Sveum, Bowden and the question marks around the Cubs

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Sveum, Bowden and the question marks around the Cubs

MESA, Ariz. Cubs executives thought there were enough media demands in this market to make potential managers meet with reporters as part of the interview process, just the way Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had set it up in Boston.

Its not uncommon for Dale Sveum to do four or five rounds of media interviews in a single day here in Arizona. The first-year manager puts a face to the narrative.

Less than two weeks to Opening Day, the story is whos in, whos out and whos on the bubble. The feeling throughout camp was that the Cubs want to see Chris Volstad and Jeff Samardzija in the rotation.

Sveum went a step further on Saturday when he appeared on MLB Network Radio with Jim Bowden, the former Cincinnati Reds general manager, and talked about the rotation beyond Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm.

Volstads been throwing the heck out of the ball, so Im not going to see that anything can change there, Sveum said on SiriusXM. That fifth spot Samardzija, (Randy) Wells, (Rodrigo) Lopez theyre all fighting (with) Travis Wood.

But Maholm and Volstad are throwing the ball too good and the command has been unbelievable this spring. So thats probably just the one spot thats open right now.

So it became news when Bowden went on Twitter and reported that Volstad has made the rotation. Afterward, when beat writers asked him about those comments in the managers office, Sveum (who was clearly annoyed) tried to clarify.

The Volstad thing obviously his name came up but theres nothing etched in stone there, Sveum said. I think what I said (was): Obviously, if he keeps throwing the ball the way hes throwing the ball, hes going to be hard to keep out of the rotation.

It doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

The Cubs bullpen is also filled with question marks. Kerry Wood hasnt appeared in a Cactus League game since March 18. Sveum said theres no issue.

Were just mainly backing him off (before) getting him a couple more outings before the season starts, Sveum said. The back flares up once in awhile, but thats not a concern now. Hes fine.

The MRI came back negative on Marcos Mateo no ligament damage but he wont throw a ball for around 10 days, taking him out of the Opening Day mix. Mateo is said to be experiencing something similar to the right elbow soreness he felt when he was shut down last July.

Sveum has been asked about the pitching staff for five weeks now, and indicated that hed make some announcements around Wednesday.

On Twitter, Bowden said that Sveum told him the bullpen will include Wood, Carlos Marmol, James Russell, Rafael Dolis and Casey Coleman. Sveum told the Chicago media that Colemans name wasnt even mentioned in his conversation with Bowden.

Sveum has repeatedly said that Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo a converted infielder who has never pitched above A-ball has impressed the organization with his poise and command. Carrying Castillo on the 25-man roster and not returning him to the Philadelphia Phillies is a possibility.

Hes obviously (made us think) this could be a reality, Sveum said.

Theres no disputing that the 24-year-old Dolis has opened eyes and could emerge as a key bullpen piece.

Dolis has had a great camp, just unbelievable stuff, 95 to 97 mph with power sink and command of a slider, Sveum told Bowden. Hes that guy (who) hitters dont like facing. Theres just too much movement, too much velocity and he keeps the ball down. Hes there, too, in that seventh-, eighth-(inning) spot.

The media storm always seemed to follow Carlos Zambrano, which makes it such a sharp contrast that he was traded for the low-key Volstad, whos 6-foot-8 and yet still blends easily into the background.

I dont have an account. Why? Volstad said when a reporter asked if hes on Twitter. I hadnt heard anything. I was getting ready to throw in a minor-league game. I wasnt really paying attention to any of that.

Volstad went six innings down the street at Fitch Park and has so far reinforced what the Cubs think he could be in their rotation. In 10 Cactus League innings, hes allowed one run and has seven strikeouts and no walks.

Its not like I can control the decision, Volstad said, but I feel pretty good where Im at right now.

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AP

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White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”