Cubs bring back Shawn Camp

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Cubs bring back Shawn Camp

After he was claimed off waivers in spring training, Shawn Camp emerged as one of the most reliable arms out of the bullpen for the Cubs and manager Dale Sveum.

Chicago rewarded the veteran reliever with a one-year deal worth 1.35 million that contains 200,000 in incentives Monday morning.

Camp, who turned 37 Sunday, led the National League with 80 appearances last season, posting a 3.59 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, both among the best numbers of his nine-year career. He also set a new personal best with 18 holds while stranding 15 of 22 inherited runners.

The Cubs entered the offseason with Camp as their only free agent, but expressed interest in bringing the right-hander back to help bolster a bullpen currently filled with inexperienced pitchers.

The Cubs are Camp's seventh team since he was drafted in the 16th round by the Padres. He spent 2008-11 with the Blue Jays, compiling a 3.63 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 257.2 innings pitching in the competitive AL East. He signed on with the Mariners in spring 2012 before being released and claimed by the Cubs.

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

MILWAUKEE – The franchise sensitive to being the other team in town is catching the Cubs at the worst possible time, another you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up story coming out of the White Sox clubhouse.

While Chris Sale serves a five-game suspension for playing with scissors, the Cubs will start Jake Arrieta, the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The perception will be hot-seat manager Robin Ventura has lost control over this White Sox season, while Manager of the Year Joe Maddon actually answered a question this weekend about how the Cubs might align their playoff rotation.

One week out from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the debates will be which players White Sox executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn should sell off, and which Cubs prospects Theo Epstein’s front office should put down to buy the big-ticket item for a World Series run.

Optics, marketing and promotional throwback jerseys aside, the Cubs also appear to be hitting their stride again after a much-needed vacation, winning their third straight series out of the All-Star break with Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  

The Cubs did it with their $155 million ace (Jon Lester) throwing only four innings, getting charged with four runs and giving up five walks and five stolen bases. The Cubs could also absorb one quarter of their All-Star infield (Addison Russell) leaving in the middle of the game with a left heel contusion.

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The Cubs stormed back with five runs in the seventh inning as MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo delivered the biggest swing, a bases-loaded, three-run double into right-center field off lefty reliever Will Smith. 

Three sellout crowds here over the weekend watched the Cubs welcome back All-Star leadoff guy Dexter Fowler to the top of the order, give the ball to six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan in his return from a second Tommy John surgery and keep the St. Louis Cardinals seven games out of first place heading into Sunday night and what should be a gut check for the entire White Sox organization.

“I anticipate that same wonderful crosstown rivalry kind of atmosphere, which I love,” Maddon said. “It’s great for the city. It’s great for the sport. I don’t think fans really care much about records at that particular moment. They just care about your team winning.”

Cubs: Joe Maddon trolls White Sox and explains why trade rumors would bother Chris Sale

Cubs: Joe Maddon trolls White Sox and explains why trade rumors would bother Chris Sale

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs won’t walk onto U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night wearing black “Try Not To Cut” T-shirts with a scissors image replacing the manager’s iconic glasses. But Joe Maddon still couldn’t resist trolling the White Sox after Chris Sale’s temper tantrum.

With an AWOL pitcher, a manager on the hot seat and a front office under siege, the Cubs will see what they used to be in a rivalry that sometimes brought out the worst in them.

This is Carlos Zambrano-level bizarre on the South Side, the White Sox suspending Sale for five days after their franchise player cut up 1976 throwback jerseys, creating a feeding frenzy in the middle of trade-deadline-rumor season. That speculation apparently bothered Sale, who got sent home before Saturday’s scheduled start against the Detroit Tigers, leaving the bullpen to cover for his unprofessionalism.

“It’s not easy,” Maddon said before Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “Obviously, it’s only going to occur if your team’s struggling a bit.

“If you’re doing well, that doesn’t happen. So you have the struggle of the group, and then a really good player being mentioned as a trade piece. From the manager’s perspective, it’s not as difficult as the player himself and then the inter-politics of the clubhouse. That’s where it becomes more difficult.

“You don’t even know what those conversations sound like and how that cuts at the fabric of what you’re attempting to do. No pun intended.”

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Maddon’s presence as the team’s smirking ringmaster helps a rivalry that missed larger-than-life personalities like Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen. The Cubs won’t see Sale until Thursday night at Wrigley Field in this season’s fourth and final crosstown game between two franchises heading in opposite directions.

Maddon remembered the end of an era with the Tampa Bay Rays, when superstar pitcher David Price got traded to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal at the 2014 deadline. Within the next three months, Rays executive Andrew Friedman jumped for a president’s job with the Los Angeles Dodgers, triggering an escape clause in Maddon’s contract and giving Cubs fans a new costume for that Halloween.

“It was hard for David,” Maddon said. “It really was difficult, especially if it’s your first organization. I think if you bounced a little bit, it’s not so difficult. But if it’s your first time being included in trade conversations, it’s hard for the guy.

“Regardless of knowing that you could end up in a good spot, or you’re going to be wanted, (because) there’s really actually a lot of positives attached to it. It’s still the negative – you might really like where you’re at, it’s your first organization, you have a lot of friendships.

“Awkward. It’s an awkward feeling. You adjust. Everybody does. But there’s still all this unknown stuff that is unsettling.”

Like what the media circus and the fan atmospherics will be like during those two first two games at U.S. Cellular Field. Or if Buyers vs. Sellers plays out this week and the Cubs and White Sox start making big deals. So much for the White Sox bonding after Adam LaRoche’s retirement in the middle of spring training and using that money to reinvest at the trade deadline. Or Sale smoothing everything over after torching executive vice president Kenny Williams for the way he handled Drake LaRoche’s clubhouse access.

“I’m sure it will be entertaining,” Maddon said. “The South Siders have a wonderful sense of humor that we can definitely all appreciate.”

Cubs hope adding Joe Nathan to bullpen can be like making a trade-deadline splash

Cubs hope adding Joe Nathan to bullpen can be like making a trade-deadline splash

MILWAUKEE – As the New York Yankees engaged in the bidding war for Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs welcomed Joe Nathan into their clubhouse, hoping a six-time All-Star closer can become a game changer for their bullpen.

At the age of 41 – and after two Tommy John surgeries on his right elbow – Nathan won’t be throwing 105 mph. But even if the Cubs aren’t getting Nathan at the height of his powers, it’s still a potential upgrade before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.   

“We’ll see,” Nathan said before throwing a scoreless sixth inning in Sunday’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “These guys obviously have done something special the first half of the season and put themselves in a great (position) to make the postseason. 

“Time will tell who is the right fit. And if they’re going to make more moves, who knows? I’m sure they’re checking to see what’s out there. But for us, we just want to concentrate on today and getting a ‘W.’”

Nathan recovered from a leadoff triple and a walk to strike out the heart of Milwaukee’s order – Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter – and keep the Cubs within three runs before a seventh-inning comeback. 

That showed the guts, experience and presence the Cubs wanted to add to their bullpen, activating off the 60-day disabled list a reliever who’s eighth on the all-time list with 377 career saves and optioning Adam Warren to Triple-A Iowa to stretch him out as an extra starter.   

The Cubs believe Nathan is still hungry, even after making more than $85 million in his career, wanting to write a different ending after facing only one hitter with the Detroit Tigers last year, his season ending on Opening Day.

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Nathan was willing to take the prorated major-league minimum, sweat through the heat at the team’s Arizona complex and try to find it again at Double-A Tennessee and Iowa.
 
“Right from Day 1, it really wasn’t a question of if I’m going to try to come back from this,” Nathan said. “Why not? Why wouldn’t I at least put my best foot forward? If I’m going to rehab it, I might as well go 100 percent at it and see where it goes. 

“The good test for me was I was living at home, going through it, bringing the kids to school, doing homework, doing normal stuff. At the same time, I still had the itch. 

“That kind of told me, too. If I was home, and I was like, ‘You know what, this is kind of nice,’ it would have been easy to just say: ‘No, I’m good.’ But I still had that kick in the butt to get up and come back to this game.”