tightness. The Cubs will evaluate Chatwood to see if he's an option to pitch on Monday, when they're scheduled to play a doubleheader against the Cardinals.

Rea, 30, has made two appearances this season, allowing no runs and one hit while striking out three in three innings. He was named the 2019 Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year, sporting a 3.95 ERA in 26 starts.

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Rea's last big league start was July 30, 2016 with the Marlins. He allowed one hit in 3 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out four with no walks.

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Quick takes: Pitching duel implodes in Cubs' loss to Brewers

Quick takes: Pitching duel implodes in Cubs' loss to Brewers

The Cubs just barely fell short in a 4-3 loss to the Brewers Friday at Wrigley Field.

In the ninth inning, Cubs relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel stepped into the highest-pressure situation he’s been in, perhaps all season. And he delivered. Kimbrel struck out Avisail Garcia and Manny Piña for the first and third outs of a scoreless frame. He also walked Justin Smoak and got Ben Gamel to line out to second.

But the Cubs offense didn’t overcome the late one-run deficit.

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Here are takeaways from the game:

Patience is a virtue

Jason Kipnis fouled off seven pitches before driving in the Cubs’ first run of the night.

It was the bottom of the fifth inning, and Jason Heyward and David Bote had just recorded the Cubs’ first and second hits of the game. Runners stood on first and third with one out.

Kipnis fouled off the first two pitches he saw, a changeup and a fastball. Just like that, he was behind in the count and his margin for error had shrunk. But he battled off fastballs and changeups that peppered the strike zone, and even strayed out of it. He watched a curveball in the dirt.

And then finally, Kipnis got a solid piece of an inside pitch. 

After Kipnis hit the tying run home, the Cubs’ offense kept flowing. Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ drew back-to-back walks for Bote to score. Anthony Rizzo poked a changeup out to right-center field to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead and force a Brewers pitching change.

Freddy Peralta replaced starter Brandon Woodruff on the mound. Peralta struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

Not quite pitch perfect

Alec Mills wasn’t even supposed to be pitching Friday. But when the Cubs scratched Tyler Chatwood from the lineup with mid-back tightness, Mills’ start moved up a day.

Mills was perfect through four innings, striking out six.

Mills finally put a batter on base in the fifth inning, when he walked Garcia. Then, Smoak got the Brewers’ first hit of the night off Mills. He pulled a ground ball to the right side. The Cubs defense was in the shift, so Bote, the third baseman, was playing in between first and second. Smoak’s hit snuck through the hole between Bote and second baseman Nico Hoerner.

Mills allowed two more hits but got out of the inning after giving up just one run.

The Brewers did most of their damage in the sixth. Eric Sogard singled to center field. Then, Mills hit Milwaukee’s Keston Hiura with a pitch. Christian Yelich drove them both home with a three-run homer to right field, erasing the Cubs’ lead with one swing.

Pitching duel implodes

Woodruff’s night mirrored Mills’ in many ways. The score remained locked in a scoreless tie through four innings.

The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo was the first player from either team to reach base. He did so on a fielding error by Smoak, the Brewers first baseman, in the fourth.

The first hit from either side was a single by Smoak the next inning. Woodruff didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning. But through 4 1/3 innings, he allowed three runs on four hits.

Where they stand

Despite the loss, the Cubs still have the best winning percentage in baseball. They are 13-4 (.765).

On Deck

The Cubs play two more games against the Brewers to finish the four-game series. What was once a 10-game homestand for the Cubs is now scheduled to be a 12-game homestand.

On Friday, Major League Baseball announced that the Cubs would play doubleheaders against the Cardinals on Monday and Tuesday, to begin making up the three-game series that was postponed due to more positive COVID-19 tests within the Cardinals organization.

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