Theo Epstein won’t say whether Dale Sveum will be back as Cubs manager

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Cubs president Theo Epstein was asked yesterday whether manager Dale Sveum will be back next season and declined to answer. So does that mean Sveum’s job is truly in jeopardy as he follows up last season’s 61-101 record by going 63-88 this year?

Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com delved a little deeper into Epstein’s quotes, including:

There’s no alarm bells to ring. But that’s a subject that gets addressed as a matter of process (after) the season. We’ve been very upfront about the fact that we’re not evaluating Dale on wins and losses. Our record is more of a reflection of the roster that we’ve put on the field as a baseball operations department and where we are in this building process. So I don’t hold Dale accountable for the record.

Of course, not being held accountable for the record doesn’t mean he’s not being held accountable for anything, and if the Cubs feel Sveum has struggled with, for instance, developing the young building blocks on the roster that could be a reason to fire him as well.

Mooney notes that Sveum is under contract for next season and the Cubs hold a team option for 2015. Epstein has generally offered plenty of praise for the job Sveum has done, but not replying with a simple “yes” when asked if a manager who’s under contract for 2014 will be back in 2014 is certainly open for interpretation.

Julio Urias to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

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The news has gone from bad to worse for Dodgers’ left-hander Julio Urias, who is scheduled for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder next Tuesday and expected to be sidelined through the middle of the 2018 season. His MRI came back negative on Wednesday, giving the Dodgers some hope that the 20-year-old’s bout of shoulder inflammation wasn’t masking any structural damage, but the pain lingered several days later and prompted further concern from the club. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in late May and placed on the disabled list with left shoulder discomfort several weeks into his assignment. At the major league level, he owned a 5.40 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 4.2 SO/9 through 23 1/3 innings, going 0-2 in five starts with Los Angeles. He made a brief rebound in Triple-A, posting three wins and striking out 17 of 67 batters in 17 1/3 innings before landing on the DL.

It’s a tough blow for the southpaw, who had yet to hit his stride in the majors before getting sidelined with shoulder issues. The Dodgers were especially mindful of this outcome for Urias, and had taken preventative measures to protect his arm by establishing a strict innings limit last season. According to club president Andrew Friedman, there’s a small silver lining here: while Urias’ injury will keep him out of work for at least 12 months, he doesn’t appear to have sustained any damage to his labrum or rotator cuff, and could be facing a much more streamlined recovery process as a result. Whether he’ll be able to rebound once he takes the mound again remains to be seen.

Tigers release Francisco Rodriguez

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Tigers’ right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez was released on Friday, per a team announcement. The club recalled fellow right-hander Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo in a corresponding move.

The former closer got the boot after losing his closing role in early May, giving left-hander Justin Wilson a chance to impress at the back end of the bullpen. It’s been a rough year for Rodriguez, who manufactured six blown saves and a 7.82 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.2 SO/9 over 25 1/3 innings for the Tigers. The final straw, it seemed, came with Robinson Cano‘s grand slam in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 6-9 loss to the Mariners on Thursday.

While the demotion to a clean-up role and an apparent lack of communication caused Rodriguez considerable frustration, he’s two years removed from his last dominant performance as a major league closer and has shown few signs of returning to form. His recent slump doesn’t diminish the impressive totals he’s racked up over his 16-year career — 437 saves and six All-Star nominations among them — but if he can’t break out of it soon, he may not receive the kind of high leverage role he’s seeking with another big league team, either.