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  • Hendricks, Tomlin square off in World Series Game 3
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 27, 2016

    CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber will not play in the field in Wrigley Field.

    • Kyle Hendricks will, however, and that may provide a bigger impediment for Cleveland when the World Series shifts to Chicago for Game 3 Friday after the teams split the first two games at Progressive Field.

      Cy Young Award candidate Hendricks was 9-2 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 home games this season, including 14 starts, and he is 2-0 in three playoff starts as the Cubs seek their first World Series title since 1908.

      The only thing that got in the way of a possible third postseason victory was an Angel Pagan line drive that struck Hendricks' right forearm in the fourth inning of NLDS Game 2. Hendricks was forced to leave leading 4-2, and the Cubs won 5-2.

      Hendricks will oppose Cleveland right-hander Josh Tomlin, who was 13-9 in the regular season and has beaten Boston and Toronto in his two playoff starts while allowing three runs in 10 2/3 innings. He has never faced the Cubs.

      "I think the pitchers feel as though they're really not far from home plate," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of what might play into Hendricks' home success.

      "There's times different ballparks you feel like the mound is far away, and sometimes it feels like it's right on top of you. Apparently the wind may be blowing out tomorrow night, but for the most part this year it's not. It's a really big ballpark, in spite of what the numbers say on the wall. And we have a very good defense. And a big part of it is that he has elicited weaker contact all year based on the variety of pitches he has."

      Corey Kluber, scheduled to start Game 4 on Saturday, shut the Cubs down in Game 1 with help from Andrew Miller and Roberto Perez, who had two homers.

      The Cubs tied the series behind Jake Arrieta in Game 2, when 3-4-5 hitters Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Schwarber combined to go 5-for-11 with four walks, four runs and four RBIs.

      Schwarber was 3-for-7 with two walks while serving as the DH in Cleveland, when he became the first player in major league history to have his first hits of a sesaon in the World Series, but he was not cleared to play the field because of the severity of his injury. That will keep him out of the starting lineup Friday.

      He missed 6 1/2 months after suffering torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in an outfield collision April 7, the Cubs' third game of the season. He made eight plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League before being activated for the World Series.

      "The doctors were very convicted that there's just too much risk in playing the outfield because of the ... instantaneous reactions, the need to cut in the outfield, the dynamic, athletic movements that are unanticipated in the outfield," Cubs president Theo Epstein said. "Your instinct in reacting to balls that just aren't the case when you're running the bases."

      Schwarber will be used as a pinch-hitter and could DH again in possible Games 6-7 in Cleveland. To a man, the Cubs were more than impressed but not surprised at Schwarber's pitch recognition and timing after such a long layoff.

      "It's incredibly difficult," Zobrist said. "I'll say this. Sometimes when I show up for spring training and see at-bats for the first time, it feels like every pitch is 115 miles an hour. For him to be able to make an adjustment that quick out in the Arizona Fall League and take aggressive hacks and get big hits ... I don't know that there is anybody else in the league that can do that."

      Cubs catcher Willson Contreras will start rest of the series except in games Jon Lester pitches, Maddon said. David Ross is Lester's personal catcher. The Cubs took a dramatic step by benching slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in the first two games of the series, with Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler starting in right field.

      While Schwarber will be out, Cleveland is considering starting nominal DH Carlos Santana in left field in Game 3, manager Terry Francona said. Cleveland platooned Brandon Guyer and Coco Crisp in left field in the first two games. Santana was 0-for-6 with two walks in Games 1-2, but he had 34 homers and 87 RBIs in the regular season.

      "It's no big secret, we're trying to balance scoring more runs than them," Francona said. "He's a big part of our offense."

  • Cubs' Schwarber will not be in lineup for Game 3
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 27, 2016

    World Series hero Kyle Schwarber won't be in Chicago's starting lineup when the Cubs host the Cleveland Indians in Game 3 on Friday.

    • Doctors determined that Schwarber's surgically repaired left knee isn't yet ready for outfield duty, so the slugger, who is 3-for-7 with two walks, will be limited to pinch-hitting duty in the three games slated for Chicago's Wrigley Field.

      The series is tied at one game apiece.

      Schwarber was surprisingly cleared to play in the World Series six-plus months after major knee injury. He served as the designated hitter in the two games in Cleveland and lobbied to play in the field in Chicago.

      Cubs president Theo Epstein said the team denied Schwarber's request because it wasn't in his best long-term interests.

      Schwarber said he was disappointed but understands the decision.

      "There's no being sad about it. There's no nothing," Schwarber said. "I know my role now, and I'm going to embrace it."

      Schwarber had been sidelined since tearing two knee ligaments in April. He wasn't counting on playing again this season and is pleased to have the opportunity to play in the postseason.

      "I'm living the dream," Schwarber said. "We're playing in the World Series. What else could you ask for? I'm just going to keep riding the wave until it ends."

  • Mets OF Cespedes to opt out, hit free agency
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 27, 2016

    Yoenis Cespedes intends to void the final two years on his contract with the New York Mets.

    • The remainder of the deal is worth $47.5 million, and Cespedes made $27.5 million in 2016 on the contract signed in January.

      The Mets, who hold a $13 million option on outfielder Jay Bruce, are not expected to pursue a new deal with Cespedes because he is seeking a five-year deal.

      Cespedes discussed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles as he lingered on the free agent market until the last week of January before re-upping with the Mets.

      Cespedes has played for the Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers and Mets.

      The 31-year-old hit .280 and led the Mets with 31 homers and 86 RBIs in 2016 while playing with a right quadriceps injury.

  • Schwarber shrugs off layoff, emerges as October star
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 27, 2016

    CLEVELAND -- No matter how many times his teammates said it, Kyle Schwarber had a hard time believing it. Through all the hours of rehab, all the months spent away from the field, the rest of the Chicago Cubs kept telling him he would be back for the World Series.

    • "I'd just laugh it off," Schwarber said. "Then when it came to reality, it was a shock."

      Now it is Schwarber shocking people.

      After missing more than six months recovering from the torn ACL he sustained on the second day of the season, Schwarber went 3-for-7 as the Cubs managed a split of the first two games of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

      He scorched a single to center in the third inning of Game 2 on Wednesday to score Anthony Rizzo from second base, then added another RBI single in the fifth to score Ben Zobrist and extend the Cubs' lead to 4-0.

      "Hey man, I'm living the dream," Schwarber said. "We're playing in the World Series, what else can you ask for? I'm just going to keep riding the wave till it ends."

      Schwarber has reached base five times through the first two games of this series -- not bad for a guy whose only rehab assignment came last weekend in the Arizona Fall League. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has spent 30 years in baseball, but can't recall anyone doing what Schwarber has done.

      "I've seen guys come back from injuries during the season, but they've gone through rehab and they didn't have that severe of an injury to come back and play," he said. "I don't think there's any real comp for it. I don't. Nothing that I've seen."

      Maddon never counted on Schwarber coming back and insists it wasn't even a viable option until the National League Championship Series when team doctors cleared him to hit without Maddon even asking about him.

      First, Schwarber hit in the batting cage of the visitor's clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. Then the Cubs sent him to the AFL for a few games.

      "I'm here to tell you, it wasn't on my radar screen at all," Maddon said. "I kept encouraging him for next year. We were not expecting him to be ready for the playoffs."

      Now that he is the hottest hitter in the Cubs' lineup, the question remains how long he can stay in it. He was the designated hitter in Cleveland, but he would have to return to the outfield in order to keep playing when the series shifts to Wrigley Field on Friday.

      Schwarber has not even tried playing the outfield yet, although Maddon left open the possibility he would take fly balls during Thursday's workout. If doctors clear him, the Cubs' lineup remains a little more dangerous.

      Schwarber turned toward the Cubs' dugout after his RBI single in the third and shouted while pumping his arms. Maddon believes it is working.

      "He jacks everybody up," Maddon said. "Those couple big hits he got, Rizzo really responded to it well. The whole group did. It makes your lineup longer. It makes it thicker. It makes it better. We knew what it would be like all year long. We didn't have it. And now we're going to have it in a short spurt right now. and it's kind of fun. It's a great weapon to have."

  • Ortiz, Bryant win Hank Aaron Awards
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 26, 2016

    David Ortiz added another trophy to his collection Wednesday as the retired Boston Red Sox designated hitter was named the winner of the 2016 Hank Aaron Award as the best the hitter in the American League.

    • Ortiz was presented with the award before Game 2 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. The award is decided by fans and a panel of Hall of Famers that includes Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Murray and Robin Yount.

      Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant received the award for being the National League's top hitter.

      "I congratulate David Ortiz and Kris Bryant on earning the 2016 Hank Aaron Awards," commissioner Rob Manfred said. "David created an extraordinary legacy with the Red Sox. Fans will never forget his consistent excellence at the plate and his performances on the game's greatest stages."

      Ortiz concluded a 20-year career in Boston's Game 3 loss to Cleveland on Oct. 10. In his final season, he batted .315 with 38 home runs and 127 RBIs.

      The 10-time AL All-Star played in all 76 of Boston's postseason games since 2003. Ortiz also retired as Boston's all-time postseason leader in homers (17), doubles (19), extra-base hits (38), hits (80), runs (51), RBIs (57) and walks (59). The three-time World Series champion was named MVP of the 2004 AL Championship Series and the 2013 Fall Classic.

      A favorite to win the NL MVP, Bryant batted .292 with 39 home runs, 102 RBIs and led the NL with 121 runs. The 24-year-old became the fourth Cub in team history to total at least 120 runs, 35 doubles, 39 home runs and 100 RBIs in a single season.

      Bryant also joined Andy Pafko (1945) and Hall of Famers Ernie Banks (1955) and Ron Santo (1964) as the fourth Cub in the past 100 years to reach 100 RBIs in his age 24 season or younger.

      Shortly after being honored, Bryant singled and scored Chicago's first World Series since 1945 on Anthony Rizzo's double.

  • Athletics claim LHP Soto off waivers from Cubs
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 26, 2016

    The Oakland Athletics claimed left-handed relief pitcher Giovanni Soto off waivers from the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.

    • Soto was designated for assignment Saturday to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list following knee surgery in April. Schwarber was put on the World Series roster Tuesday and went 1-for-3 with a double, walk and two strikeouts in the 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Game 1.

      Soto began the 2016 season in the Cleveland Indians organization but was traded to the Cubs on April 11 for cash considerations. He spent the entire season at Triple-A Iowa where he went 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA in 33 relief appearances. The 25-year-old left-hander struck out 55 batters in 49 innings but also walked 31.

      Soto made his major league debut with Cleveland in 2015 and did not allow a run or issue a walk in six games over 3 1/3 innings. The native of Puerto Rico was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 21st round of the 2009 draft and was traded to the Indians July 28, 2010 for shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

  • Cubs to start Schwarber at DH for Game 2 of World Series
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 26, 2016

    Kyle Schwarber is the designated hitter for the second straight night for the Chicago Cubs and struggling outfielder Jason Heyward again is on the bench for Game 2 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

    • Cubs manager Joe Maddon has elected to start Jorge Soler in right field and also will start catcher Wilson Contreras for Wednesday night's game.

      Heyward sat in Game 1 on Tuesday night as left-handed hitter Chris Coghlan played against right-hander Corey Kluber, who dominated into the seventh inning as the Indians beat the Cubs 6-0 in Tuesday night's opener at Progressive Field.

      Heyward, a left-handed hitter, is benched again as the Cubs face right-hander Trevor Bauer. The right-handed hitting Soler is 0-for-8 this postseason with two walks and three strikeouts but batted .474 in the playoffs last year. Heyward is hitting .071 in 28 at-bats in the playoffs.

      Contreras is behind the plate with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound for the Cubs. Contreras is 9-for-22 (.409) in the postseason and provides a stronger arm than David Ross, who started Game 1.

      Schwarber, making a surprise return in his first major league game since tearing knee ligaments on April 7, doubled off the right field wall in the fourth on Tuesday night. He was 1-for-3 with one walk and two strikeouts.

  • Indians' Perez becomes unexpected hero
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 26, 2016

    Roberto Perez wasn't part of the Cleveland Indians' blueprint for success at the beginning of the season. He also wasn't part of the plan leading up to the Aug. 1 trading deadline.

    • But on Tuesday night there he was -- the defense-first, last-option catcher -- hitting a pair of home runs and driving in four as the Indians downed the Chicago Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 of the World Series at Progressive Field.

      This is part of what makes Major League Baseball's postseason so entertaining. It isn't just must-see because of the high-quality games. It also inevitably gives a chance for some unsung player to shine. There may be more in this World Series, but for at least a day Perez's story captivates us.

      This game was as close to a must-win for the Tribe as they come. Ace Corey Kluber was starting -- he is truly the only starting pitcher the Indians can bank on after September injuries took Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar out of their equation. He is so important that manager Terry Francona laid out a plot to use him in Games 1, 4 and 7.

      Kluber delivered with six shutout innings before Andrew Miller and Cody Allen got the last nine outs. It's a recipe -- at least six innings from Kluber and then a handoff to Cleveland's spectacular bullpen -- that has been working all through the playoffs.

      But the one ingredient that makes that magic is a lead. Cleveland grabbed it with a two-run first inning that included an RBI hit-by-pitch on Brandon Guyer. Perez took the heat off with a solo homer off Chicago ace Jon Lester in the fourth inning and three-run dagger in the eighth off Hector Rondon.

      Perez joins Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Gene Tenace as the only catchers with multi-homer games in the World Series.

      Lester got a fly-out from Perez in the second inning, throwing him six fastballs. Perez got fastballs again in the fourth and drilled the second one. The pitch pattern doesn't exactly speak to respect for the No. 9 hitter in the Cleveland lineup.

      "It was controlling my emotions. The first at-bat, my first World Series, I was excited. The next time I was more able to by myself," Perez said. "I'm playing with a lot of confidence."

      He can do that now because he is the primary catcher. At the start of the season, that was going to be Yan Gomes, with Perez as the backup. Perez suffered a broken thumb on the last day of April and was near the end of his rehab when Gomes suffered a separated shoulder on July 18. Perez was rushed back to step in.

      But even then he wasn't the first choice. Cleveland worked out a deal with Milwaukee for big-hitting catcher Jonathan Lucroy, a two-time All-Star. Then the story took a twist. Cleveland was on the no-trade list in Lucroy's contract; he would have to waive it for the deal to go through, but Cleveland refused to void the 2017 year of his contract, so he didn't.

      So Perez ascended. He didn't deliver much with the bat, hitting .184 with three home runs and 17 RBIs in 61 regular-season games. But it didn't matter much because the Tribe hits and he excelled behind the plate. He is great at calling a game, framing pitches and throwing to bases.

      "We have a bullpen that's getting a lot of notoriety right now," Miller said after the Tribe won the pennant last week in Toronto. "The constant behind all that is Roberto Perez. ... Roberto is below the radar, but he shouldn't be. He's incredible with his ability to receive the ball and call pitches, and he's a better hitter than he gets credit for. What a special guy back there."

      The Indians got the unexpected in Game 1 of the AL Division Series against Boston when he homered in a three-run third of a 5-4 win. But now they get this.

      His homer off Lester just cleared the left-field wall. His homer off Rondon went about 15 rows up, to left-center field.

      You had to wonder how Lucroy, who ended up being dealt to Texas, felt if he was watching.

      "What he did at the plate tonight, my goodness, it was exciting to watch," Francona said. "It gave us a cushion early and late it spread it out. In the seventh inning, that wasn't looking like (it would be) a 6-0 game. Everybody was happy for him. You could see the way everyone reacted to it."

      And really, why not feel happy for him? He was never envisioned as more than a backup. Had Gomes not gotten injured, had Lucroy gone for the deal, Perez might never have been what he is so far: the guy who has caught every inning as the Indians have won eight of their first nine postseason games and the guy who has equaled his regular-season home run total along the way.

      Being the catcher who called those games -- and the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Cubs have some of the most formidable offenses in the game -- is a serious accomplishment.

      "He's a great story," pitching coach Mickey Calloway said. "He has a great feel for the game."

      "I just play the game the right way and try to have fun," Perez said.

      He's having a lot of fun right now.

  • Five things we learned from World Series Game 1
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 26, 2016

    CLEVELAND -- Batterymates and battering mates Corey Kluber and Roberto Perez propelled the Cleveland Indians to a 6-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday. Each dominated.

    • But the Cubs have been here before.

      Chicago was shut out twice in a row and trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers two games to one in the National League Championship Series before scoring 23 runs and in the final three games and beating Clayton Kershaw in the Game 6 clincher Saturday.

      Most of the highlights were Cleveland's as we prepare for Game 2, moved up an hour to an 7:08 p.m. ET start Wednesday because of the threat of rain.

      Five things we learned from Game 1 of the World Series

      --Corey Kluber continues to thrive on the big stage. Kluber won Game 1 of the American League Division Series, Game 1 of the AL Championship Series and now Game 1 of the World Series. He entered the game with an 0.98 ERA this postseason and dropped it to 0.74 with six scoreless innings.

      "It's almost like you have that extra level of intensity or focus and stuff that it's not really something you can replicate (in the regular season)," he said of his postseason success.

      Kluber was spot-on with his two-seam fastball, bringing it back over the plate to catch Cubs hitters off-guard. Six of his nine strikeouts were called third strikes. Look for him to start Game 4 and (if necessary) Game 7.

      --Jon Lester is not going to throw to first base. He just is not.

      Francisco Lindor broke for second with one out in the third inning while Lester was still in his stretch. Lindor was an easy out. But Lester merely stepped off the rubber and bluffed toward first base as Lindor scooted back to first. Lester has not thrown to first base to hold a runner since last season. Opponents were 28 of 41 stealing against him and personal catcher David Ross this season and are 3-for-5 in four postseason starts, going 1-for-2 Tuesday.

      --Andrew Miller is still Super(extendedsetup)man. Miller got himself into what (for him) passes for trouble this postseason by giving up a walk and a single to load the bases after replacing Corey Kluber with one on and no outs in the seventh inning. However, he pitched out of that with a short fly and two strikeouts.

      Miller added a scoreless eighth inning, striking out Kyle Schwarber with two on to end the inning.

      The lefty has 24 strikeouts in 13 2/3 scoreless innings this postseason. He threw 46 pitches Tuesday, but manager Terry Francona said that might not matter.

      "This was kind of reminiscent of the first Boston game (in the ALDS) where he threw 40, 41-plus, and he was ready to come back and pitch the next night," Francona said.

      --Kyle Schwarber looked very hitterish. It was hard to tell Tuesday was his first game in 6 1/2 months. He recovered from surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee after a gruesome collision April 7.

      Schwarber doubled off the right field fence in the fourth inning and did not expand the zone while walking in the seventh. He struck out twice, but who didn't?

      "What I saw today is that he absolutely will start tomorrow," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

      Schwarber has not been medically cleared to play defense, Maddon said.

      --Roberto Perez saved his power for the postseason. The Cleveland catcher hit a bases-empty homer in the fourth inning for a 3-0 lead, and his three-run homer in the eighth inning put the game out of reach. After hitting three homers in the regular season, he has three in the postseason.

      "I'm just playing with a lot of confidence right now," he said. "I'm not trying to do too much at the plate. I'm just trying to control my emotions."

      Perez joined Yogi Berra, Gene Tenace, Johnny Bench and Gary Carter as the only catchers with two homers in a World Series game, and he is also the first player to have three homers in a postseason out of No. 9 spot in the order.

  • Bauer takes mound hoping to give Indians a 2-0 lead on Cubs
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 26, 2016

    There is no bleeding to stop for Trevor Bauer.

    • The Indians lead the Chicago Cubs 1-0 in the World Series after Cleveland took a 6-0 victory in Game 1 Tuesday at Progressive Field, and Bauer just aims to hold serve in Game 2 on Wednesday.

      Rain might be another story, as Bauer takes the lead leg of the Indians' playoffs-long race to hand the ball to a dominant bullpen.

      Major League Baseball moved up the start time for Game 2 an hour to 7:08 p.m. ET because of heavy precipitation in the forecast later in the evening for Northeast Ohio.

      Bauer isn't plotting to halt Mother Nature.

      He also claims -- as he did before his last start -- the health of his right hand is no longer a worry.

      Bauer said Tuesday, after his previous postseason start in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series ended in the first inning, his wounded finger has healed. That claim didn't hold water at Toronto. His hand uncontrollably gushed blood and ended the 25-year-old fireballer's start after 21 pitches and two-thirds of one inning.

      "Going into Toronto, the doctors told me they were confident it would be OK. I was confident it would be fine," said Bauer, who survives with a snug grip on two- and four-seam fastballs perfected in extra sessions with Game 1 hero Corey Kluber. "It hadn't bled the two days before that at all. So I feel confident every time I take the mound. I wouldn't take the mound if I didn't feel confident I'd be able to pitch and help the team. So, yeah, I'm confident like I was back then too."

      Bauer cut his hand repairing his drone, but was a workhorse in the regular season, averaging 110.4 pitches in 35 starts. Control can be fleeting for Bauer, whose eccentric personality is a plus in the clubhouse according to manager Terry Francona.

      If his fastball is live -- and with just 99 pitches thrown total in the first two rounds of the playoffs, energy and stamina should not be hindrances -- Bauer can be a force. He had 168 strikeouts in the regular season.

      The Cubs counter with their No. 1b starter, Jake Arrieta, after Jon Lester allowed three runs and took the loss Tuesday. Chicago looks to beat the odds against teams losing the first game of the World Series, who are 40-70 overall in the Fall Classic.

      Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award in 2015 with a record of 22-6 and 1.77 ERA. This season, he had 18 wins (3.10 ERA), but has not been the same dominating presence in the playoffs.

      In two games, Arrieta is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA. Opponents are hitting .273 against him compared to .194 in the regular season.

      "It's why you play the whole season," Arrieta said. "To hopefully be in this position to be one of the last two teams standing with an opportunity to win a World Series for your organization, your city, for your team, friends and family. So it means a ton. You know, there's only two of 30 that even get these opportunities. Not many players -- there are some players that go their whole career without being able to get to the postseason. So we're all very fortunate."

      Stacking a lineup already loaded with fastball-smashing lefties might be reason for Cubs manager Joe Maddon to carry extra confidence into Game 2.

      "They're obviously very talented, but the Red Sox were very talented, and the Blue Jays are obviously very talented too," Bauer said. "At the end of the day, they're just hitters. They get outs nine out of 10 times, like all the rest of them. It comes down to executing pitches, executing a game plan."

      The surprising return of Kyle Schwarber allows Maddon to back up National League MVP candidate Kris Bryant with a run of power bats -- first baseman Anthony Rizzo, left fielder Ben Zobrist, Schwarber and possibly Jason Heyward.

      Maddon said it was not a given that Miguel Montero, a left-handed hitter and Arrieta's preferred backstop all season, would start Game 2 over rookie Willson Contreras, who is best equipped to slow the Cleveland running game.

      Heyward's atrocious postseason landed him on the bench Tuesday for the second consecutive playoff game.

      "Jason's been struggling at the plate -- that's it," Maddon said of starting Chris Coghlan, who entered Game 1 with a .063 career postseason batting average. "That doesn't mean it's going to look like this (Wednesday)."

      Schwarber smacked a double in the fourth inning of Game 1 for his first hit of the entire season, proof positive the left-handed slugger hasn't lost his immense power rehabbing from torn knee ligaments since April. He walked in the seventh, laying off a pair of two-strike offerings from left-handed reliever Andrew Miller.

      Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks, allowed two home runs in his lone start against the Red Sox, and gave up 20 home runs in the regular season. Indians manager Terry Francona said they are banking on Bauer's wounded pinkie holding up, and Cleveland holding down Chicago's offense.

      "If it doesn't work," Francona said, "I'm going to make the doctor come up here and talk to you (media). I don't think that finger's going to be the reason he wins or loses."

      Josh Tomlin is scheduled to start Game 3 at Wrigley Field for the Indians against Kyle Hendricks, but the Indians have not announced a starter for Saturday's Game 4. John Lackey is scheduled to go in Game 4 for the Cubs.

      Though Francona would not say it directly, the Indians are weighing giving the ball back to Kluber -- he threw 88 pitches in six-plus Tuesday -- on Saturday. That would definitely be the case if the Indians were in position to sweep the series. Francona is 9-0 all-time as a manager in the World Series.

      "We've said who our first three starters are, but just to be fair to them, we need to wait until everybody pitches just because it's not just if one guy can handle and maybe come back early," Francona said. "Because once you do that, then the other guys pretty much have to, too, or you're really not helping yourself. So we've talked to all the starters. They understand how we feel about things. But we also need to wait and see because, as we noticed with drone attacks, that things can happen."

  • Threat of rain prompts World Series time change
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 25, 2016

    The start time for Game 2 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians on Wednesday has been moved up one hour because of a forecast for rain in Cleveland.

    • First pitch is now scheduled for 7:08 p.m. ET.

      There is a 35 percent chance of showers beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday with a 70 percent likelihood of rain by 11 p.m.

      The Cubs' Jake Arrieta is scheduled to start opposite the Indians' Trevor Bauer in a matchup of right-handers.

  • Indians add RHP Salazar to World Series roster
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 25, 2016

    Right-hander Danny Salazar was added to the World Series roster for the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday, hours before the team was set to host Game 1 against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field.

    • Salazar has not pitched since Sept. 9 because of tightness in his right forearm. The 26-year-old All-Star has been cleared to log as many as 65-70 pitches, according to pitching coach Mickey Callaway.

      Cleveland has slated right-handers Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin to start Games 1-3, respectively. The Indians have yet to announce their starter for Game 4 at Wrigley Field, with Salazar, rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt or even Kluber getting that nod.

      "After the third game we'd (like to) kind of see where we are," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said on Monday. "We have Merritt. We have Danny. Neither one would pitch a full game, but between those two, you know, especially with Danny, it gives you a guy that made the All-Star team that we could pitch really whenever we want. So, it's another really good arm that's kind of a wild card that we think could help us."

      Salazar compiled an 11-6 record with a 3.87 ERA and 161 strikeouts but struggled with arm issues the second half of the season.

  • Cubs' Schwarber to start at DH in World Series opener
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 25, 2016

    CLEVELAND -- Kyle Schwarber was added to the World Series roster of the Chicago Cubs and will bat fifth as the starting designated hitter for Tuesday's Game 1 against the Cleveland Indians.

    • Schwarber, rebounding from a knee injury, played his second game in the Arizona Fall League on Monday afternoon and flew to Cleveland on Monday night as a possible addition to Chicago's World Series roster.

      The Cubs officially set their roster at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, eight hours before Game 1 at Progressive Field.

      "Right now, he's doing everything well and right," Cubs manager Maddon said Monday during media day. "He's given us another option. He's swinging the bat well. He's running really well, actually. He's done some sliding drills, all that kind of stuff to just test the whole thing out."

      Chicago also is benching struggling right fielder Jason Heyward for Game 1 despite the fact the left-handed hitter would be facing Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber. Heyward is 2-for-28 with no homers and one RBI in the postseason as he completes the first season of an eight-year, $184 million deal.

      Chris Coghlan will start in right field in place of Heyward.

      Relief pitcher Rob Zastryzny was removed from the playoff roster to create a spot for Schwarber.

      Schwarber was 1-for-3 with a double, a run and a walk as the DH in his second game with the Mesa Solar Sox on Monday afternoon after going 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game on Saturday night. He set a postseason home run record with the Cubs in 2015 by belting five.

      The Ohio native made his MLB debut at Progressive Field and went 4 for 5 with a home run.

      On April 7, Schwarber sustained torn anterior and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee when, playing left field, he collided with Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler while chasing a long fly to left-center that turned into an inside-the-park homer for Arizona's Jean Segura.

      Schwarber could be used as a designated hitter in all four games in Cleveland, which has home-field advantage.

  • Aces face off in World Series opener
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 24, 2016

    CLEVELAND -- Who wrecks the hex?

    • Who can reverse the curse?

      The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians will send their postseason aces into Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday with an eye toward winning their first championship in three generations ... or much, much longer.

      You know the history by now.

      Cleveland has not won a World Series since 1948. The Indians came up short in their three most recent appearances, the last in 1997, when Edgar Renteria's walk-off single in the 11th inning of Game 7 gave the Florida Marlins the title.

      The Cubs have not been in the Series since 1945 and have not won it since 1908. Numerologists suggest this might be the year. There are 108 stitches on a baseball. Wrigley Field sits on Chicago's planned development lot 108. The Cubs win the Series in the movie "Back to the Future II," which has a running length of 108 minutes.

      And on and on.

      Not that the teams are focused on the history.

      "After you've actually done it, that's when you really dwell on that particular thought," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "In the meantime, I promise you, our guys are going to be in the present tense. I think we all have a tremendous amount of respect for history and what's happened before us or not happened before us. But, you know, you go in that room right now, they're very young. Really not impacted by a lot of the lore, I don't think."

      Cubs left-hander Jon Lester and Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber have been the two best starting pitchers in the postseason while lifting the Great Lakes neighbors this far. Each will make his fourth start of the postseason, his third in a Game 1.

      Lester is 2-0 with three quality starts, an 0.86 ERA and an 0.76 WHIP in 21 innings in the playoffs this year. He threw eight shutout innings in a 1-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants in the first game of the National League Division Series, gave up one run in six innings of a no-decision in the 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of the NL Championship Series and gave up one run in seven innings in an 8-4 victory in Game 5 of the NLCS.

      "You know, there will be nerves and there will be adrenaline and all that stuff when I go out there to throw the first pitch and kind of get the ball rolling," Lester said, "but once you get into the game, I feel like then you're able to go back to your game plan."

      Kluber's postseason ERA, 0.98, trails only Lester among pitchers who have made more than one playoff start this month. He won both of his previous Game 1 starts, throwing seven shutout innings in a 6-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series and 6 1/3 shutout innings in a 2-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in the first game of the AL Championship Series.

      In Game 5 of the ALCS, he lost after allowing two runs in five innings.

      "Obviously, you're in the World Series, and there's two teams left and all that kind of stuff," Kluber said. "For me at least, it's been all about getting prepared and being ready when it is time to throw that first pitch."

      The teams also have more than the usual familiarity.

      Cleveland manager Terry Francona led ghost-busting Boston to its first World Series title in 86 years in 2004, then to another crown in 2007, both times for general manager Theo Epstein, now the Cubs' president.

      "I know that's a really cool thing for fans to talk about and stuff," Francona said. "It really doesn't enter into what we're doing. I just think if you look too far back, you look too far forward, you miss what's right in front of you."

      Epstein interviewed Maddon for the Boston managerial job in 2004 before hiring Francona. Maddon said the other day the Red Sox made the right choice at the time.

      "Our players are going to dictate who wins and loses on both sides, as it should be, but Theo had the guts to hire me up there when I didn't have a ton of resume and they were expected to win, and he believed in me," Francona said. "We went eight years of a lot of good baseball."

      Lester won 65 games in his four full seasons as a starter under Francona, who was replaced after 2011 and hired by Cleveland in 2013. Lester is 8-6 with a 2.05 ERA in 19 playoff appearances, 17 starts, and he won four games in the Red Sox's run to the 2013 World Series title.

      "I watch him pitch right now and when he takes the mound, extremely calm," Maddon said. "He's in the moment. There is something about that internal level of confidence and the ability to -- this is an overused term, but it's true -- slow things down. I think some players have that ability better than others."

      The Cubs had 33 hits while winning the final three games of the NLCS against the Dodgers. Anthony Rizzo was 7-for-14 with two homers, Addison Russell 6-for-13 with two homers and Dexter Fowler 6-for-14 with two doubles.

      Cleveland's staff, despite injuries to three start pitchers, has given only 15 runs in eight playoff games, sweeping Boston and taking out Toronto in five.

  • Former Yankees relievers face off in World Series
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 24, 2016

    CLEVELAND -- Remember the New York Yankees' stacked bullpen at the start of the season? It is still going strong.

    • Aroldis Chapman was acquired by the Chicago Cubs and Andrew Miller landed with the Cleveland Indians five days apart in July deals, and the two former New York Yankees closers/high-leverage-situation left-handers played a major role in their teams' advance to the World Series.

      Miller was 4-0 with three saves, nine holds and a 1.55 ERA in 26 regular-season appearances for Cleveland, and he has not been scored up in 11 2/3 postseason innings while striking out 21. Manager Terry Francona is not hesitant about using Miller early in games and at some length, and the 31-year-old veteran emerged as the American League Championship Series MVP.

      Cubs Game 1 World Series starter Jon Lester played with Miller in Boston from 2011-14 and has seen him evolve from a starter into a shut-down reliever.

      "You see what he's able to do with his slider, but not only that, with his fastball," Lester said. "He locates his heater. He's not just a rock-chucker up there throwing it and hoping that they swing and miss. He's a very intelligent guy that thinks through at-bats.

      "Even though he was throwing 97 (mph), he's still thinking through at-bats and going to guys' weakness. Obviously, having nasty stuff helps as well, but it's awesome to see."

      Chapman was hit around a bit by both the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Cubs' first two playoff series, but he excelled after joining Chicago in the regular season. He was 1-1 with 16 saves in 18 save chances, posting a 1.01 ERA. He struck out 46 in 26 2/3 innings and held opponents to a .132 batting average.

      "It's an entirely different thing when you get a guy out there throwing 100 miles an hour," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You feel pretty good about it, regardless of who is hitting. He's really a big part of why we're doing this right now."

      Maddon asked Chapman to get six-out saves twice this postseason without success, but Chapman got the final five outs of the Game 6 NL Championship Series clincher against the Dodgers on Saturday.

      --Cubs catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber, rebounding from a knee injury, played his second game in the Arizona Fall League on Monday afternoon and was to fly to Cleveland on Monday night as a possible addition to Chicago's World Series roster.

      The Cubs do not have to set their roster until Tuesday morning.

      "Right now, he's doing everything well and right," Maddon said. "He's given us another option. He's swinging the bat well. He's running really well, actually. He's done some sliding drills, all that kind of stuff to just test the whole thing out."

      Schwarber was 1-for-3 with a double, a run and a walk as the DH in his second game with the Mesa Solar Sox on Monday afternoon after going 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game on Saturday night.

      On April 7, Schwarber sustained torn anterior and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee when, playing left field, he collided with Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler while chasing a long fly to left-center that turned into an inside-the-park homer for Arizona's Jean Segura.

      Schwarber could be used as a designated hitter in Cleveland, which has home-field advantage and could host four World Series games.

      --Right-hander Danny Salazar, recovering from an elbow ailment, said he will be added to the Indians' World Series roster, although Francona said nothing will be official until rosters are set Tuesday morning.

      "If we have another drone incident or anything with model airplanes or anything, we reserve the right till we have to turn (the roster) in," Francona said.

      Salazar and Game 5 ACLS starter Ryan Merritt are candidates to start the fourth game of the Series, Francona said.

      "Neither one would pitch a full game, but between those two ... especially with Danny, it gives you a guy that made the All-Star team that we could pitch really whenever we want," Francona said.

      Salazar, 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA in 25 starts this season, has not pitched since being sidelined with right elbow inflammation that first surfaced in early August and caused him to be shut down in early September.

      "I don't know if I'm a starter or reliever, but I'm ready," Salazar said.

      Salazar threw a three-inning simulated game at Progressive Field on Sunday. He was 10-3 with a 2.75 ERA in 17 starts before the All-Star game, averaging 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

      --Right-hander Cody Anderson will not be on the Indians' World Series roster, Francona said. Anderson was 2-5 with a 6.68 ERA in 19 games (nine starts) in the regular season. He has not appeared in the postseason.

      --Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo was 7-for-14 with two homers, three runs and five RBIs in the final three games of the NLCS against the Dodgers, breaking out after starting 2-for-28. He homered against right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 and against lefty Clayton Kershaw in Game 6. Cleveland's rotation includes no left-handers, although Miller has been used early and often in the postseason.

      "'Riz' is swinging the bat well, and when Anthony's swinging the bat well, he hits righties and lefties," Maddon said. "What's going on right now is he's not missing his pitch and he's making the pitcher throw the ball over the plate. He's not expanding the strike zone."

      Rizzo hit .305 with 34 homers against righties in the regular season and .261 with eight homers against lefties.

  • Cubs tab Lester to start World Series opener
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 24, 2016

    Jon Lester will start Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday for the Chicago Cubs.

    • Lester, co-MVP of the National League Championship Series, has allowed one earned run in 21 career innings pitched in the World Series. He's 3-0 with a 0.43 earned run average in the Fall Classic.

      Corey Kluber was named starter for the Cleveland Indians, who won the American League pennant in five games over the Toronto Blue Jays.

      "Lester's been there, done that before," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Saturday night after the Cubs punched their ticket to the World Series for the first time since 1945. "These guys, they're not just satisfied by getting to this point. We want to win this whole thing."

      Lester said the Cubs are not satisfied getting to the World Series.

      "Nobody likes second place," he said.

      Of intrigue in the Game 1 matchup is Lester's ability to slow down the Indians' running game. Cleveland led the American League with 134 stolen bases, including 43 by outfielder Rajai Davis.

      In the NLCS, the Dodgers attempted to dare Lester to throw to first base -- the veteran left-hander has not shown the ability to be accurate or successful making even the most basic toss to first -- but Los Angeles' runners rarely risked being thrown out at second base.

      Davis was part of the Blue Jays' team that first rattled Lester, then a member of the Boston Red Sox, into precariously wild pick-off attempts in 2013. At the time, Mike Napoli, designated hitter for the Indians, was a teammate of Lester's with the Red Sox.

      Maddon said after Game 5 that Lester has been instructed to throw the ball to home plate.

      "The most important thing is that Jon throws the ball well to home plate," Maddon said. "That's the most important part of this. That gets overlooked. And I don't want him to get caught up in the minutiae of everything else. Do what you do best. What he does best is he throws pitches very well, up to 94 miles an hour where he wants to, and then he has a great cutter and a curveball.

      "So why would I want him to get mentally infiltrated with trying to hold runners if he's not comfortable? So we have other things in place to take care of that."

  • Dodgers season-ending report: Status of free agents tops docket
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 24, 2016

    LOS ANGELES -- Despite the heartbreaking defeat to the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers overcame significant obstacles to get there. Going forward, though, questions confront the front office.

    • A team racked by injuries in their starting rotation, the Dodgers banked plenty on their rookies during their second-half run to the fourth consecutive National League West crown. Of all the regular starters, only 28-year-old rookie Kenta Maeda worked the majority of the season.

      However, rookie Julio Urias stepped up in sometimes in impressive fashion. The 20-year-old left-hander won four straight starts after the All-Star break and finished 5-2 with a 3.39 ERA in 77 innings. He also recorded the victory in the decisive Game 5 in relief in the NL Division Series over the Washington Nationals.

      Another young arm, Jose De Leon, showed glimpses of promise in four major league starts, winning two of them. Expect him to get a shot at making the rotation in spring training.

      Even with ace Clayton Kershaw out more than two months with a herniated disk in his back, sidelining him more than two months, Los Angeles still had more in the tank than the San Francisco Giants after the All-Star break. Injuries to starters such as Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Hyun-Jin Ryu, among others, still didn't derail the Dodgers. It took a heavy toll on their bullpen, though, which led the majors in innings pitched.

      Despite that, expectations remained high that the franchise would its 28-year drought in the World Series.

      "It's going to take some time to get over this," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "I think the experience from this postseason will serve our guys really well going forward. It hurts to say that, but that's the silver lining in it."

      Friedman's biggest challenge is whether to bring back two of the club's top contributors, closer Kenley Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner. Both are free agents. Friedman wants them back, particularly Jansen, who will command plenty of attention (and money) since he's one of the top two closers on the market.

      The question is whether the Dodgers will outspend or match contract offers opposing clubs from opposing clubs. Expect the Giants, whose bullpen cost them considerably late in the season and the playoffs, to be one of those teams seeking Jansen's services.

      Jansen brushed off the talk after the Dodgers were eliminated Saturday.

      "No, it's still early for me right now," Jansen told "This feels awful right now. We got so far, and we fell short. I'm still thinking of what we accomplished and how short we fell. We just fell a little bit short."

      The Dodgers could use a big right-handed bat or two to produce against left-handed pitching, which they were finished last in hitting against in the majors. Turner's loss could enhance that need. Or they could pursue another third baseman -- Evan Longoria comes to mind -- to replace the 31-year-old Turner.

  • Kluber to start Game 1 of the World Series
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 23, 2016

    The Cleveland Indians tabbed ace right-hander Corey Kluber to pitch Game 1 when the World Series matchup with the Chicago Cubs begins Tuesday in Cleveland.

    • Indians manager Terry Francona said right-hander Trevor Bauer will start Game 2 if his cut finger is healed. Otherwise, right-hander Josh Tomlin will draw the assignment and Bauer will pitch Friday's Game 3 in Chicago.

      The Cubs wrapped up the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night and haven't yet announced their pitching plans.

      Also, Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis sprained his left ankle after Wednesday's ALCS clinching win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

      Francona said Kipnis is expected to be ready for the opener against the Cubs. He suffered the injury while hugging shortstop Francisco Lindor during the on-field celebration.

      Kluber, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2014, is experiencing a stellar postseason. He is 2-1 with a 0.98 ERA in three starts with 20 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings.

      Bauer sliced his right pinky finger while performing maintenance on one of his drones during the ALCS against the Blue Jays. He attempted to pitch in Game 3 but departed in the first inning when blood started pouring out of the cut.

      Francona didn't identify a Game 4 starter. There is a possibility that right-hander Danny Salazar could return from a strained forearm that sidelined him the past six weeks.

  • Cubs take 4-0 lead on Contreras HR
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 22, 2016

    CHICAGO -- Rookie catcher Willson Contreras laced a solo home run down the left field line leading off the fourth inning and the Chicago Cubs took a 4-0 lead in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on Saturday night.

    • Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw allowed back-to-back hits in the bottom of the first inning and Cubs centerfielder Dexter Fowler made it 3-0 with his second hit of the game, a line drive through the left side of the infield, in the bottom of the second.

      The Cubs have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

      Fowler led off the bottom of the first with a ground-rule double down the right field line and scored on Kris Bryant's looping line drive that bounced in front of Josh Reddick in right to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead against the Dodgers' ace.

      Anthony Rizzo lofted a two-strike fastball into the gap in left center, but Dodgers left fielder Andrew Toles dropped the sure out when he took his eye off the ball to track Bryant, who was rounding second base. With Bryant at third and Rizzo into second, Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly brought home Bryant for the Cubs' second run.

      Kershaw got out of the first inning but threw 30 pitches to record a stressful three outs.

      Toles lined the first pitch of the game to right field for a single, but Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks had not allowed another through four innings.

  • Cubs hope Schwarber can DH if they reach World Series
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 22, 2016

    CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber is testing his readiness in the Arizona Fall League to potentially join the Chicago Cubs' roster in the World Series.

    • The Cubs consider Schwarber, who set a franchise record with five postseason home runs in 2015, a longshot to play for the first time since he tore knee ligaments and was placed on the 60-day disabled list on April 8.

      "Kyle, yeah, that's kind of a surprise because I -- that just came up," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before the team took batting practice at Wrigley Field before Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, and almost the same time the Cubs announced Schwarber was activated from the DL.

      Schwarber, who joined the Mesa Solar Sox officially on Saturday, has been traveling with the team and rehabbing, but medical clearance from his surgeon and Cubs' team doctors came Monday. On Wednesday night, he left the Cubs to fly to Arizona, missing the possibility of a celebration with his teammates for the opportunity to be part of the team again when the World Series begins Tuesday night in Cleveland.

      "I've been talking to him often," Maddon said. "I watch him in the weight room, training room there, running the treadmill, they're doing the ellipticals, whatever ... he's doing really well. So he comes in the dugout, I say 'man, you look really good, next spring training is right around the corner. And I'm trying to keep him pumped up about that. Then all of a sudden a couple days ago he goes for a checkup and the doctor said, 'hey, he can hit.'"

      Schwarber worked out on the field with the Cubs in Los Angeles, running figure-8 shapes on grass and making cuts to change direction.

      "That was really a surprise to me and all of us," Maddon said.

      If the Cubs finish off the NLCS, there are many decisions looming. Team president Theo Epstein was the first to hear from Schwarber after his appointment in Dallas last week and said Schwarber forced the decision by progressing "beyond what we reasonably could have expected."

      Schwarber came up as a catcher but is likely to be limited to pinch-hitting or playing designated hitter at Cleveland. The Ohio native was 4 for 5 with a home run in his first MLB start, which came at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

      "We're not ruling anything in," Epstein said Saturday night. "We're not ruling anything out."

      A rule in the AFL allows for players with no more than two years experience to be assigned a taxi squad designation. That means Schwarber will be able to play two games per day and accumulate at-bats, testing his leg and getting live at-bats -- albeit against relatively weak pitching.

      The last time Schwarber spoke publicly about his return in August he said "spring training is the focus, but I'm going to grind as hard as I can to get back."

      Maddon said the entire organization was surprised.

      "We're going to explore that," Maddon said. "It's up to us to get to the next moment in order to see if that can actually work out or not. So, we're just trying to be prudent, a little foresight, see how he's going to play in fall league and see where that takes us."

      The roster options for the Cubs could come down to sacrificing one of Maddon's cherished winning philosophies -- defense wins -- to add a big bat. Outfielder Albert Almora Jr. started in right field Saturday in place of Jason Heyward, who was batting .071 entering Game 6. Pitcher Rob Zastryzny has not appeared in a playoff game. And while Chris Coghlan can play six or seven spots on the field, including all three outfield spots, he's a career .063 batter in the playoffs.

      Maddon said the Cubs know there is "a chance" Schwarber could be ready next week. But until he's tested on the field, attaching a percentage likelihood to having him on the roster won't happen.

      "He's hit the ball well," Maddon said. "The movement kind of stuff, running and change of direction has all gone well. His arm's fine. Again, I don't know to what extent we would be able to use him or not, but right now we're just trying to explore all possibilities."

  • Blanton becoming liability in Dodgers' bullpen
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 22, 2016

    The Los Angeles Dodgers lost much more than a pivotal game on Thursday when they were defeated in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series by the Chicago Cubs. They lost one of their biggest weapons in this postseason.

    • Joe Blanton is not injured. And he won't be fatigued after the off-day on Friday. But after relying on him almost daily to get the Dodgers this far, LA manager Dave Roberts has to think very carefully about using the right-hander out of the bullpen again. He has become predictable and the Cubs know it. That's the worst thing a pitcher can be.

      On Thursday night, he came on for the sixth inning -- that early because the Dodgers don't have the pitching to go deep in games like this beyond Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. The series was tied 2-2. The game was tied 1-1. So critical would be understating the circumstances.

      He gave up a first-pitch single on a slider to Javier Baez and, after Baez stole second, intentionally walked Jason Heyward. Next up was Addison Russell. Blanton threw a slider for a first-pitch strike and then threw another slider that Russell turned around for a game-changing two-run homer. The Cubs went on to take an 8-1 lead en route to an 8-4 win.

      "I knew what was coming," Russell said after the victory at Dodger Stadium.

      Of course he did. Blanton has a great slider -- terrific even -- but that's where he goes every time the pitch is crucial. It's gotten to the point that hitters are sitting on it because it is his best pitch.

      That's how Game 1 came unraveled for Los Angeles. That, too, was a tied game at 3-3. Ben Zobrist doubled on a changeup to start the frame. Then Blanton threw six straight sliders to get Russell to hit into a full-count groundout to third base. That's when the chess match began where Roberts saw he could get Chicago closer Aroldis Chapman out of the game. Heyward was intentionally walked and Blanton got Baez to fly out on a first-pitch slider. Then, pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan was intentionally walked to bring up Chapman's spot.

      Miguel Montero pinch hit with the bases loaded. Blanton threw him three straight sliders.

      The first one was fouled off and the second was swinging strike. The third went for a grand slam that gave the game to the Cubs. The next pitch was a Dexter Fowler homer, this time on a curveball; of course how could he throw another slider.

      Blanton and the slider? He is a one-trick pony and you can't use that in the playoffs.

      Mariano Rivera of the Yankees had one great pitch and he was probably the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history. Rivera was going to throw his cut fastball with all its life and late movement and, for season after season, he threw it and no one did anything with it. Bats were broken. Swings hit nothing. And the wins piled up.

      He was special. It's the reason he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

      Joe Blanton is a very capable pitcher who has re-invented himself as a reliever and re-sculpted his body to improve himself. He pitched in four of the five division series games and didn't give up a run. But he isn't special like Rivera. Not even close.

      Blanton alone cannot be singled out because the Dodgers bullpen that helped them oust the Nationals in the division series has been tagged pretty good in this one. The Cubs are slashing .313/.363/.554 with four homers and seven RBIs against LA relievers in the series. Only closer Kenley Jansen has stood out.

      That brings us to the final game or two at Wrigley Field, where the Dodgers arrive down 3-2 in the series and facing elimination. Given the circumstances, it is a best-case scenario for them with ace Kershaw on the mound. The last time he pitched, the Dodgers beat Chicago with his seven strong Game 2 innings and a pair of innings from Jansen. Hill is the Game 7 starter and that is as good as they could hope for if they have a chance to win the pennant on Sunday.

      But it remains to be seen if Roberts would dare go to Blanton in a pivotal moment given the way things have gone.

      "I think if you look back, he made a couple mistakes in the series and we paid for it," Roberts said. "But as far as fatigue, I think Joe feels great, feels strong, and he'll be the first to tell you that he needs to execute a pitch. So when you look at Game 6, Game 7, I'm not going to shy away from going to Joe."

      We shall see.

  • By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 22, 2016

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Washington Wizards waived guards Jarell Eddie and Casper Ware and forward Johnny O'Bryant on Friday to pare their roster to 15 players ahead of the regular-season opener next week.

    • Eddie scored three points in three appearances during the preseason.

      Ware had eight points, three assists and two rebounds while playing in one game. O'Bryant averaged 6.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists in four games.

      The Wizards wrapped up their preseason on Friday night with a 119-82 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Their season opener is Thursday night against the Atlanta Hawks.

  • Indians' Salazar could return for World Series
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 22, 2016

    The Cleveland Indians might be in line to receive a huge boost to their starting rotation for the World Series.

    • All-Star Danny Salazar, who has not pitched since Sept. 9 because of tightness in his right forearm, could join the rotation depending on what happens in the next 48 hours.

      According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Salazar will throw a simulated three-inning game on Saturday or Sunday. This session will come on the heels of Salazar letting loose in Toronto, where manager Terry Francona said he was pleased with the 26-year-old's progress.

      "He let it go, which is good," Francona said. "He really let it go and threw his changeup with some arm speed. So we'll see how the next one goes."

      Salazar was scheduled to miss three to four weeks with a flexor strain and the right-hander has not been on the Indians' postseason roster. But signs are pointing to him being added to face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Chicago Cubs, and even possibly start, which Francona did not rule out.

      "If Danny pitches and he pitches healthy, and he's throwing the ball over the plate, we have a really good pitcher for however amount of innings he's built up for, which can potentially help us," Francona told

      Salazar was named to the American League All-Star team this season. He compiled an 11-6 record with a 3.87 ERA and 161 strikeouts but struggled with arm issues the second half of the season.

  • Blue Jays season-ending report: Speed, left-handed bats needed
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 20, 2016

    TORONTO -- The 2016 result was the same as last year's for the Toronto Blue Jays.

    • After the Texas Rangers came up punchless when it counted against them in the American League Division Series for the second year in a row, the Blue Jays lost in the American League Championship Series to the Cleveland Indians in five games.

      Last year they were eliminated in six games in the ALCS by the eventual World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals.

      If the Blue Jays are to go deep into the postseason again next year, they probably will have a slightly different look.

      They should look a little less like the team assembled by former general manager Alex Anthopoulos, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and will bear the stamp of new president Mark Shapiro and his general manager, Ross Atkins.

      The starting rotation should remain intact with Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, and Marcus Stroman with Francisco Liriano replacing R.A. Dickey.

      The makeup of the batting order depends on whether such free agents as Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders return.

      Regardless, the team figures to have a little more speed and a few more left-handed hitters than it did this past season. John Gibbons, who will return as manager, said he would like those elements to increase the team's versatility.

      "Better balance would have made a difference," Gibbons said. "I think it was too easy at times for opposing pitchers, if they're right-handed let's say, or they found their groove and never really had to adjust anything. ...A little bit more team speed (also) would go a long way."

      Shoring up the bullpen should be a major undertaking, although there was improvement after veterans Jason Grilli and Joaquin Benoit were added during the season. Their advancing ages suggest the injection of some younger, power arms might be required. There are also some potential free agents in the bullpen, such as Benoit, Brett Cecil, Scott Feldman and Gavin Floyd.

      Closer Roberto Osuna, 21, and rookie Joe Biagini, 26, were both bullpen stalwarts in 2016. Sanchez, 24, led the American League with a 3.00 earned-run average so the future of the pitching looks encouraging.

      "We've got as much good young talent in some of the arms we have as any team in baseball," Gibbons. "That bodes well for the organization for a number of years. It should anyway."

      Shapiro said the first step is setting a payroll budget and a plan for 2017.

      "I don't know how we can begin to think about who the exact players are until we have that piece done, and we'll have that done in the next few weeks," Shapiro said. "Until we have a firm payroll number, I can't answer that (if both Bautista and Encarnacion could return). Anything's possible.

      "Obviously, we have some free agents we have to deal with, but there's a tremendous pitching staff coming back and some great position players that make up a core of a team. We have to get some things done this offseason, we've got to have a good offseason, but I don't expect huge differences."

      Third baseman Josh Donaldson, the American League MVP in 2015 will be back and hopes some others are, too.

      "We would love to have everybody back," Donaldson said. "We would love to have Bats (Bautista) back. We would love to have Eddie (Encarnacion) back. These guys have been the faces of this franchise for many years now."

      Bautista did not want to discuss free agency immediately following the Blue Jays' elimination.

      "I don't want you guys to think that I'm being stubborn," he said. "I just don't think it's the right time to be talking about that. We just battled through a tough series. There's a lot of stuff in here. I don't want to make this about myself. And I don't really feel I'm in a proper state of mind to be talking about that. I know it's a possibility. We'll see what happens."

  • Dodgers push back Kershaw; Maeda to start Game 5
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 20, 2016

    LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers will turn to Kenta Maeda to start Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.

    • Maeda (0-1), and not ace Clayton Kershaw, will get the baseball in a crucial contest of the series, which is tied at two games apiece. Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) will be at Wrigley Field this weekend.

      Maeda gets the call despite his inability to deliver so far in the postseason. Although the 28-year-rookie from Japan received a no-decision in Game 1 of the NLCS, he allowed three runs on four hits in four innings, walking three and striking out two.

      Maeda lost his other playoff start in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, serving up four runs on five hits in three innings in his second-shortest start of the season.

      It's one reason some in the media speculated Roberts might go to Kershaw again on three days' rest.

      "Well, I think that (Thursday) isn't a deciding game," Roberts said, insisting he's sticking with Maeda.

      Roberts also said Kershaw wasn't available for Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals. However, Roberts surprised many in the baseball world by bringing in Kershaw to close the series clincher and record the final two outs after closer Kenley Jansen worked the previous 2 1/3 innings.

      "It's not an elimination game," Roberts continued. "And I think the accumulation of (Kershaw's) usage over the last 10 days plays a factor in our decision. So, I think that for us thinking through it, the best thing for us is to have him pitch Game 6 and have Kenta go Thursday."

      Maeda realizes he needs to deliver.

      "I'm not going to be too careful even though I haven't been pitching well in the postseason," Maeda said of his approach for the game. "What I'm going to be really focused on is just pitching well (Thursday) and not worry too much about what I have done in the past."

      Jon Lester (1-0, 0.64), who didn't factor into the decision in Game 1 against the Dodgers, will get the nod for the Cubs. Lester allowed a run on four hits with three strikeouts and a walk in six innings in the series opener. However, manager Joe Maddon lifted him for a pinch-hitter despite Lester throwing only 77 pitches (47 strikes).

      Lester wasn't pleased with Maddon's decision initially but said he calmed down once he got in the dugout.

      "I knew it was a grind, even though the pitch count wasn't as high as it could have been with how I was throwing the ball," said Lester, who served up a pinch-hit home run to Andre Ethier in what turned out to be an 8-4 win by the Cubs. "But like I said then, I don't get paid to make decisions. I pitch as long as he tells me to pitch."

      Said Maddon, "The other day at home, he wasn't the sharpest but still gave us a strong opportunity to win that game, and we eventually did. So, I like his mound demeanor right now."

      In his last start at Dodger Stadium, Lester, who finished the regular season 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA in 32 starts, threw six scoreless innings in a 1-0 win by Los Angeles.