Pittsburgh Pirates

Cubs essentially ruling out Jake Arrieta for Cardinals showdown


Cubs essentially ruling out Jake Arrieta for Cardinals showdown

Jake Arrieta will have to wait a little longer to put the Cubs on his back once again.

Arrieta threw from flat ground for the second time Tuesday and while he felt good recovering from an injured hamstring, the Cubs have yet to schedule an official bullpen for their dynamic veteran right-hander.

That means Cubs fans shouldn't expect Arrieta to get the ball in the all-important showdown with the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field this weekend.

"There's still some time involved here," Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs woke up Tuesday morning clinging to a two-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Central and up 2.5 games on the Milwaukee Brewers, who just came into Wrigleyville last weekend and swept the defending champs.

The Cubs are currently tossing their three southpaws (Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Mike Montgomery) against the New York Mets this week and John Lackey is penciled in for Friday's opener against the Cardinals. After that, the Cubs rotation has not yet been announced, though Kyle Hendricks will certainly slot in either Saturday or Sunday.

That led to a reporter wondering aloud during Maddon's pregame session Tuesday if Arrieta could possibly return for the weekend.

But it's a tricky situation given this is Arrieta's back leg, where he pushes off the mound to start his motion toward homeplate. And the Cubs want him to throw a full bullpen first and since that wasn't even scheduled yet on Tuesday, the likelihood of Arrieta pitching this weekend is pretty slim.

"I don't know," Maddon said. "We're running out of time for this time [through the rotation]. So maybe the next time through. I really don't know.

"In my mind's eye, I'm playing it like he won't. I think you have to do that first of all. And then if he can, wonderful."

The 2015 NL Cy Young winner wasn't quite turning in another superhuman second half for the Cubs when he went down with a hamstring injury last week in Pittsburgh, but he was in the midst of a dominant stretch. From the All-Star Break until he limped off the mound against the Pirates Sept. 4, Arrieta had gone 6-2 with a 1.98 ERA in 10 starts.

Arrieta's injury put the Cubs in a hole in that one game in Pittsburgh as he lasted just 2.1 innings in a game they were eventually routed 12-0. Had he not gotten injured, Arrieta would've been slated to start against the Brewers last weekend and on track to get the ball against the Cardinals this coming weekend.

In his stead, Montgomery will continue to find an opportunity in the starting rotation. 

But even if Arrieta can return shortly after the Cardinals series, will his complex mechanics be near the run he was on pre-injury or will the time off have affected him?

Cubs unveil 2018 schedule with more White Sox and a World Series rematch vs. Indians


Cubs unveil 2018 schedule with more White Sox and a World Series rematch vs. Indians

The Cubs will open their 143rd season with a 10-game road trip, expand the crosstown rivalry with the White Sox and revisit an epic World Series next year.

Those are some of the highlights from the tentative 2018 schedule released Tuesday, with the Cubs opening next season on March 29 at Marlins Park and traveling to Cincinnati and Milwaukee before the April 9 Wrigley Field opener against the Pirates.

One year after the stunning Jose Quintana trade, the Cubs will play two three-game series against the White Sox in Wrigleyville (May 11-13) and on the South Side (Sept. 21-23).

As part of that American League Central crossover, the Cubs will have flashbacks to the 2016 World Series in Cleveland, returning to the scene of an unforgettable Game 7 (April 24-25) and hosting the Indians — who are now one of the hottest teams in baseball history — for two more games a month later (May 22-23).

Check out the entire grid here:


With Hurricane Irma threat on his mind, Alex Avila delivers in the clutch for Cubs

With Hurricane Irma threat on his mind, Alex Avila delivers in the clutch for Cubs

PITTSBURGH – Cubs catcher Alex Avila clearly didn’t play distracted, guiding Jose Quintana through his matchup against Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, throwing out a runner to end the eighth inning and delivering the game-winning hit in Wednesday night’s 1-0 victory at PNC Park.

But Avila has other things on his mind, tracking Hurricane Irma’s devastating path, staying in touch with his family in the Fort Lauderdale area and making sure they fly to Chicago on Thursday to escape a storm coming with historic force.

“Not one eye,” Avila said. “I’ve got both my eyes (on it).”

That became the reality check at his locker after Avila broke his bat and knocked Daniel Hudson’s ninth-inning changeup into the right-field corner, scoring pinch-runner Leonys Martin from second base and again showing why the Cubs made that deal with the Detroit Tigers before the July 31 trade deadline.

Avila grew up in South Florida, where his father, Al, worked for the Marlins, made his reputation as a strong talent evaluator and eventually rose to become the Tigers general manager who would trade his own son.

“It’s been a little nerve-wracking the last couple days, just watching the weather reports,” Avila said. “I’ve been just sitting in the hotel room watching The Weather Channel all morning. It’s talking to my wife and cousins and friends. They’ve been over to my house to try to get the stuff as best prepared for the storm.”

Several Cubs understood that helpless feeling. Backup catcher Victor Caratini posted this message on his Twitter account: “Please pray for my family and friends in Puerto Rico. One of the most catastrophic (hurricanes is) about to hit my beautiful island.”

Shortstop Javier Baez sent a message to Puerto Rico in Spanish on his Instagram account. Manager Joe Maddon – who has a home and a restaurant in Tampa – remembered how real-world problems put blowing an eighth-inning lead into perspective.

“It doesn’t look good for the coastal area there in South Florida,” Avila said. “Luckily, I have a house in Michigan. Maybe I can go to it if worst comes to worst. It’s been a little nerve-wracking the last couple days, but I’m glad my whole family’s coming to Chicago on Thursday. I wasn’t messing around with that.”