8/15/2014 11:23 P.M. ET
Straily feels solid with mechanical tweaks
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Dan Straily feels like himself, and that's a good thing for the Cubs.
The right-hander, acquired from the Athletics on July 4, will make a spot start for the Cubs on Saturday in the second game of their series against the Mets. In his last outing for Triple-A Iowa, Straily gave up two hits over six innings and picked up the win. He has not given up an earned run in his last three starts.
"I got out of the little funk I was in, some mechanical flaws, if you will, that had taken over my game," he said Friday. "You have one good game, and it's like, 'OK, I had a good game.' Two in a row, OK. Three in a row, OK. Hopefully, we got it.
"I definitely feel more like the pitcher I know I am, not the guy I had been this year," he said. "It's a real good feeling to go out there and throw the baseball and feel like I was in command."
What's been a surprise for Straily is that his velocity has increased since Spring Training. At the beginning of the year, his fastball was clocked in the mid-80s. Now, it's 87-92 mph.
"It's nice to know I have it back there again," he said of his velocity.
He was 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts with the Athletics last season, but was 1-2 with a 4.93 ERA this season. He also has made 10 starts at Triple-A Sacramento.
Iowa pitching coach Bruce Walton, Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio and others have studied Straily's mechanics and combined to make some minor changes. The right-hander feels good about where he is.
"Maybe this whole change-of-scenery thing is what it's made out to be," he said. "Maybe that's all it is."
Cubs send Lake to Triple-A to make room for Straily
NEW YORK -- Junior Lake will finally get some regular playing time, but it will be at Triple-A Iowa.
The Cubs announced after their 3-2 loss to the Mets on Friday that they were optioning the struggling outfielder, who was batting .216, to Iowa to make room on the active roster for Dan Straily, who is scheduled for a spot start Saturday.
Lake, who batted .284 in his rookie season last year, has not looked like the same hitter, and his at-bats have been limited.
"This gives him an opportunity to go down there and get some at-bats for the next two and a half, three weeks," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said after Friday's game.
"We tried to do everything we could throughout the course of the season, especially early, to put him in a decent place," Renteria said. "Obviously, it's very difficult for the young man. Right now he's a little disappointed, but I think he'll catch a breath of fresh air, play again, get some at-bats, have some fun again, and we'll see him here soon."
Lake has struck out 102 times in 98 games, and hit just .114 in 19 July games. The young outfielder is popular on the team, and Cubs catcher John Baker brought him a beverage postgame for a toast.
"I need to play," Lake said. "I don't know if [going down] is good. Everybody wants to play here. I need more [at-bats]. That's what I think -- I need to play."
Lake was told he'll be back in 15 days when Major League rosters expand.
"I'll be throwing bats and helmets if he's not back," Baker said. "If I don't see Junior Sept. 1, I'll be snapping every bat."
Renteria said he and the Cubs' staff have discussed what to do to get Lake on track.
"I think we have a window here, and we have a need for a spot right now," Renteria said.
The Cubs will be shorthanded on the bench for Saturday's game. The addition of Straily to the roster will give them 14 pitchers.
Cubs giving Jackson chance to 'right the ship'
NEW YORK -- The Cubs' Edwin Jackson led the National League in losses last season, and he is tied for the most this year with the Phillies' A.J. Burnett and the Padres' Eric Stults, who have 13. And Jackson is staying in the Cubs' rotation in hopes of getting back on track.
The Cubs do want to give innings and possibly starts to Jacob Turner, Dan Straily and Felix Doubront in September when rosters expand, and general manager Jed Hoyer said Friday that he will meet with pitching coach Chris Bosio and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein to map out a strategy.
Jackson's situation is puzzling. On Thursday, he lasted 4 2/3 innings against the Brewers in a 6-2 loss, and he hasn't finished the sixth inning in 15 of his 25 starts.
"We're trying to give [Jackson] an opportunity to right the ship," Hoyer said. "It seems like the first inning, we're in a hole right away, and he's battling right away, and we haven't been able to solve that problem. Hopefully, we can find a solution by the end of the year and go into the offseason with some momentum."
Jackson, who is in the second year of a four-year contract, is 14-31 with a 5.31 ERA in 56 starts so far with the Cubs.
"I don't think it's stuff-related, I think it's location-related," Hoyer said of Jackson's struggles. "It's been frustrating for him and frustrating for us."
The Cubs do expect rookie Kyle Hendricks to pitch into September, Hoyer said. The right-hander has totaled 41 2/3 innings with the Cubs to go with the 102 2/3 innings he collected at Triple-A Iowa. Last season, he totaled 166 1/3 innings in the Minor Leagues. Hoyer said Hendricks is so efficient that he hasn't thrown as many pitches as the other Cubs starters.
Amid rumors, Starlin says he wants to stay with Cubs
NEW YORK -- Apparently, the word on the street in New York is that some Mets fans would like to do something about the overload of shortstops in the Cubs' system. Specifically, they want Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.
"I don't really think about this," Castro said Friday about the rumored interest. "We have a lot of shortstops in the Minor Leagues, but it doesn't matter. We're athletes. We can play wherever in the infield."
The Cubs do have depth with Castro plus Javier Baez, now playing second, and prospect Addison Russell, acquired July 4 from the Athletics for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria doesn't see it as a problem.
"The beauty of having shortstops is that they actually can transition to other positions," Renteria said. "If you think about it, when you draft players out of high school and college, the guys who seem to be the strength in Drafts are guys who played up the middle."
When the Cubs did acquire Russell, Castro's agent talked to Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. Castro is signed through 2019, and when he agreed to the deal, he did so with every intention of staying with the Cubs his entire career.
"We talked after the trade," Castro said of conversations with Epstein. "They told me, 'Don't even think about it.' They told me, 'You're the shortstop now,' and that's what I did. I'm here. I'm going to play here every day and I'm going to try to play hard every day.
"I don't want to leave here," Castro said. "I want to stay here all of my career. Whatever happens, happens."
New York reporters asked Castro prior to Friday's game if he'd consider a move.
"I know myself I can be a good player, I know a lot of teams could have me and want me, but I'm here and I don't want to leave here," Castro said of the Cubs. "I feel comfortable here and I want to be part of this team for when we compete, when we win in the playoffs. That kind of thing is not in my mind. Whatever happens, happens. I don't have control over this."
Castro is also eager to see the Cubs with himself, Baez and Russell in the same lineup.
"We have a lot of talent," Castro said. "As soon as all of those guys are here, we'll be better."
• Third baseman Luis Valbuena, who went 1-for-22 on the Cubs' seven-game homestand, did not start Friday and was not expected to start Saturday for a breather, Renteria said.
Valbuena, who is batting .233, snapped an 0-for-19 streak with a single Tuesday. He also was battling a cold, Renteria said.
• WGN Radio's regular broadcast team of Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer missed the Cubs' series in New York, and they were replaced by Dave Eanet and former big league pitcher Dave Otto. Hughes and Coomer requested the weekend off for personal reasons.
• Reliever Wesley Wright wasn't the only Cubs pitcher to provide some financial support to the Jackie Robinson West Little League team of Chicago. At least five Major League players donated money so the players' families could travel to attend the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Jackson also chipped in to help the Little Leaguers.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.