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7559
MDR Blog 1/1
01-01-2017
09:43 AM ET (US)
Before heading into 2017, let’s look at the Top 5 MDR stories from 2016:

1. Cubs Win - This might be the biggest no brainer selection in the history of MDR. For the first time since 1908, the Cubs won the World Series. They also gave every indication that they could be starting at least a mini-dynasty as the team to beat for the next couple seasons.

2. Bryant Wins MVP - Kris Bryant is off to a start that few in the history of baseball have shared. First, he won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2015. Then in 2016, he won MVP. His first two seasons give him tough acts to follow.

3. Selig to Cooperstown - Bud Selig will always be known by Brewers fans as the man who brought baseball back to Milwaukee and headed the franchise for years. But, his tenure as commissioner of baseball changed the game in many ways and earned him election to the Hall of Fame.

4. White Sox start cleaning house - The White Sox looked to have built a club that could contend in 2016, but instead they bombed. They started what could be a house cleaning by trading ace Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton before he holidays. More are likely to go.

5. Twins sink - The Twins also had hopes of contending, but instead had their poorest season since 1995. It cost Terry Ryan his job as GM. Another bomb of a season could also send manager Paul Molitor packing.

Hot Stove Updates

Brewers

** Catcher Martin Maldonado and pitcher Drew Gagnon were traded to the Angels for
catcher Jeff Bandy.

** The Brewers have signed former Twins’ LHP Tommy Milone to a one-year contract.

** The Brewers have signed infielders Eric Sogard and Ivan DeJesus Jr. and pitchers Andy Oliver and Hiram Burgos to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.

Cubs

** Aroldis Chapman, who signed as a free agent with the Yankees, said Cubs manager Joe Maddon misused him during the post-season, especially in the World Series.

** Jorge Soler was traded to the Royals for closer Wade Davis, who will replace Chapman. That means Kyle Schwarber will likely see regular time in the outfield.
** Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara and former Brewer pitcher Caleb Smith have been added to the bullpen.

Twins

** 2B Brian Dozier continues to draw the most attention from other clubs, with the Dodgers part of the most rumors.

** Jeff Smith has been named first base coach, and former Dodgers exec Jeff Pickler was named coordinator of Major League development.

** Corner infielder Matt Hague and 1B/OF Reynaldo Rodriguez were signed to minor league deals with invitations to spring training.

White Sox

** The Sox reached a one-year deal with pitcher Derek Holland.

** The Yankees and White Sox continue to talk about a deal that would send LHP Jose Quintana to New York. RHP David Robertson also has been the subject of rumors with several teams.

** Righthander Jorge Rondon has been signed to a minor league deal. RHP Chris Volstad also was re-signed to a minor league contract.

What’s Ahead

Salary arbitration figures must be exchanged between players and clubs by Jan. 13. The Baseball Writers’ Hall of Fame voting will be announced on Jan. 18.

MDR teams will start holding their various winter festivals and ticker promotions later in January. The Cubs Convention is held Jan. 13-15. SoxFest and TwinsFest arescheduled for Jan. 27-29. The Brewers hold their On Deck on Jan. 29.

The Ken Keltner Chapter will celebrate SABR Day on Jan. 28 with a joint meeting with the Chicago Rothe Chapter at the Brat Stop in Kenosha County. Contact Rick Schabowski at rickiu76@aol.com for more info.

The MDR Blog will run again in early February, previewing spring training. It will continue to run monthly through spring training and the regular season.

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7558
Deleted by author 01-01-2017 09:42 AM
7557
MDR Blog 12/2
12-02-2016
07:42 AM ET (US)
The annual MLB Winter Meetings start next week. The four MDR teams all have things they might want to discuss, or at least start discussions about, at the meeting.

Brewers - Of course, the biggest possibility for Milwaukee is the trade of Ryan Braun. The most prominent rumor about Braun during the last season was a deal to the Dodgers for Yasiel Puig and prospects. Such a deal makes sense since Braun is a Southern California native and would likely accept a trade to L.A.

Puig has under-performed since his rookie season, but has great natural ability. He also is a corner outfielder, who could replace Braun in the field. What prospects the Brewers could get in return might be the keys to the deal.

Junior Guerra and some other Brewers also have received some interest in the trade market. So, expect GM David Stearns to at least get started on some possible moves.

Cubs - You might expect the Cubs to stand pat after winning it all, but teams that do that usually go in reverse. Plus, the Cubs could lose Aroldis Chapman, Dexter Fowler and Jason Hammel. While they do have enough depth to replace these players, they likely will want to upgrade over that backup talent.

Start with the bullpen. Hector Rondon or Carl Edwards Jr. could take over the closer role from Chapman, but the Cubs also might want to go after a higher profile closer and keep Rondon and Edwards in the positions they now occupy.

Travis Wood, who ate up more innings than any other reliever, and also can play in the field, is a free agent. The Cubs could re-sign him or go after a replacement. They also might want to fill the relief role of Mike Montgomery, who likely will go to the starting rotation to replace Hammel.

The Cubs already added outfield depth in acquiring Jon Jay. Jorge Soler continues to be possible bait for other trades. So, expect Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to also be at least setting some ground work at the meetings.

Twins - The Twins have been downplaying how active they will be at the meetings. “Candidly, I don’t think the Winter Meetings is where we have to do everything,” CBO Derek Falvey recently said. “We’re not in the business of winning the winter meetings with a firestorm.”

At the same time, the club desperately needs starting pitching and some help in the bullpen. The Twins do have pieces that could be used in deals.

Brian Dozier has attracted a lot of attention. Kennys Vargas and Ervin Santana also could be potential trade bait. The Twins took care of catcher, another area that had been open for a possible deal, by signing Jason Castro for three years this week.

The Twins have some nice young players and prospects, but it seems more likely they will hang on to those players and try to move some veterans. Trevor Plouffe and Tommy Milone already have been cut loose.

No matter what Falvey says, the Twins need to make moves. Whether they do that at the meetings, or just start laying some groundwork, remains to be seen.

White Sox - The Sox brass has been rather open about the fact they want to make some changes. Tops on the rumor mill has been LHP ace Chris Sale. A number of teams are interested, but the price will be high.

Perhaps the hottest rumor has Sale going to the Cubs, but both teams have been downplaying that. Sale to the Tigers for Justin Verlander is another intriguing rumor.

Sale is not the only Sox apparently available. Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, Avisail Garcia, Brett Lawrie, James Shields and David Robertson all have been mentioned in possible deals.

There also have been rumors that the Sox could steal the Brewers’ thunder by dealing with the Dodgers for Puig and others.

GM Rick Hahn has said the Sox are willing to trade any player who is under Sox control for four or fewer years. If he is aggressive in pursuing this approach, it could lead to a house cleaning, which could start next week.

Hot Stove Update

Brewers

** The Brewers signed 1B/OF Eric Thames to a three-year contract. Thames, who had been playing in Korea, once played for the La Crosse Loggers in the Northwoods League.

** 1B Chris Carter was designated for assignment and likely will be traded or go free agent, opening up first for Thames.

** The Brewers claimed RHP Steve Getz off waivers from the Rays and designated 1B/OF Adam Walker.

Cubs

** Contracts are expected to be worked out with arbitration-eligible pitchers Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Justin Grimm.

** The Cubs have not discussed moving Jason Heyward, who had a poor season in 2016.

** The Cubs claimed LHP David Rollins off waivers from the Mariners.
 
Twins

** John Ryan Murphy likely will serve as a backup to Jason Castro, who signed a three-year deal to catch for the Twins.

** The Twins hired former players Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer and LaTroy Hawkins as special assistants in baseball operations.

** Twinsfest will return to Target Field, Jan. 27-29.

White Sox

** The Sox added catcher Roberto Pena on a minor league deal.

** RHP Brandon Brennan was out righted to Triple A.

** LHP Jose Quintana will pitch for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic.

What’s Ahead

In addition to possible player moves, the final details of an agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association likely will be released during the Winter Meetings.

The two sides reached a tentative agreement on a five-year collective bargaining deal on Wednesday. For proposed changes in several areas of the agreement, go to www.mlbtraderumors.com.

The MDR Blog will run again in early January.

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7556
MDR Blog - 11/2
11-03-2016
01:01 AM ET (US)
A rain storm might have saved Joe Maddon and the Cubs in Game 7 of the World Series.

Maddon went to the Aroldis Chapman well once too often, asking the big closer to pitch multi-innings for the third straight game. Instead, Chapman was gassed and gave up a home run to Rajai Davis that pulled the Indians to a 6-6 tie.

Then, before the teams went out for the top of the 10th inning, the rain came and gave Maddon and the Cubs a chance to regroup. It also cooled down the Indians, who had momentum after Davis' homer.

After the delay, the Cubs scored two runs in the 10th and held on for a X-X win. Veterans Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero had key RBI hits. Carl Edwards Jr. gave up one run in the bottom of the 10th, but Mike Montgomery got the last out.

While Maddon's decisions on Chapman, and in other situations on Wednesday, will be debated for weeks, the win gave the Cubs a great comeback for their first World Championship since 1908.

After falling behind 3 games to 1 to the Indians, the Cubs salvaged one game in Wrigley Field on Sunday, but still went to Cleveland at a distinct disadvantage. They were set to face Josh Tomlin and Corey Kluber, who had

spun their way to the Indians' three wins.

But, the Cubs showed up and took over Progressive Field. Suddenly, they were not chasing curve balls into the dirt. They weren't trying to pull everything.

Instead, the Cubs were selective yet aggressive when they got their pitches. They started going with the pitches.

Addison Russell, who had struggled earlier in the Series, drove in six runs in Game 6. Willson Contreras and Javier

Baez hit a double and home run respectively to right center and right in Game 7.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo formed the Bryzzo combo again. Dexter Fowler led off Game 7 with a homer to dead center. Even 39-year-old David Ross, playing in the final game of his career, homered. Ross became the oldest player to ever homer in a Game 7.

In Game 7, the Cubs hit against Kluber and reliever Andrew Miller. They made the adjustments and took advantage of

a couple great pitchers who, like Chapman, might have been running low on fuel.

It wasn't only the adjustments the Cubs made at the plate. Despite some very questionable handling of pitching by

Maddon, the Cubs got good performances on the mound. Jake Arrieta was solid in Game 6. Kyle Hendricks also pitched well in Game 7 and probably deserved to go deeper into contest. Then, there was Chapman, who was a beast before running out of gas.

The Cubs' comeback from a 3-1 deficit is a great story. The way the players, especially their young players, responded

to the pressure of being down shows just how great they could be over the next several years.

Finally, the annual Cubs fans' chant of "wait 'til next year" can be changed to "can't wait 'til next year."

What's Ahead

The MDR Blog will take a hiatus until early December and then run monthly through the off-season and next season.

Any big stories, such as trades or other moves, will be posted on the Midwest Diamond Report Facebook page.
7555
MDR Blog - 10/27
10-27-2016
09:00 AM ET (US)
Just when they needed him, the reigning Cy Young Award winner showed up for the Cubs Wednesday night.

Jake Arrieta, who won the coveted award in 2015, has had a good season, but has not been as dominant as he was a year ago. On Wednesday though, Arrieta held the Indians hitless through the first five innings, long enough for the Cubs to heat up their bats and post a 5-1 win that sent the World Series back to Wrigley Field tied 1-1.

Arrieta had some control problems in the first inning, but then got into a groove. His no-hit effort of 5.1 innings was the longest in Series history since 1969,

While he was mowing down Cleveland batters, Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo sparked a Cubs’ attack that, while not prolific, was adequate to get the win.

“I knew I hadn’t given up a hit going into the 6th inning,” Arrieta said. “That’s not what really counts in a game like this. I wanted to stay aggressive and allow these guys to put the ball in play on quality pitches.”

The Cubs had a much better approach at the plate than they did the night before when they were shut out by Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller. They worked the count, but were aggressive on pitches that were hittable.

Schwarber, who had only five at-bats before blowing out his knee very early in the season, looked to be full strength as he had two hits and drove in two runs.

“Baseball is a crazy game,” said Schwarber, who did not expect to play in the post-season until doctors gave him an OK to hit and run the bases. “You don’t know what it will throw at you. We took a small step tonight and now have to keep it going. We still have a long way to go.”

Zobrist has broken out of his post-season slump, and Rizzo had a key double and two walks.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona already has said he will start Kluber in Games 4 and 7 if necessary. Miller, who threw almost 50 pitches on Tuesday night, also will be available out of the bullpen for the Indians.

But, the Cubs can beat these guys too, if they keep the right approach at the plate. When they get overly aggressive, or try to work the count too much, they become vulnerable to good breaking stuff. That’s what has happened in every shutout they have suffered in the post-season.

They were dominated by Clayton Kershaw in the NLCS, but then came back to beat him. Kluber and Miller are good, but certainly not any better than Kershaw.
What’s Ahead

Schwarber was set to work out Thursday to see if he was medically ready to go beyond DH and play in the field. If so, he could start in left field Friday night with Zobrist moving to right.

Joe Maddon has started Chris Coghlin and Jorge Soler in right in the first two games of the Series, benching Jason Heyward, who has struggled mightily at the plate. Heyward came in Wednesday as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

Kyle Hendricks, who starred in the NLCS finale, will start Friday. Josh Tomlin will start for the Indians.

Kluber will return Saturday for Cleveland. John Lackey is scheduled for the Cubs.

Wrigley Field will be hosting its first World Series game since 1945. It should be a real carnival there.

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7554
MDR Blog - 10/23
10-23-2016
08:27 AM ET (US)
In the 5th inning Saturday night, a Cubs’ fan held up a sign that read “Curse-Shaw Ends Tonight.”

It did indeed. Neither that damn Billy Goat Curse nor the great Clayton Kershaw could stop this team of destiny from going to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

The 5-0 win over the Dodgers featured the combination that propelled the Cubs to 103 wins during the regular season. Dexter Fowler set the table. Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered off Kershaw.

But, the night really belonged to Kyle Hendricks, the quiet, 26-year-old Dartmouth righthander. Hendricks was masterful in holding the Dodgers to two hits in 7.1 innings. Aroldis Chapman mopped up the final 1.2.

Hendricks and Kershaw met in Game 2 of the NLCS, and both pitched well. Hendricks made one mistake in that one, giving up a home run to Adrian Gonzales. This time, he pitched virtually mistake-free baseball.

Kershaw was masterful in the 1-0 L.A. win in Game 2. On Saturday, he wasn’t, struggling with control of his breaking stuff and getting his fast ball into bad locations. An error by Andrew Toles on a fly ball in left field also hurt him.

The Cubs took a different approach at the plate too. They still were selective, but also more aggressive. It worked.

Javier Baez, who excelled in the field and at the plate, and Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP award. Lester said the Cubs focused on winning the World Championship, from spring training on.

“We talked about it, but at the same time we knew not to take anything for granted,” Lester said. “We have a bunch of grinders. We have goals. Now the next goal is to win.”

Theo Epstein, who put the team together with talented young players and select veterans, said, “You just smile, soak it in and let it take your breath away. Then, get back to work to get four more wins.”

A Personal Note

I was raised in a family of Cubs’ fans. I switched to the Milwaukee Braves when we moved from the North Side of Chicago to Wisconsin. But, when the last out was recorded Saturday, I couldn’t help but think back.

I hoped my sister, who has lived and died with the Cubs, saw it on TV. I wished my late grandmother, who watched the Cubs every day on WGN, and my late parents could have been alive to see it.
I also thought of Jack Brickhouse, who brought those games daily to my grandmother. And, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and dozens of other players who starred for the team but never saw a World Series in Chicago.

I truly hope they are somewhere smiling together. I also know that like Lester and Epstein, they are saying ‘four more wins.”

What’s Ahead

Those four more wins will not come easy. The Cleveland Indians are not as known a team as the Cubs have become, but they are a good, talented ball club.

They play somewhat like the Cubs -- aggressive at the plate and on the bases, good pitching. Like the Cubs, they are a young team, managed by a veteran in Terry Francona. Like Joe Maddon with the Cubs, Francona was brought into the organization because he had proven before, with the Red Sox, that he could win.

Epstein and Cubs’ GM Jed Hoyer know Francona well. Together, they broke the Red Sox’s drought of World Series championships.

Now, Epstein, Hoyer, Maddon and their players have broken a 71-year drought by getting the Cubs into the Series. But, that 108-year drought since the Cubs last won a Series is still out there, waiting to be broken.

The Series starts Tuesday in Cleveland. As of this writing, the teams had not yet announced their starting pitchers.

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7553
MDR Blog - 10/21
10-21-2016
08:38 AM ET (US)
Luckily for Chicago sports fans, the Cubs played a lot better than the Bears.

Just when the Billy Goat was starting to romp through Cubs’ fans minds again, the team turned it around and won two straight from the Dodgers to take a 3-2 lead in games. That sends the NLCS back to Wrigley Field for Game 6 on Saturday night.

How did the Cubs turn it around after falling behind, 2 games to 1? They started to hit. Specifically, two players who had been horrible -- Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo -- started to hit.

Russell, who had been dropped to eighth in the order because of his slump, homered Wednesday and Thursday to spark the Cubs’ attack. He became the ninth Cub in history to homer in consecutive games in the post-season and the second youngest shortstop in MLB history to do so.

“My confidence is up,” Russell said. “Wednesday was a great night, pushing me to today, and now I have to carry it over to Saturday.”

Rizzo had only two hits in the post-season before Wednesday, but broke out with three, including a home run, in the Cubs’ 10-2 win.

Interestingly enough, the breakouts by Russell and Rizzo could partially be traced to Matt Szczur, who isn’t even on the NLCS roster. Russell used Szczur’s leggings and Rizzo his bat!

“They’ve picked me up quite a few times,” Szczur said. “They don’t owe me anything. We’re a team.”

It also didn’t hurt that Kris Bryant and Javier Baez continued to have good post-seasons, and veterans John Lackey and Jon Lester held the Dodgers down in the two wins.

The problem for Russell and Rizzo, and most of the Cubs, before the breakout is that they don’t hit breaking balls nearly as well as fast balls. Clayton Kershaw and journeyman Rich Hill kept bending their pitches around the Cubs bats in two wins that put the Dodgers up, 2-1.

Then, the Cubs faced two L.A. pitchers in Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda. Their breaking pitches weren’t as effective, and the Cubs also capitalized on some hangers and fast balls that weren’t in good locations.

Now, the Cubs will face Kershaw in Game 6 and Hill in Game 7, if necessary. They’ll have to hit the breaking balls. They also might have some other things:

** Don’t pick up any bad habits from the Bears (who were creamed by the Packers on Thursday).

** Maybe keep taking Matt Szczur’s clothing and equipment,

** Don’t think about the last time a Cubs team got to Game 6 in a NLCS. It was the infamous Steve Bartman game in 2003.

** Finally, make sure they keep that Billy Goat penned up.

What’s Ahead

Kyle Hendricks will match up with Kershaw on Saturday night. The Cubs had not named a starter for Sunday’s game if one is necessary. It normally would be Jake Arrieta’s turn in the rotation.

The MDR Blog will continue weekly until the Cubs are eliminated or win it all. It will then go monthly for the off-season and continue monthly during spring training and the regular season in 2017.

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7552
MDR Blog - 10/14
10-14-2016
08:10 AM ET (US)
Through the first 8 innings on Tuesday night, I thought I might be writing the Cubs’ obit or about their defending their home turf at Wrigley today.

The Billy Goat curse. San Francisco’s success in surviving elimination games and their trend of winning championships in even-numbered years. All those themes were going through my head.

Then, the Cubs pulled off their miraculous comeback in the top of the 9th, and Aroldis Chapman blew away the Giants in the bottom of the inning. So, I’m writing a much more fun blog today.

Some reactions to the great four-run comeback. First, it showed the will power of a group of guys who know they have a chance to do something very special. They know how long Cubs fans have been waiting and want to deliver.

Second, it showed just how versatile and deep the Cubs have been all season. Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras delivered a clutch hit and then can move to left field in the bottom of the 9th. Javier Baez delivered what turned out to be the game winner and then moved from second to short. Ben Zobrist had a key double and in the bottom of the inning moved from the outfield to second base. Joe Maddon didn’t have to worry about making any moves because his players are so versatile.

Third, Maddon made moves that were bold and tactical. He didn’t hesitate to pinch hit for Addison Russell, This is the young player who hit more home runs as a shortstop than any Cub since Ernie Banks.

But, Russell has slumped in the playoffs, and the last couple weeks of the regular season. So, Maddon made the move, and he made a couple associated moves on pinch-hitters that in some ways outmaneuvered Bruce Bochy and the Giants

Maddon first had lefty Chris Coghlan go to the on deck circle. Once Bochy switched his pitcher to a lefty, Maddon switched to Contreras, who delivered.

Finally, the big inning demonstrated how well Theo Epstein and his staff have mixed veterans with youngsters. Kris Bryant, Contreras and Baez could be considered kids. Anthony Rizzo and Zobrist are veterans. All came through.

Some will note that the Cubs managed only two hits off Giants starter Matt Moore and argue that Bochy should have stuck with him in the 9th. Instead, five San Francisco relievers pitched in the inning and failed to stop the Cubs.

But, that is how good teams win. When an opportunity comes up, they capitalize, and getting to the Giants’ bullpen -- a weakness most of the season -- offered an opportunity.

It should be noted that the Billy Goat curse is still out there, raising its horned head. The Cubs still have two rounds to go before they can really claim success with a World Series Championship. For a look at their next round, the NLCS, move to the next section.

What’s Ahead

The first game of the NLCS is scheduled for Wrigley Field at 7 p.m. Saturday. Both the Cubs and Dodgers came into the season with high expectations. Only one will be able to continue to pursue those in the World Series.

Chicago won the regular season matchups, 4 games to 3. The two clubs last met in the 2008 NLDS, which the Dodgers swept.

The Cubs have 7/5 odds to win the World Series, according to Vegasinsider.com. The Dodgers are at 12/1.

Jon Lester has been named the starter for the Cubs in the first game of the series. As of Friday morning, no other starting pitchers has been named by either team.

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7551
MDR Blog - 10/8
10-08-2016
09:00 AM ET (US)
Javier Baez has cut down on his swing and strikeouts almost by half. But, the Cubs versatile, young player took a might hack that beat the wind and the Giants in the first game of the NLDS Friday night.

Baez’s 8th inning homer was the only run of a 1-0 game that featured a great pitching duel between Chicago’s Jon Lester and the Giants’ Johnny Cueto.

“Obviously, I was just trying to get on base,” Baez said. “Cueto was pitching me inside all night. I was just waiting for him to make a mistake and he finally did.”

Baez’s homer was a towering shot into a stiff wind. It looked at first like it might go deep into the bleachers or beyond. The ball then seemed to hit a wall and stop, but it settled into the basket on the left field wall for a homer.

Both pitchers had pinpoint command for most of the night. Lester had more runners on base, but wiggled out of every situation. Both teams helped their pitchers with good defense.

“It was a classic, kind of old school baseball game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Friday. “Obviously, you like to win those, but give both teams credit. That was a really well-played baseball game.”

For the Cubs, who had a potent offense most of the season, the low-scoring game showed they might have suffered some from a “post-clinch” period of a few weeks and a wait to start the post-season. Then again, they might have suffered more from the pitching of Cueto. Luckily for Cubs’ fans, Lester matched Cueto almost pitch-by-pitch.

The outcome showed the Cubs can beat you with pitching and defense, in addition to big hits by MVP candidates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and others. Veteran catcher David Ross made a key pickoff throw early in the contest, and the Cubs had several other good defensive plays.

They very well might have to play this style throughout the series against a Giants team that has been built around pitching and defense. The Cubs also have to overcome what has been the trend of the Giants winning the championship in even-numbers years.

“It’s going a grind,” Lester said after Friday’s win. “This is what you play for. This is one step right now that we got past. We have to worry about step two tomorrow.”

Kyle Hendricks will take the mound for the Cubs in “step two” Saturday night. He will face former Cubs and White Sox Jeff Samardzija.

Jake Arrieta will pitch in step three on Monday in San Francisco. He will face post-season hero of other Giants’ winning years, Madison Bumgarner.

Updated Notes

Here are a few update notes from other MDR teams:

** The Brewers announced they will make $18 million in improvements to the concession areas of Miller Park.

** The Twins have hired Indians assistant GM Derek Falvey as their executive vice president and chief baseball officer.

** The White Sox fired manager Robin Ventura and replaced him with bench coach and former Cubs manager Rick Renteria.

What’s Ahead

Former commissioner and Brewers president Bud Selig will be a candidate for Cooperstown induction next season.

The MDR Blog will remain weekly as long as the Cubs are still playing. It will then go monthly.

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7550
MDR Blog 9/30
09-30-2016
08:36 AM ET (US)

Midwest Diamond Report Blog - 9/30

The Cubs already have been playing out the season after becoming the first team in baseball to clinch their division.

Now, they’ll have to play another waiting game to see who they will meet in the first round of the post-season playoffs. They could have to wait until Oct. 9 to play either the Mets, Giants or Cardinals.

Manager Joe Maddon has been resting some regulars since the Cubs clinched the division, and switching players to different positions to maximize the club’s versatility in case that’s needed during the playoffs. He also wants the Cubs to go into post-season as healthy as possible.

Not everybody on the Cubs has liked Maddon’s approach to what has been termed “the post-clinch” period of the season. “It felt like a spring training game from the get-go,” starter Jake Arrieta said after an 8-4 loss to the Pirates.

Catcher Miguel Montero echoed Arrieta. “It had a feel like in spring training, I do believe that,” he said. “And that’s not a good feeling for a pitcher, for a player, to go into a game knowing that you’re going to play just four innings or five innings or whatever it is. This game’s still important for all the players.

“I don’t want to go out there not caring about wining or losing. My mentality is that I want to win, regardless. It can be a little bit tough on players’ minds, so we have to find a point where we have to trick our mind. If that’s how we’re going to go the rest of the way, I guess we need to trick ourselves.”

Maddon didn’t take any issues with Arrieta and Montero speaking out. “I don’t think we have any issues,” he said.

“My answer to that is we’re 7-2 in our last nine games,” Maddon said during Thursday’s pregame media session. “I don’t see any kind of real negative patterns right there. They all knew what was going to happen before that game. There were no surprises. And there has been no surprises.”

Another task for Maddon and his staff has been deciding on who will make the roster for the first-playoff series. Jason Hammel could be the odd man out of the rotation, or could end up in the bullpen.

The status of Jorge Soler, who has been nursing injuries for much of the season and has some shoulder problems currently needs to be determined. Chris Coghlan also was day-to-day this week with some nagging problems.

The Cubs did take care of some off-field decisions before they face the playoffs. They announced that president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has signed a five-year contract extension that will run from 2017-21. General manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president of player development Jason McLeod also reportedly received extensions.

We’ll have to see until the playoffs start to determine whether the Cubs lost their edge, or look rusty from too many days away from playing meaningful games. If they are eliminated, you can bet those charges will come up and Maddon will be on the hot seat. If they win, things will be all rosy and Maddon will be heralded as a genius.

MDR All Stars

Here is the 2017 MDR All Star Team:

Left field - Ryan Braun, Brewers

Center field - Dexter Fowler, Cubs

Right Field - Adam Eaton, White Sox

Third Base - Kris Bryant, Cubs

Shortstop - Addison Russell, Cubs

Second Base - Brian Dozier, Twins

First Base - Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Catcher - Jonathan Lucroy (before he was traded by Brewers)

DH - Jose Abreu, White Sox

LHP - Chris Sale, White Sox, and Jon Lester, Cubs

RHP - Kyle Hendricks, Cubs

Players of the Year - Bryzzo, Bryant and Rizzo, Cubs

Pitchers of the Year - Hendricks and Lester, Cubs

Rookies of the Year - Junior Guerra and Zach Davies, Brewers

Manager of the Year - Joe Maddon, Cubs

What’s Ahead

The MDR Blog will continue weekly as long as the Cubs remain in the post-season. The format will be different than it was for most of the regular season. The blog will then go monthly during the post-season and remain monthly in spring training and the regular season in 2017.

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Edited 09-30-2016 08:37 AM
7549
MDR Blog 9/23
09-23-2016
09:51 AM ET (US)
With a week to go in the regular season, we feel we can do some reviews for the four MDR teams:

Brewers - The Brewers definitely had a rebuilding season, but won’t finish with as bad a record as many were predicting. In spring, they looked like a possible 100-loss team. Instead, they have played most of the season between 10-20 games under .500 (15 games under as of this writing).

Players like Jonathan Villar, Scooter Gennett, Chris Carter, Hernan Perez and Keon Broxton (before he was injured) showed they very well might have futures with Milwaukee, or at least some big league club. Orlando Arcia didn’t hit on a consistent basis after he was called up, but showed he is a major league shortstop in the field.

Ryan Braun had a good season. Jonathan Lucroy also performed well. Of course, Lucroy is gone. Braun could be over the off-season if you believe some of the national rumors.

The Brewers starting rotation had one of the best ERAs in baseball the last couple months. Zach Davies and Junior Guerra were the surprise standouts while Jimmy Nelson took a step back in his development and Wily Peralta spent part of the season in the minors.

Look for the Brewers to continue to make changes over the off-season and give some of their prospects a good look in the spring, as they hope to take another step in their rebuilding process.

Top Players - Ryan Braun and Jonathan Villar
Top Pitchers - Zach Davies and Junior Guerra

Cubs - The Cubs went into the season with high expectations and met, or even exceeded them. They might have fielded one of the most versatile and deep teams in several years.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo could either compete with each other, or share, the NL MVP honor. Addison Russell had an All Star season at shortstop, and drove in the most runs by a Cub at that position since Ernie Banks.

Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez and others showed they could play multiple positions. Willson Contreras came up and showed he can contribute at catcher and in the outfield. Veteran catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero provided depth behind the plate.

About the only disappointment at the plate was outfielder Jason Heyward, but he once again proved to be one of the best fielding outfielders in baseball.

Cy Young Award winning Jake Arrieta was only the third best pitcher on his team, behind Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. John Lackey and Jason Hammel were no slouches to finish out the rotation. The Cubs bullpen was solid, especially after Aroldis Chapman was added as the closer.

Joe Maddon was the maestro in putting it all together. Maddon should win his second NL Manager of the Year with the Cubs.

Of course, expectations remain high. Anything short of a World Series championship will probably be considered falling short.

Top Players - Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell
Top Pitchers - Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks

Twins - The Twins were the most disappointing of the four MDR teams. They were picked by many to be contenders after 2015, but got off to a bad start and flopped badly.

GM Terry Ryan left before the season was over. Paul Molitor looked like he could go from the Al Manager of the Year to being fired, but will probably survive.

Young players like Byung Ho Park, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton showed flashes of their talent, but overall fell short because of injuries and other factors. Joe Mauer ended up having a rather mediocre season.

The Twins pitching, thought to be improved, struggled. Injuries played a role in that.

Brian Dozier was a bright spot, reaching more than 40 homers and 100 RBI’s. Hitting for power, in fact, was one of the few overall bright spots for the Twins.

The Twins will have some tough decisions over the off-season on whether they stick with some of their young prospects, what they do with their pitching staff, etc. It will start with hiring a new GM. Several candidates have been rumored.

Top Player - Brian Dozier
Top Pitcher - Brandon Kintzler

White Sox

The White Sox didn’t flop as badly as the Twins, but after adding some firepower did fall well short of expectations.

Todd Frazier set a club record for homers by a third baseman. Jose Abreu has had another productive season. Adam Eaton also had a decent season.

But, otherwise the Sox had trouble mounting a consistent attack for much of the season. Injuries sidetracked Brett Lawrie. Decisions will have to be made on players like Avisail Garcia, Melky Cabrera and others.

Chris Sale and Jose Quintana had good seasons as starters, but both could be trade bait. Sale, especially, has clashed with Sox management ever since the Adam LaRoche controversy in spring training.

Robin Ventura’s job is probably on the line. An announcement could be made after the World Series.

Top Players - Todd Frazier, Jose Abreu
Top Pitchers - Chris Sale, Jose Quintana

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Chris Carter matched his career highs with his 37th homer and 88th RBI.

** The Brewers brought up catcher Josmil Pinto from Triple-A Colorado Springs. The Brewers claimed Pinto off waivers from the Padres this offseason after San Diego claimed him from the Twins organization.

** RHP Taylor Jungmann will start on Saturday.

Cubs

** The Cubs are three shy of their first 100-win season since 1935 and have a magic number of 2 to clinch home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series.

** Lefty reliever Jack Leathersich will forgo minor league free agency and re-up with the Cubs on a minors pact for the 2017 season.

** The Cubs are aware of, but not particularly concerned over, a decline in Jake Arrieta’s fastball velocity (and recent predilection for surrendering long balls), ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers writes.

Twins

** After visiting back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins in Southern California on Monday, Twins reliever Trevor May was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back.

** ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter) that while Mets assistant GM John Ricco has recently been linked to the Twins’ GM job, Ricco is no longer in the running at this point.

** Twins rookie right fielder Max Kepler left Thursday night's 4-2 loss to the Tigers in the eighth inning with a mild neck strain. He's day to day and will be evaluated further on Friday.

White Sox

** LHP Chris Sale was among the frontrunners for the AL Cy Young Award, but was roughed up in his second shortest outing of the season.

** After the White Sox dropped their 14th of 19 games against Kansas City this season, Jose Abreu credited the Royals' "hunger" and "desire to win," as being superior to the Sox’s intangibles.

** Adam Eaton hit his ninth triple of the season.

Players of the Week

For the second straight week, the Twins’ Brian Dozier gets the honor after hitting his 42nd homer, 40th as a second baseman, to set an AL record for homers by 2B.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Scooter Gennett, who hit .333 and set a career high with his 14th homer; the Cubs’ Miguel Montero, who has a three-hit game and has hit .372 since Aug. 20; and the Sox’s Todd Frazier, who hit .391 for the week with two homers and five RBIs.

What’s Ahead

We will enter the final week of the regular season on Sunday. The MDR Blog will look at the Cubs’ chances in the post-season and reveal its All Star team next weekend. The Blog will remain weekly until the Cubs’ post-season ends. It will then go monthly during the off-season and remain monthly next spring training and regular season.

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You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below.
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog
7548
MDR Blog 9/16
09-16-2016
08:29 AM ET (US)
The celebration was delayed by a loss to the Brewers, but the Cubs still clinched the NL Central late Thursday.

When the Cardinals lost to the Giants on the West Coast well after the Cubs-Brewers game, Chicago won its first division title since 2008.

The Cubs became the third earliest “clinchers” of a division title in NL history, and sixth earliest overall. With a 17-game lead going into Thursday, it really was a matter of when not if for the Cubs for weeks, if not months. Plus, everyone expected the Cubs to win this season.

“This year, before we even reported to spring training, there were all these expectations that kind of crept into the clubhouse,” said Cubs president Theo Epstein. “The guys handled it incredibly well, embraced the challenge, and didn't back down from any situations.

“This year's team has distinguished itself for every challenge thrown its way, including expectations.”

The Cubs are 93-53, 40 games above .500, with easily the best record in baseball. They are on pace to finish with 104 victories, their best mark since 1910. It would be the first time since 1935 that the Cubs entered post-season with 100 or more wins.

Chicago jumped out to a 25-6 record, and 8 game division lead in April, and were never threatened the rest of the season.

As for not clinching with a win, manager Joe Maddon said, ““I can’t get upset about anything that happened.. We have much larger baseball fish to fry in our skillet.”

Maddon’s right about the Cubs’ fish fry, and now he faces the challenge of resting some of his regulars while still keeping the team sharp for post-season.

“It's not navel-gazing time just yet,’’ Epstein said. “It all boils down to how you perform in October. We're rightfully proud of the regular season we've had, and it's meaningful, but it's never time to look back after that. If you have a good enough regular season, it's time to play for what really matters.”

For the Brewers, they were determined to not let their I-94 rivals clinch by beating them. The win was Milwaukee’s first at Wrigley Field this season.

"It was just a flat-out good ballgame," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of the 5-4 win. "Obviously with where they're at, there was great energy in the park tonight, and I thought it was a game we were going to do everything we could to win. We answered that energy and we used that energy for us. We played a very good baseball game.”

The Brewers and Cubs will play three more times this weekend. On Friday afternoon, the Brewers will send Chase Anderson against the Cubs’ John Lackey.

Zach Davies will match up with Chicago’s Jake Arrieta on Saturday. Wily Peralta will square off against Kyle Hendricks on Sunday.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Counsell will share more details this weekend about the starting rotation and how it will shake out for the rest of the season. He said it could include a start for right-hander Taylor Jungmann, who was demoted to the Minors in late April and spent most of the season working his way back.

** Michael Blazek threw his second simulated game Thursday since being reinstated from the 15-day disabled list, but he will throw at least one more before a definitive plan is made to get him back in a game.

** Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that an off-season deal to send Ryan Braun to the Dodgers, perhaps for Yasiel Puig, is actually “likely.”

Cubs

** Although there were cheers from the bars around Wrigley Field as soon as the Giants-Cardinals game ended, the Cubs' party will come after Friday's game, scheduled for a 1:20 p.m. CT start time.

** Cubs players and executives will try to convince catcher David Ross not to retire after the season. Ross declared in November that this would likely be his final year.

** The Rangers have announced that they’ve claimed right-handed reliever R.J. Alvarez off waivers from the Cubs.

Twins

** The Twins view Indians assistant general manager Derek Falvey as a “strong candidate” for a front office job, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (links to Twitter).

** CF Byron Buxton was clocked in 10.83 seconds on his way to third base on a triple. That’s the third fastest time by a righthanded batter in baseball this season.

** OF Miguel Sano was scheduled for an exam on his ailing back.

White Sox

** RHP James Shields had one of his best games as a White Sox with eight strikeouts and one run in six innings. He had been 0-5 with a 10.75 ERA in his last eight starts.

** Jose Abreu homered after promising he would to 11-year-old Shane Callighan, who is fighting bone cancer.

** White Sox ace Chris Sale has already seen his name tossed around quite a bit in trade talks, and he figures to be an intriguing trade candidate this winter, but he told Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago that he hopes to stay in Chicago.

Player of the Week

Brian Dozier has been one bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Twins. He hit .370 with two homers and six RBIs for the week and could reach 40 homers and 100 RBIs for the season. That earns him the MDR Player of the Week.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Junior Guerra, who had another good outing to move to 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA; the Cubs’ Dexter Fowler, who hit .360 with two homers and three RBIs; and the Sox’s Jose Abreu, who did a Babe Ruth legendary move by hitting a homer after promising a sick kid he would do so.

What’s Ahead

For this weekend, there is the series between the Cubs and Brewers to finish up.

Next week, the MDR Blog will start to summarize the four teams’ regular seasons. The weekend of Oct. 1-2, the MDR All Star Team and a preview of the Cubs in the playoffs will be posted.

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You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below.
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog
7547
MDR Blog 9/3
09-03-2016
08:49 AM ET (US)
For the last time this season, Miller Park will be transformed into Wrigley Field North next week.

It starts on Labor Day, when the Cubs come to town. The series runs three-games, concluding on Wednesday.

Crowds might be smaller than summer crowds because kids are back in school. But, it undoubtedly will be solidly for the Cubs.

Why not? The Cubs have their best chance of going to a World Series in years, make that decades. The Brewers have fallen to almost 20 games under .500 and have shown the rebuilding process won’t be a quick one.

The Cubs moved to 40 games over .500 at 87-47 with a win on Friday night. Jon Lester went into the 7th inning with a no-hitter before giving up a solo homer to the Giants’ Hunter Pence.

"It's pretty incredible," manager Joe Maddon said of the Cubs' record. "I've always talked about increments of five, and I remember back when we were talking about just five. There's good energy on the field, there's a strong belief that we'll play a pretty good game. The defense and the pitching have really set the tone for the whole thing."

Maddon could coast during the month of September, but he is more likely to rest some of the regulars while still trying to keep them sharp for the post-season.

The Brewers, meanwhile, are holding auditions for next season, as they try to determine whom among the current roster can be counted on. They also are likely to call up reinforcements once the Minor League season ends on Monday.

"I think really, September for us is a continuation of what we've been striving for the entire season," GM David Stearns said. "Continue to create a positive culture and keep growing our core of young players. You've seen aspects of that through the season, and we've got five more weeks to progress toward that goal. These five weeks are as important as any others in the season."

The Cubs acknowledge how much the fans at Wrigley Field help them, and appreciate when the faithful move north to Miller Park. "The thing that doesn't get talked a lot about here is the atmosphere we play in front of every night,” catcher David Ross said. “It brings the best out of you as a player, especially when you get a little older like I am and get to play in front of 40,000 people every night, and they're getting on their feet and the music and atmosphere is phenomenal."

The MDR I-94 Rivalry does have one more series, Sept. 15-18, at Wrigley Field.

But, at Miller Park, Kyle Hendricks will face the Brewers’ Zach Davies on Monday. Jason Hammel will match up with Wily Peralta on Tuesday. Neither team had named their Wednesday starters as of Saturday morning.

Updated Notes

Brewers

** RHP Junior Guerra returned to the roster this weekend after a rehab assignment and pitched 3.1 scoreless innings Friday night.

** Before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, the Dodgers discussed a deal with the Brewers that would have sent outfielder Ryan Braun to Los Angeles, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. The Brewers also won a waiver claim on the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, but no deal was struck.

** The Brewers activated reliever Jacob Barnes, as well as Guerra, on Friday night and called up pitcher Ben Rowen, who was claimed on waivers from Toronto in early August.

Cubs

** The Cubs recalled infielder/utility man Tommy La Stella from Triple-A Iowa and immediately put him into the starting lineup against the Pirates. It was La Stella’s first appearance in a game at the Major League level since the end of July, when he refused to report to the minors after he was optioned by the Cubs.

** On Thursday, the Cubs' John Lackey threw his second bullpen session since going on the disabled list and is expected to start on Sunday in the series finale against the Giants. However, reliever Pedro Strop had a setback in his rehab from a torn meniscus in his left knee, and will need the full six weeks to rehab.

** The Cubs have cut ties with left-handed reliever C.J. Riefenhauser. The 26-year-oldhad briefly reached the majors in each of the last two years, but he was having trouble at the Triple-A level with the Chicago organization, compiling a 4.55 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 over 27 2/3 innings.

Twins

** The Twins snapped a 13-game losing streak with a 8-5 win over the Sox on Thursday.

** Byron Buxton, the Twins' center fielder who had homered in four straight games with Triple-A Rochester a week ago, made his presence felt immediately with a three-run homer in the second inning in his first Major League at-bat since Aug. 5.

** Danny Santana’s season is over, as the Twins utilityman has suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder and will require four to six weeks to recover from the injury, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

White Sox

** Todd Frazier set a Sox record for a third baseman with his 35th homer, eclipsing the mark of 34, set by his manager Robin Ventura.

** LHP Carlos Rodon won his third straight game Friday.

** Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reported that the Red Sox weren’t willing to include Jackie Bradley in a trade for either Chris Sale or Jose Quintana, and this morning, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports adds to that a bit. “If they didn’t get Jackie Bradley, there was no way they were doing the deal,” a person familiar with the talks told Heyman in reference to the White Sox.

Player of the Week

The White Sox’s Jose Abreu brought a streak of 29 games reaching base into the weekend. He hit .362 in August with eight homers and 18 RBIs, and had three hits, including a homer to start September. That earns him the MDR Player of the Week.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Chris Carter, who despite leading the league in strikeouts had a streak over 20 games of reaching base; the Cubs’ Jon Lester, who took a no-hitter in the 7th on Friday and won to improve to 15-4; and the Twins’ Byron Buxton, who returned to the big leagues with the big three-run homer mentioned above.

What’s Ahead

The White Sox and Twins will play out a series at Target Field this weekend. The Sox took the first game on Friday, 11-4. Of course, the Cubs and Brewers will start the series featured in the lede of this blog on Monday.

The September call-ups will start coming to the MDR teams after the minor league season ends.

The MDR Blog will not be published next week, as its writer takes a brief vacation. It will return Sept. 17 and continue weekly until MDR teams are no longer playing.

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You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below.
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog
7546
MDR Blog 8/26
08-26-2016
08:00 AM ET (US)
Keon Broxton looks like a centerfielder.

He’s tall (6-3), lean (195), can run like a deer and has a good glove. Now, it looks like he is proving that he could be the Brewers’ answer in center.

Broxton, who was acquired from Pittsburgh for Jason Rodgers over the winter, couldn’t break into the Pirates outfield, which already features tall, lean, fast outfielders like Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Andrew McCutcheon.

But, the Brewers acquired him and were waiting for one of several candidates to step up in center. Coming out of spring training, Broxton was sharing the spot with Ramon Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

“It’s been a friendly competition,” said the 26-year-old Broxton. “I think all the outfielders, we’re a family. We look after each other regardless of what position we’re playing or fighting for. We’re still out here trying to help each other. We’re human and we care about each other regardless of what’s going on out on the field, so it’s been very friendly. We’re also teammates. We all want to do the same thing, help this team win games.”

Broxton struggled in his first stint with the Brewers and was sent down. That started a season of ups and downs between the Brewers and the minors. But, this time it’s been different.

In 87 plate appearances since coming back up, Broxton was hitting .361/.465/.667 with five of his six home runs on the year, good for a 196 wRC+. That ranks him as the fifth-most productive hitter in baseball over the last 30 days (minimum 80 PA).

Broxton told Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel that he came up with what has turned out to be a key mechanical change while laying in bed watching video: “I was wondering how I could get my hitch out of my swing, because it was making me late and I wasn’t really recognizing pitches very well. I was just thinking to myself, ‘Well, since I like my hands to go down and then I bring them back up again, why not just start them low and just bring them up?”

It’s worked and Broxton has been living up to his ability. Ability, especially athletic ability, consistently comes up when Broxton is discussed. He had so much of it in high school in Lakeland, Florida, that that he considered football and baseball.

“I thought about football,” Broxton said. “I love the game of baseball a little bit more than football. Baseball is a harder sport than football on a consistent basis. I think that’s something that drew me to baseball, how difficult it is.

“When you succeed in baseball, it becomes more of a bigger accomplishment because it’s hard, it’s a hard game. To see your work progress on a daily basis and you become better at your craft, it’s awesome. It’s something that drives me every day to become the best I can be.”

Along with Jonathan Villar and Hernan Perez, Broxton has become one of the young Brewers -- acquired from other teams -- who could end up playing a longer term role for the rebuilding club.

The Brewers have Brett Phillips and others in the minors who could challenge for center, but right now Broxton looks like the best bet at a key position in the outfield.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** RHP Taylor Jungmann, who started the season in the starting rotation, could be among the September callups.

** Outfielder Ramon Flores has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A Colorado Springs, according to an announcement from the Brewers.

** The Brewers are 36-30 at Miller Park vs. 20-41 elsewhere, representing baseball's widest disparity between home and road results.

Cubs

** The Cubs have placed right-handers John Lackey and Hector Rondon on the disabled list for precautionary measures due to arm injuries, as MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reported. The Cubs have the luxury of placing both pitchers on the DL to avoid risk of worsening their minor injuries and will recall left-hander Rob Zastryzny and right-hander Felix Pena from Triple-A Iowa.

** The farewell tour for 39-year-old David Ross, who is retiring after this season, will be in Los Angeles this weekend when the Cubs play the Dodgers in a three-game series, starting Friday. Ross was the Dodgers' seventh-round pick in the 1998 Draft, and he made his Major League debut on June 29, 2002.

** Despite giving up two runs over six innings on Wednesday, RHP Kyle Hendricks still leads the Major Leagues with a 2.19 ERA.

Twins

** Prospect Jose Berrios was optioned to Triple-A Rochester along with fellow right-hander Tyler Duffey. Lefty Andrew Albers will be called up on Friday, while the other roster move is to be announced.

** The Twins have promoted left-handed pitching prospect Adalberto Mejia from Triple-A Rochester, optioned first baseman Kennys Vargas and signed right-handed reliever Edward Mujica to a minor league deal, per a team announcement.

** Twins designated hitter Byung Ho Park will undergo season-ending surgery on his right wrist, the team announced to reporters, including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter link). The operation will repair a subluxation of the tendon on the back of Park’s right hand, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

White Sox

** GM Rick Hahn vehemently denied that there is any discord in the Chicago front office, as has been suggested, saying that the members of the organization’s upper management “are of a similar mindset as to how best to proceed.”

** LHP Carlos Rodon averaged 95.6 mph with his two-seam fastball and 95.7 with his four-seamer, reaching 98 mph with both, in a win this week.

** RHP James Shields cleared waivers and now could be traded by the Sox.

Players of the Week

The Cubs’ Kris Bryant hit .484 in the last seven games, with five homers and 13 RBIs. That qualifies him for the MDR Player of the Week honor.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week include: the Brewers’ Jonathan Villar, who hit .345 with a home and six stolen bases; the Twins’ Brian Dozier, who hit .333 with four homers and four RBIs; and the Sox’s Jose Abreu, who hit ,400 with three homers and five RBIs.

What’s Ahead

Before the season started, the Sox series with the Twins at Target Field looked like it could be a big one in the AL Central. Instead, it will be a series with two disappointing teams with losing records. It starts next Thursday.

The Cubs have a commanding lead in the NL Central, but a series against intra-division rivals, the Pirates, still is worth mentioning.

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You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below.
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog
7545
MDR Blog 8/19
08-19-2016
09:57 AM ET (US)
The Cubs demonstrated their dominance and showed how many ways they can beat you in a sweep of the Brewers this week.

First, spot starter Trevor Cahill pitched five scoreless innings and the bullpen took it from there in a 4-0 win in the first game of a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday. Then, Jason Hammel continued the pitching dominance in a 4-1 win in the nightcap.

Jon Lester again gave up only one run in a 6-1 win on Wednesday. Jorge Soler and David Ross homered for the Cubs.

When the pitching faltered somewhat on Thursday, Kris Bryant, who along with Anthony Rizzo might be the leading candidate for NL MVP, had five hits, including his 29th and 30th homers, and drove in five runs in a 9-6 win to complete the sweep.

You can argue that the Brewers are sliding, and lost starter Chase Anderson and leftfielder Ryan Braun, to injuries in the series. But, the Cubs have been playing dominant baseball against everybody since the All Star break. Chicago has won 24 of the last 32 games since the All-Star break.

“"It’s a difficult lineup on a tough day to pitch," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said of the Cubs. "They did a good job all series. It’s a good lineup."

That good lineup extends to the pitching staff. Jake Arrieta, Lester, Hammel, John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks form what is probably the most solid starting rotation in baseball. Add Travis Wood and Cahill when needed.

The bullpen, especially with the addition of Aroldis Chapman, also has become solid, despite some injuries to Joe Smith and Pedro Strop in recent weeks.

Manager Joe Maddon has such depth that he can go with completely different outfields and catchers in successive games. Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez, Matt Szcur, Willson Contreras, Bryant and others are very versatile.

About the only slouch this season has been free agent Jason Heyward, but Maddon is sticking with him.

“We’ll continue to work through all these moments,” Maddon said. “I do believe there’s going to be a tremendous reward at the end of all this, for him and for us. I know it’s difficult, outside looking in, but our record’s pretty good and he’s been on the field for most of those games. He’s a winner. He’s an absolute winner.”

Of course, the key for the Cubs is to not exhaust it all in the regular season. They already have a huge lead in the NL Central, so Maddon might start resting some regulars so the club has their best left for the post-season.

This isn’t about just having the best regular season record in baseball. This is about finally breaking the Billy Goat jinx and the World Series.

Updated Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** Ryan Braun is day-to-day with a sprained knee and ankle after crashing into an outfield wall at Wrigley Field.

** Left-hander Brent Suter, a 31st-round Draft pick in 2012, will make his Major League debut Friday, becoming the first southpaw to start a game for Milwaukee in nearly three years.

** The Brewers have lost 24 of their last 32 road games. They are 0-6 at Wrigley this season.

Cubs

** Kris Bryant became the fifth Cubs in history to reach 30 homers at age 24 or younger. The others are Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Anthony Rizzo and Ron Santo.

** Joe Maddon on the MVP competition between Bryant and Rizzo: "Maybe 'Bryzzo' could be named MVP."

** Tommy La Stella ended his holdout and reported to the minors.

Twins

** Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki cleared revocable trade waivers and is free to be traded to any team, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (on Twitter).

** Twins third baseman Miguel Sano’s MRI on his right elbow came back clean today, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The 23-year-old slugger has been playing through some soreness in his elbow that has impacted his throwing in recent weeks.

** Twins left-hander Andrew Albers has cleared waivers after his Friday designation for assignment and been optioned to Triple-A Rochester, per Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (Twitter link).

White Sox

** Todd Frazier hopes to stay with the White Sox even if the team undergoes a rebuild, as Frazier tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin that he would embrace the role as veteran leader of a younger clubhouse.

** Robin Ventura wants to return as the White Sox manager in 2017, though he tells Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times that “you have to have somebody ask you to do it and all that. That’s stuff that happens after the season is over, if you get there.”

** The Sox play their next nine games at home.

Player of the Week

Kris Bryant’s big day and overall good series against the Brewers makes him a no-brainer for MDR Player of the Week. In case you missed it above, he had five hits and five RBIs and reached 30 homers, all on Thursday.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Keon Broxton, who hit .316 in six games; the Twins’ Brian Dozier, who hit .346 with four homers and seven RBIs in seven games: the Sox’s Adam Eaton, who hit .417 with two homers and six RBIs in six games.

What’s Ahead

The Cubs will try to keep their hot play going when they travel to Colorado this weekend. Kyle Hendricks, who has been on a hot streak himself, will open the series.

##

You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below.
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog
7544
MDR Blog 8/13
08-13-2016
09:42 AM ET (US)
Two former Brewers and MDR stars made news with sad stories this week. Even though, they are no longer MDR players, their stories are worth leading with for this week’s blog.

Slugger Prince Fielder announced he cannot play anymore because of a second neck injury in three years. Centerfielder Carlos Gomez, a fan favorite in Milwaukee, was designated for assignment by the Astros.

At a Rangers’ press conference Wednesday, Fielder announced that he will not be able to resume his career after undergoing neck fusion surgery in late July.

“I can’t play Major League Baseball anymore,” said Fielder, who was placed on the DL last month with a herniated disk in his neck before having surgery. It was the second season in the last three he has had season-ending neck surgery, also having undergone fusion surgery in 2014.

Gomez’s designation represents a fall from grace for the 30-year-old, whom Houston acquired from Milwaukee last July in a blockbuster deadline deal that also saw right-hander Mike Fiers join the Astros in exchange for four prospects.

Gomez’s career began going down hill after the Astros acquired him. He hit a meager .242/.288/.383 in 41 contests down the stretch in 2015. But that line looks appealing compared to the .210/.272/.322 Gomez has compiled this season in 323 trips to the plate.

“It’s not a secret that I’m not doing my job and I’m really disappointed in myself,” Gomez admitted to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (Twitter link).“I still have a long career. I wish the best to this organization, this team.”

A couple points about both moves: First, this writer and others more or less called them. When Fielder was first drafted and came up to the majors, you could see by his body type and how hard he swung that he likely would not have a long career.

The Brewers caught some flack when they allowed him to sign as a free agent with Detroit, but one team insider told me Fielder already had a body of a veteran player beyond his age and that the club had concerns about a long term contract.

Fielder is 32 and under contract through 2020 at $24MM per year. Given that Fielder is medically unable to play and not technically retiring, the Rangers will still owe him $9MM per season through 2020, with $6MM annually coming from the Tigers (as per the terms of the trade that brought Fielder to Texas) and $9MM coming via insurance payments due to Fielder’s inability to play. Those figures could be on the Brewers’ budget if they had re-signed him.

Just as an aside, Fielder lasted just about as long as his father, Cecil, with whom he was estranged at one time. They both had 319 lifetime homers.

Gomez’s trade also caused some flack, since he was a fan favorite. But, he too had started to suffer some nagging injuries because of his reckless style of play. He also struggled in the big leagues until he got to Milwaukee.

Once there, former coach Dale Sveum and others worked with Gomez. The fans also embraced him, and he took off. In a different, less nurturing environment, the chances of Gomez not enjoying the same kind of success were rather high.

Gomez has said he would like to end his career in Milwaukee. The Brewers did not rule that possibility out, but would be foolish to bring him back unless they could get him for a song.

Fielder and Gomez will always be part of Brewers’ history. Their stories this week are sad ones. But, the Brewers are better off having parted with them when they did.

Updates Notes

(Some of these notes come from www.mlbtraderumors.com.)

Brewers

** The Brewers became just the 19th team since 1900 to plate at least one run in every inning on Thursday against the Braves

** Catcher Manny Pina hit his first big league homer Friday.

** The Brewers have announced that lefty Wei-Chung Wang is moving from Double-A Biloxi to Triple-A Colorado Springs and RHP Devin Williams is heading from Class A Wisconsin to Class A+ Brevard County.

Cubs

** The Cubs won their 11th straight Friday, hitting five homers in the process. It's the first time the Cubs have won 11 in a row since a 12-game streak in 2001.

** Cubs reliever Pedro Strop has been diagnosed with a torn meniscus, the club announced (via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Twitter links). He’ll undergo surgery, with the expectation that he could be back within four to six weeks.

** Tommy La Stella remained on the temporarily inactive list after refusing to report to Triple A Iowa.

Twins

** The Twins have designated lefty Andrew Albers for assignment, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press was among those to tweet.

** The Twins demoted Byron Buxton to Triple-A, the fourth time the heralded prospect has been sent back to the minors since his initial call-up in June 2015.

** Twins right-hander Phil Hughes hopes to begin throwing again in three to four weeks after undergoing surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome earlier this summer.

White Sox

** Pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was put on the disabled list Friday with a right groin strain and right-handed reliever Chris Beck was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte.

** Over 11 innings covering 11 appearances entering Thursday, closer David Robertson had yielded nine runs on 11 hits and five walks.

** During an appearance on WSCR Radio’s “Inside The Clubhouse” show (hat tip to CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine), White Sox GM Rick Hahn said that discussions with manager Robin Ventura and the coaching staff about their futures with the team will wait until the end of the season.

Players of the Week

The Cubs’ Jorge Soler continued his comeback from the DL by hitting .471 with two homers in five games. That earns him the MDR Player of the Week honor.

Other MDR teams’ Players of the Week included: the Brewers’ Keon Broxton, who hit .471 in five games; the Twins’ Jorge Polanco, who his .357 in seven games; and the White Sox’s Adam Eaton, who had four hits on Friday and hit .333 for the week.

What’s Ahead

The Cubs will try to stretch their winning streak even farther against the Cardinals this weekend at Wrigley Field. They then host the Brewers next week.

##

You can find the MDR Blog at the addresses below.
** http://www.quicktopic.com/31/H/bcq8WpiTHm8eC
** http://midwestdiamondreport.mlblogs.com/MDR Blog
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