Cubs

Fire acquire midfielder Larentowicz

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Fire acquire midfielder Larentowicz

Thursdays Major League Soccer SuperDraft wont have much suspense for the Fire. The club traded its first-round draft choice on Wednesday in another indication the roster will be built differently for the 2013 season.

Last season the Fires key new acquisitions were three young foreign players Rafael Robayo, Federico Puppo and midway through the season Brazilian midfielder Alex. Robayo and Puppo didnt finish the season with the Fire and Alex was an only moderately successful replacement for attacking midfielder Sebastian Grazzini.

So, this time around the Fire has gone after MLS veterans. Javier Leon, president of soccer operations, took forward Maicon Santos from D.C. United it the first round of the MLS re-entry draft and later added midfielder Joel Lindpere from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for an international roster spot.

On Wednesday, though, came the biggest new acquisition Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. The Fire got the respected veteran along with the No. 30 pick in Thursdays SuperDraft in Indianapolis but had to give up their first round pick No. 11 overall, along with allocation money and a 2013 international slot.

Sounds like a good deal for the Fire, though. Larentowicz has played in the MLS Cup final three times and came out on the winning side with the Rapids in 2010 his first year with that club.

Larentowicz, 29, was only a fourth-round draft pick by the New England Revolution after playing collegiately at Brown. He played for the Revs (and on two MLS Cup finalists) from 2005-09 before being sent to Colorado in a trade that has Chicago tie-ins. In that deal Larentowicz and Wells Thompson went to the Rapids in exchange for Cory Gibbs.

Gibbs retired in the offseason after his 2012 campaign was limited to three games before he was forced to undergo major knee surgery. Thompson was a late season pickup by the Fire when the club was successfully bidding to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Larentowicz played in 96 matches (95 of them starts) in three seasons with the Rapids. He had 14 goals and two assists and played every minute of four playoff games in 2010 that resulted in Colorado claiming the MLS Cup with a 2-1 win over FC Dallas.

"I had three great seasons in Colorado, Larentowicz said in a statement released by the Rapids. "I leave with no hard feelings and will always reflect fondly on our championship year.

Later Larentowicz said he is "happy for a new challenge ... It feels good to go to a place where you're in their plans. It's something I look forward to being a part of.''

The Rapids were reluctant to give him up.

"Parting ways with Jeff was not an easy decision for us, said Paul Bravo, Colorados technical director." But we gain a lot of roster flexibility with this trade as well as the chance to get another young talent through the SuperDraft.

Leon described Larentowiz as "a hardnosed player who has consistently been one of the best midfielders in MLS."

Colorado wasnt the only MLS club trading for better position in Thursdays draft. New England sent its No. 4 pick to Toronto FC to claim the top overall pick, suggesting one player participating in this weeks Combine in Florida made a huge impression.

The downside of the deal is that the Fire doesnt figure to do as well in the SuperDraft as it did with its first-round picks of the last two years. Defenders Jalil Anibaba (2011) and Austin Berry (2012) became starters almost immediately and Berry was last seasons MLS Rookie-of-the-Year.

Following the draft Fire players will gather in Bridgeview for two days of medical exams, then depart on Sunday for the first phase of preseason training at Ave Maria, FL.

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

The last time Jake Arrieta pitched at Wrigley Field, his night ended with Cubs fans giving him a rousing standing ovation. The former Cubs right hander tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, leading the Cubs to victory in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS—their only win against the Los Angeles Dodgers that series.

Arrieta returned to Wrigley Field as a visitor on Monday night, making his first start against the Cubs since joining the Philadelphia Phillies last season. Ironically, Arrieta’s counterpart for the night was Yu Darvish, who ultimately replaced Arrieta in the Cubs starting rotation.

Despite now donning Phillies red, Cubs fans once again showed their love for Arrieta, giving him a lengthy standing ovation ahead of his first plate appearance. Darvish even stepped off the mound in respect for the moment.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters postgame. “[I’m] very happy that our fans would acknowledge him like that. Yu stepped away from the mound nicely. Jake deserved it.”

Arrieta tipped his helmet in appreciation for the crowd, taking in the moment for more than 30 seconds before stepping into the batter’s box. After the game, he told reporters that moment brought back memories of his time with the Cubs.

“That was something that really brought back great memories of getting that same sort of ovation pretty much on a nightly basis,” Arrieta said. “[I’m] very appreciative of that. I can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago, I really can’t.”

Arrieta took fans back to his Cubs tenure on Monday, throwing six innings of one run ball in the Phillies’ 5-4 10-inning win. Although the 33-year-old didn’t pick up the victory, he matched Darvish—who threw six innings of three-run ball—pitch by-pitch.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler noted how well Arrieta handled his emotions throughout the night.

“I thought he handled the emotions really well. I thought he was in control of the game even when we were down,” Kapler said to reporters. “He always maintained his poise and he just got stronger as the outing went on and that’s why we were able to have him take down the sixth inning for us.”

It’s well-documented how Arrieta’s career improved for the better after the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. When the Cubs acquired him, Arrieta held a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts). He finished his Cubs career with a 2.73 ERA in 128 regular season starts. He also won five postseason games with the Cubs, including Games 2 and 6 of the 2016 World Series.

Despite moving on in free agency, Arrieta spoke highly of his time with the Cubs, their fans and the city of Chicago.

“Cubs fans all across the country, all across the world, they really respect and appreciate what guys are able to do here for them,” he said. “It means a lot, it really does.

"I’ll never forget this city, the fan base, the organization, everything that they did for me. It was 4 1/2 incredible years of my career.”

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Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish was one pitch away.

Holding onto a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth inning, Darvish threw Phillies catcher JT Realmuto a 2-2 cutter. It made sense - Darvish had been spotting that pitch well all night, and the Phillies were averaging a paltry 79.8 mph exit velocity against it.

With one strike standing between Darvish and a 6-inning shutout, Realmuto took Darvish’s cutter and sent it back up the middle for a game-tying RBI single. A 2-RBI triple from César Hernández followed. In the blink of an eye, what was shaping up to be one of Darvish’s finest moments in Chicago was instead reduced to yet another start spent searching for silver linings.

“Really good. He was outstanding tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He pitched really well.

“He had really good stuff. He had command of his stuff, he had command of himself. I thought he was outstanding - even better than what he looked like in Cincinnati. I thought that was probably his best game for us to date.”

Darvish has continued to lean heavily on his cutter this season, more so than any year prior. After throwing it 13 percent of the time last season, he’s going to that pitch almost 25 percent of the time now. If that holds, it’d beat his previous career-high, set in 2013, by six percentage points.

All things considered, that pitch has actually been good for him this season. It’s his go-to offering when he needs to induce weak contact, and batters are hitting .125 against it so far. He gets batters to chase cutters 29.5 percent of the time, the most of any pitch he throws. While he has admitted in games past that he relies too heavily on his fastball, Maddon sees no issues with the new trend.

“I have no concerns with that whatsoever,” he said. “There’s different ways for pitchers to attack hitters, and if it's successful, I really would not change a whole lot.”

Though the night was dedicated to celebrating one of the franchises most beloved pitchers, it was one of their most maligned that continued to show signs of figuring it out. He’s put together back-to-back starts with three or less walks for the first time this season, and has allowed two or less runs in three of the last five.

The pitcher even stepped off the mound during Arrieta’s first at-bat, in order to let the standing ovation continue on.

“He’s is a legend in Chicago,” Darvish said after the game. “And I pitched against him and pitched pretty good, so it makes me confident.”

The bullpen again struggled on Monday night, as the trio of Mike Montgomery, Brad Brach, and Kyle Ryan allowed two runs on five hits, including the game-winning solo home run from Realmuto in the 10th. For a moment it looked like the Cubs had a win wrapped up when Brach got outfielder Andrew McCutchen to bite on a two-strike slider, but was (probably incorrectly) called a checked swing.  He would eventually draw a walk, leading to Jean Segura’s game-tying single.

“On the field, I thought for sure [that McCutchen swung],” Brach said. “Looking at the first base umpire, I was a little taken aback. That’s why I went off the mound - just to regather myself, because I didn’t want to let the emotion get to me there.

“It’s a 50-50 call, and unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”

 

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