After rainout, Cubs face questions on pitching staff

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After rainout, Cubs face questions on pitching staff

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 3:52 p.m. Updated: 4:12 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Riding in their charter jet toward Phoenix, the Cubs will discuss what to do with their pitching staff.

Their decision-makers bought some more time with Wednesdays rainout. The Colorado Rockies will return to Wrigley Field for a rescheduled game on June 27 at 1:20 p.m.

The rotation lines up like this against the Arizona Diamondbacks: Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza, and thats reassuring for a 10-13 team on three-game losing streak, even if those frontline starters havent met expectations yet.

Casey Coleman who was set to start Wednesday against the Rockies will be pushed back to Sundays series finale in Arizona.

The fifth starter is still an open question. General manager Jim Hendry, manager Mike Quade and pitching coach Mark Riggins will go over the options for Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

The Cubs have been reluctant to move Jeff Samardzija (2-0, 3.14) into the rotation now that hes finally showing progress as a reliever. James Russell has struggled in his three spot starts 0-3 with a 11.17 ERA and the Cubs believe his future is in the bullpen.

Twenty-three year-old Jay Jackson a well-regarded prospect whos made two starts at Triple-A Iowa after dealing with elbow tendinitis could be the best candidate from within the minor-league system.

Weve got a long plane ride to kick some things around, Quade said. Well see where were at.

While up in the air, the staff will also try to figure out how to proceed with Randy Wells (forearm strain) and Andrew Cashner (rotator cuff strain). The Cubs declined to reveal what came out of their scheduled re-evaluations with Dr. Stephen Gryzlo, but seem to be thinking about next steps in their rehabilitations.

Everythings gone according to schedule, Quade said. Ive had some fun with them, getting after them for being payroll bandits and neither ones very happy about their (situation). Theyre champing at the bit, (but) someones got to back them down a little bit or theyll go too far too fast.

Nothing has gone according to plan with a rotation that was supposed to be one of the teams strengths. The Cubs have submitted six quality starts the lowest total in the majors and their staff's overall 4.92 ERA ranks second-to-last in the game.

There hasnt been nearly enough offense to cover up those mistakes. The average game-time temperature at Wrigley Field this season is 47 degrees, and six of the 14 home games have had starting temps of 43 or lower.

People are not comfortable with the weather, Alfonso Soriano said. As soon as we have nice weather and (get) a couple more hits, a couple more homers, I think well be in good shape.

Its not easy to play here, especially with the cold weather and the wind blowing in all the time. But we got to be patient.

Carlos Pena is still waiting for his first home run in a Cubs uniform. Aramis Ramirez has reached base safely in his first 22 games, but has generated only one homer. The team is hitting .229 with runners in scoring position.

The Cubs insist that its too early to panic, that the sample sizes are too small and everything will start to even out. Arizona would be a good place to start. Everything begins with pitching.

Its not me, Ramirez said. Were hitting .280 as a team and thats pretty good. (We) just got to keep doing it. The pitchings going to come around.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Joe Maddon’s messaging to Cubs before the 2017 campaign

Joe Maddon’s messaging to Cubs before the 2017 campaign

Joe Maddon's Washington itinerary didn't include an hour-long sit-down with Chuck Todd for NBC's "Meet the Press." There would be no rehashing the manager's Game 7 decisions as he stood outside the West Wing, though the second question during the media stakeout involved "last year's team" and how the 2017 Cubs are prepared to defend a World Series title.

"You're already there, huh?" Maddon said to a CNN reporter, minutes after President Barack Obama's final official White House event ended on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

But last year's team is gone — preserved now in highlight films and the hearts and minds of generations of Cub fans — even if so many familiar faces will be in Mesa when pitchers and catchers officially report to Arizona on Valentine's Day.

It would be impossible to replicate everything that made the 2016 Cubs so special. Baseball has its own relentless pace and the dynamics are constantly shifting. (Remember when players were passive-aggressively complaining about Maddon's spring-training approach during the final week of a 103-win regular season?) The clubhouse chemistry will inevitably feel different after climbing a Mount Everest of professional sports.

"A mind once stretched has a very difficult time going back to its original form," Maddon said. "We're motivated by it. We want to do it again, of course. There's no question we're trying to do that.

"I'm really leaning on the phrase or the thought of being uncomfortable. I want us to be uncomfortable. I think the moment you get into your comfort zone after having such a significant moment in your life like that, the threat is that you're going to stop growing.

"So I really want us to be uncomfortable. I really want to continue (to see) a pattern of growth and really try to get at them very quickly again."

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Can Jason Heyward recover from one of the worst offensive seasons in the majors last year? Is Willson Contreras ready to be a frontline catcher? Will Javier Baez have to adjust back to being a role player after becoming a playoff superstar? Does Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot and Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay in a center-field timeshare represent an upgrade over Dexter Fowler?

If healthy, Wade Davis should be a trusted, lower-maintenance closer than Aroldis Chapman, with an advanced approach to pitching and more clubhouse presence. As a staff, the Cubs will have to bounce back from pitching into early November (or not, in the case of the relievers Maddon didn't trust during the playoffs).

As it stands, Jon Lester (33) and John Lackey (38) have already combined to throw almost 5,000 innings in The Show (including the postseason). Jake Arrieta will have to deal with the pressure of playing for his megadeal in his final season before becoming a free agent.

The drop-off after Mike Montgomery — and it's still mostly projected potential with the No. 5 starter — appears to be very steep in an organization that doesn't have any high-end pitching prospects in the upper levels of the farm system.

After painting the bull's-eye on the chest and turning "Embrace The Target" and "Try Not To Suck" into viral T-shirts, a guy who hates meetings is still working on his themes for this campaign.

"I'm really rotating around the thought of authenticity," Maddon said. "I talked about it a lot last year, the fact that I think authenticity has a chance to repeat itself without even trying. It's part of who you are. It's not fabricated. It's real.

"I've talked about our guys a lot the last couple years. I think one of our strongest qualities is the authentic component of our players. So I'm really focusing on that word right now. Again, that's a great word to bring an entire message from (when) you get in front of the group that first day in spring training.

"I kind of just think like authenticity happens. And let's work it from there."

The costumes should be in midseason form with Maddon planning a house party around Tampa's Gasparilla Pirate Festival before driving his RV from Florida to Arizona.

Maddon will turn 63 on Feb. 8 and have to keep evolving, just like his players, who might outgrow some of those gimmicks. But the Cubs are still a reflection of their future Hall of Fame manager.

Amid all the uncertainty in Washington, Maddon wouldn't touch a question about what advice he would give Donald Trump before Friday's inauguration.

"I'm not even going to go anywhere close to that," Maddon said. "I will say this: I have a lot of respect of the office.

"At the end of the day, just have a lot of respect for the office, regardless of your political persuasion. My point would be to encourage people to really respect the office and let's see what we get done here over the next four years."

CSN Chicago will live stream Cubs, White Sox games in 2017

CSN Chicago will live stream Cubs, White Sox games in 2017

CSN will live stream Cubs and White Sox games plus pre and postgame shows throughout the 2017 season.

This is thrilling news for all Chicago baseball fans and comes at an absolutely perfect time for a Cubs fanbase that will spend the rest of the year reveling in the 2016 World Series championship.

White Sox fans will also gain more opportunities to get up-close looks at the future as the South Siders continue on with their rebuild.

Both teams and the pre and post shows will be streamed on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports app.

CSN already streams Bulls and Blackhawks games and pre/post shows.

"We are thrilled to launch live streaming of our Chicago White Sox and Cubs telecasts beginning this MLB season," said Phil Bedella, Vice President/General Manager of CSN Chicago. "With live streaming currently offered for our Bulls and Blackhawks telecasts, the addition of MLB streaming further illustrates our commitment to provide our viewers with the most in-depth and compelling Cubs and White Sox content in and out of the home and on any device."

The complete CSN broadcasting schedules for Cubs and White Sox telecasts will be released over the next couple weeks.

"We are very pleased that our partners at CSN will be able to provide fans with the opportunity to watch the White Sox anywhere," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. "Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for fans to watch their White Sox, regardless of where they are or what they are doing.  Sports fans deserve to see all the action all season long."

"After such a historic season, we are thrilled Cubs fans will be able to stream games on their choice of device, either inside or outside the home," Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said. "This access has been years in the making for our fans, but the timing is awfully good given the excitement around the 2017 campaign."

For more information, check out the complete press release.