In your zeal for a jam-packed week of news and rumors, don’t forget to sign up for this week’s free, one-day fantasy baseball contest, which runs on Friday. Signing up helps BN, and will help you have some fun on Friday. Oh, and you can win part of a $300 prize pool. Sign up here. Full details here.
- In your now daily Alfonso Soriano update, the Cubs outfielder raised his OPS another 26 points yesterday, and his OPS+ jumped 7 points to 107 (I can’t underscore how difficult that is to do in July, after you’ve already accumulated well over 300 plate appearances). Less than two weeks ago, Soriano’s OPS was .666. It’s now .774.
- Although you don’t see it every day, Travis Wood is just about as hot as Alfonso Soriano, and he’s done it all year long. Last night, Wood recorded his 17th quality start – that’s the most in the majors, and it’s the most for a Cubs pitcher in the first half since Greg Maddux in 1988.
- Speaking of Wood, remember all that he-won’t-pitch-in-the-All-Star-Game stuff? Well, I can’t be certain, but it sounds like the Cubs or Sveum or Wood or someone wasn’t aware of the rule change that allows Sunday starters to pitch an inning in the All-Star Game if the team and player consent. Now Sveum says there’s a chance Wood will face a batter or pitch an inning in the Game. Here’s how Sveum put it, per ESPN: “Whatever happens it will depend a lot on how Sunday goes. [Tuesday is] going to be a side day [for Wood] anyway. I have no problem pitching one inning or 20 pitches, just the same you would be pitch on your side. He goes all out on his side days anyway.” If he wants it, I hope Wood gets to pitch his inning.
- Dale Sveum says Brian Bogusevic should be able to return to playing duty for the upcoming Cardinals series. He can pinch hit at this point, at least. Bogusevic’s hamstring injury was the third injury to beset a Cubs center fielder over the past month – Ryan Sweeney is out for several more weeks after breaking a rib colliding into a wall, and David DeJesus is out another couple weeks, at least, after straining his shoulder colliding into a wall.
- In the same Cubs.com piece there, Carrie Muskat says that Scott Baker threw his fourth simulated game yesterday in Arizona, and could be getting ready for a rehab assignment. For him, as he builds up arm strength, that would likely last a month or so. In that case, we could see Baker in mid-August with the Cubs. At that point, it would be far too late for him to reasonably be considered a trade chip (even in the August waiver period), but it would give the Cubs an opportunity to see what he’s got and how he’s looking going into the offseason. If he looks good, and if he’s liked his time in the Cubs organization, maybe he becomes an interesting, cost-effective re-signing option.
- 2012 first round pick Albert Almora was at Wrigley Field yesterday, against a backdrop of the Cubs still negotiating with 2013 first round pick Kris Bryant. Each player has/had the same advisor – Scott Boras – and each player appears to be taking the negotiations right up to the deadline.
- BN’er John hooked us up with a chart breaking down Baseball America’s midseason top 50 list, in which the Cubs did well. Check out the chart over at the Message Board.
- The Wrigley Beer Man has a new appreciation for vending at Wrigley Field.
- The Cubs are funding some college scholarships.