Cubs

White Sox Minor League update: Mitchell slumping

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White Sox Minor League update: Mitchell slumping

AAA Charlotte Knights

The Knights pitching staff has had its struggles this season, but Dylan Axelrod has been a bright spot for the club. He is 2-1 in five starts and has only surrendered 23 hits in 31 innings of work. Axelrod has only allowed three earned runs all season and holds an impressive 0.87 ERA. In his one start last week, Dylan went six innings, struck out nine and allowed one unearned run on a fielding error. Axelrods name may sound more familiar than other prospects because he has seen glimpses of action for the White Sox this season. He appeared in three games with one start and holds a 3.52 ERA in the big leagues.

Charlotte catcher Josh Phegley continues to look for answers in the second week of May. After coming off a productive April, Phegley has had a great deal of trouble finding his swing this month. Last week, he went just 3-for-24 (.125), and in four of the six games, he was hitless. Phegleys recent slump has caused his once jaw-dropping average to flutter just above .300 (.303). It is still early in the season, but Phegley needs to fix his swing not only to help his shrinking average but also for a Charlotte team searching high and low for run support.

AA Birmingham Barons

Birmingham speedster Jared Mitchell appeared to have pumped the breaks last week and his production followed. Mitchell went 4-for-24 (.166) with only one extra base hit, and two RBI. He fanned 11 times with five multiple strikeout games. Of the six times he reached base safely last week, he swiped three bags. Mitchell could be a true threat on the base paths, his only issue has been getting there, and his .233 OBP for the week tells us exactly that.

Simon Castro was deemed to have location issues coming into the season, but it appears that in his last two performances, he has been completely in control. Castro toed the rubber for one start last week and put on quite the show. He tossed seven innings, allowed one unearned run, and struck out five. Even more impressively, Castro only allowed three hits in his seven innings of work. With a methodical approach to his last two starts, Castro has silenced many analysts who were critical of his ability to locate his pitches.

Class A Winston-Salem Dash

The Dash improved to 22-15 on Wednesday and their recent success can be largely attributed to left fielder Brady Shoemaker. In the five games he played last week, Brady went 10-for-18 (.555) with three RBIs and an OBP of .600. His recent tear catapulted his average to .356 on the season, the highest on the team and good enough for fourth in the league. Not only has Shoemaker been hot, he has delivered in the clutch, hitting .351 with runners in scoring position.

Spencer Arroyo had one start this week in Winston-Salem. He threw five and a third innings allowing one run on four hits with six Ks. Arroyo started the season slowly, allowing 13 combined runs in his first two starts but his performances have become increasingly more efficient and his ERA (5.97) is slowly beginning to level out. In his eight starts, Arroyo leads the club in strikeouts (35), and is second in innings pitched (37.2).

Cubs camp observations: Wrigley's home-field advantage without fans

Cubs camp observations: Wrigley's home-field advantage without fans

Four days into the Cubs’ training camp restart, we’ve only begun to get acquainted with the new normal of baseball rhythms and routines that we can only hope will result in a 2020 season of 60 games.

If the league can fix some of its early testing issues and keep enough players on enough teams healthy enough to start the season, what might come into play for the Cubs and the actual baseball.

Early observations after about a dozen Zoom sessions with team personnel and two intrasquad scrimmages:

NUTS: Home cooked?

The Cubs, who draw so reliably in one of the unique ballparks in the majors, might have more to lose than most teams without fans allowed to attend games when the season starts July 24.

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Just how much of the Confines’ home-field advantage is lost will be a matter of “wait-and-see,” manager David Ross said.

“There’s always an advantage to playing in your own park,” he said Sunday. “You feel more comfortable you woke up in your own bed. You’re not staying in a hotel room, which especially now, where you feel like outside spaces just aren’t comfortable as they used to be, probably [gives] a slight advantage in your city.

“There’s no substitute for fans,” he added. “There’s probably a slight advantage, but I don’t know if it’s as great as it used to be.”

What Ross didn’t mention were the rooftops across Waveland and Sheffield, which are planning to operate at 25-percent capacity when games start, suggesting at least a few hundred fans within cheering and booing distance.

“You’re going to hear them loud and clear, too,” pitcher Tyler Chatwood said. “I promise you that.”

BOLTS: Taking the fifth

All you need to know about Alec Mills’ ability to adjust and immediately step into an important role is what he did in an emergency start against the first-place Cardinals at Wrigley last year with the Cubs a half-game out and barely a week left in the season.

He hadn’t started anywhere in a month — and that was in the minors. But the guy who pitched out of the bullpen just three times in the four intervening weeks, pitched two outs deep into the fifth inning that day and didn’t allow a run (the bullpen took care of that, in a loss).

No wonder when Ross talks about Mills replacing the injured Jose Quintana (thumb) in the rotation, he says, “I’ve got a ton of confidence.”

He’s not the only one. “I’ve always had the mindset of doing whatever I can to stay ready and help in any way,” said Mills after pitching a strong three innings in a simulated game Sunday. “Obviously, with an unfortunate injury like this, I think it’s just even more heightened.

“I’m ready to do whatever, whether it needs to be maybe a start here or there, a couple more starts, long guy out of the pen — just whatever I need to do I pride myself on being ready to do that.”

CHATTER: The mask at hand

“It’s a little different. You leave the house with a phone, your keys, your wallet and your mask.”

—Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo on his and his teammates’ new daily normal.

“Everybody is thinking about it, but we try to get here and understand this is our safe zone and we’re trying to create that [within] the things that we’re going to do on and off the field.”

—Ross on players weighing the risk of playing during the pandemic against the safety precautions and protocols the team has built in and around its Wrigley Field bubble.

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2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

Both the Cubs and White Sox may benefit this season from the unique MLB schedule which will have all clubs play regionally, instead of across their leagues. Since the A.L. Central and N.L. Central teams are all fairly close, and Chicago is practically in the middle of the action, both the Sox and Cubs will rank near the bottom for miles traveled over the course of the regular season, according to MLB Network.

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During their 2020 schedule release show, MLB Network displayed a graphic saying the Cubs will travel the second-fewest miles at 4,071 and the White Sox will travel sixth-fewest at 4,750 miles. It’s important to note that may not give them an edge in the regular season, as the other teams to round out the list are all Central division opponents as well: the Brewers, Tigers, Cardinals and Reds.

But when it comes time for the playoffs, that rest may pay off-- especially if either team faces off against a team from the West. All of the top-five teams for most miles traveled come from the A.L. and N.L. West, ranging from 11,332 miles traveled for the Rockies to a whopping 14,706 miles traveled for the Rangers. In a condensed season, with significantly less rest, that long travel could take a toll.


RELATED: White Sox schedule release: Slow start not an option with brutal first week

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