Tag Archive | "Joe Maddon"

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Hammel Out-Dueling Samardzija as Cubs Host Sox

Posted on 27 March 2015 by Lou

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The Cubs are hosting their cross-town rival White Sox at Sloan Park this afternoon.  Former Cubs Jeff Samardzija is facing his former Cubs team for the 1st time since being traded to the Oakland A’s in July 2014.  Ironically, he is squaring off against Jason Hammel who was also sent to the A’s with Samardzija in that July trade.

Fortunately for the Cubs, Hammel is out-dueling the White Sox opening day starter through 4 innings.  The Cubs have a 4-0 lead.  Hammel has given up just 3 hits in his 4 innings of work.

The Cubs got to Samardzija right away in the 1st inning.  Dexter Fowler led off the inning with a single.  One batter later, he came around to score on Jorge Soler’s 2-run home run.  That put the Cubs up 2-0.  In the bottom of the 4th, Starlin Castro touched Samardzija for a solo home run.

After losing 2 straight, it would be nice for the Cubs to muster a win against the Sox.  After a lot of cuts this week, the Cubs roster is starting to take shape.  Manager Joe Maddon will also start managing games the full 9 innings pretty soon, especially during the last week of spring training.  Getting on a nice role these last 7-8 games should go a long way in giving the Cubs confidence heading into the home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field on April 5th.

Go Cubs Go!

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Lester “Dead Arm” Has Cubs On Cautious Track With Ace

Posted on 24 March 2015 by Lou

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While there is no long-term concern for Jon Lester’s “dead arm” causing major issues throughout the 2015 MLB season, the Cubs are taking a cautious approach with their well-paid ace.

Lester missed his scheduled start last Saturday, but is still on track to pitch the Cubs home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 5th.  Lester had a good bullpen session yesterday, but the Cubs have already said that he will be limited to only 60 pitches in his next start on Thursday.  He will have one more tune-up start next Tuesday where he will be limited to 80 pitches.  Assuming all goes well during these final 2 spring starts, Lester should be all ready to go against the Cards.  But don’t expect him to throw more than 90-100 pitches in the home opener.

Joe Maddon doesn’t seem concerned: “I’m not concerned who he pitches against.  He just needs somebody standing up there so he gets the requisite number of pitches thrown. If he says he feels good, then I feel good.”  Lester will go against other minor league teams during the final 2 starts so the Cubs can control the environment in which he pitches.  During a minor league game in spring training, the teams can agree to end an inning whenever they want.  So when Lester reaches his 60-pitch limit, the teams will agree to just end the inning at that point in the game.

As for Lester, he acknowledges that he has dealt with similar “dead arm” issues in the past and he is confident he will be ready to go come April 5th.  “Everything is fine.  At the time it felt like the right thing to do. There is no reason to push yourself.”

Let’s hope he is right…

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Hammel Sharp, But Cubs Lose 6-1 to Padres

Posted on 23 March 2015 by Lou

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The Cubs have started to play a lot better over the last week and a half, but Sunday was not meant to be.  Jason Hammel had his best spring outing – 9 strikeouts in 5 scoreless innings allowing just 3 hits.  But it was not enough — as Padres’ starter James Shields stymied the Cubs with 5 hitless innings.

Despite the loss, the Cubs have won 7 out of 10 and have been competitive in just about every game during this 2 week stretch.  They now sit in the middle of the Cactus League standings with a 9-11 record.

The Cubs have an off-day today, before squaring off against the Oakland A’s on Tuesday afternoon.  Edwin Jackson will get a chance to prove to Manager Joe Maddon that he deserves a spot in the rotation.  Right now, Travis Wood appears to be the front-runner for that spot, but anything can happen during the last 10 days of spring ball.  We may also see top prospect Kris Bryant in left field at some point during the contest.

We’ll keep you posted if anything else develops.

Go Cubs Go!

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Lester Looks Great in Cubs Debut

Posted on 07 March 2015 by Lou

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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

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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!!!

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Cubs Acquire Dexter Fowler From Astros For Luis Valbuena & Dan Straily

Posted on 19 January 2015 by Lou

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Theo & Co. clearly have a vision and they continue to make moves to improve the major league ballclub just about each and every day.  Today the Cubs announced a trade with the Houston Astros – CF Dexter Fowler for 3B Luis Valbuena and Pitcher Dan Straily.  This adds a proven hitter to the Cubs top of the lineup with Fowler – a career .271 hitter with a great .366 on-base percentage.  In 2014, Fowler boasted a phenomenal .375 on base-percentage with 120 hits and 66 walks in just 434 at-bats.

The Cubs ranked 28th in all of baseball in on-base percentage in 2014, so adding more consistent, patient batters was a clear mission for Theo & Co. this off-season.  The Cubs previously added reserve infielder Tommy La Stella from the Atlanta Braves (.328 on-base percentage in 2014) and Catcher Miguel Montero (.329 on-base percentage in a down 2014).   The addition of Fowler makes the lineup that much better, especially at the top of the order to set the table for the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler and eventually Kris Bryant.

Current Cubs hitting coach who came from the Astros this winter raved about Fowler’s plate approach: “He understands the strike zone so well, but it doesn’t take the attack out of him. He doesn’t just take pitches to take. He takes them because he recognizes the strike zone.”  Gotta love it.

It will be interesting to see what Manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs do with the rest of the lineup.  Fowler bumps Arismendy Alcantara out of the CF starting position and pushed him to more of a “super sub” role.  Alcantara could even make noise back in the infield with the 3rd base position wide open.  Or will we see La Stella share some time at 3rd base with Alcantara or Mike Olt until the arrival of Kris Bryant in late April.  This is just the kind of move that Maddon probably loved.  Maddon has a knack for moving his players around and getting the most out of his players, so having a “deeper” lineup to play around with in 2015 will sure make things more interesting.

The other interesting news was Max Scherzer going to the Nationals for $210 million over 7 years.  Does that mean the Nats will make one of their other “ace” starters available via trade sooner rather than during the course of the season.  We’ll write more about that over the next few days as it impacts the Cubs…

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Sold Out Cubs Convention Kicks Off Today

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Lou

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The Sold Out Cubs Convention kicks off today at the Chicago Sheraton & Towers.  Wish I was there to get a glimpse at Manager Joe Maddon and ace Lefty Jon Lester — there will probably be a lot of buzz surrounding the team this weekend.

Here’s a good little schedule of what to expect this – the “Friday Night with Ryan Dempster” would probably be pretty entertaining too.  That guys is a riot and now that he’s no longer playing, he can probably be even more candid than he usually is.

Not sure how thrilled I am that Anthony Rizzo predicted that the Cubs would knock off the Cards and Pirates for the NL Central Division title this year.  I’m sure Maddon and Theo & Co. are even less thrilled than me.  But you gotta like the confidence: “It’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to to play and we’re going to win the NL Central, you can quote me on that. We should be the team, with all due respect to every other team, we’re going to do some things this year. That’s what we’re going to put our sights on and we’re not going to accept anything else.” WOW!

It will be interesting to see if anyone else makes some bold claims like Rizzo during the course of the Cubs convention weekend.  We’ll keep you posted and Go Cubs Go!

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Cubs Get Their Man – Sign Jon Lester to 6 Year, $155 Million Deal

Posted on 10 December 2014 by Lou

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Finally, late last night the Cubs got the news they wanted.  Free agent lefty Jon Lester had decided to go with the Cubs.  Theo & Co. set their sights on Lester whom they knew so well from their days in Boston and they did what it took to convince that Lester that is was now his time to help lead a young Cubs squad to the promised land – a World Series Championship.  Lester was a “young pup” in the Red Sox organization when new GM Theo Epstein helped the Red Sox break the curse with an improbable 2004 World Series title over the St. Louis Cardinals.  And just a few short years later, Lester led the Red Sox to a 2nd World Series title in 2007 with a sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the Fall Classic.  And he won a 2nd World Series ring just 2 years ago with the Red Sox.  Now it’s his turn to help the Chicago Cubs break their 100+ year curse.  How sweet it would be to do it with his friends Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer at the helm.

Sure the $155 million had a lot to do with signing with the Cubs.  But Lester is an analytical guy and he wanted to make sure that Theo & Co. had a clear plan for the organization as a whole.  It didn’t hurt that the Cubs hired Joe Maddon just 1 month ago.  It didn’t hurt that he already knew players within the Cubs organization – he and Ryan Dempster bonded during their short time together in Boston and Dempster just joined the Cubs front office; Jason Hammel just signed a 2-year deal with the Cubs and he and Lester were teammates on the A’s during the 2nd half of 2014; and David Ross (his “personal catcher” with the Red Sox) has had talks with Theo & Co. about joining the Cubs as a backup.  Beyond that, the Cubs went out and upgraded their catcher position with a trade for Miguel Montero hours before they learned that Lester had made his decision to come to the north side.  It didn’t hurt that Lester knows that Theo & Co. are straight shooters who have won before.  And it didn’t hurt that Theo & Co. could also sell Lester on how great Chicago is.  They had long ties with the Boston area and it probably wasn’t an easy decision for them to leave 3 years ago.  But they did and they have embraced Cubs fans, the city and all it has to offer.  And they could make that clear to Lester — personally being able to tell him that sure Chicago was different than Boston, but it was just as good, if not better.

It was a perfect match.  The Cubs loved that at 30, Lester just had his best career year — 16-11 overall, 2.45 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP.  Even better than that, the Cubs know he can perform in the post-season.  In 14 appearances, Lester is 6-4 with a crazy good 2.57 ERA.  It gets even better looking at his World Series numbers — 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA.

We will definitely write more about the moves over the next few days.  So much to digest, and all signs point to the Cubs remaining active this off-season tweaking the roster here and there leading up to Spring Training.  After missing out on Russell Martin, this was huge for the Cubs to get their #1 free agent target.  What a day it was – checking twitter every few seconds, debunking false rumors, hoping Lester would pick us… And the he did.

We really wish it was Easter Sunday Night 2015 already — Joe Maddon coming out of the dugout with his 1st regular season Cubs lineup card — Jon Lester standing on the top step of the dugout getting ready to grab the ball for his start in a Cubs uniform at the Friendly Confines — the Cubs beating their hated rival St. Louis Cardinals and the Blue W Flag flying atop the new constructed outfield bleachers…  Can’t help imagining that same scene on a cool fall night in late October — Go Cubs Go!!!

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Jeff Samardzija Is On His Way Back To Chicago… on the South Side!

Posted on 09 December 2014 by Lou

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Jeff Samardzija is on his way back to Chicago! No, not with the Cubs but with the White Sox on the South Side.  White Sox GM Rick Hahn pulled off a silent strike – landing Jeff Samardzija to slot in right behind Chris Sale as his 1-A ace to make a terrific 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.  With both the Cubs and A’s in 2014, Samardzija went 7-13 with a combined 2.99 ERA.

Hahn also addressed the White Sox poor 2014 bullpen by outbidding everyone else for the services of the Yankees former closer David Robertson.  The White Sox sigtned Robertson to a 4-year, $46 million deal to help anchor the back of a bullpen that sported a 4.28 ERA and saved just 36 games during the season.  Robertson himself saved 39 games for the Yankees in 2014 and had a respectable 3.08 ERA.  The 29-year old has a 2.81 career ERA over 7 seasons.

The White Sox are clearly going for it in 2015, which is a little suprising in the tough AL Central.  It is tough to jump over 1 good team in the MLB landscape today, let alone 3 good teams in the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians.  By trading for Samardzija, the White Sox basically gave up their top prospect infielder – Marcus Semien – and a good starting pitcher prospect – Chris Bassitt.  Semien was close to major league ready and was expected to debut with theSox at some point in 2015.  Samardzija has already said he will test the free agent market after the season, so if the White Sox don’t resign him, they would have given up their top prospect for a 1 year rental.  And signing a closer to any deal with an average salary over $10 million never seems like a good idea to me.  But then again, the White Sox have always been a little unconventional.  Attendance on the south side has plummeted to all-time lows over the last 2 horrific seasons (99 losses in 2013 and 89 losses in 2014), so Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf clearly thought it was time to make some bold moves to get back into playoff contention.  I definitely would not have made these moves, but when you are also competing with a Cubs organization which by all accounts is on the cusp of a long period of sustained quality play buoyed by the depth of its minor league prospects, Reinsdorf was stuck between a rock and a hard place.  And if these moves help the White Sox squeeze in another World Championship Title in 2015 or 2016 before the Cubs run begins, Reinsdrof will be remembered for doing everything he could to help the White Sox win each and every season he held the reins.  And I give Reinsdrof and the Sox credit for going out on a limb like this — make something happen instead of waiting for good things to happen.

And I am writing about this in part because it does relate to what the Cubs plan to do this off-season.  Theo & Co. have been active in acquiring young talent over the last 3 seasons.  But it’s finally time for the Cubs to make some bold moves of their own.

This fall/winter, I finally feel like they are being more proactive in doing everything possible to field a complete team for new Manager Joe Maddon at the major league level.  Tommy La Stella has major league experience and can hopefully improve the Cubs on-base percentage during the regular season, even if he doesn’t play everyday.  Jason Hammel rebounded nicely under the tutelage of Chris Bosio during the 1st half of 2014 and hopefully he can regain that form with the Cubs in 2015.  If the Cubs can somehow outbid everyone else for Jon Lester’s services, they will have the ace they have long coveted.  And there are also rumors swirling about the Cubs pursuing catcher Miguel Montero from the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Sure Wellington Castillo is a solid backstop, but the Cubs missed out on Russell Martin and clearly think that Montero is an upgrade from Castillo both for his in-game pitch-calling and for his left-handed bat to create a more balanced offensive lineup for Maddon.  Theo & Co. are definitely not sitting back this winter and let’s hope they continue to explore options as the winter meetings progress this week.  There are no sure things when you sign a free agent or make a trade, but just the same – there are no sure things when you sit back and wait for good things to happen.

Stay tuned on Lester — heated negotiations between multiple teams over the last 24 hours have likely driven the price up more and delayed Lester’s ultimate decision…

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The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For – Cubs Sign… Dave Martinez?!

Posted on 04 December 2014 by Lou

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It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for since the Chicago Cubs hired Joe Maddon as its manager a few short weeks ago.  I know we’ve all been waiting patiently for this big announcement, but it was definitely worth the wait.  Joe Maddon and the Cubs officially hired Dave Martinez as the Cubs new bench coach.  What?  Were you expecting to hear something else?

Martinez served as Maddon’s bench coach with the Tampa Bay Rays since 2008.  Martinez bumped current bench coach Brandon Hyde over to a new role as Cubs first base coach.  Martinez was under contract with the Rays for 1 more season, but he chose to resign when the Rays passed him over for the Rays managerial position after Maddon left.  It’s unclear if the Cubs received permission from the Rays to speak with Martinez or if any compensation will go the Rays’s way with the hiring.  Seeing as the Rays passed him over and it is not a guarantee that the new Rays’ manager would keep Martinez as his bench coach, it only seems fair that the Rays would let Martinez talk to anyone about a new job, even the hated Cubs.

The Cubs drafted Martinez in the 3rd round of the 1983 draft.  Martinez had a 16-year major league career and is familiar with the rigors of playing at Wrigley Field.

Good news, right?

Oh yeah, still no word on that other guy being bantered about all over the internet this week.  Although now it seems like 2 more teams are officially in the mix for Jon Lester’s services — the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Stay tuned…

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