Chicago's Inside Pitch
The White Sox are preparing to open the (unofficial) second half of the season tonight against the Braves at U.S. Cellular Field.
With a 37-55 record they are going nowhere fast in the AL Central, and there is still a very strong sense that players including Jesse Crain, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez and Matt Lindstrom are all going to be traded before the July 31 nonwaiver deadline.
"I don't know what direction they're going to go," Crain said earlier this afternoon. "I'm not sure if they're going to sell some guys off in trades."
General manager Rick Hahn traded veteran reliever Matt Thornton to the Red Sox one week ago, and he indicated more deals are coming.
One more to go before the all-star break. We have Cubs-Cardinals at Wrigley Field and ESPN Sunday night baseball. If the atmosphere out here is anything like last night, it’ll be another fun one. Last night’s scene was probably the best non-opening-day atmosphere in three or four years out here.
The Cubs made an expected roster move late this afternoon. They activated outfielder Cole Gillespie and designated reliever Henry Rodriguez for assignment. Gillespie was claimed off waivers yesterday from the Giants.
We’ll tie up a bunch of loose ends here and have Saturday’s minor-league roundup below.
More outfield roulette today and some intrigue regarding Brett Jackson. The Cubs today claimed outfielder Cole Gillespie off waivers from the Giants. The 29-year-old Gillespie played in three major league games with the Giants this year before being designated for assignment July 9.
At Class AAA Fresno, Gillespie had 279 plate appearances. He had a line of .277/.361/.455 with 9 homers, 31 RBI, 32 walks and 52 strikeouts.
Gillespie, 29, was originally selected in the third round of the 2006 draft by the Brewers and made his big-league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010, appearing in 45 games. He has spent most of the last three seasons in Triple-A in the Diamondbacks and Giants organizations
Another day, another bullpen move for the Cubs. Today, they selected the contract of reliever Michael Bowden from Class AAA Iowa and optioned lefty Brooks Raley to Iowa. Raley helped save the Cubs pen last night in a blowout loss by working 4.1 innings.
“He gave us what we needed, and obviously, we had some roster spots open, so it was nice to be able to make that move and get Bowden here,” said manager Dale Sveum. “I know he’s been throwing the ball really well. Even his velocity has been up down there (at Iowa). That kind of solidifies the bullpen right now.”
The Cubs brought what they hope will be a big part of their future into the fold today as they’ve agreed to terms with their No. 1 draft pick, third baseman Kris Bryant out of the University of San Diego. A club source said the deal is a “slot” deal for the second pick overall, or about $6.7 million
That would be higher than the $6.3 million pitcher Mark Appel got from Houston as the No. 1 overall. Bryant was to take a physical exam today, and it’s possible the Cubs will introduce him formally over the weekend at Wrigley Field.
The likely scenario is that he would report to the Cubs’ spring facility in Mesa and then move up to Boise (A) before making a stop with the Kane County Cougars.
Albert Pujols returns to Wrigley Field tonight as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He bats third tonight against Cubs left-hander and all-star Travis Wood. Against the Cubs in his career, Pujols has a line of .302/.402/.617 for an OPS of 1.020. He has 54 homers lifetime against the Cubs. At Wrigley, the line is .298/.397/.602 for an OPS of .999. He has 26 homers and 67 RBI here.
We have a lot of notes-type items tonight along with some good minor-league stuff including Matt Loosen’s no hitter yesterday for Class A Daytona. Albert Almora, the Cubs’ No. 1 draft choice, is a Wrigley Field visitor today as the Kane County Cougars have a rare off-day in their schedule. We’ll get to some stuff from Albert for the paper tomorrow.
Some of the newsy notes:
The White Sox will attempt to avoid history tonight at the U.S. Cellular Field.
The Sox and Cubs are making up a May 28 rainout against the Cubs and, as you might imagine, interest in the game isn't running particularly high on either side of town.
The White Sox (34-51) were swept in a three-game series at Tampa over the weekend and they've lost 9 of 11 and 27 of 37.
The Cubs did win 2 of 3 against the first-place Pirates at Wrigley over the weekend, but they come in with a 38-48 record.
Getting back to history, neither the Sox nor the Cubs have ever swept a home-and-home interleague series, which started in 1999. The White Sox did go 0-3 vs. the Cubs in '98.
It’s already been a busy day, with the Cubs having traded outfielder Scott Hairston to the Washington Nationals for minor-league pitching prospect Ivan Pineyro. Matt Garza takes the mound tonight against the White Sox. As has been the case with every Garza start, it could be his last, as scouts from many teams will be here at U.S. Cellular Field.
However, new reports, begun by cbsssports.com writer Jon Heyman, say that the Cubs are considering a contract extension for Garza. Color me skeptical on this one. Garza has been on the disabled list in each of his three seasons with the Cub. He seems good now, and his stuff has been great of late, but a long-term deal seems risky at this point.
As jaded as you can get in this business, I’m always refreshed to see a player genuinely happy to make the all-star team. Such was the case yesterday with Travis Wood of the Cubs, who will be going to New York July 16. Hope you caught my front-page story in Sunday’s Daily Herald:
“Like I said yesterday, for a guy that has so much passion for the game and just loves baseball, he just loves being at the ballpark,” said manager Dale Sveum. “I think that’s what makes it so special for him. A guy coming out of nowhere and to pitch as well as he has and get elected to the All-Star Game … and we all know the person he is. He’s just a baseball rat.
The big news of the day, which began coming out Friday night from Daytona, is that the Cubs have promoted shortstop Javier Baez from Class A Daytona to Class AA Tennessee. Baez, arguably the organization’s top prospect, had a hitting line of .274/.338/.535 with 17 homers and 57 RBI at Daytona. In 299 at-bats, he walked 21 times and struck out 78. He also committed 31 errors.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Baez beat his development plan by about a month but added it's unlikely Baez will make the jump to the majors this year.
Oh, and the Stanley Cup was here at Wrigley Field today, with Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.