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.

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

The word of the day Thursday around the cramped confines of the visitor’s clubhouse at Wrigley Field was normal, as in getting things back to it with ace left-hander Chris Sale taking the mound after serving a five-game suspension for “insubordination and destruction of team property.”

A completely abnormal story — Sale cut up the 1976 throwback uniforms he didn’t want to wear last Saturday and was sent home for his actions — gave way to a relatively routine evening. Sale allowed two runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts over six innings, though the White Sox lineup was shut down by John Lackey and the Cubs’ new three-headed bullpen monster in a 3-1 Crosstown loss.

“Things were pretty normal,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Guys got here, not a different clubhouse or anything like that. I think everything went fairly normal as far as him going out there and pitching and it was about baseball.”

First baseman Jose Abreu said things felt like an ordinary Sale start, even though the American League’s All-Star starting pitcher hadn’t pitched since July 18. He didn’t have his best stuff and wasn’t his sharpest, either — those three walks were his highest total in over two months — as he wasn’t able to consistently paint the corners with his explosive arsenal of pitches.

But, as usual, Sale worked quickly and kept his team in the game against one of baseball’s best offenses.

“He pitched a very good game,” Abreu said through a translator.

The Cuban first baseman added: “I think that we already moved on.”

Catcher Dioner Navarro agreed.

“He gave us a great outing, we just weren’t able to score any runs for him,” Navarro said.

Before the game, third baseman Todd Frazier said he and his teammates rallied around Sale and hoped a solid outing from the 27-year-old left-hander would put the bizarre incident squarely in the rearview mirror. 

“Some mistakes are bigger than others but you gotta understand that we’re all not perfect,” Frazier said. “Things do happen in this game, different things that you think (you’ve) never seen before, and then it happens. It’s just one of those things, hopefully it goes away quick with the way he pitches."

Sale said he didn’t discuss the incident or his suspension with his teammates before the game to keep things as normal as possible. After he showed up a little after 4:40 p.m., he received hugs and handshakes from teammates welcoming him back following his five-day exile.

But after that, Navarro said things were business as usual. He and Sale went through the gameplan and got ready to face the Cubs' powerful lineup instead of dwelling on what happened last Saturday. Eventually, Sale will talk to his coaches and teammates on a personal level to “let them know where my head is at, where my heart is at, and let them know how much I appreciate them.”

With the White Sox playoff hopes flickering as the trade deadline approaches, though, Sale’s teammates are eager to keep the focus on trying to dig themselves out of a substantial, two-games-under-.500 hole.

“Everything’s in the past,” Navarro said. “He did a great job. Quality start, nothing else you can ask.” 

Dwyane Wade makes surprise appearance at Lollapalooza

Dwyane Wade makes surprise appearance at Lollapalooza

Dwyane Wade is going to officially be introduced as a Chicago Bull on Friday, but that didn't stop Wade from going out in Chicago on Thursday.

Wade made a surprise appearance at Lollapalooza Thursday night at the Flosstradamus show, walking on the stage to the classic Bulls intro song Sirius by the Alan Parsons Project.

It sure seems like Wade is enjoying his return to Chicago so far.

New bullpen clicks as advertised in Cubs victory over White Sox

New bullpen clicks as advertised in Cubs victory over White Sox

The Cubs bullpen has gone from a problem area to a seemingly automatic endgame.

Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman preserved a tight lead as the Cubs beat the White Sox 3-1 Thursday night in front of 41,157 fans at Wrigley Field, evening up the season series between the two Chicago teams.

Manager Joe Maddon got to employ his best-case scenario as John Lackey accounted for six innings before Strop pitched the seventh, Rondon got two outs in the eighth and then Chapman came in for the final four outs.

"It's awesome," Cubs leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler said. "We have what they call the three-headed monster now. Those guys cut the game down."

Rondon got into a little trouble as Tyler Saladino led off the eighth with a double into the left-field corner in a one-run game, but the former Cubs closer struck out Adam Eaton and got Tim Anderson to ground out.

With Melky Cabrera — who has been swinging a hot bat — up next, Maddon came out to replace Rondon with the new 105 mph closer.

Chapman didn't even mess around with offspeed stuff, just blowing the ball right by Cabrera to end the threat.

"He's your guy and if you let that save moment get away ... it's an entirely different moment for him," Maddon said. "So definitely wanted to give him that opportunity to convert the save."

The Cubs tacked on a run in the bottom of the eighth as Ben Zobrist led off with a double, advanced to third on Adam Eaton's error and then scored on Addison Russell's ground out.

Chapman was drama-free in the ninth, retiring all three of the hitters he faced to earn his first save as a Cub.

Maddon said he talked to Chapman pregame about the possibility of a multi-inning save and then broached the topic to the All-Star closer again mid-game.

[RELATED - With Aroldis Chapman now in the fold, do Cubs have a bullpen that rivals world champion Royals?]

Even 37-year-old Lackey in his 14th season in the big leagues can sit by and become a spectator on the edge of his seat when Chapman comes into the game.

"It's been a cool atmosphere, for sure," Lackey said. "Playing [the White Sox] and with him coming in the game last night, that was fun to be in the dugout and check that out.

"It's definitely something you want to tune in to see, for sure."

Fowler was his classic "you go, we go" self, scoring the Cubs' first two runs against Sox ace Chris Sale — first on an RBI double from Kris Bryant on the Cubs' second batter of the game and then later on Zobrist's single up the middle in the third inning.

Lackey allowed only the one run and it came in the first inning when Tim Anderson reached on an infield single and then scored on Cabrera's double into the right-field corner.

It was Lackey's first victory since June 8, but he only threw 84 pitches and he wasn't happy about coming out of the game early.

With the Cubs' new bullpen able to cover the final three innings on most nights, the starters may not be asked to go as deep into games.

When asked about quicker hooks, Lackey said, "We'll see," before adding, "It's definitely lengthened the bullpen for sure with him at the back end. You feel good about Stroppy in the seventh inning; Ronnie as an eighth inning guy is pretty special. I can see that possibly happening."

Maddon doesn't expect his starters to like the quicker hooks, especially the ultra-competitive Lackey.

"There's nothing to sell with Johnny," Maddon said. "Maybe a six-pack. Or a 12-pack might sell. That's about the only chance I got.

"Maybe some new boots. That's all I got. I have no shot."