Cubs rotation picture coming into focus

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Cubs rotation picture coming into focus

MESA, Ariz. You cant do instant analysis here, not when some regulars are showered and out the door before the game ends.

But if you listen closely and observe, you can slowly see the picture coming into focus. The Cubs have two spots open in their rotation, and thats the biggest roster story still to be written this spring.

Staring down at the clubhouse carpet, Travis Wood was definitely feeling a sense of urgency after getting one out in Wednesdays 10-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in front of 11,682 fans at HoHoKam Stadium.

Its typical to say its early, working out all the kinks, but its time to go, Wood said. I had two outings so far and neither one went as planned. So now its just time to get after it.

Wood is the promising 25-year-old left-hander acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in the Sean Marshall trade. He gave up six runs five earned on three hits and two walks. He didnt look particularly sharp in an intra-squad scrimmage (six runs) or a start against the White Sox.

These are absurdly small sample sizes, but its the middle of March and significant cuts will be coming after this weekends trip to Las Vegas. Major decisions will have to be made.

Randy Wells helped his cause by throwing three scoreless innings against the Brewers. He had also bailed Wood out of a bases-loaded jam against the White Sox last week by getting Paul Konerko to ground into an inning-ending double play.

You guys keep asking the same question, Wells said. For every guy, you cant really think about it. If you do, its going to eat at you and one bad outings going to get in your head. I dont think you can worry about that.

For the most part, these guys are pretty good talent evaluators. Thats why theyre in (this) position. If guys can go out and work on things and get better each day, then its going to be a tough decision on them. You cant sit here and really try to play a managerial game behind the scenes.

(When) its our turn to pitch, we pitch and see what happens.

Wells is used to having to fight for a spot in the rotation. There is a reasonable expectation of knowing what youd get as long as he stays healthy. Hes 27-30 with a 4.01 ERA in 500-plus innings in the big leagues, a very capable fifth starter whos probably been overlooked.

Deep down, the Cubs see so much upside in Chris Volstad (32-39, 4.59 ERA), whos 25 years old, 6-foot-8 and a former first-round pick. Hes already thrown six scoreless innings in the Cactus League. The South Florida native is viewed as a classic change-of-scenery guy after being traded from the Miami Marlins in the Carlos Zambrano deal.

Its also hard to ignore the glowing praise manager Dale Sveum has repeatedly used to describe Jeff Samardzijas game. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, the Cubs feel like his bodys designed to handle 200 innings. He has swing-and-miss stuff and team officials think he can use last season (8-4, 2.97 ERA) as a springboard.

Quietly, Rodrigo Lopez has thrown four scoreless innings and worked on the slider that made him a 15-game winner with the Baltimore Orioles. The 36-year-old right-hander wound up being good insurance last season (6-6, 4.42 ERA) and the new front office made pitching depth a priority.

Outside of Samardzija who seems likely to be ticketed for the rotation Sveum has said that he doesnt think any of the starting candidates would fit at the back end of the bullpen as the second setup man.

That power-arm void isnt going to be used against Samardzija he will be given every opportunity to earn a job in the rotation.

Needs not going to dictate the decision, Sveum said. Anybodys need is always starting pitching.

Todd Frazier still able to laugh off most embarrassing Little League story ever

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Todd Frazier still able to laugh off most embarrassing Little League story ever

When it comes to hitting homers and driving in runs for the Chicago White Sox in 2016, Todd Frazier is No. 1.

But ask the third baseman for a favorite story about being a baseball player, and he won’t hesitate.

It’s the time he was on the field in a middle of a game---and he went No. 2.

“It was a 10-year-old tournament. Final game. Winner goes to the sectionals. I’m at shortstop,” Frazier explained to CSN Chicago. “I don’t know what I ate. I had the bubble guts all day long. The next thing I knew, I was in trouble.”

Before we get to the dirty details of the Frazier detonation, the original goal of this story was to ask White Sox players about their memories growing up playing baseball.

As the hero of the Toms River East All-Star team that won the 1998 Little League World Series, Frazier probably has enough memories to fill a book.

In the championship game alone, he went 4-for-4 with a leadoff home run. He started that day at shortstop, came on to pitch in relief and threw the game-winning strikeout that gave Toms River a 12-9 victory over Japan for the title.

All the great stories from that magical season have already been told.  This is one from two years earlier that Frazier has been saving for years.

“I s— in my uniform," Frazier said. "I’m not ashamed to admit it."

With quotes like that, I think I speak for every Chicago media member that the White Sox should sign Frazier to a lifetime contract.

And it only gets better.  Or in Frazier’s case, much worse.

“We had a bases loaded jam, and the next thing you know, I couldn’t hold it in,” Frazier recalled. “I didn’t know what to do, to either run off the field or not. So I just let it go, man. Diarrhea all through.”

Frazier’s messy situation came at a terrible time: They were in the final inning of a huge playoff game. Winners move on, losers go home.

Suddenly, Frazier didn’t care about any of that. He needed to go to the nearest bathroom, quickly.

But instead of escaping the field with a victory and his dignity, Frazier’s internal crisis was about to be magnified.

“Coach actually said, ‘Todd, let’s go. It’s your turn to pitch.’ So I’m like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I walk up there gingerly. I get to the mound," he said. "I took one warm-up pitch and that was it. The umpire came out and said, ‘Dude, there’s some kind of stench going on here.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I smelled the same thing when I came out.’ We’re all laughing.”

Not for long.

Thrust into this pressure situation as a relief pitcher who ironically had already relieved himself, with the fate of his team resting in both his pitching hand and his soiled underwear, the proverbial s— was about to hit the fan.

“First pitch, the guy hits a bases clearing triple (to win the game). I was elated. Everybody else was crying,” Frazier said. “I run to the Porta John. My dad is laughing at me.”

Cackling as his son raced to the facilities after a heart-breaking little league game speaks to the offbeat sense of humor embedded in the Frazier DNA.

And yet, this ludicrous moment was almost topped by what happened next.

“I had to ask my dad if he had an extra pair of clothing. Lo and behold, I’m wearing my 6-foot-8 dad’s jeans going home.”

Little Frazier was about 5-feet at the time.

‘I’m like, ‘Dad, let’s get out of here. Let’s not even shake hands. I don’t care about the (second place) trophy. Let’s get out of here.”

It might come as a surprise, but Frazier is not the first baseball player to pollute his baseball pants during a game. A well known major leaguer who will remain nameless said he once did it during an actual major league game.

It’s so embarrassing, who would let the world know about it, especially in today’s age of athletes being so guarded with the media, trying to control the message (and bowels), in the attempt to hide their imperfections?

Clearly not Todd Frazier. We applaud him for it.

“It’s a classic,” he said laughing.  “Now it’s out of the bag, so we’ll see what happens."

In the 20 years since that fateful day, Frazier has made sure this never happens again.

“I’ve always had a bottle of Pepto (Bismol) with me just in case. We've even got them inside the clubhouse here, so I'm good to go.”

The complete 2016 Big Ten football preview

The complete 2016 Big Ten football preview

Welcome back, college football. We missed you.

With the 2016 college football season officially upon us, we come to the culmination of CSNChicago.com's outrageously comprehensive Big Ten football preview.

Take a look at some of the big-picture pieces previewing and attempting to predict what will happen in the conference this season, and go team-by-team for the biggest storylines on all 14 of the campuses throughout Big Ten Country.

Games start this week, so be sure to get your reading in now. You'll be an expert by kickoff.

Why all 14 teams will/won't win the Big Ten this season

Five games that will decide who plays for the Big Ten title

Who wins the Big Ten Championship Game in 2016?

A third straight College Football Playoff appearance for the Big Ten?

The @CSNBigTen preseason All-Big Ten Team

Illinois Fighting Illini

Illini have bought in to Lovie, a positive sign for recruiting

In his final season, Wes Lunt looks to lead Illini through more change

Will Ke'Shawn Vaughn flourish as Illini's go-to back?

Video: CSN goes 1-on-1 with Illini coach Lovie Smith

Video: Wes Lunt on Illinois' offense for 2016

Video: Lovie Smith: "There's a rebirth to our program"

Video: Lovie Smith talks about recruiting process with Illini

Video: Whitman is "confident" Illini will see progress under Lovie

Video: Illinois football impact players ready for the 2016 season

Indiana Hoosiers

To take Hoosiers higher, Kevin Wilson needs to finally fix defense

Devine Redding next to run wild for Hoosiers

Iowa Hawkeyes

Can Hawkeyes turn in worthy encore performance?

C.J. Beathard looks to lead another strong campaign for Hawkeyes

Can Desmond King be even better for Hawkeyes?

Video: C.J. Beathard: "Now we know what it's going to take" to win

Maryland Terrapins

Can DJ Durkin build up Terps in loaded Big Ten East?

Will Likely looks to impact all phases of game for Terps

Can Terps fix woeful quarterback play from a year ago?

Video: Maryland football coach Durkin: "We can recruit with anyone"

Michigan Wolverines

Harbaugh's turnaround yields huge expectations for Michigan

Lewis, Peppers to star for Michigan defense (and everywhere else)

Michigan's pass-catchers should make life easy for new QB

Video: Michigan players on what Jim Harbaugh brings

Michigan State Spartans

Overlooked again, perennial-power Spartans don't sweat lack of hype

Connor Cook leaves big shoes to fill at QB for Michigan State

Malik McDowell and the Spartans defense look to wreak havoc

Video: Michigan State prepared for Big Ten season

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Tracy Claeys continues Gophers on path Jerry Kill started

Can Gophers' Mitch Leidner live up to surprising NFL Draft buzz?

Video: Leidner, Claeys talk Gopher QB's NFL Draft buzz

Nebraska Cornhuskers

After six-win season, can Huskers find normalcy under Mike Riley?

Can Tommy Armstrong better get the ball to Huskers' offensive weapons?

Northwestern Wildcats

To contend for title, Northwestern needs to win the big games

In Year 2 as starter, Clayton Thorson looks to improve Cats' passing game

Lighter load for Justin Jackson could prove big for Northwestern

Losing several starters, Northwestern reloads on defense

Video: Pat Fitzgerald talks about Northwestern's 2016 season

Video: Fitzgerald reacts to nine-game Big Ten schedule

Video: Who is Chicago's Big Ten team? Fitz responds

Ohio State Buckeyes

Even after losing so much to NFL, Buckeyes don't rebuild, they reload

J.T. Barrett primed for big year as the Buckeyes' only QB

Can Mike Weber follow in Ezekiel Elliott's footsteps?

Video: J.T. Barrett talks talented but inexperienced Buckeyes

Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State hopes to see sanctions-impacted decisions pay off

Is Penn State's Saquon Barkley already the Big Ten's best back?

Will new coordinator, new QB fix ailing Penn State offense?

Video: James Franklin: "I think you're going to see progress"

Video: Penn State thinks Saquon Barkley is the best running back

Purdue Boilermakers

Can Darrell Hazell turn optimism into results at Purdue?

Will another season bring another QB quandary for Purdue?

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

In Chris Ash, Rutgers has the change it desperately needed

Janarion Grant an all-around weapon for Rutgers

Chris Ash using Meyer, Bielema influence at Rutgers

Video: Hamilton: Chris Ash "everything you look for in a coach"

Wisconsin Badgers

Healthy Corey Clement ready to break out with Badgers' experienced RB corps

Badgers face daunting schedule in and out of conference

Can Badgers continue defensive success under new coordinator?

Video: Vince Biegel on Badgers' defensive coordinator switch

Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites Week 2 Coverage

Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites Week 2 Coverage

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @CSNPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00pm—just after White Sox baseball. The show also live streams at csnchicago.com. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30am and 8:30am the following Saturday. This week, we head back out to “The Region,” as fans will choose between the following Northwest Indiana games:

Crown Point at Merrillville, 7 p.m.

Lake Central at Portage, 7 p.m.

Polls open Monday at noon and close Thursday at 4 p.m. Fans are encouraged to vote more than once! Vote now right here.

Be sure to follow @CSNPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the week,” along with other football news, scores and highlights this season.

Rules: official votes are tabulated exclusively on Twitter and Facebook via the link above. “Re-Tweets” and “Likes” do not count. Also, the original wording of the Twitter/Facebook voting prompt (including hashtags) cannot be manipulated in any fashion. However, feel free to add emojis, numbers, etc. at the end of an official vote’s text, provided there is a space after the final hashtag. Automatically timed-interval (“bot”) votes will also not count.