Volstad claimed as Cubs continue to clean house

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Volstad claimed as Cubs continue to clean house

The Royals claimed Chris Volstad off waivers on Friday, ending the big hopes the Cubs had when they acquired him last winter.

The big right-hander was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Royals Friday afternoon.

Volstad, a former first-round pick of the Marlins, came over in the deal that sent Carlos Zambrano to South Beach. The 6-foot-8 starter never put it together with the Cubs, enduring a 24-start winless streak that began late in 2011 with the Marlins and was finally snapped Aug. 26 at Wrigley Field.

Volstad spent time in Triple-A Iowa in 2012 and was in manager Dale Sveum's doghouse for much of the season after failing to stick to the gameplan. In 21 starts for the big-league club, he compiled a 3-12 record with a 6.31 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.

The Cubs made a flurry of other moves Friday, clearing room on the 40-man roster by outrighting four more players -- Joe Mather, Manny Corpas, Justin Germano and Blake Parker -- to Triple-A Iowa.

Corpas elected free agency while Parker was removed from the 60-man roster before being outrighted.

Mather -- dubbed "Super Joe" by manager Dale Sveum in May -- won a utility spot with a strong spring and his versatility helped the 30-year-old journeyman notch 225 at-bats. He struggled at the plate, hitting just .209.256.324 despite a strong start, which included a seven-game stint as the team's No. 3 hitter.

Corpas burst onto the scene in 2007 as the Rockies' closer, saving 19 games with a 2.08 ERA, but his career has been derailed since with ineffectiveness and injury. He missed all of 2011 to Tommy John surgery and the Cubs took a chance on the 29-year-old reliever last winter. Corpas finished the year with a 5.01 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 48 games.

Germano was claimed off waivers mid-season from the Red Sox and was inserted into the starting rotation shortly after, replacing the injured Matt Garza. Germano, a 30-year-old righty, compiled a 2-10 record with a 6.75 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 13 games for the Cubs, including 12 starts.

These moves come a day after the Cubs outrighted four other players, marking 10 players removed from the 40-man roster in the last couple of days.

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”