Changes of scenery for Coleman and Silva

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Changes of scenery for Coleman and Silva

Saturday, April 9, 2011Posted: 7:55 p.m. Updated: 10:50 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Casey Coleman shipped all his stuff to Iowa, but he never made it to Des Moines. He flew from Arizona to Texas and the beginning of what he thought would be his Triple-A season.

Things havent gone according to plan with the Cubs rotation, except for this: Coleman was always viewed as the ideal insurance policy, a low-maintenance pitcher who isnt afraid of the bright lights and feels like he belongs here.

Its just that no one thought the 23-year-old right-hander would be recalled this quick. Either way, Coleman will be facing Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, instead of the Round Rock Express.

If Carlos Silva hadnt ripped the entire Cubs organization, he might have been there on Saturday, standing in front of his locker in the Miller Park clubhouse and saying something ridiculous.

If Silvas going to prove the Cubs wrong, it will reportedly start on a minor-league deal with the New York Yankees.

Silva trusted Larry Rothschild, the pitching coach who left Chicago to take the same job in New York. The Yankees have been taking on all kinds of projects Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Mark Prior and, now, Silva.

But with Randy Wells (forearm) and Andrew Cashner (rotator cuff) on the disabled list, Silva almost certainly would have received another chance by next week. That is, if he had accepted a Triple-A assignment and hadnt dared the Cubs to release and pay him close to 11.5 million to go away.

Instead this is an opportunity for Coleman, who certainly understands the business. Hes a third-generation big-league pitcher and his fathers a pitching coach in the Detroit Tigers system.

The Cubs love his makeup and poise and Coleman rewarded their faith by going 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in eight starts late last season.

(That) made all the difference in the world for me, Coleman said. I was much more comfortable in spring training.

The Cubs dont know when Wells and Cashner will be healthy enough to rejoin the rotation, and at this point they dont have many viable options beyond Coleman. So this doesnt feel like an audition, though Coleman isnt taking anything for granted.

You never know, Coleman said. If you had asked me how soon I would have been up here, I never would have imagined it this quick. So you just got to take it day-by-day, start-by-start and help this team win games and hopefully it lasts a lot longer than you think.

Coleman knows thats how Wells got his foot in the door. Wells was supposed to have a temp job when he got called up in May 2009, but wound up making 59 starts from there through the end of last season.

Coleman is 6-foot and weighs 185 pounds. He has only 57 innings on his major-league resume. But he inspires a lot of confidence in the clubhouse.

He won his first game in the majors on Aug. 23 last year in Washington. That was also Mike Quades first game as a big-league manager. Quade kept a few pieces of memorabilia from that night, and Colemans name is all over it.

Coleman already made a lasting impression. Now its time to unpack and settle in for what he hopes will be a long-term assignment.

It was tough to send him out because he did such a good job for us last year, Quade said. But we sent him out for exactly this reason. (Hes) the perfect fit.
Etc.

Starlin Castros view was partially blocked when Carlos Gomez stole second in the eighth inning of Saturdays 6-0 loss. The ball grazed his glove and hit Castro right in the jaw. The shortstop was shaken up but says hell be ready to play on Sunday. Jeff Samardzija walked four batters on Saturday night, bringing his total to eight in three innings this season. The Cubs havent stolen a base through the seasons first eight games, the first time thats happened since 1964.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

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Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch pitching. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Jon Lester vs. Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field – the playoff matchup the Cubs dreaded in an elimination game – will happen more than seven months later under far different circumstances.

The Cubs have a 2016 championship banner flying next to the iconic center-field scoreboard – the ultimate response to any questions about their slow start to this season. The San Francisco Giants can’t have Madison Bumgarner saunter out of the bullpen when he’s recovering from a dirt-bike accident, another reason why an odd-year team is much closer to last place than first in an improved National League West.

The Giants don’t have the same aura, because the Cubs staged an epic comeback to end a best-of-five division series last October, scoring four runs again five different relievers in the ninth inning at AT&T Park.

“I’m telling you, man, Game 4 pretty much won the World Series,” Joe Maddon said. “I did not want to see Mr. Cueto pitching back here again. I’ll get to see him (Tuesday night), but that’s OK, compared to whatever that day would’ve been.”

Maddon has admitted this already, but it is still telling from a manager who always tries to stay in the moment and ignore the negativity. It says something about a Giant franchise that had won 10 straight postseason elimination games and World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 – and a fan base that used to expect things to go wrong in Wrigleyville after more than a century of losing.

“That whole Game 4 in San Francisco, I did focus on that a lot,” Maddon said. “Just trying to understand Game 5 back at home – how this is going to play out – and do whatever we possibly can to win that game there that night in San Francisco.

“That was the game for me – out of the entire postseason. To have to play the Giants where they were battle-tested – Game 5, back here with (Cueto) pitching – I did not like that at all. I thought that pretty much the postseason hinged on that one game in San Francisco.”

Even though the Cubs still had to survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Los Angeles Dodgers before winning their first NL pennant in 71 years. And come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series and beat the Cleveland Indians on the road in a 10-inning Game 7 for the ages.

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“That’s what good teams do,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’re a very talented club, very solid all around. You don’t win the World Series unless you are.

“Look back at our success, how many times were we looking at elimination? No, you’re never surprised in the postseason. Anything those teams do, it’s because they’re there for a reason. They’re very good.”

Lester beat Cueto in a 1-0 instant classic when Javier Baez lifted a 3-2 quick pitch into the basket beneath the video ribbon in the left-field bleachers. Cueto kept the Cubs so off-balance in Game 1 that Baez actually walked up to home plate in the eighth inning thinking bunt.

The Giants reacted to that Game 4 meltdown by giving All-Star closer Mark Melancon a four-year, $62 million contract at the winter meetings, trying to fix a bullpen that led the majors with 30 blown saves last season.

“It was close,” Bochy said. “Three outs from taking it to Game 5 with a pretty good pitcher going. We can speculate all we want. There’s no point in that. It didn’t happen.

“But, sure, you look back. That’s how tight that series was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold on. Give them credit – great job coming back. We’re a team that plays very well under pressure, and we did there. Just couldn’t hold on to that ninth inning.”