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Cubs' Theo Epstein says trade deadline splash unlikely; Cubs lose to Reds

Cubs’ winning streak ends at 6 with loss to Cincinnati

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett prepares to throw out the Cubs' Willson Contreras at first after forcing out Kyle Schwarber at second in the second inning Friday at Wrigley Field.
Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett prepares to throw out the Cubs' Willson Contreras at first after forcing out Kyle Schwarber at second in the second inning Friday at Wrigley Field.

CHICAGO – During their time in Chicago, Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer often have gotten ahead of the July trading season.

That may not be the case this year.

The Cubs have a roster loaded with position players, and the pitching presents possibilities and challenges for the rest of the season.

“Every year is different, both with the marketplace and with the nature of that team’s season,” Epstein said Friday before the Cubs lost, 3-2, to the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. “For us, we’re still in a mode of assessing. On the position-player front, right now there’s not a lot that we’d want to go get, honestly, not a lot of roster spots to fit guys in. We have guys we have to sit on a given day who we want to get at-bats for. It’s not like we’re actively out looking to add on the position-player side.

“With the pitching, I think we’ll learn a lot more over the next few weeks. We have a couple guys in ruts we expect to get out of them and to get locked in, and the health front with Yu (Darvish), we’re optimistic, but we need to see more.

“I don’t necessarily think this is a year where we’re going to be out front beating the market, but I do think industry-wide there will be a lot of activity well before the (July 31) deadline.”

While Darvish has been out since late May with a triceps injury and Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana have been inconsistent, Mike Montgomery has helped to hold things together in the first half and into the second.

Montgomery started Friday and worked five innings, giving up six hits and three runs as the Cubs (49-36) had their winning streak snapped at
six games.

The Reds scored a pair of runs in the fourth as Montgomery loaded the bases with nobody out on a walk, a single and a hit batter. Adam Duvall singled home a run, and another came home on Scott Schebler’s double-play grounder. The Reds got another run in the fifth before the Cubs came back with single runs in each of the fifth and eighth innings.

The Cubs are hoping to get Darvish back sometime within the next month as he restarts a strengthening and throwing program. They also hope Hendricks can work out some mechanical glitches and that Quintana can get all his pitches working.

“You’re always looking to fortify or to add a little bit,” Epstein said. “You always have Plan B or Plan C in case of injury or really bad performance. There’s no way we’re going to go out and acquire a starter who’s the caliber of a locked-in Kyle Hendricks or a locked-in Jose Quintana, guys like that. The majority of our answers lie within, for sure. That’s how we look at it.”

Montgomery fell to 3-3 with a
3.68 ERA. He has made eight starts since replacing Darvish in the rotation in late May. He has gone at least five innings in every start since being moved out of the bullpen.

He knows proper pacing will be important because he will remain in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

“I think that’s the challenge right now,” he said. “I’m not as fresh as I was a month ago, but that’s kind of what you have to deal with as a starter. You don’t necessarily have your best stuff every time. That’s the fun part for me. I get to go this week and kind of work to get me mechanically where I need to be, physically where I need to be.

“You don’t lose confidence ever, at least I don’t, when things don’t go your way. It just gives you an opportunity to learn. That’s the good thing about baseball. There’s a lot of games to be played, a lot more opportunities and a lot more chance to go out there and execute pitches.”

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