Wells is prepared for whatever the Cubs throw at him

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Wells is prepared for whatever the Cubs throw at him

MESA, Ariz. Maybe this was a preview, but Randy Wells didnt want to search for any deeper meaning. He has tried to block out all the noise and just pitch when they give him the ball.

Wells came in during the fifth inning on Saturday and got five outs in a 5-1 loss to the San Diego Padres at HoHoKam Stadium. He has said all the right things, even as it seems like the odds are tilted against him.

This could become his role the long man out of the bullpen but Wells wasnt treating it like a showcase.

I dont really look into it, Wells said. Theres an obvious competition going on and you start getting caught up in that, then it makes it tougher to pitch.

Wells has received only one Cactus League start and threw three shutout innings that day against the Milwaukee Brewers. Hes pitched in an intra-squad scrimmage and a B game. Hes not complaining.

Its just the way we worked out this spring, Wells said. We got a lot of guys who have to get their starts. Thats just what the deal is.

Dale Sveum has Wells piggybacking and scheduling issues because of the number of rotation candidates that came to camp. The manager said that he knows Wells capabilities after his years in the division as a Brewers coach. That body of work also wasnt enough to guarantee Wells a spot.

If decisions are going to be announced by Wednesday Sveums timeline then there arent many chances left to make an impression.

Sveum wrote off Jeff Samardzijas performance (seven runs on 10 hits in four innings) on Friday against the Colorado Rockies as a lesson, all part of the learning curve.

You cant throw 90 percent of all your pitches 91 mph and above, Sveum said. You better have unbelievable location if youre doing that.

The manager didnt necessarily think that Samardzija opened the door for Wells or Rodrigo Lopez, instead framing it as probably the best thing that happened to him, so he realizes that you have to change bat speeds.

As a rookie in 2009, Wells went 12-10 with a 3.05 ERA. The next season he made 32 starts and accounted for almost 200 innings. A forearm injury wiped out two months of last season, but he closed by going 6-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

There is a reasonable expectation of what youd get from Wells as the fifth starter, but the Cubs see potential upside in Samardzija and Chris Volstad. Long man wouldnt be Wells first choice, but hes speaking in clichs, thinking team first, not wanting to make any waves.

Id be disappointed, Wells said. Its three years in the rotation and (then to) have to go to the bullpen. But it could be a new challenge, something exciting. Either way, youre going to have to make adjustments. And if I do end up in the rotation, then Ill just try (to) have a better year than I did last year and take it one step further.

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

It’s one of the more iconic moments in White Sox history, and now Mark Buehrle has a key piece of memorabilia after a fan’s kind gesture.

Already overwhelmed by a series of gifts from the White Sox on Saturday afternoon, Buehrle was in disbelief when 17-year-old Tommy Maloney walked onto the field during a number-retirement ceremony and presented him with the flipped-through-the-legs ball from 2010 Opening Day.

The memento was one of four gifts Buehrle received from the White Sox along with a new truck, a four-seat All-Terrain Vehicle and a personalized piece of art created by White Sox outfielder Ron Kittle commemorating many of the highlights of the pitcher’s White Sox career. It was just another part of an overwhelming, emotional day for Buehrle, who was honored for his 12 seasons in a White Sox uniform.

“Pretty cool,” Buehrle said. “I don’t recall signing it for him when it happened. I don’t really remember where it went. But one, for him to give that up, that was pretty awesome.”

Maloney’s father, Matt, contacted the White Sox earlier this month to see if Buehrle wanted to meet with the fan who had the ball from a moment in White Sox history that has been replayed thousands upon thousands of times.

The Maloneys also reached out to the White Sox back in 2010, too. They informed the club they had the ball that Buehrle retrieved and flipped through his legs to Paul Konerko, who caught it with a barehanded to retire Cleveland’s Lou Marson in the fifth inning of the April 5, 2010 contest. Buehrle autographed the ball in 2010, but neither he nor the White Sox asked for Tommy Maloney, who was 8 at the time, to hand it over.

“At that point it’s just a cool ball, it’s not part of White Sox history,” said Brooks Boyer, White Sox vice president of sales and marketing.

As he looked for a unique artifact for Buehrle to offer another layer to Saturday’s ceremony, Boyer came across Matt Maloney’s most recent email. He definitely thought Buehrle would have interest in reuniting with the fan who held a key artifact from a play that has become legendary around these parts over the years.

But Boyer also asked if the Maloneys would want to donate the ball to Buehrle.

“We didn’t have the unique thing,” Boyer said. “We just didn’t have it.

“Here it is.”

How it had gotten in Tommy Maloney’s hands in the first place was interesting enough. The Munster, Ind., high schooler said his father got tickets for the 2010 season opener and he left school early to watch Buehrle, his favorite pitcher as a kid. The seats were in the first row behind the far right edge of the White Sox dugout, the same ones he was in for Saturday’s ceremony.

After the improbable play to steal a hit from Marson, Buehrle fell to his knees, which brought manager Ozzie Guillen out of the dugout. Somehow Guillen retrieved the ball and upon returning to the dugout, flipped it to Maloney, who had earlier asked him for a ball several times. Even though it was a prized possession, Tommy Maloney said he’d have no problem surrendering it again if he were asked.

The White Sox rewarded Maloney for his sacrifice as club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf determined that the youngster would present Buehrle with the ball on the field. But the White Sox didn’t tell Maloney he would present the ball until Saturday, surprising him with the news about an hour before the game.

“It’s awesome the way it played out,” Maloney said. “He’s such a great guy. He was hugging me in the dugout. He looked at me when I went up there to give him the ball and said, ‘Give me a hug.’ ”

Maloney not only stood on the field before the ceremony, he had a chance to briefly meet Buehrle in the dugout. He also received another autographed baseball. And after he was applauded by the sellout crowd, several fans stopped by Maloney’s seat to pose for a picture.

Buehrle was touched by the gesture.

“I was like, ‘Brooks, we’ve got to do something here,’ ” Buehrle said. “’He can’t just give the ball and walk out of here empty-handed.’ So I ended up signing him a ball and I don’t know if we have something else in mind, but it was pretty awesome.”

Jon Lester, Cubs rotation trends in right direction with win over Marlins

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester, Cubs rotation trends in right direction with win over Marlins

MIAMI – Jon Lester dropped his head and wiped the sweat from his face. The Cubs ace didn’t jerk his neck and twist his body, hoping the swing and the sound somehow fooled him. The slow turnaround revealed the obvious – his 75-mph curveball flew over the left-field wall and nearly into the Clevelander bar billed as an adult playground.  

Lester gripped the next ball, stared out into the visual noise at Marlins Park and went to work on Saturday after J.T. Realmuto’s three-run homer in the first inning. This is the stuff, determination and tunnel vision that’s been the antidote to the pressures of playing at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and made Lester such a big-game pitcher.

Lester retired the next 13 hitters he faced, 15 of the next 16 and 18 of his last 20 at a time when the Cubs needed that kind of performance to buy time for their young hitters, survive a brutal schedule and weather a series of injuries. 

A 5-3 win pushed the Cubs to 38-36 as Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) and the overall rotation continue to trend in the right direction.