Happy Birthday, America. Enjoy your Fourth of July, folks – may you have many a beer, a hot dog, and a fireworks display.
- You probably expected Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum to say certain things about Chris Volstad’s rough start last night: he had one bad inning again, he wasn’t hitting his spots, etc. And, indeed, he did say those things at first. But you probably didn’t expect him to say this: “Not much has changed, obviously. It was another big inning. There was still some hard contact going on before that [inning] and his stuff and location wasn’t all that good anyway. The ball wasn’t down. It didn’t seem as if anything was sinking very good. He didn’t pitch to the game plan either. That was a little bit discouraging, too. He shook [catcher Steve Clevenger] off a lot for some reason. Another combination of a lot of things he’s got to learn to work on.” Yo. That’s about as firmly as you’ll ever hear a manager tip his starting pitcher after a game. Basically, Dale was saying it wasn’t just the bad inning – Volstad’s whole start sucked, he was getting hit hard, he couldn’t keep the ball down, he didn’t have sink, and he didn’t stick to the game plan. Whew. Harsh, bro. But probably fair.
- At the same time, Sveum confirmed that Volstad will probably get another start before the All-Star break. “We don’t have any options,” Sveum said. “We’ll run him out there again. As of now, we don’t really have any other options. He’s got to stick to a game plan and trust Clevenger back there.” Advice, Chris? Stick to the game plan, even if you think it will fail. It’s not the same thing, but note how much success Carlos Marmol has had since he finally listened to the coaching staff and started trusting his fastball more.
- Sveum on the ethereal qualities of hitting in the middle of the order: “You have to have talent to hit third, fourth, fifth. There’s a mental edge you have to have in those spots, too. Those spots are RBI spots. You’re not hitting there because you’re a good hitter, it’s because you can smell and taste RBIs, and you find a way to get those RBIs and get them in, whether the infield is back and you hit a ground ball to second base with the infield back. Those are RBIs you don’t get back, especially early in the game when you take the lead. That’s what third hitters and fourth hitters do, they take leads and add on.”
- Dale Sveum is throwing his support behind Darwin Barney as a Gold Glove candidate. “That’s about as good as it gets — those plays and the defense he’s been playing all year has been incredible,” Sveum said, according to Paul Sullivan. “It’s hard to believe there’s been a better second baseman in baseball this year defensively. I can’t imagine it happening. Maybe somebody as good, but not better, that’s for sure …. The guy goes out there every single day to try and be a real Gold Glover.” Barney, in addition to making some stellar plays, hasn’t made an error in 67 straight games.
- You already know about the signings, but the Cubs have officially announced that they’ve signed 18 of their top 20 picks from the 2012 Draft – everyone but top pick Albert Almora, and second rounder Duane Underwood. Both are expected to sign by the July 13 deadline. Of their 42 overall picks, the Cubs have signed 27 so far.
- FanGraphs takes a deep look at Jeff Samardzija’s June struggles (as compared to his success in April and May, and then his first start in July), and there are reasons to believe he was very unlucky in June. He was also playing with his pitch mix, which could have screwed things up. But he certainly walked a ton of guys, and got hit on his second and third times through the order. We’ll have to see how things progress.
- The MLBullets at BCB note Chris Carpenter’s season-ending shoulder surgery.