Chicago's Inside Pitch
Busy day on the South Side.
On Friday afternoon, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn talked about the miserable season that ends Sunday and looked ahead to the future.
Later, Paul Konerko addressed his future.
Let's start with Konerko.
Given his subpar season (.248, 12 home runs, 54 RBI), age (37) and health (he missed a month with a sore lower back), I thought retirement was pretty much a slam-dunk.
But after listening to Konerko lay out his options, I changed my mind a bit. Konekro said he might be open to playing one more season, even though he's had no formal talks with the Sox.
The end is near for the White Sox, and that's a good thing.
Only four games are left in the Sox' worst season since 1970, when they lost 100 games. The White Sox need to win one of four against the Royals to avoid 100 losses this year.
In reality, it doesn't really matter.
This season has been spiraling downward since late May, when the Sox lost eight in a row after scratching their way back to the .500 mark.
"It's not the season that you wanted," manager Robin Ventura said in his pregame media session. "At this point you can't go to the playoffs so you're ready to end it and get ready for what you're going to do next year."
The smell of cigar smoke and champagne still linger in the tiny visitors clubhouse at Wrigley Field after two days of celebration. The Braves celebrated here Sunday after winning the NL East, and the Pirates partied last night after clinching a playoff berth. There’s still a lot to play for as far as Pittsburgh is concerned. The Pirates still want to win the NL Central, and at worst, they want home field for the wild-card play-in game.
The Cubs will send lefty Chris Rusin against Gerrit Cole. Rusin is 2-5 with a 3.52 ERA. Manager Dale Sveum says Rusin looks more self-assured than he did last year, when he came up for a short stint.
According to reports out of Cleveland, where the White Sox play the first of two games against the Indians tonight at Progressive Field, infielder Jeff Keppinger is scheduled to have shoulder surgery on Thursday.
Keppinger had some shoulder soreness in spring training, and manager Robin Ventura today told reporters the condition affected Keppinger’s throwing but not his swing.
Keppinger, 33, played against the Blue Jays Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field and went 1-for-2 with 2 walks as the designated hitter. He finishes a disappointing season with a .253/.283/.317 hitting line and 4 home runs and 40 RBI.
The Sox signed Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million contract on Dec. 10. Check back later for more details.
We begin the final Cubs homestand of the year tonight as the Pittsburgh Pirates come to Wrigley Field to open a three-game series. The Atlanta Braves celebrated their NL East division title yesterday in the visiting clubhouse. No sooner has the smell of champagne and cigar smoke begun to dissipate than we could have the same situation all over again tonight.
A victory tonight by the Pirates (89-67) and a loss in St. Louis by the Washington Nationals (84-72) would assure the Pirates their first postseason berth since 1992. The Pirates currently have one of the wild-card spots along with the Cincinnati Reds. They’re still trying to catch the Cardinals and win the NL Central. The Cubs finish in St. Louis this weekend, and it’s possible they could witness three celebrations.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum talked about a couple of the young players on the team this morning: Anthony Rizzo and Junior Lake. Rizzo is completing his first full year in the big leagues after coming up in June 2012 and having success. This year, it’s been a mixed bag.
“I think you have to analyze it in a way that we know how the game works and it’s his first time ever playing every single day in the big leagues,” Sveum said. “It’s his first time with the pressure of hitting third every single day, for the most part anyway. The 22 homers, 75, possibly 75 RBI for a second-year player isn’t the end of the world.
Can we have some peace and quiet around here, already? That was the feeling here at Wrigley at the end of what’s been a long week of trial and tribulation. As we reported this morning, the Cubs and closer Kevin Gregg have decided to let bygones be bygones, and Gregg will not be released after yesterday’s postgame session.
Gregg said he didn’t appreciate being told youngster Pedro Strop would close games the rest of the season, or at least that’s how he heard it. After some airing of words (some choice, no doubt) between team president Theo Epstein and Gregg, the pitcher apologized and cooler heads prevailed.
Theo said he would “sleep on” a decision about Gregg overnight, but Gregg said this morning Epstein called him last night and things were fine.
It’s always an eventful day on the Cubs beat, and today is no exception. We had both Theo Esptein and minor-league chief Jason McLeod talk to us on the field today. We’ll get to a few things here on the blog and flesh more out for the paper tomorrow (online tonight).
The one major news item is that catcher Welington Castillo had an MRI on his right knee this morning and that it revealed a partial tear in the meniscus and that he’ll have arthroscopic surgery. Theo said that, conservatively, the rehab is a 4-6-week process, so Castillo should easily be good to go by spring training barring any setbacks.
MILWUAKEE -- After a promising start to this 11-game road trip, the Cubs are trying to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of the Brewers. The trip began with the Cubs taking two of three in Cincinnati before they lost three of four in Pittsburgh and the first three here.
“Going to Cincinnati and winning two out of three there, obviously, it hasn’t been real good at scoring runs and solidifying innings,” said manager Dale Sveum. “The bottom line is Pittsburgh, their pitching is going to hold you down. They were all close games, in every game. And here, once again, we just haven’t played very good.”
We’ll delve more into the offense for our take in tomorrow’s paper. But for this road trip, the numbers have not been good. Let’s take a look:
It was another busy, eventful and strange night at Miller Park last night, when the Cubs fell 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning on Logan Schafer’s bases-loaded suicide squeeze bunt. We’ll talk about that play in a sec, and we’ll also let Cubs president Theo Epstein go unfiltered on a number of topics. We can do that here in the blog because of the time-space continuum doesn’t hamper us here. And the readers seem to like it.