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Chicago baseball report: Cubs could be getting some bullpen help — while the White Sox get 1 last look at Miguel Cabrera


The Chicago Cubs did what they needed to do in Cincinnati against a pursuing Reds team, securing a split of the four-game series.

It was the minimum the Cubs needed to accomplish on the brief road trip, and they took care of business in Sunday’s 15-7 win behind a 10-run outburst over the final two innings. They return to Wrigley Field starting Monday for seven games versus the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The White Sox, with new general manager Chris Getz in place, will continue their evaluation process for 2024 during trips to Kansas City and Detroit.

Every Monday throughout the season, Tribune baseball writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead — for the Cubs and Sox.

Cubs’ Hayden Wesneski shows nasty stuff

The velocity readings didn’t escape Hayden Wesneski’s attention during his relief outing in Game 2 of Friday’s doubleheader at Great American Ball Park.

Wesneski’s fastball hit 99 mph in a dominant performance in which he delivered 3 1/3 shutout innings without allowing a hit while walking one and striking out six.

“You feel like a badass to be honest with you,” Wesneski said. “It’s a hard thing to do, throw hard and throw strikes, so when I’m doing both, it’s a different feeling that most people don’t have. Because I can throw it hard and I can throw strikes, but to do both is a very challenging thing.

“It goes back to the mechanics of locking it in to where I can do both at the same time. It just reassures that what we’re doing is right, that the work’s right.”

Wesneski credited the velocity increase to drill work, specifically plyo balls, and cues to help him better transfer his mechanics and drills into games. A more focused approach to playing catch between relief appearances has played an important role in Wesneski reaching that next step with his development and consistency.

“Sometimes when you’re playing catch, the effort level goes up and down,” he said. “The ball tends to not go where you want it to, and then you get frustrated and you try to do something different. Then there’s coaches reassuring you, ‘Hey, this is the right thing do to, you’re on the right path, stop playing with it.’

“I know what the week of work should look like. … Just to be able to see it come to life, you don’t understand how much of a confidence booster that is for a young guy like me.”

White Sox GM Chris Getz trying to fill the gap

Chris Getz referred to it as the elephant in the room.

Asked during his introductory news conference Thursday whether the Sox would go through big changes or small changes and if they could compete next year, the new general manager pointed out that they do play in the American League Central.

“Every year it seems that the division is up for grabs,” Getz said. “With that being said, we sit at 53 wins right now. So there is a gap to fill and we’re going to look at different ways to improve this club.”

Getz said the Sox will be creative.

“We’re not going to lose sight of our long-term goal of winning a World Series,” Getz said. “But in the near term, I look forward to sitting down with (manager) Pedro (Grifol) and learning what we have to do going toward the offseason and getting ready for next year.”

Getz said the conversations with Grifol are among his first steps in trying to get the Sox going in the right direction again.

“I look forward to sitting down with the players as well,” he said. “I think that type of feedback is going to be strong.”

Getz is hopeful his experience as a former big-leaguer will aid in those talks with players.

“I hope that they’re comfortable speaking to me … (and) that I can relate to some of the struggles they’re going through,” he said. “I want to sit down with that group and find ways within the organization to improve our processes as a whole.”

Cubs playoff push

The Cubs will take the field Monday against the Giants sitting 3 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central and holding the second NL wild-card spot. They’re three games ahead of the Reds, Giants, Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins, who are in a four-way tie for the final playoff spot.

The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Brewers on Sunday to maintain a 2 1/2-game lead on the Cubs for the top wild-card spot.

What we’re reading this morning

Week ahead: Cubs

The Cubs continue their stretch of 14 games in 13 days against NL wild-card contenders versus the Giants. Two of the Cubs’ most consistent starters, Justin Steele and Kyle Hendricks, will open the series with rookie left-hander Jordan Wicks lined up for Wednesday’s finale. That sets up Steele to make his next two starts against the Colorado Rockies.

The Cubs could have more bullpen options by the end of the month. Right-handers Ben Brown and Nick Burdi and left-hander Brandon Hughes were scheduled to pitch Sunday for Triple-A Iowa. President Jed Hoyer said they plan to make plenty of roster moves over the course of the month with a 28-man roster limit instead of the old rule in which anyone on the 40-man roster could be called up in September.

Brown and Hughes, in particular, would be big additions. If not his a left lat/oblique injury sidelining him the last few weeks, there’s a high probability Brown already would be part of the Cubs bullpen. He was activated before Iowa’s game Sunday.

For any fans hoping the Cubs would be aggressive with last year’s first-round pick, Cade Horton, as a bullpen option in September, they are not deviating from their plan. The Cubs placed Horton on the development list Thursday to give him a little break heading into Double-A Tennessee’s postseason. Horton has thrown 84 1/3 innings in 20 starts at three levels this year.

  • Monday: vs. Giants, 1:20 p.m., Marquee
  • Tuesday: vs. Giants, 6:40 p.m., Marquee
  • Wednesday: vs. Giants, 1:20 p.m., Marquee
  • Thursday: vs. Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m., Marquee
  • Friday: vs. Diamondbacks, 1:20 p.m., Marquee
  • Saturday: vs. Diamondbacks, 1:20 p.m., Marquee
  • Sunday: vs. Diamondbacks, 1:20 p.m., Marquee

Week ahead: White Sox

Miguel Cabrera wore out Sox pitching during the weekend series against the Detroit Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field. He followed up a two-hit performance Friday by going 4-for-5 with three RBIs on Saturday.

The Sox will face the future Hall of Famer, who is retiring at the end of the season, in one more series when they travel to Detroit to play the Tigers on Friday to Sunday at Comerica Park.

Cabrera has 40 homers and 130 RBIs in 231 career games against the Sox.

“He’s just unbelievable,” Sox infielder Elvis Andrus said Sunday.

Andrus, like Cabrera, is from Venezuela. He presented Cabrera with a bottle of Remy Martin Louis XIII before Sunday’s game.

“He’s from another world,” Andrus said. “Hitting is so hard and he makes it look, his whole career, so easy.”

Cabrera has 3,158 career hits and 510 career homers. His 245 hits against the Sox is his fourth-most against any team.

“He’s just one of those guys who knew, if he didn’t beat you this time, he was going to beat you next time,” Grifol said. “I don’t think there’s ever going to be another Miguel Cabrera.”

  • Monday: at Royals, 1:10 p.m., NBCSCH
  • Tuesday: at Royals, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH
  • Wednesday: at Royals, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH
  • Thursday: off
  • Friday: at Tigers, 5:40 p.m., NBCSCH
  • Saturday: at Tigers, 5:10 p.m., NBCSCH
  • Sunday: at Tigers, 12:10 p.m., NBCSCH

This week in Chicago baseball

Sept. 5, 1918: Babe Ruth pitches a six-hitter for the Red Sox, who beat the Cubs 1-0 in the opening game of the World Series.

Newspapers were dominated by news of World War I, including the latest American dead. In Chicago, one headline read, “Chicagoans on the List,” and it was a particularly harrowing moment in the city for another reason: Someone, possibly self-proclaimed anarchists and labor activists, had the day before tossed a bomb into a downtown federal building and post office, killing four people and injuring dozens more.

The World Series was in town, with the Cubs hosting Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox. The Chicago games were played at Comiskey Park, the home of the White Sox, instead of the Cubs’ new home at Wrigley Field — called Weeghman Park at the time — because Comiskey held more fans. But in a city jittery over the bombing and weary from the war, Game 1 that day attracted fewer than 20,000 fans, the smallest World Series crowd in years.

“There was no cheering during the contest, nor was there anything like the usual umpire baiting,” one Boston newspaper reported.

Then, in the seventh inning, a band from the Navy training station north of Chicago started to play “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The song had been played before at major-league games — from at least 1862 and on opening day in 1897 in Philadelphia — said John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian. But this time, The New York Times reported, something happened that was “far different from any incident that has ever occurred in the history of baseball.”

Players took off their caps as they faced a flag that fluttered atop a pole in right field while the 12-piece band began to play.

Not everyone thought what happened was a big deal. Chicago sportswriter Ring Lardner mentioned it, but only as a punch line as he reported that Red Sox infielder Fred Thomas had stood at attention three times during the game, once during the anthem and twice when the umpire was calling him out on strikes.

Sept. 6, 1905: The White Sox’s Frank Smith pitches a no-hitter against the Tigers in a 15-0 victory in the second game of a doubleheader.

The score is the most lopsided margin of victory for a no-hitter in AL history.

Sept. 8, 1953: The Cubs buy the contract of Ernie Banks, a 22-year-old shortstop, from the Negro leagues’ Kansas City Monarchs for $10,000.

He made his Cubs debut Sept. 17, starting at shortstop and batting seventh as the first Black player in team history.

Sept. 9, 1969: The Cubs lose their sixth straight game after a black cat walks past their dugout.

“With the Mets one and a half games behind first-place Chicago for the division lead, a black cat ran onto the field at Shea Stadium, scampering by the Cubs on-deck batter and across the visitor’s dugout,” a plaque at Citi Field reads. “The Cubs lost the game 7-1, and eventually the division to the Mets.”

Cubs third baseman Ron Santo was in the on-deck circle when the cat appeared. Billy Williams still can recall Santo’s face turning various shades of red whenever fans asked him to autograph black-and-white photos of him and the black cat.

Sept. 9 was the last day the ‘69 Cubs were in first place after spending 156 days, including days off, atop the National League East. They lost the next game after the “Black Cat Game” and 17 of 25 in September to end up eight games out.

Williams believes the Black Cat game was eclipsed in Cubs metaphysical lore by the Bartman game in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS and then the heavenly rain delay in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.

“Unless this stuff is in the paper, these guys don’t know nothing about that,” he said in 2019. “Only the guys that played in the era do … and the media. The Mets believed in that because they played over .700 after that game, and that contributed to (the legend).

“They just played great baseball. People look at it as bad luck for us, the black cat being on the field. But most of the players I know didn’t think that. I know I don’t.”

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