Chicago baseball report: What’s next for Seiya Suzuki and the Cubs — and White Sox ‘extremely impressed’ with Tommy Pham’s impact

The Cubs fell short of ending their road trip on a high note with a Major League Baseball-leading fourth walk-off loss Thursday.

The Cubs are still well positioned amid the plethora of injuries and challenging schedule to begin the year. Their upcoming six-game homestand kicks off with manager Craig Counsell’s first regular-season showdown versus his old team, the Milwaukee Brewers, this weekend at Wrigley Field.

The Sox head back on the road, where they are 1-13, to begin a three-game series Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals. Home or road hasn’t made that much of a difference so far for the Sox, who at 6-25 are off to the worst start in franchise history.

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

Seiya Suzuki’s rehab is trending in the right direction

Sitting in the visitors dugout at Citi Field, Seiya Suzuki wasn’t exactly interested in reminiscing on his return to New York.

Suzuki was back where his season-changing, mental-break benching took place in early August, sparking a final seven-week stretch of MVP-level numbers for the Cubs.

“I don’t try to look back on it, I forgot about it — I have a small brain so everything that has a negative influence on me is completely out of my head, so I don’t remember it at all,” Suzuki joked through interpreter Toy Matsushita.

Suzuki is more focused on getting back on the field. He estimated he’s 80% recovered from his right oblique strain and took on-field batting practice Wednesday for the first time since sustaining the injury April 14. Suzuki could begin a rehab assignment sometime next week if he continues to trend well. The Cubs lineup desperately needs his disciplined approach and power back.

“It’s been a couple weeks since I was hitting outside, so when you’re trying to do things and opening up a little bit, obviously you get a little concerned,” Suzuki said. “But I feel like it’s just part of the process and I’m going to do whatever I can to take the right steps to be back out there as soon as possible.

“Mentally I’m feeling pretty good … I feel like it’s about efficiently using the time that I have right now and not just taking breaks, but how am I going to get out there and perform better and get back to where I was.”

OF Tommy Pham makes an early impact for the White Sox

Tommy Pham laid off Bailey Ober’s cutter to begin a third-inning at-bat Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Minnesota Twins starter’s next offering, another cutter, was more to Pham’s liking.

The center fielder hit the 1-0 pitch over the left-center field wall for a solo home run, his first with the Sox.

Pham has been an impact player since joining the team last week, batting .375 (9-for-24) in six games. He has four multi-hit games.

“This guy competes in the cage, he competes off the tee, he competes in soft toss,” manager Pedro Grifol said after Wednesday’s 10-5 loss. “He’s constantly competing and preparing for a game. And when you watch him on the field, he’s doing something that comes normal to him. He doesn’t take pitches off, doesn’t take tee work off. I’ve been extremely impressed.”

Pham explained that approach after Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I just show up and prepare for a game,” he said. “Pedro was telling me ‘You’re always on.’ If it’s BP, I show up. Weight room, cage, batting practice. I told him I don’t know any other way. I don’t know how to just show up and chill. I feel like I have to put myself in position to help the team win.”

Pham’s career started with St. Louis, and he credits teammates for setting an example.

“I was lucky enough to play with some guys early in my career that showed me the way,” Pham said. “And I’ve just always been that way from watching them. I saw them have success in the big leagues, and I thought this is the best way to do it. I saw (Yadier Molina) and (Adam Wainwright), man. Those guys, they showed up and did everything they could to be successful and help the team win.”

Number of the week: 1-14

The Sox were swept by the Twins for the second time this season. They’ve had little success recently against Minnesota, going 1-14 against the Twins dating back to May 4, 2023. The Sox have been outscored 98-47 during that stretch.

Week ahead: Cubs

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

  • Saturday: vs. Brewers, 1:20 p.m., Marquee

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

  • Monday: vs. Padres, 6:40 p.m., Marquee

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

  • Wednesday: vs. Padres, 1:20 p.m., Marquee

  • Thursday: Cubs off

Patrick Wisdom understands his role on the Cubs right now likely won’t include many days in the lineup unless the opposing team’s starter is a lefty.

Wisdom got a rare start versus a right-hander Thursday, as the Cubs faced Mets righty Adrian Houser. But for the most part on those days, manager Craig Counsell likes to utilize Wisdom, who came off the injured list April 18, off the bench when teams bring in a lefty reliever.

Wisdom has thrived as a pinch hitter during his big-league career. After connecting for pinch-hit, two-run double Friday against the Boston Red Sox, he owns a .300 average (15-for-50) with three doubles, four home runs and 12 RBIs in that role. The key to success, Wisdom believes, is not worrying about needing to get a hit.

Column: A busy May in Chicago includes Craig Counsell’s return to Milwaukee, 2 draft lotteries — and no break from the Bears

“I kind of take the pressure off myself,” Wisdom said to the Tribune. “You’re already at a disadvantage from sitting all game and just going in there, so lowering your expectations and not really worrying about the result. I’m just going to go up there and have a good at-bat. Whatever that looks like, then so be it.

“Understanding, OK, I can relax in this situation. I don’t have to white knuckle it all the time.”

Playing time has also been scarce for infielder Nick Madrigal since Wisdom’s return, largely appearing as a defensive replacement at third base when the Cubs are trying to hold onto leads late. Madrigal showed his defensive value in Wednesday’s 1-0 win against the Mets with his relay throw nailing Pete Alonso at home to end the game. Madrigal started at second base Thursday with Nico Hoerner shifting to shortstop on Dansby Swanson’s first day off of the season.

“That’s just the nature of kind of how a schedule rolls … and when we haven’t had injuries in that area, it’s a good thing and the other area of the team, the outfield, we have so the opportunities come for those guys,” Counsell said. “You don’t always get to predict when they come.”

Week ahead: White Sox

  • Friday: at Cardinals, 7:15 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Saturday: at Cardinals, 1:15 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Sunday: at Cardinals, 1:15 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Monday: at Rays, 5:50 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Tuesday: at Rays, 5:50 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Wednesday: at Rays, 5:50 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Thursday: vs. Guardians, 6:40 p.m., NBCSCH

In his first appearance with the Sox, Brad Keller walked Twins designated hitter Ryan Jeffers to begin Monday’s sixth inning. With one out, Keller issued another walk.

“Put myself in a position and I was like, ‘I’ve got to get an out right here — I’ve got to get through this inning and do my job,’” Keller told the Tribune on Tuesday.

The right-hander did that, getting Byron Buxton to fly out to center and Max Kepler to ground out to first. Keller pitched 1 2/3 scoreless relief innings, striking out one.

“Tied game when I got in there and tried to keep it tied,” Keller said. “It was cool to get to do that and help the team.”

Keller spent his first six seasons with the Kansas City Royals before signing a minor-league deal with the Sox on March 8. He made three appearances at Triple-A Charlotte before joining the big-league team Sunday.

How are Colson Montgomery, Noah Schultz and Jairo Iriarte doing? The latest on Chicago White Sox prospects.

Keller has made 114 starts in 151 career major-league appearances. He tried to keep the same preparation routine working out of the bullpen, just dragging it out over a couple of innings.

“The adrenaline kicks in the second you’re in the game, so you don’t have to worry about that,” Keller said. “It’s just making sure the body feels good.”

Keller will move into the rotation as Friday’s scheduled starter against the Cardinals.

What we’re reading this morning

This week in Chicago baseball

May 3, 2009: Cubs retire Ferguson Jenkins’ and Greg Maddux’s No. 31 at Wrigley Field

In retiring No. 31 as a tribute to Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux on a postcard-pretty Sunday at Wrigley Field, the Cubs invoked an era when pitchers finished what they started, made hitters hit their way on base, and swung the bat and fielded their position like real ballplayers.

“Your teammates played their butts off for you if you were out there giving it your all and not missing starts,” Jenkins said.

Hall of Famer Jenkins, 66, and Maddux, 43, were joined by their families, some former teammates and team dignitaries before the Cubs-Marlins game for a 20-minute ceremony that was too brief for a full recap of each man’s accomplishments.

Jenkins’ 31 went up the left-field foul pole with Ernie Banks’ 14 and Ron Santo’s 10. Maddux’s is on the right-field pole with Williams’ 26 and former teammate Ryne Sandberg’s 23.

If Jenkins had his druthers, he’d have worn No. 30 when he joined the Cubs after a trade with Philadelphia in 1966.

“That was my number with the Phillies, but Yosh Kawano informed me that was Mr. Ken Holtzman’s number,” Jenkins recalled. “He offered me 31, and I said, ‘Fine.’”

Kawano, the colorful longtime potentate of the Cubs’ clubhouse, was still around when Maddux showed up 20 years later. Perhaps he knew something when he gave Maddux No. 31.

“They told me it was Fergie’s number,” Maddux said. “I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool.’”


“He is seeing hitters for the first time, they are seeing him for the first time. That’s generally a little bit (advantage) to the pitcher, but I don’t think that’s a big deal in this thing. He’s gonna be fine going through the league more than once. You don’t do this and not be fine.” — Counsell on Shota Imanaga’s success (0.78 ERA) to start his big-league career