Archive | Chicago Cubs Players

Kris Bryant’s Big Night Powers Cubs; Addison Russell Gets the Call

Posted on 21 April 2015 by Bob

There’s joy in Cubville and all around Chicago these days with the Bulls and Blackhawks both up in their respective playoff series, which normally would be enough to tide Chicago sports fans over. Add in a huge Cubs victory Monday night against a team many have pegged for a playoff spot along with another hyped prospect being called up and Chicago’s proverbial cup runneth over. While it’s not the playoffs for the Cubs YET, the buzz is palpable as the team has gotten off to a great start, highlighted by perhaps the team’s most complete win of the season Monday night in Pittsburgh.

KB PNC

The Cubs young talent was on full display with Rizzo, Soler, Bryant, and Castro combined for 11 hits and Jake Arrieta calmed down after allowing an early run to record seven strikeouts while only giving up three hits and no walks. The play of the game was Bryant’s two-run double in the seventh which he stretched to a triple after the Pirates threw home to try and tag Rizzo.  It became a “Little League Home Run” shortly after as Bryant rounded third and the Pirates threw to the bag to try to catch him in a rundown. Already too far down the line, Bryant raced home and Pirates Catcher Francisco Cervelli bobbled the throw at the plate resulting in an error as Bryant crossed home safely .  It wasn’t a home run technically speaking, due to the errant throw and the error, but it had the same result nonetheless. Bryant also had an RBI single in the fifth making him responsible for four of the Cubs’ five runs.

AR Called up

Shortly after the game, news leaked that the Cubs would call up Addison Russell to play 2B Tuesday night in Pittsburgh putting MLB on notice that these Cubs are here to win. The future is now on the Northside and if the Cubs can keep their nice start rolling the Central and N.L. better watch out.

It’s Wood Vs. Liriano tonight at PNC Park. Tune in to watch these Cubs debut the lineup we have all been waiting for. Game time is 6:05 PM CT.

 

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Cubs Win in Walk-Off Fashion Saturday; Come Up Short on Sunday

Posted on 20 April 2015 by Bob

San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs

The Cubs’ wild, roller-coaster of a young season continued this weekend with two games vs. the Padres. After falling in Kris Bryant’s debut on Friday the Cubs got hot Saturday as the game went on, notching six runs over three innings led by Miguel Montero’s pair of home runs. Staked to a 6-2  lead entering the ninth inning the Cubs bullpen collapsed as Phil Coke gave up hits to the only two batters he faced and then the usually dominant Rondon couldn’t work out of the jam giving up four hits himself as the Padres were able to tie the game and take it into extras.

From there Zac Rosscup shut things down allowing only a hit over two innings and the Cubs loaded the bases in the eleventh enabling Starlin Castro to play the hero with his single just past Will Middlebrook’s glove sending Anthony Rizzo home for a walk-off win. It shouldn’t have been this hard but the Cubs will take the “W” and the late-inning clutch hitting. Bryant, making his second big-league start, had an outstanding day at the plate taking three walks to pair with 2 hits and an RBI. This is the Bryant we expect to see more of.

Sunday provided more of the same with the Cubs staking Lester to an early 2-0 lead before he gave up a two-run shot to Middlebrooks to tie the game. Lester did have a heads-up, highlight-reel play however as a hard-hit ball up the middle got stuck in the webbing of his glove. Unable to free it in time to make a throw, he tossed his whole glove to first where Anthony Rizzo alertly had dropped his glove to enable him to receive Lester’s mitt. They recorded the out and the crowd went wild. Sadly, there was little to celebrate the rest of the way as the Padres roughed up the Cubs bullpen yet again on a cold, wet day at Wrigley. Through his first three games Lester is the first to tell you his game isn’t up to snuff but there are signs of progress even though that’s not what Cubs fans want to hear after the man cashed in to the tune of $155 million this past off-season.

Lester throws glove

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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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Wood Powers Cubs to Fourth Win in Five Tries

Posted on 16 April 2015 by Bob

Travis Wood bounced back from his first start to power the Cubs past the Reds allowing only three hits through the beginning of the eighth inning while striking out seven. Anthony Rizzo provided some early run support with a two-run shot and the Cubs never looked back as they shut out the Reds and laid claim to first place atop the NL Central Division.

Travis Wood

Starlin Castro had an outstanding game as well providing two hits and a walk but his biggest contribution was his glove.

“How about our shortstop? He had a hell of a game at shortstop tonight. Played both left and right, had some great throws, double play was huge,” said Manager Joe Maddon, referencing a double-play ball snared by Castro that ended the Reds threat.

Starlin-Castro

This was a complete team effort from top to bottom and sends the Cubs into an off day brimming with confidence before a weekend series at Wrigley versus the new look San Diego Padres.

Friday’s game pits newly acquired Padre: James Shields vs. Jason Hammel with first pitch at 1:20 PM.

 

 

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Cubs Ride Late Heroics to Three Game Win Streak; Hope to Keep it Rolling

Posted on 14 April 2015 by Bob

How about them Cubbies?

The Chicago Cubs FINALLY have a little swagger in their step as they enter Tuesday night’s game vs. the Cincinnati Reds riding a three-game win streak with two of those wins being decided by final at-bats. The Cubs shocked the Rockies Sunday afternoon on Dexter Fowler’s 9th inning two-out, two-strike blast off of former Cub, LaTroy Hawkins. The Cubs followed it up with an extra-innings walk-off win Monday night that has the Cubs two games over .500 for the first time since 2009. The phrase, “It’s still early” will continue to pop up in these posts for the better part of April and May whether the results are good or bad, but Northsiders have to be feeling upbeat this week after the last half-decade watching the Cubs fall behind early and then have their bats silenced too.

There’s fight in these Cubs, that’s for sure and man, is it fun to watch. Monday night’s contest saw Jon Lester fall behind 3 – 0 early in the first inning only for the Cubs to come back and tie it in the bottom half. Lester again gave up three more runs in sixth inning, watching his ERA balloon to 7.84 on the season. Surprisingly, the Cubs Ace was the only cause for concern last night as his teammates picked him up in a big way.

Jorge Soler

Jorge Soler led the way with three hits, two of them Home Runs, and four RBI’s. Chris Coghlan added three hits as well, providing a solo dinger in the sixth. The Cubs not only battled, they persevered, outlasting the Reds in ten innings and providing these young Cubs with some much-needed confidence that they can came through late. After the sixth inning, Lester exited and the Cubs bullpen was lights out from there on allowing only three hits over four innings and no runs.

Most fans would agree that games like these are the ones that the Cubs of yesteryear would find a way to lose. The fact that they haven’t in the last three games should prove that these aren’t those same Cubs. It’s still early but having minor victories feels good again especially if they lay the foundation for greater ones.

 

Next Up:

Tonight Vs. the Cincinnati Reds, Jake Arrieta takes the mound against Anthony Desclafani. Game time is 7:05 PM.

 

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Cubs Fall to Rockies in First Game on the Road

Posted on 11 April 2015 by Bob

The Cubs fell the to the Rockies 5 – 1 on Friday behind home runs from Troy Tulowitski and Justin Morneau for the Rockies as the Cubs once again struggled to score runs. Travis Wood lasted four and 2/3 innings allowing three runs on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts on Opening Day at Coors Field.

It’s still early so we’ll reserve judgement for now but it’s pretty clear that the Cubs major issue is scoring runs after going 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. The pitching should be a strength once guys get into a routine but it’s the hitting that is costing the Cubs right now.

A few more outings like this and you’ll hear the clamor for Kris Bryant rise to a fever pitch and the Cubs service time deadline can’t come soon enough.

Here’s to hoping for some positive news after tonight’s game.  First pitch is 7:10PM and Jason Hammel takes on Kyle Kendrick  as the Cubs continue their series with the Rockies at Coors Field.

Jason Hammel

 

 

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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 Start Season in Triple-A as Expected

Posted on 30 March 2015 by Bob

The Chicago Cubs made it official today trimming Kris Bryant and Javy Baez from the Major League roster and sending the pair to Triple-A Iowa as well as moving Addison Russell to minor league camp. Although the Baez move is intriguing given his call up late last year to the majors, these moves should surprise no one. It has been a foregone conclusion from day one that no matter what Bryant did he would be starting the season in Iowa. This is a service time issue and the Cubs weren’t going to trade 2 weeks of Bryant now for 6 months in 2021. Ask any reasonable Cubs fan and I guarantee you this move neither shocks nor offends them. Those columnists feigning outrage over the alleged disservice the Cubs are doing to their fans are simply sensationalizing a pretty cut and dry line of reasoning in the pursuit of controversial, eye-grabbing headlines.

Bryant

Yes, Bryant is one of the Cubs’ 25 best players and yes, he had the best spring of arguably anyone in baseball but I’d rather see Bryant in Cubbie Blue in 2021 than a few weeks earlier than I already will this year. I think even deep down that Bryant might be OK with this move. It gives him time to get in a good groove, demolishing minor league-early season pitching and then ascending at the right time to his spot in the Major League lineup potentially missing the hype-filled debut and subsequent lump-taking which befalls so many young rookies making the leap into the League (or at the very least minimizing those lumps).

Of course Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, will tell you otherwise and the talking heads will tell you that the Cubs are only hurting themselves but the fact is that those in favor of his inclusion in the Opening Day lineup are either in it for the money or they simply cannot wait any longer to see what the hype is about and actually have some copy that doesn’t contain the words: “Kris Bryant” and “Cubs prospect” in the same sentence.  They will get their wish soon enough and something tells me that come July all this will all be an after-thought.

As for Baez, it’s pretty clear that for all his power and promise he won’t be doing anyone any good with all those strikeouts. It’s best to have him work out those issues in Triple A for a bit instead of attempting to break the strikeout record with a full year in the majors. He needs more time, as does Russell. The Cubs aren’t going to change their system no matter how extraordinary the talent surging up their ranks has proven to be.

Cubs fans should rejoice.  A new season is upon us with some actual reasons to cheer.  Next year is almost here and it’s an important one.

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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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Lester Sharp Again as Cubs Get 1st “W”

Posted on 12 March 2015 by Bob

Jon Lester looked every bit the player the Cubs had hoped for in his second Cactus League start throwing first-pitch strikes to ten of the eleven batters to step into the box and demonstrating the laser-sharp focus this team needs to start the year out right. “If you’re out there pumping strikes, especially that first pitch, guys are already going up there either on the defense or up there hacking,” Lester said, as he aims to dominate the strike zone early and often. His aggressiveness paid off in the Cubs picking up their first win of this young season.

Jon Lester

Miguel Montero caught Lester for the first time on Wednesday as the duo gave up only three hits and struck out two with no runs allowed through three innings setting the tone for the 4-3 win over Zack Greinke, Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers. Mike Olt has been the breakout star of spring training thus far with a .400 batting average after collecting two more hits.

With the monkey off their back, the Cubs can now turn to playing sound fundamental baseball and doing the little things right to make Manager Joe Maddon happy. “Physical mistakes are fine,” Maddon said “The mental mistakes will kill you. Physical mistakes are part of this game. Mental mistakes have no part in this game.”

The learning process continues as coaches and players get a feel for one another. It’s preferable to take their lumps now and be ready to go come April 5th. There are glimmers, here and there, but we still haven’t seen the Cubs put it all together. Keeping up their focus will go a long ways toward helping this team gel and hopefully not go so long before earning their next win.

Mike Olt

Next Up: Jason Hammel makes his second start against Sean Newcomb and the LA Angels today at 2:10PM CST.

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