Wells heads back to Iowa as Dempster, Wood activated

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Wells heads back to Iowa as Dempster, Wood activated

CINCINNATI Randy Wells packed his bag for Des Moines on Thursday morning. Even if he sensed a demotion to Triple-A Iowa was coming, it didnt make it any easier.

Im not happy, Wells said. I didnt pitch well, so theres nobody really to blame but yourself. It still sucks. You obviously want to pitch well and put yourself in a good position, but the numbers just dont stack up. It is what it is.

The Cubs made a series of roster moves before Thursdays game against the Cincinnati Reds. Wells again lost the numbers game when Ryan Dempster came off the disabled list, becoming the sixth starter in a five-man rotation.

The Cubs also activated Kerry Wood and optioned left-hander Scott Maine to Iowa. They didnt seem interested in moving Wells whos making 2.705 million this year to the bullpen.

Hes got a future, manager Dale Sveum said. We cant sit here and promise anything. Right now, thats the role he has as a swingman coming up when we need starts.

So the Cubs will have insurance in case another starter goes down. Their bullpen remains a work in progress.

The coaching staff will have to be careful with Wood, whose right shoulder has been bothering him periodically since the beginning of spring training, and isnt ready for back-to-back games yet.

Well monitor him, Sveum said. It will be every other day and when you get him up, you get him in the game. Early on here, well probably use him in less-stressful situations. Its a sixth-, seventh-inning thing right now.

The Cubs will continue to carry Lendy Castillo, a Rule 5 pick who hasnt pitched in a game since April 20. Michael Bowden is out of options and can pitch multiple innings. James Russell is the only lefty in the bullpen.

Maine didnt do anything wrong he allowed one run in 5 23 innings and notched 10 strikeouts but still wound up losing another numbers game.

Its unclear whether the Cubs would have really changed their plans, but Wells didnt help his cause in two spot starts. The Cubs lost both games and combined Wells gave up six runs on nine hits and nine walks in 8.2 innings.

Wells who reported to spring training with a 27-30 career record and a 4.01 ERA in the majors has shown that he can be a decent piece at the back end of a rotation. Virtually every team could use more pitching. He was asked if he feels like he still fits in here.

I dont think its that at all, he said. I just think theres no room.

Wells didnt make any excuses, and isnt the type to make waves and demand a trade. He blamed himself.

Im not pitching well, he said, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks destroys another NL lineup as Cubs top Pirates

Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks destroys another NL lineup as Cubs top Pirates

Kyle Hendricks continued his systematic destruction of National League lineups on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, shutting down the Pittsburgh Pirates during a 3-0 victory that highlighted his Cy Young Award potential.

Hendricks, who leads the majors in ERA, sliced his number down to 2.09, throwing seven scoreless innings as the Cubs continued their march toward a division title and what they expect will be a deep run into October.

Hendricks (13-7) has grown from a nominal fifth starter into someone near the front of a playoff rotation, neutralizing entire lineups with his curveball and four-seam fastball — which make his changeup and two-seam fastball that much more effective — while turning opponents into very-good-hitting pitchers (sub-.600 OPS).

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On the one-year anniversary of Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter/onesie press conference at Dodger Stadium, Hendricks didn’t allow a hit until Gregory Polanco’s soft single to center field leading off the fifth inning.

Hendricks had faced the minimum through four innings and wound up throwing 99 pitches, 61 for strikes, giving up only two more hits and not allowing any Pirates to go past second base.

The Cubs (84-47) gave Hendricks — a pitcher already working with a quiet confidence and a specific game plan in mind — an early lead when Anthony Rizzo slammed a Chad Kuhl fastball off the small video panel above the right-field wall for a two-run homer in the first inning.

Whether or not Rizzo can catch up to Kris Bryant in the MVP race, Hendricks has to be among the leading Cy Young candidates, given his remarkable consistency (18 straight starts with three earned runs or less) and strong second-half push.

Bears claim Browns castoff defensive back K’Waun Williams

Bears claim Browns castoff defensive back K’Waun Williams

This could be interesting.

Bears coach John Fox made a passing reference to “owies” last week, an apparent reference to the typical nicks and bruises that players suffer, presumably falling on the safe side of the pain-vs.-injury line. Coaches like players to play when they can.

The Cleveland Browns suspended K’Waun Williams this offseason for two weeks after the former No. 1 Cleveland nickel cornerback refused to play in the Aug. 12 Browns preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers.

Now the Bears have claimed Williams, 25, waiving cornerback Kevin Peterson, and hope Williams is past what the Browns look to have deemed just their version of an “owie.”

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Williams’ release comes after a convoluted disagreement between player and team, with Williams obtaining medical opinions that he needed surgery to remove bone spurs from an ankle. The team said that Williams never informed them of his ankle problems until the day after the Green Bay game.

The Bears have struggled mightily this preseason to find anything close to a healthy cornerback. Starters Kyle Fuller (knee) and Tracy Porter (concussion) are currently sidelined along with nickel corner Bryce Callahan (hamstring). Jacoby Glenn started for Fuller at New England but also left with a concussion.

Bears O-line will benefit from ripple effect whenever Kyle Long returns

Bears O-line will benefit from ripple effect whenever Kyle Long returns

Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long continued doing work on the side of Bears practice on Tuesday. He won’t play Thursday at Cleveland, but he represents a looming one-man shakeup of the offensive line — in a positive way — when he returns from a shoulder injury, presumably next week.

Coach John Fox demurred from saying that Long will be in the lineup when the Bears open the regular season Sept. 11 in Houston.

“We’re anticipating him at least being back out there to get ready for Houston,” was as far as Fox would go on Tuesday.

But Ted Larsen, who has filled in for Long at right guard while Cornelius Edison worked as the No. 1 center, has been taking some snaps at center, a hint that Long might be on course for a return for Houston.

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When that happens, it will effectively improve all three interior-line positions at the same time.

The upgrade at right guard is immediate and obvious. When Long was pressed into an emergency shift to right tackle the week before the opener vs. Green Bay last year, it sent Vlad Ducasse into the starting lineup at Long’s preferred spot. Long now represents an obvious upgrade over Larsen.

Installing Larsen at center, where he went after Hroniss Grasu suffered his season-ending knee injury, upgrades the center position over Edison, who has never played an NFL game.

The third upgrade happens at left guard, where rookie Cody Whitehair has settled in at the job he stepped into when Larsen was out late in the offseason. Whitehair is a rookie; Larsen, who has played center during his career, is better able to help Whitehair than Edison, certainly at this point in the latter’s career.