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.

Theo Epstein tops Fortune's list of World's 50 Greatest Leaders

Theo Epstein tops Fortune's list of World's 50 Greatest Leaders

The Cubs keep raking in the accolades.

Theo Epstein is the latest to be honored, with Fortune naming the Cubs president of baseball operations No. 1 on the newly-released list of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders.

Epstein — the architect of the Cubs team that ended a 108-year championship drought — beat out such names as Pope Francis, John McCain, LeBron James and Joe Biden.

Fellow Chicagoan and White Sox ambassador Chance the Rapper also made the list at No. 46.

The rationale for Epstein includes:

In his book The Cubs Way, Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer Tom Verducci details the five-year rebuilding plan that led to the team’s victory. The Cubs owe their success to a concatenation of different leadership styles, from the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts to the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of club president Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox. In the following passages, Verducci describes how a deeper understanding of important human qualities among his players—the character, discipline, and chemistry that turn skilled athletes into leaders—­enabled Epstein to engineer one of the most remarkable turnarounds in sports.

For more on why Epstein and the Cubs topped the list, head to Fortune.com.

Epstein had a classic reaction to the honor, texting ESPN's Buster Olney:

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house. That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball - a pastime involving a lot of chance. If Zobrist's ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Now what? Jon Lester driven to deliver more World Series titles to Chicago

Now what? Jon Lester driven to deliver more World Series titles to Chicago

MESA, Ariz. — Now what? Ryan Dempster believes these Cubs are young enough, hungry enough and talented enough to become the first group to win back-to-back World Series since the three-peat New York Yankees built a dynasty with titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

But Dempster already understands the expectations at Wrigley Field this season, especially after pitching on disappointing Cubs teams that got swept out of the playoffs and working as a special assistant in Theo Epstein's front office.

"Nothing can top it," Dempster said. "You can win 162 games and sweep everybody in the playoffs and it won't be as exciting for people, other than maybe the guys playing it."

That's why Jon Lester isn't putting up the "Mission Accomplished" banner at his locker, even though the Cubs had the parade down Michigan Avenue in mind when they gave him the biggest contract in franchise history at the time. Dempster — who also earned a World Series ring with the 2013 Boston Red Sox — had given Lester a scouting report as the Cubs went all-out in their pursuit of the big-game lefty.

There are still four years left on Lester's $155 million megadeal. It has been less than five months since the Cubs finally won the World Series and unleashed an epic celebration.

"Now the hard part is you don't get complacent," Lester said Wednesday after throwing six innings against an Oakland A's minor-league squad at the Sloan Park complex. "I talk about these young guys — that's where that helps. Even though you've accomplished things personally, you still want these guys to accomplish things.

"That's where that drive still gets you. You don't want to let your teammates down. You still want to be accountable for what you do. And that means showing up and doing your work in between starts and in the offseason."

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Lester believed so much in Epstein's vision, the pipeline of talent about to burst and the lure of Chicago that he signed with a last-place team. The Cubs needed a symbol to show they were serious about winning, a clubhouse tone-setter and an anchor for their rotation.

A new comfort level in Year 2 of that contract helped explain how Lester performed as an All Star, a Cy Young Award finalist and the National League Championship Series co-MVP. But Lester wants to make sure that the Cubs don't get too comfortable — or feel like they're playing with house money.

"You enjoy that, you learn from it," Lester said. "The biggest thing is not getting complacent with yourself and with your teammates. That's what drives me, making sure I'm prepared to pitch.

"I'm called upon every five days, and I have to be there. That's where that goal of 30 starts and 200 innings comes into play. I feel like if I do that, then I've done my job, for my teammates and this organization.

"The championships and the World Series — that's stuff you can't predict. It's stuff you strive to do every single year. So that's all we're going to focus on again. Our team goal again is to win a World Series."