Archive | Chicago Cubs Management

Cubs Riding High after Taking Three of Four from Nationals in D.C.

Posted on 09 June 2015 by Bob

The Chicago Cubs had a pretty good weekend after taking three out of four games from a tough Nationals team and earning their 30th win of the season. Kris Bryant led the way with a single, double, and triple leaving him just a home run shy of the cycle while Kyle Hendricks pitched five decent innings allowing six hits with three runs, which given the Cubs offensive output was good enough for the win.

Kris Bryant DC

Jason Motte was given a chance to close the game on Sunday and picked up his first save since 2012, back when he was a Cardinal. The Nationals Jordan Zimmerman came into this game on a tear, having won his last four starts but the Cubs pounced on him in the fourth and fifth innings to open up a 4-3 lead and chase him from the game. Anthony Rizzo also upped his hitting streak to twelve games.

With on off day on Monday, the Cubs got some rest but also some help for the present and future as they selected University of Cincinnati infielder/outfielder Ian Happ with the #9 pick in baseball’s amateur draft sticking with the strategy of acquiring hard-hitting position players despite the logjam of talent that floods their infield at the moment. It is a sound strategy that has begun to produce visible results and should continue to do so as prospects matriculate through the Cubs system. This is an exciting time for Cubs fan as their is a real sense that they can compete for a playoff spot this season, but should be an even better club next year.

Rafael Soriano

Staying in the present, the Cubs also acquired Rafael Soriano in hopes of shoring up their shaky bullpen. Soriano has been out of baseball so far this season and the Cubs only signed him to a minor league deal, but the hope is that when reunited with his former manager, Joe Maddon, he can return to the form that made him the Nationals closer just one year ago.

The Cubs dip into interleague play tonight as they travel to Comerica Park in Detroit to face the Tigers for a two game series. Jon Lester will pitch against Anibal Sanchez in the opener with first pitching coming at 6:08PM CST.

Go Cubs Go!

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Cubs Plate Two in the First; Make it Stand Up in the Ninth

Posted on 05 June 2015 by Bob

Jake Arrieta got some early run support as the Cubs jumped on Gio Gonzalez in the first inning for two runs and the defense made that hold up late as Chicago took the series opener from the Nats, 2-1 in Washington D.C.  It was the Cubs’ 15th one run win out of the 25 such games they have played, good for tops in the Majors in both categories.

After an almost two hour rain delay, the Cubs offense wasted no time getting started as the first four Cubs batters reached safely with Junior Lake taking a walk to plate the first run. After that, Starlin Castro grounded into a double play that enabled Kris Bryant to score from third. That was more than enough to get Arrieta going as he went six strong innings while giving up only six hits and a single run. The Cubs then used five relievers to close out the game but not without a bit of drama in the bottom of the ninth and Chicago clinging to a one run lead.

Arrieta vs. Nats

The Nationals put two men on with two outs in the bottom of the frame when Catcher David Ross picked off the Nationals’ Clint Robinson who had taken too large a lead from first base on the pitch, a high ball from Hector Rondon. Anthony Rizzo deftly applied the tag and the Cubs were winners on a play you don’t see too often, especially with the would-be tying run already on second base. Skipper Joe Maddon was pleasantly surprised.

“Rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “I had no clue. I just have to give Ross a lot of credit there, and Anthony to put the play on. If he had thrown the ball in the right-field corner, I would have been fine. I would have absolutely been fine with the whole play. They saw something and went with it. It was all them, spectacular.”

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 04: David Ross #3 of the Chicago Cubs picks off Clint Robinson #25 (not pictured) of the Washington Nationals at first base for the last out in the ninth inning at Nationals Park on June 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. Chicago won the game 2-1. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Letting the players ‘play’ and take risks is something Maddon has stressed throughout his tenure as he feels this fosters confidence and inhibits fear of making mistakes. Clearly Rizzo felt comfortably taking action on something he had noticed and discretely relayed that to Ross.  His manager had his back regardless of the outcome; the rest is history.

The Cubs look to win their first series outright since taking two of three from the Padres back in mid-May. Tsuyoshi Wada goes for his first win since late last season as he faces the Nationals Tanner Roark. First pitch is 6:05PM CST.

Go Cubs Go!

 

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Cubs Drop Series to Marlins; Benches Cleared

Posted on 04 June 2015 by Bob

Jon Lester bad start vs Marlins

The Cubs dropped a series to the lowly Marlins Wednesday night, falling 7 – 3 in an ugly game that featured some even uglier theatrics. Jon Lester had what probably amounts to his worst start as a Cub going five innings and allowing nine hits while getting tagged for six earned runs. This is a regression we didn’t see coming and it cost the Cubs big time as they dropped another series to a team that is ten games under .500. This team is currently all over the place in playing to the level of their competition. When the AL central leading Royals are in town, they’re playing tough; in Miami against a team that had been struggling mightily, they stink up the joint.

No doubt these Cubs are still youngsters finding their way but you can’t tell me that a team which swept the Mets just a few weeks ago should have any business dropping a series to these Marlins. Heck, even the things they did right were eclipsed by their youthful immaturity. Junior Lake hit a two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning finally getting them on the board, albeit still down 6 – 2. He took it upon himself to take his time walking out of the box and then flipped his bat. Rounding third he put his index finger to his lips and glanced at the Marlins bench, motioning for them to be quiet.  It was a foolish gesture in it’s own right but even dumber due to the fact that the Cubs were still down by four runs.

Junior lake scuffle

The Marlins weren’t happy with it either as both benches cleared for a whole lot of talk but no ejections. Cubs Manager Joe Maddon was also clearly disappointed, offering up his sentiments clearly and concisely:

“I’d like to use this moment for our minor league guys, don’t do that. That’s very much not cool. So if you’re watching the game back in Chicago tonight, don’t do that if you hit a home run. … We don’t do that here, and that will be the last time you see it.”

Maddon said he spoke with Lake, who was apologetic, to reiterate that behavior such as that will not be tolerated, especially in a Major League game. That’s not the Cub Way, no matter if you are down four or up by four. This incident came at a bad time for the Cubs who appear to be scuffling, dropping into 3rd place in the NL Central and lacking the consistency that has kept the Cardinals on an even keel so far this season.  The Cubs cannot let this snowball as Jorge Soler has already been placed on the 15 day DL with an ankle sprain and the upcoming schedule is pretty unforgiving with a series against the Nationals in DC, followed up by a two game stint in Detroit.

The Cubs hope to right the ship as Jake Arrieta takes the mound vs. the Nats Gio Gonzalez for a 6:05PM CST start time in the District.

Go Cubs Go!

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Deja Vu for Cubs as Cards Storm Back to Win

Posted on 06 May 2015 by Bob

Hendricsk vs. Cards

Another big lead, another pitching meltdown. Another shoulda-woulda-coulda loss for the Cubs against the team they really can’t afford to lose to.  This time it was Kyle Hendricks’ turn to cough up a 4-1 lead after Matt Carpenter’s three-run homer in the fifth inning. Edwin Jackson then came on in relief and proceeded to do Edwin Jackson-like things surrendering two runs on four hits and putting this game effectively out of reach for a Cubs offense that has to be asking their pitching counterparts: “What more must we do?”

Joe Maddon summed it up perfectly stating, “That, for me, is so vital. To hold a small lead or small deficit in the middle sets a team apart. You look at what we’ve done this year, we’re still over .500, we’d be in pretty good shape if we did a better job of handling the middle part of the ballgame.” The fact that Cubs are still over .500 does show progress in and of itself, but having a five game cushion over the .500 mark reduced to one in less than a week’s time is pretty troubling given the Cubs offensive outburst over the last couple games.  Anthony Rizzo continues to be a monster, notching another three hits as well as walk to up his OBP to .473 and ensuring the Cubs stay in these games.

Rizzo vs. cards

If I were to tell you that the Cubs would score 13 runs over two games and their record would be 0- 2, you would laugh and rightly so, but this is no laughing matter right now and probably the first time all year that the Cubs have encountered a problem as troublesome as this. They need their starters to take games deeper and they need their bullpen to make those leads or close games stand up. They’ll get their chance tonight with Jon Lester taking the mound against Cardinals starter Lance Lynn. Lester appears to be rounding into form and could be a big help in quashing this recent, poor-pitching trend.

Here’s to hoping both the offense and defense show up tonight. First Pitch is 7:15PM CST at Busch Stadium for game three of this four game series.

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Bryant Finally Arrives But Cubs Fall Late to Padres

Posted on 18 April 2015 by Bob

Kris Bryant Debut

Kris Bryant made his much-anticipated, widely-watched debut on a beautiful Friday afternoon at Wrigley yesterday but that wasn’t enough as an inconsistent strike zone and some strikeouts in crucial situations ultimately did the Cubs in.

Bryant, the highly-touted prospect got the call after injuries to Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella essentially forced the Cubs hand to bring him up one day after his service time pushed his free agency eligibility back one year. He struggled at the plate, striking out three times and grounding out to end a critical seventh inning but his glove was exceptional as he made several nice snags and on-point throws to first. His position at the hot corner seems to be secure for the foreseeable future.  Manager Joe Maddon seemed pleased stating, “We did bring him up for his glove, didn’t we? He had a really good game at third base. Really played well over there.”

Overshadowing Bryant’s first game in the big leagues was the inconsistent strike zone outlined by Home Plate Umpire Sam Holbrook. In the seventh inning, Cubs relief pitcher Brian Schlitter appeared to strike out Padres CF Wil Myers to end the inning on a pitch right down the middle just above the knee but Holbrook ruled the pitch a ball and on the next pitch Myers crushed a three run shot into the bleachers providing the final margin of victory for the Padres.  Maddon, displeased with Holbrook’s strike zone all game, could be seen visibly shouting “all five runs” in reference to the Padres taking advantage of Holbrook’s inconsistent strike zone to record each of their five runs. He was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

It was tough to see the Cubs give this one away after being in control for much of the game but sometimes it’s just not your day. The important thing is that the Cubs continued to get on base after getting down a run, they just couldn’t push anything across.

They’ll get another chance today as Bryant searches for his first hit. Kyle Hendricks takes the mound for the Cubs against Tyson Ross. Game is in progress.

 

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Cubs Opening Night Lineup Speculation; Maddon Keeps Us Guessing

Posted on 02 April 2015 by Bob

Just three days out from Opening Day and the suspense is killing us! To pass  the time until meaningful games commence let’s speculate on the Cubs Opening Day lineup vs. Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals.

OUR PICKS

Dexter Fowler

1. CF Dexter Fowler: The lead-off position should be the easiest pick as Fowler was brought in specifically by the Cubs to get on base early and set the table for the power hitters in the 3 – 5 positions. Fowler enters 2015 with a career .366 On Base Percentage meaning the Cubs have upgraded at the position and he’s a switch-hitter to boot, giving the Cubs added flexibility at the top of the order.

2. RF Jorge Soler: While some sites project him in the cleanup spot, it’s hard to see Maddon starting a rookie there when early on he will be much more valuable in the 2-hole with his aggressive approach, getting on base so the Cubs proven All-Stars behind him can drive him in. By all accounts, Soler can play and some believe he will battle teammate Kris Bryant for  Rookie of the Year honors. If he gets hot early, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him move into the heart of the lineup but for now he starts at #2.

3. 1B Anthony Rizzo: He will be the glue that holds this thing together. As he matures, it’s not out of the question to see him put up even bigger numbers than his All-Star campaign last year. With formidable hitters in front of him expect to see his RBI’s increase from 78 a year ago and if he can duplicate his Top Ten performance in Home Runs in 2014, these Cubs could make some noise.

Starlin-Castro

4. SS Starlin Castro: Would love to see him continue on an upward trajectory from last year and with Addison Russell waiting in the wings it will be imperative for Starlin to have a big year not only for himself but for the team as well. After his first healthy spring in years, expect Castro to get off to a good start.

5. C Miguel Montero: Another Cubs’ off-season acquisition and another 2014 All-Star in the heart of the order. Montero provides an upgrade not only with his catching ability but his bat is also an upgrade over Wellington Castillo who may be moved early on this season. The catch is if David Ross, Opening Day Starter Jon Lester’s former battery mate in Boston, is called upon to catch the lefty Sunday night. If so, Ross, who has a much weaker bat, would be bumped further down the lineup.

Here’s where it gets tricky given the injuries and the versatility of Arismendy Alcantara and Maddon’s penchant for tinkering with batting order. Given his hot spring we’ll give the nod to:

6. LF Matt Szczcur: Batted .348 with 5 home runs and 9 RBI’s in 20 Cactus league games. With injuries to Chris Denorfia and Chris Coghlan, perhaps Maddon will ride the hot hand in giving Szczur a shot.

Mike Olt

7. 3B Mike Olt: What a difference a year makes as Olt enters Opening Day as the Cubs starting third basemen for the second straight year. He had an excellent spring and appears to have regained the confidence he lacked throughout last season. Many believe he is just a placeholder until Bryant is called up but if Olt can ride his warm spring into a hot summer perhaps all the time Bryant has spent in the outfield as of late will not be for naught.

8. P Jon Lester: Call it the Maddon Effect but it’s this line of thinking that got him hired in the first place. Maybe he holds off on this for Opening Day but my guess is you will see Jon Lester batting 8th enabling Maddon to squeeze the most out of the top of the order.

9. 2B Arismendy Alcantara: Some view Tommy La Stella as a viable option at second base but for now Alcantara seems like the safer choice for opening day given his versatility and the power he displayed last year slugging 10 home runs in 70 games. The fact that he could be moved around the infield or outfield tells me he will find his way on to this Opening Day roster and will be a vital cog in the Cubs machine as a jack of all trades this year.

So there you have it folks, our guess as to what you will likely see as the Cubs begin the season Sunday night. Agree or disagree, the Cubs have talent and options this year, two things that have been scarce in these parts for the last five years. It will be interesting to watch this take shape as the year unfolds. Here’s to hoping for some consistency, nice surprises, and a fun to watch team that can manufacture some runs.

CBmxPOaWIAATyCA

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Bryant To Play Left Field Today As Cubs Tinker With the Pieces of the Puzzle

Posted on 26 March 2015 by Bob

Cubs prospect Kris Bryant is set to play left field today as the Cubs take on the LA Angels marking the first time Bryant has played anywhere but third base since turning professional. While some might be hesitant to change positions, especially moving from infield to outfield, it sounds as though Bryant is open to whatever it takes to not only see the field but also put the Cubs in the best position to succeed.

Kris Bryant

“Talking to Kris on a one-on-one level he really wants the chance to play out there, which I kind of somewhat like,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He actually wanted to. That makes it easier.” Easier indeed, as the Cubs face a logjam of infield talent with only three open spots and double the candidates to fill them.

It is assumed in most knowledgeable circles that Bryant, when called up, will start the season at third base but could see time in the outfield as the Cubs tinker with where to put all this talent on the rise. With guys like Javy Baez, Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara, Addison Russell, and Mike Olt the Cubs will have a plethora of combinations to try out in hopes of putting the most successful unit on the field. Flexibility will be key, as Alcantara has already shown, in maximizing output and avoiding redundancies.

Of course with the way Bryant swings the bat, leading all hitters with nine home runs and 15 RBIs in just 28 at-bats, the Cubs will be just fine with wherever he plays. Opening day is just over a week away. Then begins the real countdown to see just what Kris Bryant can do.

 

 

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Cubs Lose Again – But Soler, Baez & Bryant Hit Back-To-Back-To-Back HR’s

Posted on 11 March 2015 by Lou

soler-jorge-chicago-cubs

Is it time to panic?  The Cubs are the only major league baseball team that has yet to win a spring training baseball game.  After a 10-6 loss to the Indians on Tuesday, the Cubs fell to 0-6-1 on the season.

But to soften the blow a little bit, Cubs fans saw what they hope to see often at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in the very near future.  In the 4th inning with the Cubs trailing 4-0, Jorge Soler clubbed a monster HR to left field.  Just 2 pitches later, Javier Baez broke an 0 for 9 slump to start the spring with a monster shot to left field right near Soler’s HR.  And just a few pitches later, Kris Bryant made it 3 in a row with a bomb to right center field.  It was Bryant’s 2nd HR of the spring.

Travis Wood struggled in his 2nd spring start.  Wood allowed 4 runs on 7 hits over 3 innings. His defense didn’t help, as only 2 of the 4 runs were ER. In fact, with 4 errors on the day, only 4 of the 10 runs scored by the Indians were earned runs.  So the team really needs to clean up the defense a lot the next few weeks of spring training is they expect to be in tip-top shape come the regular season.

Jon Lester makes his 2nd spring start against Zach Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.  Let’s hope it’s another gem from the Cubs’ ace.

kris-bryant-chicago-cubs

 

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Lester Looks Great in Cubs Debut

Posted on 07 March 2015 by Lou

jon-lester-cubs-uniform-spring-training

WOW — what a great start for Jon Lester.  2 shutout innings, 3 strikeouts.  And after allowing a 1-out, broken bat single in the 2nd inning, Lester buckled down and induced an inning-ending double play. We’ll take it.  Lester threw just 24 pitches in his 2 scoreless innings of work.  Lester threw 20 of those 24 pitches for strikes.  Gotta love it!

And just like Travis Wood did in his first spring start on Thursday, Lester worked quickly, pounding the strike zone.  It’s a sign of good things to come for Cubs starters as the spring season continues.  Plus, I love Lester’s attitude.  Especially in your first start of the spring, you would think he would be happy with the effort.  But Lester complained about the placement of some of his pitches, indicating that he still had a lot to work on in the coming weeks before the season starts on April 5th.  “The first one’s always tough. You get that one of out the way and now you build and look forward to the next one. I was happy with how I was able to pitch up in the zone a little bit. They’re still getting their feet wet as far as their swings and timing, so you can get away with that.”

Manager Joe Maddon clearly loves having Lester on his team – both on the mound every 5th day and in the clubhouse – “He’s been Jon Lester. I think he’s a guy who leads by example, although is he were to say something, everybody does listen. He’s been that guy, he’s been exactly what I expected – a consummate pro, quiet in his own way.”

So far so good in Mesa this spring.  And even though the club is 0-2-1, there have been a lot of positives already.  Go Cubs Go!

Joe Maddon Spring Training

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Lester Set To Make Cubs Spring Training Debut Today

Posted on 06 March 2015 by Lou

jon-lester-cubs-uniform-spring-training

Jon Lester is set to make his Cubs spring training debut today against the Cincinnati Reds at Sloan Park.  Joe Maddon’s lineup looks like this:

Chris Donorfia RF

Arismendy Alcantara 2B

Javier Baez SS

Mike Olt 1B

David Ross C

Junior Lake LF

Chris Valaika 3B

Wellington Castillo DH

Matt Szczur CF

Meanwhile back in chilly Chicago, Cubs tickets for the 2015 MLB season went on sale to the public.  Demand was clearly strong as fans clamored to buy tickets for a team that could make a surprising run at the playoffs in 2015.  Opening Day – Sunday April 5th against the St. Louis Cardinals – where Jon Lester will make his official Cubs major league debut at Wrigley Field is already sold out.  And the Cubs-White Sox Saturday July 11th contest sold old quickly as well.  It’s a great sign that we already have sell outs at Wrigley Field again — haven’t had too many of those during the last 5 years.  so it’s clear that fans have high hopes this year.  Go Cubs Go!!!

cubs-sloan-park-spring-training

 

 

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