Cubs' bullpen hurting after losing Wood

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Cubs' bullpen hurting after losing Wood

Updated: 5:53 p.m.

Despite a 71-91 season last year, the Cubs' one consistent strong point was their bullpen, which finished ninth in the MLB in ERA at 3.51.

Considering the weaknesses throughout the rest of the roster and in the farm system, new front office executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer decided to leverage some of that strength.

Left-handed stalwart Sean Marshall was traded to the Reds for three young players while flame-thrower Andrew Cashner was dealt to the Padres for first base prospect Anthony Rizzo. On top of that, Jeff Samardzija moved to the rotation, leaving three vacancies in the bullpen.

The Cubs' relief corps took another hit Friday as veteran Kerry Wood was placed on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue. The move is retroactive to April 14. In a corresponding move, the Cubs called up 27-year-old lefty Scott Maine.

"We felt just to be safe and get him completely ready to go instead of waiting a couple days to see how things went after tossing or throwing off the mound," manager Dale Sveum said. "We had to shore up the bullpen to make sure. The move is back-dated anyway, for last Saturday. We should be OK. Hopefully he'll be on the DL just about eight days."

This is Wood's 16th trip to the disabled list in his 15-year career. Sveum is hoping the DL stay will help keep this latest shoulder issue from extending through the rest of the season.

"I think that's part of the reason why we decided to just DL him because we don't want this to carry on," Sveum said. "We wanted to get it done and get him strong for the rest of the season.

"So far, it sounds like the injection has helped a lot."

Wood has made four appearances this season and is 0-1 with an 11.57 ERA. Cubs relievers have struggled all season, ranking near the bottom of the league in ERA, which took another hit Friday after Shawn Camp, Lendy Castillo and Rafael Dolis each allowed an earned run in their respective inning of work.

Maine was the only Cubs pitcher to escape unscathed against the Reds Friday, striking out two and walking one in a scoreless inning.

Maine, 27, was part of the group of lefties vying for a spot in the Cubs' bullpen in spring training. The Cubs opted to break camp with only one left-handed reliever -- James Russell -- on the roster, sending Maine down to Triple-A.

"I'm not going to say I wasn't disappointed," Maine said. "I understand where they were coming from because I did walk a few people in spring training. But I went down and threw well and the opportunity opened up here, so hopefully I can capitalize."

The past two seasons, the Cubs haven't had to worry about a left-hander reliever with Marshall in town. But all that changed shortly before the turn of the calendar when the Cubs dealt the 29-year-old southpaw to the Reds for Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes.

Marshall made his return to Chicago Friday and met with the media before the game, but did not pitch against the organization that selected him in the sixth round of the 2003 draft.

It was the first time he had stepped foot on Wrigley Field as a member of the visiting team.

"It's different," Marshall said. "I'll always be a Cub. I loved all my days playing here at Wrigley Field and playing for the Cubs. But I understand it's baseball and I've been lucky so far. So I just have to move on and do my best to win a championship.

"It's good to see familiar faces," Marshall said when asked how it would be to face off against old teammates. "I got to say 'Hi' and talked to some guys in spring training and then again here today before batting practice. It's cool and I'm always up for a challenge."

Marshall trained with Wood some this winter and was disappointed to see the longtime Cub land on the DL.

"I hate to see Woody hurt," Marshall said. "He's a great person. He's always a wonderful teammate. I played catch with him nearly all winter this year. It's tough to see him have a little setback. He'll be fine. He's in good shape. He was working out hard and in the best shape I've ever seen him in this winter."

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White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”