Daniel Rodriguez must be good luck.
The soon-to-be-10-year-old fan with Down syndrome had a reunion with Willson Contreras before Tuesday afternoon's game against the White Sox at Wrigley Field. Contreras promptly responded with a three-run homer in the first inning, roughly an hour after meeting up with Daniel:
Let it go. pic.twitter.com/H5KUfl30Q6— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 25, 2017
Happy B-day Daniel. Contreras 3R HR for #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 25, 2017
It was Contreras' 16th homer of the season. The distance of all his blasts equals almost 1.2 miles:
All 16 of Willson Contreras home runs this year. Around 1.2 miles of them.... pic.twitter.com/eRqbdojXWg— Daren Willman (@darenw) July 25, 2017
Daniel and Contreras have met a couple times before, with the first time coming as part of the Cubs Caravan over the winter. Then came spring training, when Daniel's family was part of a group of nine families Advocate flew down to Mesa, Ariz., to meet and interact with the Cubs. Contreras - who has a nine-year-old cousin with Down syndrome back in Venezuela - remembered Daniel from the Caravan and the two became fast friends.
All nine families got together for a reunion at Wrigley Field Tuesday and surprised Daniel ahead of his 10th birthday on Wednesday.
In addition to the homer, Contreras also gave Daniel batting gloves, a helmet and an official Contreras jersey. The gesture drew applause from fans behind the Cubs dugout, even making some tear up:
Willson making fans behind Cubs dugout tear up with his charitable gesture pic.twitter.com/eTrU9iIMHT— Cubs Talk (@CSNCubs) July 25, 2017
Willson gave Daniel some swag - a helmet and a Contreras jersey, naturally. pic.twitter.com/DpY5L8duCj— Cubs Talk (@CSNCubs) July 25, 2017
Willson reunited with his buddy Daniel: pic.twitter.com/2xzR0Cr3Y0— Cubs Talk (@CSNCubs) July 25, 2017
Posted by Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, July 25, 2017
After Daniel's reunion with Contreras, all the Advocate families came out onto the field with Clark the Cub and posed for pictures behind home plate:
Daniel showing Clark his new batting gloves and jersey courtesy of Contreras. 8 other families are here via Advocate, too. pic.twitter.com/bu28lrFmsn— Cubs Talk (@CSNCubs) July 25, 2017
Selfie time with his dad and Clark:
Unfortunately, one of the kids of the Advocate group wasn't able to make it, as Talia Freund passed away this spring. The Cubs honored her at the end of the three-minute video they played pregame:
Contreras has an event coming up for Special Olympics on Aug. 3:
Within the first several weeks of the Theo Epstein administration, the Cubs finished second in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes, though nowhere close to the $51.7 million the Texas Rangers bid for the exclusive rights to negotiate a six-year, $60 million deal with the Japanese superstar.
The Cubs will probably have to wait a few more months for their next shot at Darvish, who is “unlikely to move” before the July 31 trade deadline, a source monitoring the situation said Monday. Darvish means enough to the franchise’s bottom line as a box-office draw and magnet for corporate sponsors that the Rangers would be reluctant to trade a player with global appeal and potentially jeopardize that relationship heading into free agency this winter.
Beyond the possible impact on re-signing Darvish, that would also mean foreclosing on a season where Texas is only 2.5 games out of an American League wild-card spot, making this final week critical to the buy-or-sell decision.
The Cubs would obviously prefer to stay out of the rental market after shipping two top prospects to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana deal. Quintana’s reasonable contract – almost $31 million between next season and 2020 once two team options are picked up – creates financial flexibility for a free-agent megadeal (Darvish?) or the next big-time international player.
But the cost of doing business with the White Sox probably means the Cubs wouldn’t have the super-elite prospect to anchor a trade for Darvish, anyway. That would be another obstacle in any possible deal for Sonny Gray, with an AL source saying the New York Yankees are going hard after the Oakland A’s right-hander (and have a deeper farm system and a greater sense of urgency after missing on Quintana).
All that means Kyle Hendricks could function as the trade-deadline addition for the rotation, with the Cubs instead trying to shorten games and deepen their bullpen by July 31.
After spending more than six weeks on the disabled list, the Cubs activated Hendricks for the start of this week’s crosstown series, watching him pitch into the fifth inning of Monday’s 3-1 loss to a White Sox team that had lost nine straight games.
Hendricks is a rhythm/feel pitcher who blossomed from an overlooked prospect in the Texas system into a piece in the buzzer-beater Ryan Dempster deal at the 2012 deadline into last year’s major-league ERA leader.
Hendricks clearly isn’t locked in yet. He gave up eight hits, but minimized the damage against the White Sox, allowing only one run while putting up five strikeouts against zero walks.
“He wasn’t as normal,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The velocity was still down a little bit. There was not a whole lot of difference between his pitches. He was not what you would call ‘on.’ He would be the first one to tell you that. He looked fine delivery-wise, but the ball just wasn’t coming out as normal.”
Hendricks described his fastball command as “terrible,” called his secondary pitches “OK” and ultimately came to this conclusion: “Health-wise, everything felt great, so we’ll take that. Just got to get back (to my routine).”
The biggest takeaway is Hendricks didn’t feel any lingering effects from the right hand tendinitis that was initially classified as a minor injury in early June. Meaning the Cubs (51-47) are just about at full strength and have another week left to upgrade the defending World Series champs.