The Cubs have reportedly made a bid for Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish, but they have also set their sights on some lesser-heralded names for their starting rotation.
According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com, the club is currently in talks with free agent left-hander Paul Maholm.
Maholm, 29, became a free agent after the Pirates declined his $9.75 million option for 2012 at the end of October. He posted a solid 3.66 ERA and 97/50 K/BB ratio over 162 2/3 innings this season, but didn’t throw another pitch after being placed on the disabled list in late-August with a shoulder strain.
Maholm went 53-73 during his seven seasons in Pittsburgh, but he fits the mold of a perfectly respectable back-end starter. The southpaw has a career ground ball rate of 52.3 percent, which may or may not have much an impact depending on the quality of the defense behind him, but he at least stands a chance to survive in a hitter-friendly ballpark like Wrigley Field.
Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg lasted only two innings in Sunday’s start against the Diamondbacks. The right-hander reportedly had trouble getting loose and it showed: he yielded a hit and three walks to the 10 batters he faced. According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Strasburg had “some nerve impingement that has been alleviated.”
Manager Dusty Baker expects Strasburg to make his next scheduled start on Saturday at home against the Rockies, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Strasburg was examined by doctors, who deemed him to be in good shape — enough to not warrant undergoing an MRI.
Through 20 starts, Strasburg owns a 3.25 ERA with a 141/37 K/BB ratio across 121 2/3 innings. Though the injury scare isn’t what the Nationals hoped for, he’s done well in the first year of his seven-year, $175 million contract extension.
Cubs starter John Lackey didn’t have his best stuff on Tuesday afternoon at Wrigley Field against the White Sox. The right-hander hit four White Sox batters over the course of five innings. He yielded just two runs, though, on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts. He left with a 4-2 lead.
Lackey hit Jose Abreu with one out in the first inning, then hit Abreu again in the fifth. He then hit Matt Davidson and Yoan Moncada shortly thereafter. Chris Beck relieved Carlos Rodon for the White Sox in the bottom of the fifth and promptly hit Ian Happ with a fastball to lead off the frame. Home plate umpire Lance Barksdale issued warnings to both benches and the beanings stopped.
So, how often do pitchers hit four batters in a game? Not that often! The last to do it was the Reds’ Josh Smith on July 4, 2015 against the Brewers. Before that, it was the Nationals’ Livan Hernandez on July 20, 2005 against the Rockies. Lackey is only the ninth pitcher to hit four batters in a game since 2000 and the 26th since 1913. The only other Cubs pitcher to do it besides Lackey was Moe Drabowsky in 1957.