Ready or not, Cubs kids coming back to Wrigley

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Ready or not, Cubs kids coming back to Wrigley

SAN DIEGO Jeff Samardzija snapped the bat over his knee after striking out in the seventh inning and tossed the two pieces to the ground in disgust.

Samardzija channeled his inner Big Z for a moment, but you saw a Cubs team that wasnt just going through the motions in a 2-0 loss to the San Diego Padres at sleepy Petco Park.

There was Darwin Barney ready to chuck his bat after lining into a double play in the eighth inning, and James Russell screaming and flexing by the dugout minutes later after giving up an unearned run.

As much as Theo Epsteins front office and Dale Sveums coaching staff talk about patience and development, the losing is getting old and the frustration is beginning to show.

Samardzija had a message for Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters and all the kids heading back to Wrigley Field on an eight-game losing streak that started a few hours after the trade deadline.

They better be ready to play, Samardzija said. Dont expect any freebies from any of the fans or from anybody. You got to show up and play the game, regardless of your record, regardless of how you feel. Youre still representing your team. Youre still wearing the jersey. You got to show up and play all-out every day.

I dont think thats going to be a problem here. I dont think quote-unquote veteran guys are going to let that happen. Were going to play hard. Were going to try and win every game we can.

Samardzija is one of only six remaining players from the 2011 Opening Day roster. The Cubs (43-66) have already used 15 rookies and 46 different players this season.

It was hard for Andrew Cashner the 2008 first-round pick flipped to the Padres in the Anthony Rizzo deal to imagine this team without Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, his idol growing up in Texas.

Those were the two guys that I really looked up to while I was over there, Cashner said. Its definitely going to be different with a lot more young guys. Theres going to be a lot more feeling out on their own, versus guys pointing them in the direction.

Cashner didnt ask to be part of the Three Cs marketing campaign leading into the 2011 season, and only Starlin Castro remains after Tyler Colvin was traded to the Colorado Rockies last winter. So it will be interesting to see how long the shelf life will be for Jackson and Vitters.

Thats just kind of the way things work, Cashner said. I wasnt one of their guys. I was one of Jim (Hendrys) guys. Its just kind of the way they do things as far as wanting their (own) guys.

Cashner, whos on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, spoke with Rizzo during this series and they agreed this was probably a good trade for both sides. Cashner gets to pitch at Petco Park, while Rizzo gets to hit at Wrigley Field.

Rizzo was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on June 26, which seems like old news given everything thats happened to this team since then. Now Jackson and Vitters have to get ready for their close-up.

The fans are probably curious to look at all the guys that all the hype is about, Sveum said. Theres no mystery now going on with the team.

In terms of direction, yes, but eight games in 12 days against Dusty Baker and the first-place Cincinnati Reds will be revealing. Jackson will try to avoid chasing bad pitches, Vitters will be working on his defense and there are jobs that could be won in the rotation and the bullpen. See how they handle the big moments.

Were going to learn a lot here in this next month-and-a-half, Samardzija said. Were really going to see what were made of as a team. A lot of guys are going to be cutting their teeth against some good teams.

Samardzija (7-10, 4.21 ERA) again looked like a frontline starter, allowing only one run across seven strong innings. He rolls with everything, ignoring the people who thought he was a bust and not buying into the hype that hes one of the untouchables on this team.

The kids could learn from someone whos almost seen it all in Chicago and remains the same guy. He was certainly paying attention when Carlos Zambrano was breaking bats.

Just felt good to snap it like a toothpick, Samardzija said. I lost the bunting tournament in Round Sweet 16 and I snapped that thing like a twig, too. What are you gonna do? It happens.

Jimmy Butler trade presents more questions for futures of Nikola Mirotic, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo

Jimmy Butler trade presents more questions for futures of Nikola Mirotic, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo

Lauri Markkanenn will be a Chicago Bull once the trade between the Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves is finalized sometime Friday when the trade call is sent to the NBA, as he’s the first domino to fall in what could be an interesting offseason to come.

A stretch-shooting big man from Arizona who shot 42 percent from 3 last season, Markkanenn is a native of Finland who’s more of an offensive threat rather than a defender and rebounder at seven-feet tall. He averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds for Arizona and has been regarded by many scouts as the best shooter in the draft.

With the Bulls bringing up the rear in that category, one assumes he’ll add a level of versatility if he can see the floor—which brings the Bulls to some offseason decisions they’ll have to make once free agency begins and even before. Markkanenn conceivably brings Nikola Mirotic’s future into question, as Mirotic is a restricted free agent this summer and Mirotic was on the trade block by the Bulls for the better part of last season as he had an underwhelming year trying to fill the role of a stretch-shooting big man.

But officials with the Bulls say Mirotic is still a priority for the Bulls and because he’s restricted, they control the process of his free agency. Mirotic shot 41.3 percent and averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds, as the Bulls still consider him an asset for the present and future as they’ll play a new style of basketball next season.

One would think Mirotic will command a salary at least around $10 million as the NBA’s salary cap will balloon to $99 million with a luxury tax line of around $119 million.

Rajon Rondo’s future has yet to be decided, as the Bulls acquired a point guard in Kris Dunn they’ve long eyed and presumably one they feel will be their future at the position.

Bulls officials stated they’ll wait until next week before making a decision on Rondo, but one wonders if they’ll go full youth movement, especially with wanting Dunn to succeed after a rocky rookie year in Minnesota and already having Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne under contract for next season.

Rondo has a $3 million buyout the Bulls can exercise that will make Rondo a free agent or they’ll pay Rondo $13.3 million next season.

[MORE: After trading Jimmy Butler, Bulls select Lauri Markkanen] 

And then there’s Dwyane Wade, who opted in to his deal of $23.8 million for next season. Wade came to Chicago for a number of reasons, notably the salary and chance to play with Butler. With Butler gone and the Bulls changing their direction of the franchise, one wonders how Wade sees himself next season and how the Bulls see Wade with their young players.

Unless Wade wants out, the Bulls are headed into the free agency period thinking he’ll be back next season, and considering the Bulls have to spend up to 90 percent of their salary cap, his money helps them keep their books afloat, even as Butler’s affordable max salary exits and the controlled rookie-scale salaries of LaVine, Dunn and Merkkanenn enter Chicago for a future unknown

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

MINNEAPOLIS -- Guess who’s back?

Jose Quintana turned in the kind of game on Thursday afternoon that reminds you why he has been one of baseball’s top pitchers the past few seasons. Working with a swing-and-miss curveball and another shocking barrel of run support, Quintana waited out a near five-hour delay to produce a stellar outing. Quintana struck out nine batters in 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the White Sox avoided a sweep with a 9-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 27,684 at Target Field. Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Matt Davidson all homered for the White Sox, who finished with 18 hits and a 3-3 mark on their road trip.

After making several baby steps in his past few starts, Quintana ran wild in the series finale against a Twins team that he has always struggled against. While he worked deliberately, Quintana never got into trouble facing a team against whom he was 6-8 with a 4.28 ERA in his career.

The left-hander used a nasty, biting curveball along with sharp fastball command to keep Minnesota hitters off balance. Quintana struck one batter in each of the first five innings before he picked up steam. He struck out two batters each in the sixth and seventh innings and is averaging a career best 8.97 strikeouts per nine innings this season.

He struck out Miguel Sano three times in three trips and never allowed a man past second base in a 113-pitch effort. Quintana allowed five hits and walked none.

Quintana has a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts as he’s allowed 19 hits and six earned runs in 24 innings. He has walked eight and struck out 24.

[MORE: White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

The White Sox offense made it all much easier for Quintana for a second straight start. Six days after they produced an early four-spot for Quintana against Toronto, the White Sox scored five times and knocked Minnesota starter Nik Turley out in the first inning.

Showing no signs of malaise after a 290-minute rain delay, Abreu and Frazier each blasted two-run homers off Turley to put the White Sox up 4-0. With two outs and Turley gone, Adam Engel singled off reliever Buddy Boshers to make it 5-0 in the first.

The White Sox continued to add on for Quintana as Kevan Smith and Engel each singled in runs in the third to give the 2016 All-Star pitcher a seven-run cushion. Engel finished with four hits and Smith tied a career high with three.

Davidson increased the lead to 8-0 in the fifth inning with a 427-foot blast off Craig Breslow, his 17th homer. Davidson also singled, doubled and walked. The White Sox scored once more in the seventh when Tim Anderson (two hits) doubled in a run off Breslow.

After they produced 22 runs of support for Quintana in his first 13 starts this season, the White Sox have scored 20 in his last two.