Cubs will see what theyre made of against Halladay, Phillies

746100.png

Cubs will see what theyre made of against Halladay, Phillies

A Cubs team looking for any kind of offensive spark now gets the best pitcher on the planet.

The Cubs knew it was coming, a brutal early schedule filled with teams expecting to play deep into October.

It happens to be two-time Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay and the Phillies on Friday night, in front of what should be another sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park.

But it started Opening Day against Stephen Strasburg, a run of high-end pitching that helps explain why the Cubs are 6-13: Gio Gonzalez, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Mark Buehrle and Adam Wainwright (twice).

The Cubs will miss aces Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee whos on the disabled list with a strained left oblique during this four-game series. Franchise players Ryan Howard (torn Achilles) and Chase Utley (knee) are also on the DL.

Dale Sveum will crunch the numbers and try to manipulate the matchups. But the Cubs manager can only do so much against the Phillies (9-10 with a 2.88 team ERA).

Its going to be tough to score runs and put things together, Sveum said. Thats why theyve got one of the best pitching staffs over the last few years.

Hopefully, getting into more of a hitters park we can hit some home runs and you got to do that against those kind of pitchers, because its just hard to string hits together. They dont walk anybody either.

Over the winter, the Cubs consciously avoided adding a proven big bat to their lineup, and theyre paying for it now. Theyve scored more than four runs only four times this season and only once in their last 11 games.

The Cubs woke up on Thursday last in the National League with seven home runs (and four were hit by Bryan LaHair). They were next-to-last in slugging percentage (.333). They are hitting .211 with runners in scoring position.

We knew the schedule was going to be tough, Sveum said. But, hey, thats Major League Baseball. A lot of teams have really good starting pitching now. Thats part of the game and you got to find a way to scratch runs out and have good at-bats and get leads.

Yes, these are small sample sizes. But combined, Geovany Soto and Ian Stewart went 2-for-34 on the homestand that ended Wednesday. Sotos hitting .140 with one RBI so far this season, while Stewarts at .175.

Alfonso Soriano seems to have a better approach, and has driven in 10 runs, but hes stuck on one extra-base hit this month.

Thats the last thing on my mind losing confidence, Soriano said. I have 11 years in this game. Ive played this game consistently. I know what I can do. We play 162 games. Sometimes you have a bad week, two weeks, but its a six-month (deal). The season isnt over.

The seasons first six weeks will be telling for Cubs management, because 21 of their first 39 games are against the Phillies, Cardinals and Brewers, three playoffs teams in 2011.

This road trip continues to Cincinnati, where the Reds are a trendy pick to win the division. The Cubs will return to Wrigley Field on May 4 for a homestand against the Dodgers and Braves, who combined won 171 games last season.

You want that, utility man Jeff Baker said. If you can play well against those teams and you can do some damage, you can get the confidence going. You can get the city behind you.

If you go out there and youre playing some teams that didnt have a great year last year and you beat em, then everyone says youre supposed to beat em.

As players, you want to go out there and play against those tough teams. For us, if its early, so be it. Well take our chances and roll with it.

So this could be revealing. Tony Campana who has five hits and four stolen bases in five games will try to maximize his opportunity after the Marlon Byrd trade and give the Cubs a different dimension.

Randy Wells, who gets the ball on Saturday, will try to force the issue and grab a spot in the rotation. You can pretty much go up and down the roster, because new president Theo Epstein is taking this year to assess the entire organization.

Starting with Halladay (3-1, 1.50 ERA), the Cubs will begin to find out what theyre made of in South Philly.

Carlos Rodon to start Wednesday while White Sox reliever undergoes Tommy John

Carlos Rodon to start Wednesday while White Sox reliever undergoes Tommy John

Rick Hahn began his briefing to the media on Monday with two announcements: First, left-hander Carlos Rodon will make his season debut Wednesday against the New York Yankees. 

And right-hander Zach Putnam underwent Tommy John surgery last week and will miss the remainder of the season.

The 29-year-old Putnam was placed on the 10-day disabled list April 25 with right elbow inflammation, but his elbow issues began before that. Last June, Putnam landed on the disabled list with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow and later had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow in August (Putnam was first diagnosed with a bone spur in his elbow in 2013 while with the Chicago Cubs). 

“When they removed the chips, the ligament was not in great shape but Zach and his doctors thought it was worthwhile for him to try to fight back and pitch through it, which obviously he was able to do for a short period of time but ultimately the ligament gave out,” Hahn said. “Zach deserves a world of credit for doing everything he could the last two years to fight his way back to contribute in the bullpen. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for him.”

Putnam’s Tommy John surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews and carries a 12-18 month recovery process, which on the more extreme end could rule him out for the entire 2018 season, too. 

This latest setback is another tough break for Putnam, who was outstanding in limited action over the last two seasons, posting a 2.00 ERA with 39 strikeouts, 12 walks and two home runs allowed in 36 innings out of the White Sox bullpen. 

As for Rodon, Hahn wouldn’t tip his hand as to what move will be made to return the 2014 first-round pick to the major league roster. Rodon threw at least 90 pitches in his last three minor league rehab starts and worked in extended spring training before that, so he won’t face any restrictions when he takes the mound against the Yankees on Wednesday. 

“He’s starting his season now,” Hahn said. “He had to alter his training regimen and get himself back on track and we have him out there without restrictions with the same expectations we had for him at the end of last season. He continues to be an important part of our future.” 

60 Days to Kickoff: St. Patrick

stpats1.jpg

60 Days to Kickoff: St. Patrick

 CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: St. Patrick

Head coach: Adam Guerra

Assistant Coaches: Steve Eifrid, Russ Lucas, Matt O'Brien, Pat Gamboney, Mike Fabrizio, Dan Delgado, PJ Whalen

How they fared in 2016: 4-5 (2-5 East Suburban Catholic Conference), failed to qualify for the 2016 IHSA state playoffs.

2017 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 26 – vs St. Rita @ Soldier Field

Sept. 1 – @ Glenbrook South

Sept. 8 – @ Joliet Catholic

Sept. 16 - vs Marian Catholic @ Triton College

Sept. 23 - vs Notre Dame @ Triton College

Sept. 29 – @ Marist

Oct. 6 - @ St. Viator

Oct. 14 - vs Carmel @ Triton College

Oct. 20- @ Marian Central Catholic

Biggest storyline: Can the Shamrocks reload under first year head coach Adan Guerra?

Names to watch this season:  Senior RB Joey Solak Senior WR/DB Joey Lombardi 

Biggest holes to fill: The Shamrocks will look to reload this summer in the offensive skills department and in particular at quarterback with the graduation loss of QB Anthony Mazzenga from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: New head coach Adam Guerra takes over a Shamrocks roster that welcomes back 9 returning starters (5 offense 4 defense) and a very good underclassmen group. Look for St. Pats to focus on being a bit more consistent this fall after getting off to a 4-0 start in 2016, then only to lose it's last 5 games of the season.