I’ll be headed to the game today, in the right field bleachers, and I look forward to it being more enjoyable than the last Jason Hammel start I was at – it was his last one before the break, the marathon game against the Braves that punched me in the soul.
Oh, hey, this is good for the soul: after yesterday’s outing, Kyle Hendricks has the third best ERA in baseball.
- Among many other comments into which we’ll get later, Theo Epstein said that the front office was hard at work at trying to improve the team via trade before the All-Star break, but nothing came together (ESPN). They’ll continue to work now until the deadline (and beyond), but, even if the bullpen is the most obvious spot for an upgrade, Epstein won’t allow the Cubs to limit themselves. You can upgrade the team in a number of creative ways, and you also don’t want to close off possibilities because things can change rapidly.
- Epstein did suggest that the Cubs might be more focused on improving this year’s team than they have been in the past, when it was more about building for the future. In other words – mine, not Epstein’s – you can expect the Cubs to be more willing to entertain going out and getting rental players for prospects (even as everyone acknowledges that there will be rotation needs after 2016, and getting a pitcher now with multiple years of control left would be a perfect-world situation). A greater willingness to seek out rentals this year makes sense: unlike last year, when, at this time, the Cubs were battling for a Wild Card spot, this year the Cubs have a very good shot at locking up the Central, and avoiding the 50/50 coin flip of the Wild Card Game. That should make them all the more willing to spend a little more prospect currency on rentals whom they know can help them lock down the division and would get to participate in at least one short playoff series.
- Clayton Richard, who returned to the bullpen yesterday, told Cubs.com that getting stretched out in the minor leagues helped him work on some issues with timing. Perhaps we’ll see the benefits of that now in the bullpen – Richard succeeded there late last year after being a starting pitcher for most of the year – though it’s fair to say that Richard may have little time to prove he’s rectified whatever was troubling him earlier this year. With the Trade Deadline looming, and with Joe Nathan and Brian Matusz likely to join the bullpen soon, there is going to be a lot of turnover out there in the next three weeks.
- Whatever negativity is out there about the Cubs and their pre-break skid, Anthony Rizzo says it’s not getting into the clubhouse (CSN).
- The July 31 game against the Mariners has now been announced as a 7:08pm CT start after being picked up by ESPN. A national game in the middle of the Blogathon? That makes me happy. Gives me energy.
- Mini pocket flashlight? Yes. I like things like that. On sale at Amazon today.
- The smokeless tobacco ban at sporting events in Chicago kicked in on Tuesday, but Joe Maddon says he’s not too eager to be the enforcer of that rule as far as Cubs players are concerned (Tribune). Which is pretty fair – it’s not his job to enforce the rules of the city, especially when he’s trying intentionally to not be the “rules” guy with his players.
- Earlier, I wrote about the timeline for Dexter Fowler’s return, if you missed it.
- Kyle Hendricks pitched very well yesterday, as did the bullpen, but each definitely received help from some great defense – that tends to be the case in a game featuring so many balls in play (the Rangers struck out only six times) and no runs. Javy Baez made a couple nice plays, Albert Almora made a couple nice catches, Anthony Rizzo made a couple nice plays. Willson Contreras nailed a runner with a strong, quick throw to second (hat tip to Baez on a great tag). And there was a nice play on both ends yesterday, with Kris Bryant going deep behind third base, and Anthony Rizzo digging out a low throw across the base:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 15, 2016