Seventh-round pick Trevor Gretzky signs with Cubs

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Trevor Gretzky, son of The Great One, has picked the Cubs over San Diego State, that according to Aztecs coach Tony Gwynn.

“We heard he signed with the Cubs on Monday,” Gwynn told the Toronto Sun on Thursday.

The Cubs have yet to confirm the signing, which is sure to be for considerably more than slot money.  MLB is often hesitant to improve such deals until just before the Aug. 15 deadline.

The largest bonus given to a seventh-round pick so far this year was $200,000 from the Mets to first baseman Cole Frenzel.  The Cubs might be in that same neighborhood with Gretzky.

Of course, unlike a lot of draft picks, Trevor Gretzky doesn’t really need the money.  As a first baseman at Oaks Christian in California, he wore the same number 99 his father did throughout his hockey career.  Since finances weren’t an issue, many thought he would choose college over the pros.

“Our scouts conveyed to him this wasn’t a PR move,” Cubs GM Jim Hendry told the Chicago Tribune last month. “There can be a burden having a famous father but we won’t make him feel like he’s Wayne Gretzky’s son. He’s his own young man. We wanted Trevor. Our scouts had him going a few rounds higher.”

At 6-foot-4, Trevor Gretzky gets pretty good reviews for his power potential, but he’s even more of a project than most high schoolers.  He probably won’t be assigned to a full-season league until 2013.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.