Randy Wells accepts all the blame for loss to Phillies

748555.png

Randy Wells accepts all the blame for loss to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA Randy Wells snapped his head back in frustration as he watched the ball bounce off the chalk into the right-field corner.

This is a guy who has lived almost his entire professional career on the margins, a 38th-round pick, converted from catcher, the sixth starter in a five-man rotation.

Wells wanted to make a good impression on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, to give the Cubs something to think about while they make their decisions.

Beneath a steady rain, it all unraveled in the fourth inning of a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies that didnt help change the perception of Wells.

Wells had a no-hitter going until Hunter Pence led off with a double down the left-field line. He walked two batters to load the bases for Carlos Ruiz, who lined a two-run single past diving shortstop Starlin Castro.

Wells got too fine, lost control of his changeup and kept the inning alive by walking the pitcher, Joe Blanton. Moments later, Jimmy Rollins sliced that two-out, two-run double that nicked the right-field line.

Obviously, the walk to the pitcher is just unacceptable, Wells said, and it makes me want to throw up.

If that ball goes foul, well, who knows what might have happened.

But Wells has to get by on command and he hasnt looked especially sharp in these two spot starts since being called up from Triple-A Iowa. Hes been out of character, walking nine in 8 23 innings.

Its mind-boggling, Wells said. You can watch the game or watch the tape and see its obviously a mechanical thing. Runners get on and the tension gets high and you kind of rush and speed up and just start burying them. Theyre not even close. You got to make pitches when your back is against the wall and I just didnt do it.

Its atrocious and unacceptable and I feel like I let myself and the team down. Its just really piss-poor.

That ended the night for Wells (0-1, 6.23 ERA), who gave up four runs in 3 23 innings and has no clue what the Cubs are going to do next.

Im not going to talk about that, dude, he said. Its out of my control.

Manager Dale Sveum said it looks like everythings on track for Ryan Dempster (strained right quad) to come off the disabled list and start on Thursday in Cincinnati.

Thats when the Cubs hope Kerry Wood (right shoulder fatigue) will be activated and rejoin the bullpen, though it depends on how he responds in Mondays simulated game.

That again leaves Wells up in the air, perhaps looking at a spot as the long man in the bullpen.

Well cross that bridge when we get to it on Thursday and see where were at, Sveum said. Hes definitely in the mix for that spot.

At this point, the Cubs (7-14) arent giving their pitchers any real margin for error. They couldnt generate much offense against Blanton, who allowed two runs in 7 13 innings.

The Phillies (10-11) have struggled to score runs and welcomed the help with franchise players Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the disabled list.

It had to be deeply disappointing for Wells, who wants to prove the doubters wrong and get his career back on track.

I dont know if we sent him down to work on his command, Sveum said. It was more of just a numbers thing as much as anything. But we got to pitch in the strike zone or youre not going to have much success at this level.

In The Loop: The Blackhawks' 9-1 February by the numbers

In The Loop: The Blackhawks' 9-1 February by the numbers

The Blackhawks went 9-1 in February and did so in emphatic fashion.

The Blackhawks outscored their opponents 44-24 in the month and scored four goals or more in each of the nine wins. The only loss came after the team's bye week, a 3-1 loss at home to Edmonton seven days after winning 5-1 in Edmonton.

A big reason for the Blackhawks' recent surge is because of the production of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Toews scored seven goals and had 11 assists in February and was named the league's second star of the week this week. Patrick Kane had nine goals and seven assists.

Scott Darling went 3-0 in his starts and gave up just four goals in those games. Corey Crawford went 6-1 with a 2.71 goals against average.

Despite the Blackhawks' success in February, the Minnesota Wild still lead the division. The Blackhawks beat the Wild twice in February, but the Wild went 7-2 in the rest of February, including tonight's 5-4 overtime win against the LA Kings to sit three points ahead of the Blackhawks and still with two games in hand.

Watch the video above to see Pat Boyle break down these Blackhawks numbers.

Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears

Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears

The preseason has finished and it's officially a match week for the Chicago Fire.

The Fire, which travel to Columbus on Saturday for the season opener, returned from preseason training in Florida on Sunday and began the team's first full day back in Chicago with the team's annual kickoff luncheon on Monday. The team's players, coaches and staff interact with fans and the media ahead of the upcoming season.

Two players, UNC-Charlotte products Brandt Bronico and Matej Dekovic, were introduced to the audience a couple hours before the club announced the two 2017 draft picks had signed contracts. Bronico, a central midfielder drafted in the third round, and Dekovic, a center back/left back taken in the fourth round, both signed one-year deals with club options for the following three years.

Dekovic could add some much needed depth in central defense, but is a logical candidate to go out on loan to USL affiliate Tulsa. Dekovic, 23, is Croatian and counts as an international player even though he played three years collegiately with the 49ers. The Fire have nine international players on the roster with eight slots for them. The Fire could trade for an international slot, but if Dekovic goes out on loan he won't count against that number. Coach Veljko Paunovic was asked about potential outgoing loans, but didn't give specifics other than to say they have "made some decisions" and "are still working on that."

Bronico and Dekovic don't figure to play major roles this season, but there could still be more moves ahead. The lone trialist in the final week of the Fire's training camp, former Columbus Crew defender Chad Barson, was not retained. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said Ryan Taylor will be the latest right back to join the Fire on trial. Taylor, 32, made 55 English Premier League appearances with Wigan Athletic from 2005-2009 and 61 more with Newcastle United from 2009-2015. This season he has made 12 appearances for Port Vale in England's third tier, the most recent of which on Jan. 20 when he scored a penalty kick.

[RELATED: Fire players downplay importance of undefeated preseason record]

"Ryan Taylor will join us this week," Rodriguez said. "He's a very experienced player, he plays a lot of different positions, which we like. We like that versatility. We love the attitude that he's expressed towards coming on trial, which is not easy for an accomplished player. We'll look at him this week, maybe look at him for two weeks. I don't know how long it will take, but he is an option for us."

The Englishman would also take up an international slot.

A potentially bigger move is the one Rodriguez hinted at regarding a third designated player. Currently, David Accam and Nemanja Nikolic are the Fire's two DPs, meaning one more DP spot is available.

"We have the latitude, we have the cap space, the budget space and the resources within MLS and within our ownership to add another DP," Rodriguez said. "We've looked at a few players. Two of the players that we had on our list, we didn't make offers for so I want to be clear the two players we were tracking, one signed in Mexico with a big club in Mexico and one went to China for big money so they're off our list.

"There are still two players that we're tracking. I think as we get deeper into the start of the season, even though the first window is open, it's tougher. I would say we would likely look at the summer, or, as we did last year, forego the summer and concentrate on January. I still think it's hard to integrate players midseason."