Cubs got it covered for Zambrano

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Cubs got it covered for Zambrano

Friday, April 8, 2011Posted: 10:25 PM Updated: 11:49 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE The Cubs do not want to disrupt the peace theyve made with Carlos Zambrano. Even though they are missing two rotation pieces, and paying him almost 18 million this season, they do not want to raise the stakes.

The minute you try to do too much in this game, manager Mike Quade said, youre done.

So everyone will have to make up the difference now that Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner are on the disabled list. But a healthy, focused Zambrano will mean so much to the Cubs. They cant be worrying about his fifth day.

Zambrano didnt have to be perfect on Friday night at Miller Park, or throw a no-hitter like he did here in 2008. He did enough as the Cubs put together a 7-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Were worried about those two guys, Zambrano said. We need Cashner and Wellsy back. (But) we have to keep going and keep doing our job.

Zambrano stayed in the picture after Prince Fielder launched a homer into the left-field bullpen and the Cubs fell behind 2-0 in the second. The Brewers worked Zambrano over for four runs on seven hits and three walks.

Every so often when you dont have your best stuff and youre not mowing through a lineup, Quade said, you just hang around and wait for your club to come back. You find a way to give us six innings, and he did that. Thats huge.

That allowed the Cubs (4-3) to finish the game the way the front office drew it up in the offseason.

Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol combined for three scoreless innings to close out the Brewers (3-5). Marmol again made it interesting by letting the tying run come to the plate. But the closer ended it by striking out Carlos Gomez with an 80 mph slider.

Obviously, I want to go seven or eight innings, Zambrano said with a smile, but the bullpen (has) to eat, too.

Quades philosophy is to mix-and-match and it will be like that in the bullpen, with the rotation and at leadoff.

With Brewers lefty Randy Wolf starting, Jeff Baker found himself at the top of Fridays lineup. The second baseman tied a career-high with four hits, including a three-run homer and an RBI single in the sixth inning.

Youd definitely like to give those guys a blow, Baker said. Whether its the guys we penciled in at the beginning of the year (that) are down, whether its Casey Coleman or James Russell, (you) want to give them a cushion to kind of take the pressure off them.

It was good for us to set a tone and hopefully we can get this ball rolling.

The Cubs promised that well find out what theyre made of during this nine-game road trip.

This crowd of 34,310 wasnt exactly hostile and filled with plenty of Cubs fans. They didnt see Zambrano leave his start early because of cramps in his right hand, like Wrigley Field did last week. He said he drank more fluids, lots of Gatorade, and didnt experience any cramping issues this time.

Zambrano still hasnt lost a game since June 25, 2010, the day he blew up at Derrek Lee in front of everyone in the U.S. Cellular Field dugout. He says that hes done talking, that he wants his actions to speak for him. Hes on a nine-game winning streak now.

Zambrano wants to blend in and be just another pitcher. For the Cubs, will that be enough? When a reporter asked how long it will take him to regain the dominant form he showed late last season, he playfully brushed the question aside.

Im keeping the streak, he said. What else do you want me to do? Its about winning.

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

Cubs down to only one All-Star starter in voting update

Cubs down to only one All-Star starter in voting update

The Cubs are down to only one starter in next month's All-Star Game in Miami: reigning MVP Kris Bryant.

Jason Heyward lost his grip on the final starting outfielder spot to Marlins star Marcell Ozuna in the latest All-Star balloting update released by the MLB:

That may be for the best, as the Cubs are currently banged up (Heyward. Ben Zobrist and Kyle Hendricks are on the disabled list) and slogging through a season where they've hovered around .500. So maybe four days off in a row would be beneficial for the defending champs.

Heyward is 29,270 votes behind Ozuna and Zobrist is 118,248 votes behind Heyward. It appears as if Washington's Bryce Harper and Colorado's Charlie Blackmon are sure things for the top two outfielder spots in the NL.

Bryant is only 58,082 votes ahead of Nolan Arenado at third base. Anthony Rizzo trails Ryan Zimmerman at first base, Javy Baez comes in well behind Daniel Murphy at second base and Buster Posey has more than twice as many votes as runner-up Willson Contreras at catcher.

Addison Russell is third among shortstops. Kyle Schwarber — despite being demoted to the minors last week — is eighth among NL outfielders.

It's a far cry from 2016, when the Cubs made up all four infield spots in the NL starting lineup.

Voting ends in four days. Fans can head to MLB.com to vote.

If Nationals are playoff preview, what should Cubs do at trade deadline?

If Nationals are playoff preview, what should Cubs do at trade deadline?

WASHINGTON – Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio has perspective after sitting through the darkest days of the rebuild, the sign-and-flip cycles and moments like “Men Playing Against Boys,” the way ex-manager Dale Sveum once sized up the team during a 2012 series against the Washington Nationals.

Bosio trusted future “World’s Greatest Leader” Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and the rest of a growing front office would deliver talent during the 101-loss season that led to the Kris Bryant No. 2 overall draft pick and the Ryan Dempster/Kyle Hendricks buzzer-beater deal at the trade deadline.   

So while Bosio is a hardened realist who understands the banged-up Cubs haven’t played up to their potential, he also knows these are first-division problems. 

“If Theo and Jed can find a way to make our team better, you can bet they’re going to do it,” Bosio said. “But at the same time, they’re not going to sacrifice our future. They know that the team (here has) a lot of holdovers from the World Series club. There’s a lot of holdovers from the team that went to the National League (Championship Series in 2015). We’ve been through that. And when it comes crunch time, we produce.”

With that in mind, a look at where things stand five weeks out from the July 31 trade deadline as the defending champs begin a potential playoff preview on Monday at Nationals Park:

• If Max Scherzer flirts with another no-hitter or a 20-strikeout game on Tuesday, the questions will start all over again about adding a hitter. Javier Baez even let this slip over the weekend after a win over the Miami Marlins: “Pretty much not having a leadoff guy right now is kind of tough.” But shipping Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa is not necessarily the start of an offensive overhaul.

“Our focus is going to be on pitching,” Hoyer said. “I would never say never to something like that, because I don’t know what’s going to present itself as we get closer to the deadline. I will say this: When it comes to our offense, I really do see it as these are our guys. We’re as deep with position players as any team in baseball. These guys have performed exceptionally well. Most of these guys have won 200 games over the last two years.

“We believe in them for a reason. We don’t have rings on our fingers without all these guys.”

• With Jake Arrieta and John Lackey on the verge of becoming free agents, the Cubs feel like they should start working on their winter plans this summer and begin remodeling the rotation. The 38-37 record makes you wonder how ultra-aggressive the front office will be to win a bidding war for a frontline starter, but the Cubs are only 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, a first-place team for now that was supposed to be rebuilding this year.   

But the Cleveland Indians got to the 10th inning of a World Series Game 7 with Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt making nine playoff starts combined, because they had Corey Kluber and a dynamic bullpen.

The primary focus will have to be on the rotation, but adding another high-leverage reliever to work in front of lights-out closer Wade Davis would shorten games and help preserve Carl Edwards Jr. (170 pounds) and Koji Uehara (42 years old).   

“At some point, you’re going to assess your own team,” Hoyer said. “Sometimes strengthening a strength can work. You see teams that sometimes have a good offense – and add another good hitter – and all of a sudden we’re going to beat you in a different way.”

• Without making this summer’s blockbuster deal for a closer – the way the Cubs landed Aroldis Chapman – Washington risks wasting Bryce Harper’s second-to-last season before free agency and another year of Scherzer’s $210 million megadeal.

Six different Nationals have saved games for a 45-30 team and the bullpen ranks near the bottom of the majors with a 4.88 ERA. Can’t blame that on Dusty Baker, who has notched more than 1,800 wins as a manager and guided four different franchises to the playoffs.

But it won’t be easy to find a quick fix for the Washington bullpen or Cubs rotation. The American League opened for business on Monday with only three of its 15 teams more than three games under .500, and one being the White Sox, who are (obviously) not seen as a realistic trade partner for the Cubs.

“The American League is incredibly jumbled up,” Hoyer said. “That’s why a lot of deals don’t happen this time of year, because people are still sorting it out. The next five weeks of baseball will determine a lot of that. Some of those teams that are in the race now will fall back.

“There’s a lack of teams right now that have a true sense of sellers. I think there are a lot of teams right now that are close enough that they’re not going to admit it that they’re going to be sellers. That five weeks will determine a lot about who ends up on which side of the fence.”