Chicago's Inside Pitch
The only thing better about the Arizona Fall League for the Cubs and their fans would be if the new spring-training facility would be ready to host the Mesa Solar Sox. The new place won’t be open yet, but many of the Cubs’ top prospects will be playing for Mesa beginning Oct. 8.
The team’s last three No. 1 draft picks – Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Javier Baez -- will join the Solar Sox. Jorge Soler, last year’s big signing out of Cuba, also will head to Arizona. They’ll be joined by pitchers Dallas Beeler, Matt Loosen, Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino.
The hottest team in major-league baseball is going to be taking the field in about 90 minutes.
No, it's not the Houston Astros (43-86), who have the worst record in baseball.
It's the White Sox (54-75), who have the third-worst record in baseball.
But the Sox - finally - are starting to go in the right direction.
They'll shoot for their ninth win in 10 games tonight when they open a three-game series against the Astros. Hard to believe these are the same two teams that met up in the 2005 World Series.
On the one hand, the White Sox are hopelessly out of playoff contention, and the more games they win over the final five weeks of the season, the lower their first-round draft pick falls next year.
The White Sox and Rangers play tonight at U.S. Cellular Field, but it won’t be just another game on the marathon schedule.
Tonight, the Sox and Texas square off in the seventh annual Civil Rights Game.
The White Sox played in the Civil Rights Game in 2007 – when it was an exhibition – and in ’09, a regular season game at Cincinnati.
This year, the Sox are hosting the game for the first time.
Before arriving at the Cell Saturday afternoon for batting practice, the White Sox’ entire team attended Major-League Baseball’s Beacon Awards Luncheon, where Bo Jackson was the guest of honor.
The White Sox are back in town tonight with a season-high six-game winning streak, and over 30,000 fans are expected at U.S. Cellular Field to watch the first of three games against Texas.
Unfortunately for the Sox, the big crowd is not coming to watch a potential playoff preview against the Rangers.
Most are probably heading to the South Side because it's Elvis Night, a popular annual event that includes a postgame concert and fireworks.
And many are likely heading to the Cell to welcome back A.J. Pierzynski, the polarizing catcher who played for the White Sox from 2005-12 before signing a one-year free-agent contract with Texas.
A.J. is happy to be back, and I suspect he'll get some big applause tonight, especially during his video tribute.
Even though he's dealt with two injuries to his left wrist/hand, second baseman Gordon Beckham has been one of the White Sox' few bright spots on offense this season.
In 72 games, Beckham is batting .298 with 4 home runs and 18 RBI, and he has an impressive .350 on-base percentage.
At Minnesota last Thursday, Beckham strained his right quad and he’s clearly been less than 100 percent while playing through the injury the past week.
With Leury Garcia coming up from Class AAA Charlotte today, Beckham is likely going to get a break as the Sox shoot for a sweep of the Royals and overall six-game winning streak.
Garcia was acquired from the Rangers on Aug. 11 as the player to be named later in the Alex Rios trade.
When the rain clears out, we should have a pretty good pitching matchup today at Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ Travis Wood takes on the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg. Wood is 7-10 with a 3.13 ERA while Strasburg is 6-9 with a 2.93 ERA. Wood’s ERA is the second lowest among pitchers with at least 10 losses. Chris Sale of the White Sox is 9-11 with a 2.78 ERA.
Our pregame talk with Cubs manager Dale Sveum this morning again turned to shortstop prospect Javier Baez, who hit 2 home runs and went 4-for-4 for Class AA Tennessee last night in a 10-8 victory over Birmingham. In August, Baez is 33-for-81 (.407) with 11 doubles, 5 home runs and 22 RBI. Between Class A Daytona and Tennessee, Baez has 33 home runs and 100 RBI.
After further review, Cubs manager Dale Sveum thought better of batting Starlin Castro eighth. As we mentioned in our afternoon blog today, Sveum has Castro leading off tonight against the Nationals, with Anthony Rizzo batting second.
“Most of it came down to obviously thinking about Castro the last couple days,” Sveum said late this afternoon. “I don’t think we’re doing him any good trying to get through these next five weeks trying to get him and Rizzo feeling good going into the winter. Of all places, now that we’ve lost (David) DeJesus in the leadoff spot anyway, I think this is one spot that he’s flourished in and he kind of can use to get his so-called swagger back and see if that can get things going a little bit, too.
The headline on Tuesday's blog was, "Castro moves to eighth spot." Manager Dale Sveum batted the beleaguered shortstop eighth last night, saying it was the right fit in a lineup that included Brian Bogusevic in left field, Nate Schierholtz in right, Donnie Murphy at third and Welington Castilo behind the plate. At the time, Sveum said the others were hitting too well to move down. So it was Castro who batted eighth.
Less than 24 hours, it's a double-dose of surprise, as Sveum has moved Castro up to the leadoff spot and first baseman Anthony Rizzo into the second spot. It will be Castro's fourth time in the leadoff spot this year and Rizzo's career debut batting second. Both players were out this afternoon for extensive sessions of early batting practice.
The Cubs and Chris Rusin take on Dan Haren and the Nationals tonight at Wrigley Field, where the ball has been carrying in batting practice on a warm evening. The news of the day is that Cubs manager Dale Sveum has Starlin Castro batting eighth for the first time this year, with Darwin Barney batting second and Nate Schierholtz batting cleanup.
Castro is 1-for-23 (.043) on the homestand, and for the year, his line is .242/.278/.343. Brian Bogusevic, a left-handed batter, is in the lineup batting sixth and playing left field. Donnie Murphy, who hit 2 homers last night, as did Schierholtz, bats fifth and plays third base.
Another big and busy day around the ballpark. Even though it’s past the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline, the Cubs were able to make a deal today, sending outfielder David DeJesus to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named later. The Nats are in town, so DeJesus simply moved from one clubhouse to the other. The Cubs will net a savings of about $2.5 million on the deal. They’ve also activated outfielder Brian Bogusevic off the disabled list.
DeJesus was one of the most popular players in the clubhouse, both for his example-setting and work ethic.