Chicago Cubs

Cubs Notes: Marmol deal nearly complete

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Cubs Notes: Marmol deal nearly complete

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011
Posted 5:57 p.m. Updated 7:31 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. At this time last year, people wondered how Carlos Marmol would handle the closers job fulltime. Now hes about to cash in on a historic season.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry met with agent Barry Praver on Sunday at Fitch Park and both sides expect the long-anticipated deal to be finalized and announced by Monday. The extension is expected to buy out Marmols first year of free agency and run through 2013.

After notching 38 saves and 138 strikeouts which translates to 15.99 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, the highest mark ever for a major-league reliever Marmol filed for arbitration at 5.65 million. The Cubs countered at 4.1 million, but neither side sees this case going to a hearing.

Praver, who also represents Carlos Zambrano, was in a good mood in the lobby of the Cubs administrative building, joking to reporters that his client was about to be traded to the Yankees.

WATCH: First day all about Quade

This would give the Cubs some cost certainty as they plan for the future and provide Marmol, 28, with a large measure of security.

Weve done a lot of deals with Barry Praver over the years, Hendry said. Weve been working on avenues (toward) a multi-year deal or a potential one-year deal. I certainly dont have any anticipation that something wont be done before (Tuesdays) arbitration date.

No. 1 starter?

Its a point of pride for Zambrano that he has made six consecutive starts on Opening Day, and Mike Quade doesnt want to offend anyone. The manager owes a lot to Ryan Dempster, who was the first player to publicly lobby for Quade to get the job. And Matt Garza was the offseasons centerpiece acquisition. Quades nowhere close to deciding on who gets the April 1 assignment.

I will milk that (as long as possible) because I have so much respect for all three of them, Quade said. My ace is the guy thats pitching that day. I guess thats easy for me to say, but I truly feel that way. Were going to need all three of those guys if were going to contend.

Leading off

Its the annual question that doesnt have an answer. Like almost every other team in baseball, the Cubs do not have a prototypical leadoff hitter. Quade will analyze that days matchups, which could mean some combination of Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker, Kosuke Fukudome and Starlin Castro.

To be honest, I havent even thought about it, DeWitt said. You prepare yourself for anything. If they ask me to do it, Ill be more than happy to do it. Its a big responsibility, but (so is) hitting eighth.

Whos on first?

Carlos Penas one-year deal is a bridge toward 2012, so he can re-enter the free-agent market and the Cubs have the flexibility to look for another first baseman. Tyler Colvin still looms as a potential option. Quade surprisingly revealed that the 25-year-old outfielder will spend some time working out at first this spring.

I dont think he can just show up and think hes at Club Med for awhile, Quade said. Im not handing him a job. Hes got plenty of work to do, but hes a kid were excited about and he knows it. He comes to work every day expecting to earn a job and thats all you can ask.

Chemistry counts

No one can quantify the value of good clubhouse guys, but Hendry places a high value on them and sees Reed Johnson as a positive influence. The 34-year-old got deeper into the offseason and realized he wasnt going to receive a major-league contract.

So Johnson a fan favorite on that 97-win team in 2008 went with what he knows. Its a minor-league deal without any guarantees, just a chance to compete against Fernando Perez for the fifth-outfielder spot.

Its tough to go into an organization (and) start all over again, Johnson said. Ive been on a one-year deal all nine years of my career. Ive been used to having to come into spring training and fight for jobs every year.

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

What happened between John Lackey and Anthony Rizzo in Cubs dugout? 'None of your business'

What happened between John Lackey and Anthony Rizzo in Cubs dugout? 'None of your business'

Nothing to see here, the Cubs insisted after a TV camera caught John Lackey and Anthony Rizzo arguing in the Wrigley Field dugout on Tuesday afternoon, a scrap overshadowed by Kris Bryant’s ejection and the White Sox getting eye-for-an-eye retribution.

It still became the pregame story on the South Side, even if it somehow didn’t immediately go viral on Twitter, or really register on the Cubs-Sox Richter scale that shook for Carlos Zambrano and Ozzie Guillen, Lou Piniella vs. Steve Stone and Michael Barrett vs. A.J. Pierzynski.

So what happened?

“None of your business,” Lackey said Wednesday with a big smile and the chuckle that punctuates most of his answers to the media. “It’s in that dugout.”

Minutes later, on the other side of the visiting clubhouse at Guaranteed Rate Field, Rizzo joked: “It was almost kind of like Zambrano and Derrek Lee.”

This wouldn’t have even come up during the anger-management sessions the Cubs forced Zambrano to attend after that incident here in 2010. Big Z showed up for spring training the next year and pronounced: “I’m cured. I got approval from the psychologist that I can be by myself.”

“It wasn’t a big deal at all,” Lackey said. “Like I said, none of your business.”

Frustrated by a potential double-play ball that found a hole with Tim Anderson running and shortstop Addison Russell covering second base, Lackey bumped into Rizzo in the dugout after a second inning that also saw White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon hit a two-run double. Rizzo’s eyes widened and the franchise first baseman gestured toward the field with both of his hands. A muttering Lackey turned his back and started to walk away from Rizzo.

“Like I said, none of your business,” Lackey said. “Just two men talking.”

The Cubs are used to Lackey Being Lackey, which means glaring at hitters, jawing with umpires and sometimes showing up teammates for perceived lapses on the field (even when last year’s 103-win team played defense at a historic level).

“We won the game,” said Lackey, who also became the first Cub to hit four batters in a game since Moe Drabowsky in 1957. “Let’s move on. You guys are trying to stir s--- up.”

Everything all right with you and Lackey?

“Yeah, as far as I know,” Rizzo said. “We’re just talking, making sure he knows we’re going to give him some more runs, not to worry about it. That’s really it. It’s pretty funny I have to talk about this the next day.”

Either way, this probably won’t end well for Lackey, who is 38 and has a 4.97 ERA in the final season of a two-year, $32 million contract. But clashing with Rizzo during a 96-loss season contributed to manager Dale Sveum getting fired in 2013. And burying Miguel Montero during Rizzo’s WMVP-AM 1000 gig foreshadowed the veteran catcher getting DFA’d last month.

“I think it’s just a lot of uneducated speculation, to be honest, about our team,” Rizzo said.

Well, educate us then, a reporter said.

“I don’t need to educate you guys on in-house matters,” Rizzo said. “Lackey’s one of my probably best friends on this team. That’s the good part about this team. When you have friends, you can talk to them, and it’s nothing more than just friends talking to friends.”

Manager Joe Maddon – who has known Lackey since he was a rookie on the 2002 Anaheim Angels team that won a World Series – sounded like a press secretary during the pregame briefing.

“Not at all (unusual),” Maddon said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen it before. The thing is, I’ve heard about this and it’s really kind of funny. Really innocuous to the point where I had no idea.

“First of all, there’s two things: There’s really nothing to report. Second of all, if there is a little bit of that that ever occurs, there’s nothing wrong with it. Nothing wrong with guys calling BS on somebody else in the moment. But that’s not what happened yesterday.”

The truth is we will miss Lackey when he goes home to Texas and disappears. This is a great cartoon villain/media foil/old-school curmudgeon with three World Series rings. The Cubs-Sox rivalry needs more of those characters.  

“He’s a competitor,” Rizzo said. “It’s really, really good for us. He does bring a lot of intensity every single start, and he expects the best out of everyone. That’s good for a team like ours with young guys. Five, six, seven years from now, they’re going to be talking about how Lackey used to play, and what he used to do to the younger guys coming up, and how he was locked in for every one of his starts.”

Cubs can live with Javy Baez being out of control

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AP

Cubs can live with Javy Baez being out of control

Even after a five-strikeout game, the Cubs have no intentions of toning down the Javy Baez roller coaster.

It's just the latest chapter in the Javy being Javy story.

On Tuesday, Baez became the first Cubs player to whiff five times in a game since Ted Lilly in 2008 and first position player to do so since Geovany Soto (also in '08):

After the game, Joe Maddon just laughed, compared Baez to golfer John Daly again and said, "Javy must've tied some sort of record today."

The Cubs know this is part of the package with Baez.

Even with that albatross of a game, Baez's strikeout percentage of 27.8 is still slightly below his career average (29.3 percent). That number is bloated a bit since Baez struck out 41.5 percent of the time during his rookie season in 2014.

Baez is striking out more in 2017 than he did last year (24 percent), but is also walking more (5 percent compared to 3.3 percent in 2016).

When Maddon was filling out Wednesday's lineup before Tuesday's game, he had already penciled in a day off for Baez, even before the five-strikeout game made it apparent a day of mental and physical rest was needed for the 24-year-old.

"He was just swinging a bit too hard," Maddon said. "...Most of the time, for me, when a guy comes out of his zone a lot, it's because he's a little bit mentally fatigued. So let's get him off his feet."

Maddon said before the game he wouldn't shy away from using Baez in Wednesday's contest if the need arose. The Cubs manager also was not worried about the five-strikeout game getting the enigmatic young infielder down.

"He's fine," Maddon said. "He's done that a lot in his career. So he knows how to bounce back. It's not gonna impact him. I watch him run out to defense after the strikeouts, and he's running out there. I love that about him. He's ready to play.

"A lot of guys have that moment, historically, but the difference with Javy — two things — he'll play his defense and he'll bounce back.

"He's his own toughest critic, also. I have a lot of faith in him, I have a lot of faith in hitting coaches. He'll be fine. I really am not concerned. ... He's young, he's done it before, he'll do it again. I promise you — that's gonna happen again. In the mean time, just continue to support him."

Including Tuesday and Baez's recent 1-for-11 stretch, he's still hitting .321 with an .863 OPS in July and is on pace for 20 homers, 28 doubles and 64 RBI in addition to his usual highlight reel of defensive plays.

Baez will always come with ups and downs and the Cubs know that. They aren't trying to coach that out of him.

They'll take the five strikeout games along with the hot stretch, like when he hit .415 with seven extra-base hits in a 13-game stretch from July 2-21.

After all, this is the guy who was named co-NLCS MVP last fall.

"Javy continues to show a lot of improvement," Maddon said. "In spite of the John Daly hack on occasion, you look at his two-strike numbers, they're outstanding. [Baez is hitting .215 with a .568 OPS with two strikes, but does have five homers and 22 RBI.]

"So it's like, you gotta be careful what you wish for. I've already talked to [Cubs hitting coach] Johnny Mallee about this. You wanna tone somebody down, but then if you do, does this good thing go away? You wanna morph into it more slowly here as he gradually understands and creates a different method as he gts into the latter part of counts, runner on third base, just try to score one, not two or three."

In 15 at-bats with a runner on third and less than two outs, Baez has 11 RBI, but he's also struck out six times.

Maddon and the Cubs coaching staff are working on a lot of the same things with both Baez and 23-year-old shortstop Addison Russell, who has also had an up-and-down offensive season.

"That takes time," Maddon said. "I know that sounds crazy, but it does. And so, be careful what you wish for, be careful how you approach a young player. 'Cause you could absolutely — I've talked about not coaching instinctiveness out of a player.

"Javy's got his own way. I think you're eventually going to see him settle into it, but yes, they're being developed. They both have to adjust to game situations.

"Next year, you're gonna see an improvement. Two years from now, you're gonna see a pretty nice finished product."