Series preview: Cubs at Rockies

Series preview: Cubs at Rockies

Friday, April 15, 2011Posted: 2 PM

Cubs (6-6) at Rockies (10-2)

Series schedule

Friday, 7:40 p.m. on WCIU
Saturday, 7:10 p.m. on WGN
Sunday, 2:10 p.m. on WGN
Starting pitchers

Friday: Matt Garza (0-1, 5.68) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (2-0, 2.77)
Saturday: Casey Coleman (0-0, 7.20) vs. Jason Hammel (1-0, 4.91)
Sunday: Ryan Dempster (1-2, 6.30) vs. TBA

Previous games

The Cubs took two of three against Houston this week, capped by Wednesday's 9-5 victory in which Alfonso Soriano hit a three-run homer and Starlin Castro and Aramis Ramirez finished with three hits apiece.

The Rockies swept the Mets in a four-game series, including a double-header sweep on Thursday. Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki went 10-for-16 with eight RBIs in the series, homering in each of the four games.

Head-to-head

The Cubs went 2-3 against the Rockies last season, suffering a three-game sweep at Coors Field that included a 17-2 pounding in the series opener.

Who's hot?
Castro went 8-for-15 with four runs scored against the Astros. Darwin Barney has multi-hit efforts in three of his last four games. Lefty reliever Sean Marshall already has five holds on the young season.

Storylines
Can Garza, who has allowed 20 hits in 12 23 innings this season, get his act together? Marlon Byrd is just a .219 career hitter against Colorado, with one home run in 73 career at-bats. On the other hand, Soriano is a career .359 hitter at Coors Field.

Sound off
How concerned are you about the Cubs' starting pitchers, given that their ERA is 5.80 ERA two weeks into the season?

Kyle Hendricks is back, but Cubs will likely have to wait for their next shot at Yu Darvish

Kyle Hendricks is back, but Cubs will likely have to wait for their next shot at Yu Darvish

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.

[Willson Contreras may be ‘the f------ Energizer Bunny,’ but Cubs still need to get another catcher before trade deadline]

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.

Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan?

Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan?

The crosstown rivalry doesn't end on the diamond.

Both Cubs and White Sox fans are highly competitive when it comes to trivia, too. 

We found that out when we bounced around Wrigley Field to quiz North and South Siders in a special edition of "Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan?" 

Watch the video above as we pitted fans against eachother for the chance to win a killer shirt.