Cubs go with closer-by-committee just not Marmol or Cashner

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Cubs go with closer-by-committee just not Marmol or Cashner

The Boston media had fun with the closer-by-committee idea once Theo Epstein began running the Red Sox in 2003.

Thats where the Cubs are now, feeling their way through the ninth inning, though the stakes are clearly much lower, making a big-time closer a luxury item.

That Red Sox team made it to Game 7 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium, before a dramatic home run from Aaron Bleeping Boone ended it in the 11th inning.

By process of elimination, manager Dale Sveum is down to Shawn Camp and James Russell, and that will depend on matchups and the game situation.

The Cubs activated Carlos Marmol from the disabled list on Monday, and optioned Rafael Dolis to Triple-A Iowa. Dolis lasted about three weeks as closer and went 0-2 with a 24.00 ERA in his last five outings.

Sveum had a sarcastic response when a reporter asked if Marmol will go back to closing: He wasnt in the closer role when he left.

Its out of sight, out of mind, but there was Andrew Cashner sitting in the visiting dugout at Wrigley Field, a Padres hat on his head and sunglasses shielding his eyes.

Not that long ago, the Cubs seemed to have so many endgame solutions before Sean Marshall was traded to the Reds, Jeff Samardzija moved into the rotation and Kerry Wood retired.

People see the 6.35 ERA now, but Marmol earned that 20 million contract by going 49-for-54 in save chances during his first year-plus on the job.

Cashner, the 19th overall pick in the 2008 draft, had closed at Texas Christian University and the organization was split on his future through the final months of the Jim Hendry administration.

But Epstein and new general manager Jed Hoyer determined that Cashner would max out as a reliever, not a starter, and that wasnt as valuable as a future first baseman. So Cashner went to San Diego last winter in the Anthony Rizzo deal.

A lot changes when a new regime comes in, Cashner said. I wasnt their guy. I was one of Jim Hendrys guys. (Its) one of those things that you deal with and life goes on.

Cashner missed almost all of last season with a right shoulder injury, but is back throwing around 100 mph out of the Padres bullpen. He was widely viewed as a good guy in the Cubs clubhouse, but didnt appreciate a reporter inquiring about his health this time.

Really? Youre gonna ask me that question? Unbelievable.

Cubs officials once played up the comparisons between Cashner and Kid K. Growing up in Texas, Cashner idolized Wood. Cashner watched Woods final strikeout on television and sent him a text message the other day.

It was awesome, Cashner said. To get a chance to play with him for a year was pretty special.

Hoyer said the Cubs are targeting power arms in the upcoming amateur draft, and believes that the best bullpens are built from within. Thats a window into how the front office is thinking.

The Cubs are willing to experiment and try to develop their own closer. They seem less likely to go out and buy one. They know that relievers are notoriously difficult to project from one year to the next.

Marmol worked to regain the feel for his slider and fastball while recovering from his hamstring strain, and maybe the time away from Wrigley Field helped his state of mind.

It could be the same way for the 24-year-old Dolis, who skipped the Triple-A level on the way to the big leagues.

Its not even a rookie (thing), Marmol said. For everybody, its tough. When you go out there to close the game, you know its very important, because everybody before that did everything to put you in that position. It took them three hours.

When youre struggling to throw strikes, its not an easy thing. You got to be strong mentally.

Kris Bryant blasts Cubs to win over Dodgers

Kris Bryant blasts Cubs to win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – The “MVP! MVP! MVP!” chants started at Dodger Stadium late Friday night, Cubs fans celebrating Kris Bryant’s two-run homer in the 10th inning of a wild comeback win.

Until Clayton Kershaw returns to full strength and stares down hitters from 60 feet, six inches and unleashes his entire arsenal, it’s impossible to know how the Cubs would stack up against Los Angeles in October. But it’s still safe to say this would be an epic playoff matchup between two big-market, star-studded franchises, with two iconic ballparks becoming the backdrop, celebrity row after celebrity row.

As a quiet, humble homebody who sometimes sounds boring on purpose, Bryant doesn’t have a Hollywood personality. But this is also someone who loves the big stage and wants to be the best. The Cubs won this round with Bryant, who launched his 34th and 35th home runs in a 6-4 victory, an MVP-worthy season becoming the sequel to his Rookie of the Year campaign.

When a crowd of 48,609 got loud in the seventh after Dodgers cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez drove Justin Grimm’s 94-mph fastball over the right-center field wall for a 4-2 lead, Bryant responded the next inning with a home run off Joe Blanton that landed in the center-field seats blacked out for the batter’s eye. 

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Here’s how Bryant could win it in the 10th inning, and why manager Joe Maddon will want Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward in a playoff lineup:

In the middle of a frustrating offensive season where he’s felt the weight of a $184 million contract, Heyward led off the ninth inning by ripping a double into the right-field corner off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Heyward hustled to third base when new Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz couldn’t handle strike three against Jorge Soler. Heyward ran home to score the game-tying run when a Jansen wild pitch sailed toward the backstop.

But a $250 million team is extremely resourceful, even with Kershaw (back) not pitching for two months, one of 27 players the Dodgers have stashed on the disabled list, tying a major-league record. The Dodgers have cycled through 14 different starting pitchers, relying on depth and a strong lineup and an imposing back end of the bullpen to surge into first place in the National League West. 

“How about last year?” Maddon said. “We beat up on the Mets during the season, we go (into the playoffs) and we can’t even touch them. It’s such a different animal. People get hot or people get cold and actually the weather gets cold and everything does change.

“I know what we’re talking about. I’m not going to diminish the fact I’m going to be paying attention. But things change. Trends can be so trendy, to quote Yogi. So I don’t get too far ahead, because things can change very quickly.”   

In the Gym at EFT: Wide receiver skill development

In the Gym at EFT: Wide receiver skill development

In the first edition of EFT Football Academy, TF North graduate Landon Cox, who was a star wide receiver at Northern Illinois and later in the NFL, shares some tips on how to become a better receiver and be more efficient on the field.

Cox is a Performance Specialist and wide receiver coach at EFT. In this segment Cox works on a few different techniques with Warren Township junior wide receiver Micah Jones.

EFT has evolved into the premier elite performance training facility in the Midwest, where every EFT football coach has NFL experience and the dedication to helping each player reach their potential. The EFT Football Academy is designed to assist in the development of grade school, high school, and collegiate football players.

Some of their off-season training experience includes 70+ active NFL athletes, six Super Bowl Champions, six Olympics, and more.

[MORE: High School Lites Football Roundup: Week 1]

In addition, performance includes explosive power development, positional movement pattern development, proper spring and change of direction mechanics, and more. Every EFT workout focuses on improving each athlete's overall abilities like speed development, agility and mobility, acceleration and deceleration, and strength and condition — just to name a few.

Former Bears wide receiver Devin Hester called it "the best workout in the world."

Watch Cox's tips in the video above, and be sure to look out for next week's edition on CSNChicago.com.

How Mike Montgomery fits into big-picture plans for Cubs

How Mike Montgomery fits into big-picture plans for Cubs

LOS ANGELES – In their never-ending search for young pitching, the Cubs discussed a Matt Moore deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, but wouldn’t consider trading Kyle Schwarber. To get Moore at the Aug. 1 deadline, the San Francisco Giants had to surrender the runner-up to Kris Bryant in last season’s National League Rookie of the Year race (Matt Duffy), plus two more prospects.

Moore finished one out short of a no-hitter on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, throwing 133 pitches against a deep Los Angeles lineup, two-plus years after having Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Whether or not Moore helps shift the balance of power in the National League West, the Cubs should still have enough pitching.

To get through October. As long as John Lackey (shoulder) comes off the disabled list in early September and the rest of the rotation stays healthy. Surviving next season and beyond could be a different story, if Jake Arrieta becomes another team’s 2018 Opening Day starter, if Jon Lester breaks down in the middle of that $155 million megadeal and assuming Lackey finally retires around the 3,000-inning mark.

All that makes Mike Montgomery an interesting lefty swingman if the Cubs are going to maintain The Foundation for Sustained Success.

“I think he is a major-league starter, regardless of what happens tonight,” manager Joe Maddon said before Friday’s wild 6-4 comeback win that took 10 innings at Dodger Stadium. “This guy has the ability to be a solid major-league starter based on his strength level, his delivery, the variety of pitches that he throws. The strike-throwing ability is exceptional. He’s got all those different things going on.

“Just be a little bit patient with (him) and let him get his feet on the ground somewhere, because he’s the kind of guy that can take off if he gets comfortable in his environment.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

If Montgomery didn’t ace this audition, he also didn’t bomb against a first-place team in front of a big crowd (48,609), either, showing the potential the Cubs saw in making last month’s trade with the Seattle Mariners.

Montgomery kept the Cubs in the game before Bryant’s clutch performance, allowing three runs in five innings and minimizing the damage on a night where he didn’t have pinpoint control (four walks, hit batter, wild pitch, 49 strikes across 91 pitches).

The Cubs are in trouble if Montgomery somehow winds up in this year’s playoff rotation, but he checks a lot of boxes for the future as someone with youth (27), size (6-foot-5), first-round/top-prospect pedigree, a high groundball rate and a service-time clock that won’t make him a free agent until after the 2021 season.