Cubs patience starting to run thin with Volstad

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Cubs patience starting to run thin with Volstad

MILWAUKEE Chris Volstad dropped his glove onto his head for a moment, and it must have felt like everything was caving in again.

Fireworks were going off at Miller Park on Saturday afternoon, and the 42,339 fans in here were getting loud. Edwin Maysonet was a 30-year-old utility guy who had one home run on his major-league resume until that moment.

Maysonet had just crushed a sinker, which Volstad graded out as not a terrible pitch, just one that didnt move in far enough. It smashed off the ledge above the T.G.I. Fridays restaurant in left field for a grand slam.

That snapshot in the sixth inning told you pretty much everything you needed to know. The Milwaukee Brewers (15-18) were rolling toward an 8-2 victory, while the Cubs had a big question mark at the back end of their rotation.

The Cubs are 0-7 when Volstad pitches, and 13-13 when he doesnt. Thats obviously an oversimplification, but Volstad now has a 6.92 ERA and hasnt notched a win since July 10 last summer, when he was with the Florida Marlins.

Will the Cubs look to make a change in that spot?

Yeah, youre going to consider it, manager Dale Sveum said afterward. Theres options and theres things you can try other people you can try. When that time comes, we dont know, but obviously were all frustrated with the starts (and) the five shutout innings and then one big inning.

Were all frustrated with that and were trying to get a grip on it. But (its seven) starts in (and) we can't.

Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer made pitching depth the No. 1 priority last winter. Travis Wood and Randy Wells have already been called up from Triple-A Iowa for spot starts at different points this season.

The Cubs like Volstads size (6-foot-8), age (25) and first-round pedigree and thought he could put it all together with a change of scenery after the Carlos Zambrano trade.

It could still happen. Team officials see the potential. But Sveum was troubleshooting after watching Volstad hold the Brewers to one run through five innings, only to have it all unravel in the five-run sixth. It fit the pattern.

Thats the way its been for every game, Volstad said. Ive done so well except for one inning. Its hard to pinpoint the difference. You just got to keep working.

Sveum mentioned a different grip for Volstads slider, using the curveball more often andor throwing more changeups to right-handed hitters. At this point, the Cubs have to be open to new ideas.

It just got away from him again, Sveum said. The slider got him in trouble again. That thing is something that we got to work on, because its a pitch he needs, but its getting hit too often and too hard. It just got out of hand again.

The Cubs hadnt lost any of their previous five series, and almost all of that momentum was generated by their rotation.

Volstad isnt blind to that, and listening to his voice and reading his body language, you could tell he had to gather himself while speaking with the media.

Its been really hard, frustrating, Volstad said. Im working my (butt) off and not really having a lot to show for it.

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it. 

Lake Park's Gino Romano goes 1-on-1 with Edgy Tim

Lake Park's Gino Romano goes 1-on-1 with Edgy Tim

Everyone who took part in the recently-held fifth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Madness charity tournament played for various charitable reasons. The Lake Park Lancers football team chose to honor a person who embodied the true meaning of service and sacrifice.

Lake Park junior linebacker Gino Romano took a few minutes to explain why they decided to play in honor of fallen Bloomingdale police officer Raymond Murrel, the first ever officer who died in the line of duty for the village.

Romano also discussed the Lancers’ offseason and the team’s overall preparation for the upcoming 2017 football slate.

I caught up with Romano at the tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds benefited the school, the DuPage Hundred Club, Team Red, White and Blue and The Pat Tillman Foundation.

Watch the following video above.