Cubs

Garza, Maholm and the next moves for Cubs

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Garza, Maholm and the next moves for Cubs

PITTSBURGH The Cubs say they want more Matt Garzas, not less Matt Garzas, but there is really only one like him on the trade market.

Young enough (28) and under club control for next season, proven in the playoffs and the American League East, Garza could make sense in the near- and long-tem. But dealing him wasnt necessarily automatic, and his right elbow is now another variable.

The Cubs have to already be thinking about life after Ryan Dempster. Garzas heard his name in trade rumors for so long that his default setting is blocking them out. Paul Maholm has also emerged as a potential trade chip. This could create a huge hole in the rotation.

When you have the commodities that people want, anything can happen at any given time, manager Dale Sveum said Monday. But the odds of all three of them being gone? No, those are very, very, very impossible odds.

The front office respects Sveums evaluation skills and has kept in contact, though not at the lightning-fast speed of Twitter.

Less than 48 hours after experiencing cramps in his right triceps, Garza said hes still trying to make his next start, but it wont be on Friday. Travis Wood will face the St. Louis Cardinals that afternoon at Wrigley Field. Pretty soon the Cubs will have to set their plans for the weekend, with or without Garza.

He seems very optimistic about it, Sveum said. He doesnt seem overly concerned that were going to have to put him on the DL or anything, so thats always a good sign.

As much as he competes and everything, he knows the ramifications of kind of hanging (everyone) out (to dry) and putting (the bullpen) in harms way.

Where Garza (5-7, 3.91 ERA) is a loud and high-energy presence in the clubhouse, Maholm is low-key. Garza is the big name. Maholm is a completely different pitcher, at a reasonable cost.

Maholm (8-6, 4.09 ERA) is only owed 1.75 million the rest of this season. There is a 500,000 buyout to the 6.5 million club option for 2013. His next two starts will be against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the organization that selected him eighth overall in the 2003 draft. The 30-year-old left-hander spent his entire career there until signing with the Cubs last winter.

As the Pirates fight for first place in the National League Central, and try to turn this back into a baseball town, Internet speculation has them interested in a possible reunion. Maholm is 4-0 with a 0.89 ERA in his last five games.

I dont think theyd send scouts out to see me, Maholm said. Nothings really changed from the time they drafted me until now. I want to enjoy it and compete against these guys.

Maholm, who broke the news of his signing with the Cubs on his personal Twitter account last January, knows the noise is only going to get louder.

The guys in here talk about it, Maholm said. Most are really professional and come in here and know that their job is to go out and compete and win baseball games. Until youre told youre on another team, youre going to do everything you can to win games for us.

Matt Carpenter giving the Cubs Daniel Murphy PTSD

Matt Carpenter giving the Cubs Daniel Murphy PTSD

Say the name Daniel Murphy around Cubs fans (who have been around since before they won the 2016 World Series) and expect a dirty look or shade of some sort.

What Murphy did to the Cubs in the 2015 National League Championship Series still haunts the fanbase, even if they did end the championship drought the following fall.

Now, the Cubs are seeing it again and their PTSD is in overdrive.

St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter has been on an unreal tear of late, setting Cardinals franchise records in the process.

Throughout this five-game series at Wrigley Field, Carpenter is 9-for-16 with 6 homers, 10 RBI, 8 runs scored, 3 walks, a pair of doubles and a bunt single to lead off Sunday's game against the Cubs' shift.

"We're seeing this guy probably at his best moment in his life as a baseball player," Joe Maddon said. "My god. We saw it a couple years ago in the playoffs. We're seeing it all over again.

"Similar kind of a swing, not missing anything. It's pretty impressive."

In that 2015 NLCS, Murphy — then with the New York Mets — homered in all 4 games while hitting .529 with a 1.850 OPS, driving in 6 and scoring 6. 

To put that in perspective: The Cubs scored only 8 runs as a team in the 4 games.

Maddon and the Cubs don't know what to do to get Carpenter out right now, so they've resorted to walking him whenever possible, like in the second inning Sunday when they just dealt out a free pass to the Cardinals infielder with runners on second and third and two outs.

They also tried out a funky shift in the seventh inning Sunday, with Kris Bryant as a fourth outfielder in left-center, Addison Russell as the only defender on the left side of the infield and Javy Baez playing on the grass in shallow right field. It worked, as Carpenter grounded it to Baez for a routine out.

Beyond that, all the Cubs can do is hope time eventually wears Carpenter down. After all, nobody can stay this hot forever.

Even though Carpenter and the Cardinals are leaving town after Sunday's game, these two team square off against each other again next weekend for the final series in St. Louis.

"For them, it's a blast to watch," Maddon said. "Give the guy credit. What he's working right now is unique. The last time I saw it was Daniel Murphy. 

"Before that, I think, was Barry Bonds in the World Series in 2002. Playoffs with Murphy a couple years ago, where the guy — every pitch that is thrown — he's on time, he's on balance with a forceful swing that looks like the ball can go out of the ballpark every time. Bonds, Murphy and now him."

That's some serious company to be in.

So what's led to this insane stretch from Carpenter?

Maybe it's the salsa.

When told about that theory, Maddon laughed and said:

"Listen, that makes total sense to me. Can he send a jar over here, please?"

Training Camp Daily: Defense still “picking” on Bears QB’s in rainy practices

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USA TODAY

Training Camp Daily: Defense still “picking” on Bears QB’s in rainy practices

Training Camp Daily: The Bears put the pads on for Sunday's practice on another wet day in Bourbonnais. Bears insider John 'Moon' Mullin & producer Paul Aspan discuss Mitchell Trubisky's accuracy, which continues to be a work in progress. Plus Anthony Miller & Kevin White turn heads, while Aaron Lynch suffers yet another injury setback when the Bears are already thin at pass rusher. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: