Baseball

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Cubs hope depth will help them weather uncertainty

Published on June 9 2017 1:25 pm

By ESPN
CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon used one word when asked about the potential adversity his team is facing without two of the main cogs from last year’s championship squad.
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"Depth," Maddon said after his team's 4-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies. "It's all about depth. You don't win without depth. That happens on an annual basis."
 
The Cubs will need that depth because no one is sure when Addison Russell will return to the field, as Major League Baseball is investigating accusations of domestic violence against the Cubs shortstop.
 
Starter Kyle Hendricks was a surprise scratch from his scheduled start Friday because of tendinitis in his right hand. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list but shouldn't miss more than one start.
 
All of the runs Jon Lester surrendered in the second inning came after two outs. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
On the schedule, the Cubs are staring at three more games against the Rockies, one of the best teams in the National League so far this year. Then they have a stretch in which 17 of their 20 games will be on the road. In 2017, the Cubs have an 11-16 record away from Wrigley.
 
"Baseball is a game of adjustments," Thursday's losing pitcher, Jon Lester, said. "It's a game that can be cruel to you at times and really good to you at times. ... With Kyle going down, all this stuff going on with Addy (Russell), that's why we have 25 guys. We'll figure it out. You can't worry about stuff you can't control."
 
After the game, Maddon made a point of saying that the energy in the dugout Thursday was no different, despite the pregame focus on Russell.
 
In the first inning, Lester got out of a jam, and in the bottom half of the inning, Kris Bryant homered for an early 1-0 lead. But the offense shut down after the Bryant home run, and Lester gave up a two-out, four-run rally the next inning. After five wins in a row at home, Chicago has given two games back with a tough stretch of the schedule looming.
 
"The fact that you have [Mike] Montgomery to pick up Hendricks on a start that he's going to miss, that's not a bad thing," Maddon said. "The fact you have Javy [Baez] to pick up Addison -- not a bad thing.
 
"These are the things you have to expect over the course of the year. And we have good depth."
 
Maddon isn't wrong, though the depth on the starting staff hasn't been tested this much since the team became a contender. The Cubs just lost a game with their ace on the mound, Montgomery will get his first start since last season, and former Rockies prospect Eddie Butler gets his turn on Saturday.
 
"You can't dwell on the negatives," Lester said. "We'll figure it out as we go."
 
Yet there's a different feel to this season, as almost nothing about this year has felt like the last one. After struggles early, there has been hope that the team will find another gear. But it hasn't happened. And while Hendricks should return soon, the Cubs don't know about Russell. No one knows if the current uncertainty will have long-term ramifications.
 
"I thought the guys handled everything well today," Maddon said of the team's approach. "I'm proud of the way we did handle it."