LEADING OFF: Carrasco treated, Epstein backs Maddon

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon watches Javier Baez during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago, Saturday, July 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

By The Associated Press undefined
A look at what’s happening around the majors today:
COOKIE HEALING
Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco is being treated for leukemia, and he says it’s going to make him stronger than he was before. Carrasco hasn’t played for Cleveland since May 30. The 32-year-old right-hander says he got a blood test after a spring training physical prompted some concern, and he was diagnosed with leukemia in May. He said he feels positive about his prognosis and he’ll be back with the team “at the end of July.” Following his diagnosis, Carrasco spoke with long-time teammate Jason Kipnis, who helped him research and understand what he was dealing with.
NO-BLAME BEARS
President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein insists he’s not pinning the Cubs’ struggles on manager Joe Maddon. The way Epstein sees it, there’s blame to go around. “I see us as in it together,” he said. The Cubs have been in a funk for weeks, struggling at the plate and making mistakes in the field and on the bases. Epstein said Saturday “the sloppiness has kind of surprised all of us” but said “Joe’s been remarkably effective and remarkably consistent.” Epstein said the Cubs are “not close” to making any trades. How the team performs over the next few weeks will go a long way toward determining the types of moves Chicago tries to make prior to the July 31 deadline.
LOOKING AHEAD
Wander Franco, Luis Robert and many of baseball’s other top prospects are set to play in the All-Star Futures Game in Cleveland. The showcase has a new setup this year, ditching the U.S vs World format and instead pitting American Leaguers vs. National Leaguers. The game has also been moved to 7 p.m. after usually running Sunday afternoon during All-Star weekend. Former Indians stars Jim Thome and Dennis Martinez will manage the squads.
DIVISION DUEL
Yankees LHP James Paxton (5-3, 4.09) and Rays RHP Charlie Morton (9-2, 2.36) close out a hard-fought series between the AL East rivals. Tampa Bay catcher Travis d’Arnaud hit a walk-off homer in the ninth inning Saturday after New York won extra-inning games on Thursday and Friday. The Yankees lead the second-place Rays by 7 1/2 games heading into the final day before the All-Star break.
TWIN CITY SLUGGING
The Twins can polish off an impressive feat with a homer against Texas. Minnesota has hit a major league-leading 166 homers this season, which matches their output from all of 2018. Marwin Gonzalez hit the Twins’ lone homer during a 7-4 win Saturday, becoming the 10th Minnesota player to reach double digits in homers, one shy of the club record set in 2016. Byron Buxton has nine homers and should be next to reach the mark.
BIG EASY
Coming off consecutive scoreless outings, Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (7-2, 3.89 ERA) pitches the series finale before the All-Star break against the Mets. Nola has allowed one earned run with 28 strikeouts in 23 innings over his last three starts. He is 6-1 with a 3.48 ERA in 11 career games against the Mets, including seven shutout innings of one-hit ball with 10 Ks on June 27. RHP Zack Wheeler (6-5, 4.42) is up for New York. He could be an attractive trade target for contenders before the July 31 deadline.
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