Cubs, Pirates seek better defense (Apr 26, 2017)

BY AP • April 26, 2017

PITTSBURGH -- Heading into the finale of the three-game series between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday at PNC Park, neither manager was raving about his team's defensive play.

Clint Hurdle, whose Pirates face getting swept, had a stronger case. The worst defense, statistically, in the league helped ruin another game Tuesday when second baseman Alen Hanson threw away Jason Heyward's grounder in the second inning, allowing Addison Russell to score the game's only run in a 1-0 Cubs win.

Poor defense has haunted the Pirates all season. Asked what to do about it, Hurdle said: "Well, let's go find an elite defender. We just lost one."

He was referring to center fielder Starling Marte, who won a Gold Glove playing left field last season. Marte is serving an 80-game suspension for flunking a drug test.

"You're not gonna find an elite defender, Hurdle said. "You're gonna try and raise your own. That's what we're trying to do throughout our player-development system. There weren't any elite defenders out on the market this winter, or that wanted to be part of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it with them. You're knocking on doors and nobody answers? You develop your own talent, and that's what we're trying to do.

"We feel we had guys that, given the opportunity and given the reps, could man the positions. We've come up short in some areas in the initial push out of the gate."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose defense also has been below par, voiced the same concern.

"I just think, give us a little bit of time," Maddon said. "There's plays that we make that we haven't made. It not just about making errors, it's about catching balls that we should catch."

Rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow will pitch for the Pirates on Wednesday against veteran Cubs lefty Jon Lester.

The 6-foot-7 Glasnow, who at 23 is 10 years younger than Lester, was named the top pitching prospect in the International League in two of the last three seasons, but his development at the big league level has been slow. In three starts this season, he is 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA.

There has been some progress, however. Since giving up five runs in 1 2/3 innings against Cincinnati on April 10, Glasnow has yielded five earned runs in the last 9 2/3 frames.

Control remains the primary issue. Glasnow has 13 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings, but he also has issued nine walks. In seven games last season, including four starts, he walked 13 (with 24 strikeouts) in 23 1/3 innings.

Glasnow, who got a no-decision in his only career appearance against the Cubs on April 15, battled against the New York Yankees in his last start on Friday. He gave up one earned run despite yielding seven hits and walking two while throwing 102 pitches in 4 2/3 innings.

Fighting a bug that swept through the Pirates' clubhouse, Glasnow said he wasn't at his best, "but it didn't matter if you (don't) have your timing or if you don't feel good. You've got to do what you've got to do."

Lester, coming off a brilliant 2016 season in which he went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA, has a 2.66 ERA but no decisions in four starts. He was outstanding in his first three games, giving up two runs in 18 innings while striking out 17 and walking five.

His most recent start Friday did not go as well -- nine hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Cincinnati Reds.

Lester is 4-3 with a 2.35 ERA in nine career starts against the Pirates.