Chicago baseball report: Cubs’ Jordan Wicks shows swing-and-miss stuff, while White Sox match franchise’s worst 18-game start

The Cubs survived their 10-day West Coast gauntlet with a winning record, and that was with letting two winnable games get away from them. Despite losing right fielder Seiya Suzuki to a right oblique strain during the trip, the Cubs returned to Wrigley Field playing well for a seven-game homestand against the Miami Marlins and Houston Astros.

The White Sox ended a rough homestand on a good note Wednesday, winning Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals 2-1. Even with the victory, the Sox are tied with the 1948 club for the worst 18-game start in franchise history at 3-15.

Every Friday during the regular season, Tribune baseball writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead — for the Cubs and White Sox. Want more? Sign up for our new newsletters.

Jordan Wicks showing swing-and-miss stuff

The Cubs left-hander might be viewed as more of a command pitcher because of how he has found success during his professional career.

But four starts into the season, Wicks is generating the type of whiffs that has caught his manager’s eye following another strong outing Wednesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“He was really good attacking the zone,” Craig Counsell said. “It’s funny, there’s some big swing and miss there, he really had their hitters kind of in between on respecting the changeup. I thought him and Yan (Gomes) used the fastball well and in good spots.”

Wicks’ changeup produced strikeouts on seven of the 14 swings on the pitch. His 24 strikeouts in 17 innings matches his strikeout total from last season, though he needed seven starts and 34 2/3 innings to hit that mark. Wicks’ 28.2% K% ranks 33rd among the 187 pitchers who have thrown at least 10 innings this season. Only Mark Leiter Jr. (29%) has a better K% on the Cubs staff.

Wicks’ potential and how he could evolve at the big-league level has a high ceiling if he is able to maintain swing-and-miss pitches.

“Stuff came out really good,” Wicks said. “It was a little bit of kind of getting back in the zone because we had a lot of stuff where you throw in swing and miss areas, but you also have got to get ahead throwing strikes with it. So being able to do that a lot better today I think we saw a lot of benefits from it.”

Yoán Moncada is preparing for the next steps in recovery from left adductor strain

Moncada had never experienced the type of pain he felt when he suffered a left adductor strain on April 9 in Cleveland. Still, the Sox third baseman always thought he would be able to return this season.

After the initial estimates had him missing between three to six months, Moncada received good news that he might be back shortly after the All-Star break.

“I feel at peace that I’m going to be able to come back this season,” Moncada said Wednesday through an interpreter. “But I’m not happy or comfortable with what is going on because I prepared to play the full season and then unfortunately that won’t happen.

“But knowing that I’m coming back, it gives me peace.”

Moncada will soon head to Arizona to continue his rehab. He had been off to a nice start, hitting .282 (11-for-39) in 11 games.

His injury came after Sox center fielder Luis Robert Jr. suffered a right hip flexor strain on April 5 in Kansas City, Mo. Designated hitter Eloy Jiménez was also out at the time because of a left adductor strain. Jiménez returned from the IL on Monday.

Who will step in at third base, center field and DH for the injury-riddled Chicago White Sox?

“It has been difficult to digest that situation because you see the team playing and the results aren’t there,” Moncada said. “Then you turn around and you see Robert and Eloy who are injured too. We can’t do anything to help the team. You want to because you don’t like what you are seeing result-wise. But sometimes it’s nothing you can do, and then that’s the hardest part.”

Moncada signed a five-year, $70 million extension in March 2020 — a deal in which the Sox hold an option for $25 million in 2025 with a $5 million buyout. He isn’t thinking about the future.

“My focus right now is to get back and stay healthy,” Moncada said. “Whatever happens after that is going to happen.”

He feels he already is making some progress.

“I’m better up to this point where I can move around a little bit better,” he said. “Hopefully I can keep that progression. But I definitely feel way better where I’m at right now compared to that first day.”

Number of the week: 38

The Sox rank last in the majors with 38 runs. The Oakland Athletics are 29th in the category with 56 entering Thursday.

Week ahead: Cubs

  • Friday: vs. Marlins, 1:20 p.m., Marquee

  • Saturday: vs. Marlins, 1:20 p.m., 6:40 p.m., Marquee

  • Sunday: vs. Marlins, 1:20 p.m., Marquee

  • Monday: off

  • Tuesday: vs. Astros, 6:40 p.m., Marquee

  • Wednesday: vs. Astros, 6:40 p.m., Marquee

  • Thursday: vs. Astros, 1:20 p.m., Marquee

Although the Cubs successfully got through their first West Coast trip, a challenging start to their season won’t let up quite yet.

They have an opportunity to take advantage of two last-place teams in the Marlins (4-15) and Astros (6-14) before they head on the road again to play the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. The Cubs are slowly getting healthy.

Jameson Taillon was set to make his season debut Thursday against the Marlins before rain postponed the game to a split doubleheader Saturday. Justin Steele (left hamstring strain) continues to progress and went to the team’s pitch lab over the weekend in Arizona to gauge his progress. The Cubs, though, will be without Julian Merryweather (rib stress fracture) longer than initially expected. Because they needed bullpen help and subsequently an open 40-man spot, the Cubs moved Merryweather to the 60-day injured list Wednesday, which prevents him from returning before June 5.

The Cubs will continue to rely on their depth as they navigate injuries. Right-hander Hayden Wesneski was the latest to rise to the call in Wednesday’s series victory on the heels of a long travel day.

“We’ve had some injuries like a lot of teams, and you’ve got to step up and you’ve got to get great performances and (Wednesday) we got a great performance from somebody that we needed to great performance from, and so it’s about really players just getting a shot maybe and doing something special,” Counsell said.

Week ahead: White Sox

  • Friday: at Phillies, 5:40 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Saturday: at Phillies, 5:05 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Sunday: at Phillies, 12:35 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Monday: at Twins, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH/FS1

  • Tuesday: at Twins, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Wednesday: at Twins, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Thursday: at Twins, 12:10 p.m., NBCSCH

The Sox play in Philadelphia this weekend for the first time since 2019. That series included a marathon game on Aug. 2.

In the top of the 14th, the Phillies had pitcher Vince Velasquez playing left field, and he made a one-hop throw to the plate to toss out José Abreu, keeping the score tied. An inning later, Abreu singled to left, and Velasquez came up firing again. Leury García scored the go-ahead run just ahead of the throw in the 4-3 Sox victory.

Velasquez signed with the Sox in 2022. That spring, Velasquez told reporters that he said to the Sox: “If you need an outfielder, I’m definitely up for availability.”

What we’re reading this morning


“It’s difficult to explain, and to be honest with you, I don’t think there’s a reason, I don’t think you can find a reason why this happened. I prepared pretty good for this season. I did everything that I was supposed to do during the offseason and during spring training and then something like this happened and the same with the other guys.” — Moncada, through an interpreter, on his injury