As trade deadline nears, Maholm would like to stay a Cub

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As trade deadline nears, Maholm would like to stay a Cub

Paul Maholm hopes to still be a Chicago Cub after Tuesdays trade deadline. Maholm is one of several Cubs mentioned in trade rumors. In his final performance before the 3 p.m. Tuesday deadline, he allowed a run in 6 23 innings in a 4-2 extra-inning victory over the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
He held the Cardinals to four hits, struck out five and lowered his ERA to 3.74. He also became the first Cubs left-hander in modern-day history to throw at least six consecutive starts allowing no more than one run in at least six innings.
Hed like a chance to make more Cubs history.
Theres a reason I signed here, Maholm said. Ive always enjoyed playing here throughout my career. Theres an option. I finished the year last year hurt. They gave me a chance to come in and prove that I was healthy, and I am. Hopefully we can turn this into a long-term thing. Well see how everything unfolds and go from there.
Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza have been the Cubs most mentioned in trade talks, but Maholm could also be a viable candidate. He has won five of his last six starts and allowed five runs in 45 innings since his last loss June 23.
You battle throughout the game, Maholm said. I just go out there as long as I can, as hard as I can, and be aggressive and try to be ahead. Fortunately for me, for the last month or so, its been working out pretty well.
Maholm held the Cardinals scoreless for six innings before they scored a run with a David Freese single, Matt Carpenter double and a Tyler Greene sacrifice fly in the seventh. Manager Dale Sveum said he didnt think Maholm was losing his stuff, and Sveum liked the upcoming matchups, so Maholm remained in the game.
But he exited after loading the bases with walks to Lance Berkman and Daniel Descalso. Manuel Corpas entered and ended the inning with a flyout.
Manny came in and picked me up, Maholm said. Obviously, with the way that Campy (Shawn Camp) and (James Russell) and (Carlos) Marmol have been throwing, you hand it over to those guys and Rizz came up with the big hit.
Sveum said any manager would be upset if a player departs in a trade, and his teams starting pitchers have been good, including Maholm, who is surging. Last season, Maholm was 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA for the Pirates and dealt with a shoulder injury.
People forget that the won-loss record wasnt all that great last year, but he had a 3.6 ERA, which if you throw a 3.6 up there, you are in the top of the class with starting pitchers, Sveum said. Hes a bona fide starter, and this year you take away two starts, and its a pretty impressive resume this year as well.

Cubs finalize Opening Day 25-man roster

Cubs finalize Opening Day 25-man roster

Matt Szczur or Tommy La Stella on the Cubs Opening Day roster?

How about both?

Theo Epstein said Wednesday morning the Cubs plan to keep both Szczur and La Stella on the Opening Day 25-man roster with relief pitcher Brian Duensing headed to the disabled list.

Duensing, 34, has been hampered by a back issue this spring.

Szczur is out of minor-league options, meaning the Cubs would have had to either keep him on the 25-man roster or place him on waivers, which would almost assuredly mean they'd lose him to another team.

La Stella has options left and already told manager Joe Maddon this spring he would head down to the minors if asked (something La Stella was unwilling to do in August last year when he refused assignment).

The move makes the most sense for the Cubs, as the need for eight relief pitchers is not as imperative in April when the team has five off-days in the first month of the season.

Of course, the Cubs still have four days left of exhibition action, but assuming nothing else changes, here's how the Cubs roster will look Opening Night in St. Louis Sunday:

Catchers

Willson Contreras
Miguel Montero

Infielders

Anthony Rizzo
Ben Zobrist
Javy Baez
Addison Russell
Kris Bryant
Tommy La Stella

Outfielders

Jason Heyward
Albert Almora
Jon Jay
Kyle Schwarber
Matt Szczur

Starting pitchers

Jon Lester
Jake Arrieta
John Lackey
Brett Anderson
Kyle Hendricks

Relief pitchers

Mike Montgomery
Justin Grimm
Carl Edwards Jr.
Pedro Strop
Hector Rondon
Koji Uehara
Wade Davis

The Cubs figure to eventually make room for Duensing on the roster as the bullpen could use another left-handed pitcher, but those decisions often take care of themselves with either health problems or trade options, etc.

Remember, there is a 10-day disabled list this year in the MLB, so placing a guy on the DL doesn't guarantee losing him for more than two weeks anymore.

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

MESA, Ariz. – Ben Zobrist is focused on a personal three-peat, not worrying about a changing of the guard or any awkward moments with Javier Baez. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly said that Zobrist will be the primary second baseman and another "Javy Being Javy" highlight reel from the World Baseball Classic won't change that thinking right now.

Zobrist sees the big picture better than almost anyone else in the clubhouse after going undrafted out of Eureka High School in downstate Illinois, perfecting the super-utility role Maddon envisioned with the Tampa Bay Rays and helping transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into World Series champions.

While Baez started all 17 playoff games at second base last year, bursting onto the scene as the National League Championship co-MVP, Zobrist became the World Series MVP with his clutch hitting and still has three seasons left on his $56 million contract.

Maddon didn't spare anyone's feelings during the playoffs, turning $184 million outfielder Jason Heyward into a part-time player, giving a quick hook to major-league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and shunning relievers not named Aroldis Chapman.

"We haven't had an extended conversation about it," Zobrist said. "But at the beginning of spring, we talked about it. I think his words were: ‘I really think rest is the next improvement in player performance.' Learning what rest means, what good rest is for players and what kind of rest certain players need versus others.

"That doesn't necessarily mean just because you're 35. It could mean you're 25 and you still got to take care of yourself and make sure you're getting the proper rest. Because we have such a deep team, he's able to do that at any given point in time and still feel confident about the team we have on the field.

"It's a good problem to have when you have really good players not playing and sitting on the bench. We had that all last year and we had guys accept their role and just buy into the team concept.

"The makeup of this team is the same, basically. We've got a few new guys and they've got the same mindset, so I anticipate more of the same."

Injuries are one variable that prevents Maddon from getting too stressed out about dividing the playing time over 162 games while the NCAA tournament is still going. Zobrist's stiff neck felt good enough to hit leadoff and play right field in Tuesday afternoon's 10-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants, seeing his first Cactus League action since March 19.

Zobrist plans to play again on Wednesday in Mesa and catch up with more at-bats on the minor-league side of the complex. Assuming Zobrist and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell (stiff back) are ready for Opening Night, Baez will be an NLCS MVP, all-WBC talent waiting for the right matchup or break in the schedule or to sub in as a defensive replacement.

"It's pretty impressive, looking around at the young talent in this clubhouse," Zobrist said. "All throughout spring training, we've seen there's definitely other talent coming, so this team is poised to have a good, long run of success. If everybody stays healthy and we stay together, this is a very good team.

"The biggest thing that I go into the season with this year is we have to be healthy and we have to make sure that we don't relax too much. That's the temptation for teams that just won, to go: OK, well, we're tired, because we had a long season last year and you kind of just assume things are going to go as well as they did.

"You can't assume anything. No matter how good this team is, we have to still go out and execute and perform – and that's going to determine where we are in the standings."

In real time, as the Cubs experienced their lowest moments during last year's regular season, Zobrist correctly pointed out the exhaustion factor while the team played 24 days in a row, losing 15 of their last 21 games before the All-Star break.

What looks like overwhelming depth on paper should help the 2017 Cubs survive and advance into October.

"It's huge," Zobrist said. "It's up and down the lineup on offense. It's all throughout the pitching staff and on the defensive side. It's so deep that you can absorb a little bit of injury here and there.

"With that being said, there are certain guys that you just don't want to lose. So we got to protect everybody. We got to protect our horses – both on the mound and in the lineup – and just make sure that we have our key cogs in there. And if we do, we're as good, if not better, than anybody out there."