The Cubs finished June with a winning record, and have posted a .500 or above mark each month. They’ve won 42 of 78 games played; last year, the Cubs didn’t win their 42nd game until July 25, which was the 101st game of the season. This is the best record since opening the 2008 season 48-29.
“If we keep playing like this, some good things will happen,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said.
But the Cubs do need depth as far as starting pitching. They hope to have taken a step to address that with the addition of lefty Clayton Richard, who will start Saturday. A year ago on the Fourth of July, the Cubs created fireworks when they dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily.
At that time, the Cubs were in rebuilding mode. That mood has changed with the success this season. The Cubs are in the mix for a Wild Card spot, and with the Trade Deadline coming, what’s next? Epstein cautions that demand outweighs supply at this time of year.
“You have to be creative and you have to be patient and you have to be understanding and you have to recognize the Trade Deadline is not a panacea,” Epstein said. “It just gets a ton of attention for natural reasons but if you go back and look it’s rarely the defining factor.”
In 2004, when Epstein was the Red Sox GM, he made a blockbuster four-team deal at the Trade Deadline which included sending Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. But Epstein cautions that it’s rare for a deadline deal to help a team get to the World Series.
“It’s an opportunity to address things maybe for this year, areas of need, maybe do something to set yourself up for next year, address something that might be hard to address in the off-season,” he said. “It’s not the be all, end all, the panacea, the complete focal point that it’s portrayed as.”
That said, Epstein knows he’ll be asked about trade rumors until the July 31 deadline.
“We know what we’d like to do,” he said, “but we’re realistic about what we’re able to do.”
The Cubs will get Jorge Soler (ankle) back soon from the disabled list and newly signed reliever Rafael Soriano was expected to join the team after the All-Star break. Tsuyoshi Wada and Zac Rosscup, both on the DL with shoulder injuries, should be back in the second half and infielder Mike Olt (wrist) is playing for Triple-A Iowa.
Manager Joe Maddon isn’t making demands.
“I’m happy with where we’re at,” Maddon said. “I don’t expect; I just try to work with what we have.”
He’ll meet with the players after the All-Star break for one of his three in-season meetings — he also has one prior to the start of the season and another before the playoffs begin. His message will be the same: “Respect 90,” and “Do Simple Better.”
He’d like to see rookies Kris Bryant and Addison Russell not chase as many pitches out of the strike zone as they have been doing. It’s been a good first half.
“You don’t win any blue ribbons or gold stars for half a decent season,” Epstein said. “We’re just trying to get better, trying to see what we need to do so we’re still relevant three, four months from now. This doesn’t matter too much where we’re at right now. It’s part of the process, part of the grind and our guys are doing a great job staying focused.”
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs acquired left-hander Clayton Richard from the Pirates for cash considerations. Richard will start on Saturday against the Marlins at Wrigley Field.
Richard, 31, was originally a 2005 White Sox Draft pick, and has pitched in 147 games, making 129 starts. He’s pitched for the White Sox and Padres, and this year, was 4-2 with a 2.09 ERA in nine starts at Triple-A Indianapolis. Richard is coming back from shoulder surgery, which he had in July 2013.
Donn Roach, who was scheduled to start on Saturday, was optioned to Iowa.
— Carrie Muskat
Harry Caray sang the seventh inning stretch again at Wrigley Field on Friday.
The late Cubs broadcaster led the crowd of 41,212 in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” via a video on the new scoreboard at the 100-year-old ballpark.
The Cubs decided to play the video of Caray, who died in 1998, after fans told them how much they wanted to see some of the legends connected to the team. This is the first season for the video scoreboards at Wrigley Field, installed in left and right fields.
“One of the things that we think would be really fun is to bring back a number of our departed historic figures, like Harry Caray, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo,” said Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney. “We want to bring them back to the fans via the video board.”
The Cubs felt Friday was the perfect timing for Caray because they were re-opening the bleachers, which have been under construction as part of the ballpark’s renovation. Caray occasionally did his broadcasts from the bleachers.
“We listen to the fans,” Kenney said. “We’re learning from them.”
Caray, Banks and Santo all performed the seventh inning stretch. The Cubs will primarily have live singers who will continue to sing from the press box, Kenney said, but on occasion, will utilize some video footage of past performances.
— Carrie Muskat
Iowa beat Round Rock, 5-4. Mike Olt was 3-for-4 with a double and one RBI. Taylor Teagarden had three hits, including two doubles. Drake Britton tossed a quality start, giving up one earned run over six innings.
Pierce Johnson gave up one run on six hits over five innings in Tennessee’s 4-2 win over Montgomery. Johnson struck out five and walked two. Taylor Davis and Albert Almora each homered.
Myrtle Beach’s game against Salem was suspended because of lightning. The game will be completed Friday.
South Bend lost, 5-0, to Bowling Green. Yasiel Balaguert, Gioskar Amaya and Rashad Crawford each had two hits.
Ian Happ hit a game-winning home run in the 11th to lead Eugene to a 2-1 win over Hillsboro. It was Happ’s fourth home run. Starter Oscar De La Cruz gave up one run on four hits over six innings.
Trey McNutt gave up two runs over two-thirds of an inning in Mesa’s 9-6 loss to the Athletics. Wladimir Guerrero was 2-for-4 with two RBI.
Iowa lost 2-1 to New Orleans in 12 innings. Jorge Soler was 0-for-3 in his first rehab game, but did help with a run-scoring ground out in the fifth. Taylor Teagarden had two hits. Jeffry Antigua gave up one run on three hits and three walks over five innings.
Ryan Williams gave up one run over six innings in Tennessee’s 3-2 loss to Mobile. Billy McKinney had two hits. Williams has given up four runs in his last four starts while striking out 16.
Myrtle Beach lost its fifth in a row, falling 2-1 to Winston-Salem. Daury Torrez gave up one run over six innings while striking out six. It was his second straight quality start.
Charcer Burks hit his first home run, tying the game in the third inning, to help South Bend beat Lansing, 4-2. Gioskar Amaya had three hits, including two doubles, and Yasiel Balaguert had three hits and one RBI.
Matt Rose had three hits and two RBI in Eugene’s 5-4 win over Tri-City. Adonis Paula had two RBI and two hits. Ian Happ was 1-for-3 with a stolen base, and now is batting .282.
Mesa lost, 3-1 to the Mariners. Alex Bautista had two hits and one RBI.
Junior Lake had two hits and two RBI in Iowa’s 6-5 win over New Orleans. Mike Olt, Rubi Silva and Ryan Dent also each went 2-for-4.
Tennessee split a doubleheader against Mobile, winning the first game, 5-4, and losing the second, 7-3. Taylor Davis was 2-for-3 with a solo homer in the second game. Dan Vogelbach went a combined 2-for-4 with a double, a home run and three RBI.
Myrtle Beach lost, 3-2, to Winston-Salem. Jonathan Martinez gave up one run over seven innings, striking out five. Chesny Young and Daniel Lockhart each had two hits. Martinez finished June 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA in five starts.
Gleyber Torres hit a home run and drove in two runs in South Bend’s 6-3 loss to Lake County. Kevin Encarnacion and Erick Castillo each had two hits.
Ian Happ hit his third home run in Eugene’s 8-2 loss to Tri-City. Andin Diaz gave up two hits over 5 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out four.
Dylan Cease, coming back from Tommy John surgery, struck out two over two innings in Mesa’s 11-6 loss to the Giants. Carlos Sepulveda and Robert Garcia each had two hits and two RBI.
Almora, Vogelbach named to U.S. Pan Am team
Cubs prospects Albert Almora and Dan Vogelbach were named to the 2015 U.S. Pan American team, and will play in the games in Ontario, July 10-19. Both play for Tennessee.
Almora Jr. has played for a Team USA club six other times, participating on the 14-and-under, 16U and 18U rosters, and helped lead the 18U squad to a Gold Medal in the 2011 Pan Am Games. He was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player that year. This season, Almora was batting .246 average in 60 games.
This will be the first time Vogelbach has been selected to represent the U.S. He was batting .285 with the Smokies with 13 doubles, one triple, five homers and 34 RBI in 59 games.
Team USA squad will be managed by former Major League manager Jim Tracy.
Rookie Kris Bryant was third, Starlin Castro fourth, and Anthony Rizzo and Miguel Montero both fifth at their respective positions in the latest 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot, released Monday.
The Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter and the Reds’ Todd Frazier are 1-2 in the balloting for third baseman, each with more than 6 million votes, while Bryant is third with 3,559,446 votes. Promoted to the big leagues on April 17, Bryant ranks 15th in the NL with 43 RBIs (second on the team to Rizzo’s 44), and was batting .273 with 10 homers, 13 doubles and two triples. The last Cubs rookie to be named to the All-Star team was Geovany Soto in 2008.
Rizzo has received 2,564,264 votes, and trails the D-Backs’ Paul Goldschmidt, who has more than 7 million votes. The Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez was second among first basemen followed by the Reds’ Joey Votto and the Cardinals’ Matt Adams.
Rizzo has posted impressive numbers this season, and ranked fourth in the Major Leagues in OPS (.981) and third in the NL in on-base percentage (.413), sixth in slugging percentage (.568), and 10th in batting average (.304).
“He’s definitely that anchor in the middle of the lineup who you want to build around,” manager Joe Maddon said of Rizzo.
“To envision a lineup without him out there would be very difficult,” Maddon said. “He hits righties, hits lefties, plays a really good first base, has been a really good baserunner. He’s played a really complete game.”
Giants catcher Buster Posey has received nearly 8 million votes, while Montero, a two-time All-Star who was on the NL team last year, had 1,485,095 votes.
Castro, a three-time All-Star, had received 2,185,861 votes, and trailed the Cardinals’ Jhonny Peralta, the Giants’ Brandon Crawford and the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki.
The 86th All-Star Game will be played July 14 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites — on their computers, tablets and smartphones — using the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday at 10:59 p.m. ET. For the first time, voting is exclusively online, where fans may submit up to 35 ballots.
The Cubs placed Tsuyoshi Wada on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 23, with left deltoid inflammation, and activated right-handed reliever Neil Ramirez from the DL. Ramirez has been sidelined since April 16 with right shoulder inflammation.
“I’m back to where I need to be,” said Ramirez, who made three rehab appearances. “I think the biggest thing was seeing how I recover. I’m fine.”
The rehab did take longer than Ramirez anticipated.
“I felt really good initially and then once we started throwing again, it kind of crept back in, so we had to pump the brakes a little and that’s why it took a little longer,” he said, adding that there were some strength issues that needed to be addressed.
“We did it the right way so I’m back to being where I need to be,” he said.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he’ll be careful with the right-hander, who compiled a 1.44 ERA in 50 games last season. Ramirez was expected to be a key piece of the Cubs bullpen this year but was sidelined with the shoulder injury after five April outings.
Wada came out of his last start after two innings with cramping in his left shoulder.
“He’s better, but not where he needs to be,” Maddon said of the lefty. “We’ll give him a little bit more time. We don’t want to run him out there unless he’s feeling 100 percent.”
Donn Roach was promoted from Triple-A Iowa to start Saturday in Wada’s spot, and will stay with the big league club. Roach could be used in relief during the Cubs’ upcoming series against the Mets. With an off day Monday, the Cubs don’t need a fifth starter until next Saturday.
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler, on the disabled list with a sprained left ankle since June 3, will begin a rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A Iowa.
“We were thinking about having Soler matriculate at Notre Dame but instead we’re sending him to the University of Iowa and he’ll be playing over there,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Sunday.
The Cubs do have a Class A Minor League team in South Bend, Ind., where Notre Dame is located.
Soler was batting .265 with four home runs in 49 games before he was injured. At that point, he was leading the National League in strikeouts as well.
Maddon said they did not have a set number of games for Soler to play before he can be activated from the DL.
“There’s no finish line but I think he’s not far off,” Maddon said. “He’s been taking a lot of [batting practice], done a lot of baseball activity.”
— Carrie Muskat
MLB Network broadcaster Bob Costas met with Cubs pitcher Pedro Strop on Sunday to apologize for comments he made during Friday’s telecast.
Strop had entered the game in the eighth inning with the Cubs leading 2-1 against the Cardinals. He served up a game-tying lead off home run to pinch-hitter Greg Garcia, then hit the next batter. Matt Carpenter then flew out but Strop walked Jhonny Peralta and was pulled.
As the right-hander walked off the field, he pointed to the sky, something Strop does after every outing.
“I always thank God for everything, for the opportunity,” Strop said Sunday. “I always do that.”
Costas offered his opinion during the MLB Network broadcast.
“Strop is on his way out, pointing toward the heavens,” Costas said. “We can only ask, or wonder, that he is asking some departed relative for forgiveness for this atrocious performance.”
Strop didn’t know what Costas said until he got back to his hotel room and got reaction from fans and friends via Instagram.
“People said, ‘Hey, don’t worry about what Bob said,'” Strop said. “I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ Then I went on Twitter and saw the comments that he said. I felt pretty bad. At the moment, really bad. I didn’t want to talk to him. Somebody told me he wants to apologize to you, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to talk to him.'”
But Costas did meet with the pitcher in the lobby of the Cubs team hotel on Sunday before Strop went to a fundraiser event with teammate Jason Motte.
“I saw him in the lobby and he apologized to me,” Strop said. “We all make mistakes, and I’m not going to judge him because he made a mistake. I feel better now that he apologized. We all do stuff that we have to apologize for.
“I came down and realized he’s a good dude,” Strop said. “A lot of people told me he’s a great guy and he’s a legend and one of the best at what he does. Everybody makes mistakes.”
— Carrie Muskat
Jason Hammel gets the start Sunday night as the Cubs close their series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Here’s the lineup:
* The Cardinals have won six of eight meetings against the Cubs this season. The Cardinals are on pace for 109 wins. The
Cubs are on pace for 87.
* The Cubs are looking to avoid setting their longest losing streak of the season with a loss on Sunday. They have been
outscored 20-5 during this four-game stretch. Chicago is batting .148 (4-for-27) with runners in scoring position with 35 runners left on base.
* In his last start against the Dodgers on Tuesday, Hammel gave up two hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings, but did not factor
into the decision. Hammel is 2-0, 2.01 ERA in five June starts. His 0.94 WHIP is fourth in MLB among qualifying pitchers behind Max Scherzer (0.79), Jacob deGrom (0.93) and Zack Greinke (0.93).
* Anthony Rizzo is fourth in MLB with a .987 OPS. The only players ranked higher are Bryce Harper (1.185), Paul
Golschmidt (1.113) and Miguel Cabrera (1.053).