Cubs second-base question will be open-ended


Cubs second-base question will be open-ended

Thursday, March 11, 2011Posted: 8:30 PM
By Patrick Mooney

PHOENIX The Cubs are two weeks away from Opening Day and everyone wants to know what Mike Quade will do with the rotation, how his lineup will fall and who will play second base.

The daily speculation misses a larger point about the Cubs manager. Quade wouldnt have reached this point if he was inflexible. He wouldnt have survived 17 seasons managing in the minors if he couldnt adapt to his surroundings. He kept his dream job because of how he handled his personnel.

The thing about Q is he knows youre going to need all 25 guys, Jeff Baker said. He made it very clear that hes going to keep everyone involved.

With so many jobs already decided at this point in camp, second base is one of the final frontiers where the media can second-guess Quade. The Cubs are not about to trade for Michael Young. They like their internal options in Baker and Blake DeWitt.

Quades position is that both deserve a serious look and will get opportunities. In the end, he says, Players usually make those decisions for you.

Baker turns 30 this summer and realizes how quickly you age in this game.

He was an All-American at Clemson University and rose quickly through the Rockies system. He was given 299 at-bats in Colorado in 2008 and hit .268 with 12 homers and 48 RBI. He doesnt want to only face left-handers in Chicago.

Obviously, Id like to be an everyday guy, Baker said. Everyone in here wants to do that. No one aspires to be a utility bench guy. But at the same time, if thats what my job is, Ill go out there and try to do it well.

Baker, whose father is a retired U.S. Army colonel, was born in West Germany and grew up all around the world. He makes friends quickly and moves easily through the various groups in the clubhouse. He wont complain and will do whatever he can to help DeWitt, a former Dodgers first-round pick with something to prove.

Greg Maddux the front-office assistant who once played with DeWitt in Los Angeles recommended him in the Ted LillyRyan Theriot deal last summer. DeWitt is only 25 and serious about his craft. The Cubs believe he has potential to grow offensively, especially through his work with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.

Im going to give it everything I have every day, DeWitt said. If that turns into 400, 500 (at-bats), whatever, it doesnt matter to me concentrate on winning and the rest will take care of itself.

DeWitt is hitting .171 this spring, while Baker is at .394. Quade prides himself on being someone who looks inside the numbers, but he doesnt even have to do that to know thats not a big enough sample size.

Good teams always have players that exceed expectations and their career numbers. Maybe the Cubs will hit on a second baseman, but that position will not make or break the season. That depends more on Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez and what looks like an improved bullpen.

Between 2004 and January 2012, the Cubs will have paid Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Carlos Pena close to 184 million combined. They invested their money in corner infielders, not to mention the outlay for Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome.

Baker and DeWitt fit this team at this moment. Since Ryne Sandbergs last game in 1997, the Cubs have used seven different starting second basemen on Opening Day in the past 14 years. We know it wont be Mike Fontenot again on April 1.

Until then, the questions will keep coming. Will Soriano have a bounce-back year? Can Starlin Castro hit leadoff? How good can Geovany Soto be? The answers will be revealed across the next six months.

This lineup is evolving, Quade said. Maybe I accidentally put a lineup out there that just wears the baseball out and I dont have to change. But I think that realistically well have to mix and match and then performance matters.

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

Cubs hoping Kyle Schwarber can make World Series comeback

Cubs hoping Kyle Schwarber can make World Series comeback

As if the possibility of clinching their first National League pennant in 71 years didn’t create enough drama and excitement in Wrigleyville, the Cubs have sent Kyle Schwarber to the Arizona Fall League, hoping he can add another chapter to his October legend.
Schwarber earned this chance after beating every expectation in his recovery from major surgery on his left knee in April. The Cubs haven’t ruled anything in or out – and still need to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers one more time this weekend – but they want to see how he responds on Saturday with the Mesa Solar Sox and ultimately decide if he would be a viable designated-hitter option for the World Series.
Schwarber gained clearance on Monday from Dr. Daniel Cooper, the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL after a devastating outfield collision during the first week of the regular season. Schwarber immediately phoned president of baseball operations Theo Epstein after the six-month checkup.   
“I wasn’t expecting the call,” Epstein said. “We got news that was beyond better than we could have expected by any reasonable standard. 
“He asked for a chance to do this. And with as hard as Kyle has worked and as much as this means to him – and potentially to us – we wanted to give him that opportunity.”

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Schwarber flew from Dallas to Los Angeles, where he hit in the cage at Dodger Stadium that night. As the Cubs continued with what has been a classic NL Championship Series, Schwarber hit again on Tuesday and then left for Arizona on Wednesday to ramp up his baseball activities and prove whether or not he could again be a difference-maker in October.
Schwarber, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Indiana University, generated 16 home runs in 69 games last season and then set a franchise record with five homers in the playoffs. 

The Cubs still have to deal with Clayton Kershaw on Saturday night in Game 6, and judge whether or not this layoff is too long, even for one of their best young hitters, especially against what would be a dynamic Cleveland Indians pitching staff.
But the Cubs would also never bet against Schwarber.

“We’ll see where this goes,” Epstein said. “We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of work to do here before this becomes pertinent. But it’s a testament to how hard Kyle has worked to even be in this position where it’s a possibility.”  

On the doorstep of history, Cubs set lineup for NLCS Game 6

On the doorstep of history, Cubs set lineup for NLCS Game 6

One win away from the World Series, the Cubs set their lineup for Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.

The big surprise is Albert Almora Jr. in right field with Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler on the bench against Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on the planet.

Soler is 0-for-8 during the postseason with a pair of walks and three strikeouts while appearing in six games.

Heyward is only 2-for-28 (.071 AVG) and has only reached base once (on a hit by pitch) in the last four NLCS games while going 0-for-13 in that span.

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Almora is also hitless this postseason - in six at-bats - but is an excellent fielder and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt in the Cubs' Game 5 victory.

Here is the rest of the Cubs' lineup behind Kyle Hendricks:

1. Dexter Fowler - CF
2. Kris Bryant - 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Ben Zobrist - LF
5. Javy Baez - 2B
6. Willson Contreras - C
7. Addison Russell - SS
8. Albert Almora Jr. - RF
9. Kyle Hendricks - P

The Cubs notched just two hits and did not score in seven innings against Kershaw in Game 2 at Wrigley Field. Baez and Contreras collected the only two singles in that game.

The Cubs offense has scored 18 runs the last two games after being shut out for both Games 2 and 3.

With a win, the Cubs would punch their ticket to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

The Dodgers are shaking things up a bit in the lineup against Hendricks:

1. Andrew Toles - LF
2. Corey Seager - SS
3. Justin Turner - 3B
4. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
5. Josh Reddick - RF
6. Joc Pederson - CF
7. Yasmani Grandal - C
8. Chase Utley - 2B
9. Clayton Kershaw - P

Toles is only 48 regular-season games into his big-league career, but he is hitting .368 this postseason with a .908 OPS. 

Utley has been leading off against right-handers, but he's hitting only .115 this postseason and doesn't have a hit in this NLCS (0-for-10).