Posted on 18 May 2011 by Lou
Can it get any worse? 7’s were wild as the Reds swept the Cubs in a quick 2-game series in Cincinnati this week. The 2nd ugly loss in a row to the Reds dropped the Cubs 7 games back of the 1st place Reds in the NL Central race. All 7 runs scored by the Reds in the 7-4 win were of the “unearned” variety because of 4 errors committed by Cubs players. Sure 2 of the errors came from pitchers Matt Garza and Kerry Wood, so maybe those runs should not be considered “unearned”, but the Cubs clearly did not get the message that Skipper Mike Quade was trying to send when he held a closed-door meeting after Monday’s embarrassing loss.
Ryan Dempster looks to help stop the bleeding for the Cubs when he takes on former Cubs pitcher Ricky Nolasco and the Marlins in Miami tonight…
Posted on 10 May 2011 by Lou
Carlos Zambrano and Chris Carpenter will square off in the opener of the Cubs-Cards series at Wrigley Field tonight. Big Z is 4-1 on the season with a 4.23 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. He has allowed just 3 ER over 14 innings in his last 2 starts against the DBacks and Dodgers on the road. In his last start at Wrigley, the Dodgers rocked Zambrano for 6 ER in just 5 innings pitched – his shortest outing of the season thus far.
One interesting game note – Mike Quade has moved Starlin Castro down to the #7 spot in the lineup – his lowest spot all season. Castro is in the middle of a bad slump and Quade wants to take some pressure off the youngster and offer some protection for Carlos Pena who is hitting in the 6-hole and starting to show pop in his bat with several home runs over the last few games. We’ll see how this one plays out and hoe quickly Quade moves Castro back up in the lineup.
The Cubs are 15-18 and they trail the Cards by 4 games in the NL Central race. After losing 2 of 3 to the Reds over the weekend, the Cubs really need to get a series win over the Cards this week. Let’s hope they get off to a good start tonight…
Posted on 31 March 2011 by Lou
Manager Mike Quade announced that Darwin Barney will be the Cubs starting 2nd baseman for the 2011 club on Friday. Barney will be the first rookie to start on Opening Day since Kosuke Fukudome started in right for the Cubs as a 30-year old rookie back in 2008. Barney compiled a solid .340 batting average in 21 spring training games. Jeff Baker put up a good fight with Barney, hitting .360 in 19 Cactus League games, but Quade opted to go with the rookie right off the bat. Barney is excited to make the start – “No butterflies yet, but I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity, but there’s one thing on my mind, and that’s trying to win the ballgame. And I think that’s what this whole team is looking to do. We’re looking to get off to a good start.”
Blake DeWitt, who was considered the front runner heading into spring training this February for the starting 2nd base job, had a rough spring. DeWitt hit only .186 in 21 spring games as he continues to work through the mechanics of a new swing with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. That being said, Quade also indicated that the left-handed hitting DeWitt will likely start at 2nd base against a right-handed pitcher early on this season – probably in the 1st week.
This is a surprising outcome, but if you go with performance, Barney clearly had the bet showing in spring training this year. It is also great to see that Quade has control over the team and can make his own decisions without having to worry about GM Jim Hendry trying to influence things too much. Naming Ryan Dempster the Cubs’ opening day starter instead of Carlos Zambrano is another example of Quade making his own decisions and doing whatever it takes to give his club the best chance to win each day. I like his attitude and make–up so far. Now we’ll have to see if it translates consistently into W’s this season…
Posted on 29 March 2011 by Lou
The Cubs made the right move by sending Catcher Wellington Castillo down to Triple-A Iowa to continue getting regular playing time to learn and grow as a catcher. Sure Castillo hit much better than Koyie Hill who made the opening day roster as Geovany Soto’s back up. Castillo had 12 hits in 19 at-bats while Hill had only 1 hit in 31 at-bats this spring. But having Castillo play once a week with the Cubs at the major league level wouldn’t do him any good and it wouldn’t do the Cubs any good when it was time for Castillo to step up and play a more prominent catching role for the Cubs sometime in the near future.
Manager Mike Quade is thrilled with Castillo’s development thus far – “If he’ll keep his nose to the grindstone and do what he’s done the last year, he’s going to get better and better, and he’ll have some kind of future. The sky’s the limit for this guy.” Quade indicated that Castillo has work to do in managing pitchers and calling games, but that he is headed in the right direction. He also confirmed that Hill has a great grasp of the Cubs pitchers strengths and weaknesses and will serve as a quality back up for Soto during the 2011 MLB schedule.
This is definitely the right move. Hopefully Castillo has a healthy and productive year at the Triple-A level and then he will be ready to step up and claim the back-up catcher’s role in 2012. By playing every day at Triple-A, Castillo should also be ready to go in case Hill or Soto get hurt at some point during the regular season.
Posted on 24 March 2011 by Lou
The Cubs cut 4 pitchers from there spring training camp roster this week. Lefty Scott Maine and righty Justin Berg were 2 of the casualties and they will start the season at Triple-A Iowa. There was an outside chance that Maine was going to make the opening day roster, but with a healthy Sean Marshall, John Grabow and James Russell, the Cubs decided not to keep 4 lefties in the bullpen. Manager Mike Quade had this to say about Maine’s progress – “He pitched great for me last year and he’s had an OK spring but it’s command with him and experience. He was a starter for a long time and is continuing to learn abuot pitching out of the pen and how to make 18 pitches work for you instead of having 70 or 80 to figure it out.” Maine appeared in 13 MLB games for the Cubs in 2010. He had a nifty 2.08 ERA with 11 K’s in 13 innings pitched and looks to have a bright future with the Cubs at only 26 years of age.
Berg, on the other hand, had a rough spring. He only pitched 4 innings and gave up 10 ER (7 runs in one outing) on 8 hits in the process. Berg had trouble with his control and keeping pitches down, so he will head to the minors to continue to get ready for the upcoming season.
Todd Wellemeyer and Angel Guzman were the other 2 players cut. Guzman is recovering from right shoulder surgery and is scheduled to make his first appearance in a game next week. Wellemeyer was a non-roster invitee and has been bothered by a sore hip all spring. It is unclear what Wellemeyer plans to do for the rest of the season.
We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything else on who ends up winning the 5th starting spot in the rotation and the 2nd base job that is still up for grabs as well.
Posted on 22 March 2011 by Lou
Has Andrew Cashner done enough this spring to claim the 5th and final spot in the Cubs starting rotation? That is a very good question.
Cashner started Monday’s rain out and made it through 3 rough innings in cold and wet weather conditions. He allowed 4 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks and said that it was tough to control anything out there. He still thinks he has a shot to be a starter in 2011 – “I think I’ve thrown the ball well this whole spring and whatever decision they come up with, that’s what I’m going to do. I thought I’ve given it my best shot. I could’ve pitched better, but I thought I pitched well enough so we’ll see what happens.”
Cashner’s main competition is coming from Carlos Silva. But Silva has had an awful spring with an ERA over 15.00.
The decision might come down to something that has nothing to do with pitching performance. Silva has always been a starter and is likely more effective as a starter (assuming he has the right stuff going). Cashner, on the other hand, pitched the entire 2010 MLB season out of the bullpen and at a young age, the Cubs might opt to take it slow with Cashner. The Cubs might want to limit the number of pitches that Cashner throws this season, and pitching out of the bullpen would be the perfect way to do that. Cashner could work on his pitches in relief and he is a dependable arm in the bullpen as well.
We’ll have to see what Manager Mike Quade and the Cubs decide to do. I have a feeling they are going to play it safe and go with Silva as the #5 starter and Cashner as a reliever. If Silva falters after a few starts, then the Cubs could decide to try to move him in a trade and bring in Cashner as the 5th starter. If Silva excels, the Cubs could still try to move Silva when his trade value is high and use Cashner as the 5th starter or bring someone else up from the minor leagues to take that 5th spot. Given the uncertainty of this 2011 MLB club, I have a feeling that the safe option with Silva as #5 will prevail, even though I would prefer that the Cubs allow Cashner to learn on the job during a season where there should be little pressure on the Cubs to do well.
Posted on 21 March 2011 by Lou
Randy Wells pitched 6 strong innings of 1-run ball as the Cubs defeated the San Francisco Giants 3-2 in 10 innings. With less than 2 weeks left before the start of the 2011 MLB schedule, it looks like Randy Wells has made the strongest case out of any of the potential starters for that coveted 4th spot in the starting rotation. Wells allowed the 1st two batters to reach base, including an RBI single by former Cub Mike Fontenot to plate the 1st run of the game. Then he proceeded to retire the next 18 batters that he faced. Wells did not issue a walk, he struck out 7 and he continued to work at a fast pace keeping his pitches down. When Wells has his sinker going and when he gets into a groove, he can be a very difficult pitcher to face. And while Manager Mike Quade did not officially name Wells a starter, he made it clear that he has been very pleased with Wells’ effort this spring.
Marlon Byrd had 2 hits in the Cubs win, as did Bobby Scales. Wellington Castillo won the game for the Cubs with a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Posted on 19 March 2011 by Lou
Errors continue to plague the Cubs this spring. The Cubs played 2 split squad games on Tuesday – a 4-2 loss to the Rockies & an 8-1 win over the A’s. In each game, the Cubs committed 2 errors. That brought the Cubs error total to 29 this spring. 29 errors in only ?! That is unacceptable. The Cubs 29 errors are tops in the majors this spring – not a stat you should be proud of…
If the poor fielding trend continues into the real games once the 2011 major league starts on April 1st, it could mean a long season for the Cubs. You can’t give opposing teams 4 outs in an inning too often throughout the season. That type of performance is going to lead to a lot of close losses and those losses add up in a tough NL Central this season. Let’s hope Quade and the rest of the coaching staff can get the team back on track before camp breaks in 2 weeks…
Posted on 16 March 2011 by Lou
Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner both made good starts on Tuesday which could mean that the duo will round out the Cubs 2011 starting rotation.
Cashner tossed 3 1/3 innings in a split squad game against the A’s, giving up just 1 ER on 2 hits and 3 walks. He had 2 strikeouts. Manager Mike Quade is impressed with the fact that Cashner seems confident in his ability to be effective as a starter at the major league level even though he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the Cubs in 2010: “That will take him a long way in his development. I think he enjoys starting. He’s put his heart and soul into this, and I don’t think there’s something in the back that says, ‘Really, I’m a reliever.’ I think hes’ bought into this completely.”
As for Wells, he finally gave up his first runs of the spring. He was tagged for 3 runs (2 earned) in 5 innings of a split squad loss against the Rockies. He has now pitched 14 excellent innings this spring and hopes that he will claim a rotation spot soon. “I have a lot to prove. I don’t think you ca ever do enough. If you’re on that plane to Chicago, you still haven’t done enough… We’ll just keep it rolling and hopefully stay in a nice groove, keep the confidence up and stay healthy, and hopefully everything works out.”
Let’s hope Cashner and Wells keep it up. I would love to see the two make the starting rotation and I would love for GM Jim Hendry to find someone to take on Carlos Silva and his crazy salary. Even if the Cubs have to eat half of it in a trade, I think it would be great for Cashner to get some excellent major league experience as a starter during this “up-in-the-air” 2011 Cubs campaign…
Posted on 28 February 2011 by Lou
It wasn’t the way Mike Quade envisioned his 1st spring training game going in his first full season as the official manager of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs lost to the Oakland A’s 15-7, committing 3 errors in the process.
But it is only the first game of spring and there is plenty of time to get things going in a different direction for the underdog Cubs in 2011.
Carlos Zambrano looked exceptional in his 2011 debut. Zambrano pitched to the minimum number of batters in his 2 innings of work. He walked one and struck out 2 and looked like the Carlos Zambrano who finished the 2010 campaign with 8 straight wins down the stretch.
Matt Garza, on the other hand, looked like he needed a lot of work. Garza served up a grand slam to Coco Crisp in his 1st inning of work and ended up giving up 5 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk. Garza was not deterred, however, by the fact that he gave up those 5 runs. “Today, my job was to get outs, and I got six of them, but not the way I wanted to go about it. It’s spring, I wasn’t throwing any breaking balls today, just fastballs and changeups. My location was off… It’s spring. At least the ball felt good coming out of my hand, it felt very explosive towards home plate. Everything that needs to be there is there. I’m not too worried about numbers right now. I’m just trying to get after it and work up a little sweat, which is difficult in Arizona.”
Let’s hope Garza has a better 2nd outing. Garza also got his first major league hit in his only at-bat of the day.