Cubs add John Lackey to rotation with two-year, $32 million contract

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Last offseason Theo Epstein lured Jon Lester from Boston to Chicago with a huge long-term deal and now he’s signed another of his former Red Sox starters, as Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Cubs have agreed to a two-year deal with right-hander John Lackey.

According to Rosenthal the two-year contract is worth $32 million, allowing the Cubs to avoid making a commitment beyond 2017 to a 37-year-old pitcher. Lackey turned down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals, who now receive a first-round draft pick as compensation for losing him to their NL Central rivals.

Lackey is coming off a fantastic season for St. Louis in which he logged 218 innings with a 2.77 ERA and 175/53 K/BB ratio. It was by far his best season since his prime with the Angels a decade ago, but combined from 2013-2015 he started 93 games with a 3.35 ERA and 500/140 K/BB ratio in 605 innings.

Chicago being in the market for rotation help beyond Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta and Lester is no surprise, but being able to add a playoff-caliber starter in Lackey without a huge long-term commitment has to be considered a win for Epstein and the front office.

Indians hitting coach Van Burkleo opts out due to COVID-19

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CHICAGO — Cleveland Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo has opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns about contracting the COVID-19 virus.

Team President Chris Antonetti said Friday that Van Burkelo had been contemplating his departure for some time because of a personal high-risk condition and for his family. The Van Burkleos have a special needs child.

Antonetti said the challenges of traveling and the lack of room in road ballparks may have been the tipping point for the 57-year-old Van Burkleo, who is in his eighth season with the club. He had been under fire for Cleveland’s early offensive struggles.

“We are fully supportive of Ty’s decision,” Antonetti said, adding Van Burkleo remains employed by the team. “He’ll continue to provide support remotely and contribute any way he can from home.”

Antonetti said Alex Eckelman will join the staff to assist Victor Rodriguez and Justin Toole working with the Indians hitters.

Antonetti said the team spoke with all its coaches and staff before the season about working amid the inherent risks from the coronavirus. He said Van Burkleo was committed, but that the wear and tear of the protocols, particularly on the road, may have made it impossible for him to feel safe.

Van Burkleo’s departure further complicates several issues with the Indians’ coaching staff.

Manager Terry Francona will miss his sixth straight game Friday while addressing a gastrointestinal issue he’s combated for months. The 61-year Francona did not make the trip to Chicago and it’s not yet known if he’ll be back next week.

The Indians are off Monday before opening a two-game series at home against the Cubs.

First-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. has been filling in for Francona. Earlier this week, third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh left his regular spot to help Alomar in the dugout. Cleveland has been without bench coach Brad Mills all season after he decided to spend time with family following the tragic drowning of his grandson this offseason.

Antonetti acknowledged the season has already presented numerous hurdles.

“We’ve had to deal with a lot of things and a lot of adversity over the course of the last few months and that’s been highlighted in the last week or so with some leadership challenges,” he said.