Randy Wells accepts all the blame for loss to Phillies

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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.

White Sox: Jose Abreu's five-week tear filled with hard contact, fewer strikeouts

White Sox: Jose Abreu's five-week tear filled with hard contact, fewer strikeouts

Jose Abreu has made quite a turnaround from being a guy who was admittedly lost to bashing the ball like Abreu of old.

From April 19th on, Abreu has hit at another level, reminiscent of the performances he put on throughout an eye-opening 2014 campaign in which he was the unanimous American League rookie of the year winner. Over that stretch, Abreu has slashed at an absurd .347/.404/.677 clip with nine doubles, one triple, 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 136 plate appearances.

Earlier this week, Abreu said the run is the product of trusting his tireless preparation.

"I struggled in the first few weeks of the season but I kept working," Abreu said through an interpreter. "Now I'm at this point where I feel very good and confident with my offense and things are going well for me. That's part of what you work for and if you work hard, you know the results will be there at the end of the day."

Two numbers that have improved significantly during Abreu's five-week tear are his average exit velocity and strikeout rate.

Abreu entered Wednesday 39th in the the majors with an average exit velocity of 90.5 mph this season, according to Baseball Savant.

But Abreu wasn't hitting the ball nearly as hard early this season, which was littered with weak contact. Abreu stumbled out of the gate with a .157 average, one extra-base hit and only five RBIs in his first 54 plate appearances. Through the first two weeks, Abreu's average exit velocity was 89.0 mph on 31 batted-ball events, which was slightly down from last season's 89.6 mph average and significantly down from 2015, when he averaged 90.9 mph.

Since then, however, Abreu has seen a significant increase in hard contact. Over his last 92 batted-ball events, Abreu is averaging 92.6 mph, a total that would qualify for 15th in the majors this season. Included in that span is 35 balls hit 100 mph or more.

But Abreu's success isn't just related to how hard he has hit the ball. He's also made much better contact this season and is striking out less than ever. Abreu struck out 14 times in his first 54 plate appearances (25.9 percent). But since then, he has whiffed only 17 times in 136 plate appearances, good for a 12.5 percent strikeout rate.

His season K-rate of 16.3 percent, according to Fangraphs.com, is down from a career mark of 19.6 percent.

"You have started to see him heat up a little," manager Rick Renteria said earlier this week. "He's given us solid at-bats. He's in a good place right now."

Actually, it's a great place and one Abreu hasn't done with consistency since 2015. He once again looks like the hitting machine he was for most of his first two seasons and the final two months of 2016.

Abreu is on pace to hit 36 home runs this season, which would match his 2014 total. His current wRC+ of 138 is his highest since he finished 2014 at 167.

Last season, Abreu didn't hit his 10th home run until June 18. He hit his 11th homer on June 23 and then didn't hit another until August 4. That stretch raised myriad questions both inside the organization and externally about whether or not Abreu would return to prominence as a hitter. Perhaps inspired by the August arrival of his son, Dariel, Abreu finished 2016 with a flurry, hitting .340/.402/.572 with 14 home runs in his final 241 plate appearances.

General manager Rick Hahn said last September that the stretch was important for White Sox evaluators to see.

"It certainly makes you more confident as you see him over the last six weeks, projecting out that he's going to be that same player that he was for the first two years of his career," Hahn said. "Earlier, when he was scuffling, you looked at some of the things he was doing from his approach or some of the mechanical issues he might have been having and you felt confident he was going to be able to get back. But in all candor, you like seeing the performance match what you're projecting and we've certainly seen that over the last six weeks."

The White Sox offense has benefitted from Abreu's leap back into prominence. The team has averaged 4.53 runs per game this season and is 9th in the American League with 204 runs scored and 17th overall in the majors. But the increase in offense still hasn't helped the White Sox improve in the standings. While Abreu is glad to be on the roll he is, he'd prefer if his team is along for the ride.

"We're are passing through a tough moment, a rough stretch," Abreu said. "For me as I've always said the team is first. I want to thank God for how I've performed through this rough stretch. But it's not something makes me feel happy because we didn't win as many games as we wanted to win. It's tough."

92 Days to Kickoff: Plano

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92 Days to Kickoff: Plano

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 @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Plano

Head coach: Brad Kunz

How they fared in 2016: 7-3 (4-1 Interstate 8 Large), lost to Manteno in the 4A  opening round action.

2017 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 25 – Johnsburg

Sept. 1 – @ Harvard

Sept. 8 – Herscher

Sept. 15 - @ Sandwich

Sept. 22 - Manteno

Sept. 29 – @ Coal City

Oct. 6 - Streator

Oct. 13 - Reed-Custer

Oct. 20 - @ Westmont

Biggest storyline: Can the Reapers reload?

Names to watch this season: Senior DB Mauricio Perez Senior DB Alec Chavez

Biggest holes to fill: The Reapers will need to replace 20 graduated starters from a season ago, and that group also included several multi-year starters for Plano.

EDGY's Early Take: The Reapers no question have work to do this summer, yet head coach Brad Kunz and staff always finds a way for Plano to compete in the Interstate 8 conference and beyond.