Cubs see some growth in Vitters

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Cubs see some growth in Vitters

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Posted: 1:44 p.m. Updated: 5:31 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

PHOENIX Aramis Ramirez can opt out and become a free agent at the end of this season. Its a complicated, multiyear deal Ramirez signed months before the Cubs selected a 17-year-old kid with the third overall pick of the 2007 draft.

Ramirez says hes healthy and doesnt know how long he wants to play. Privately, the Cubs like how he stood up to Carlos Silva, and think hes ready to put together a big season.

The Cubs dont know for certain who will be playing third base next year. They can discuss with Ramirez their 16 million club option for 2012. They have a strong relationship with his agent, Paul Kinzer, who also represents Geovany Soto and Starlin Castro.

Josh Vitters, who was among the 18 cuts made Tuesday, isnt ready for prime time just yet. But the Cubs feel better about the 21-year-old third baseman from Californias Cypress High School, who skipped college to get an education in being a professional.

Ive seen a kid that matured, manager Mike Quade said. You get a brief look at a guy like Vitters last year and I tease him about being a little spacey. Ive seen a totally different person this spring. He deserves a ton of credit and should be real proud of that.

This offseason Vitters attended Camp Colvin, the strength and conditioning program run at the teams complex in Arizona. They all saw what Tyler Colvin did last spring, tearing up the Cactus League and forcing the Cubs to bring him to Chicago.

Outfielder Brett Jackson, the 2009 first-round pick from Cal-Berkeley, envisions himself playing alongside Colvin one day at Wrigley Field. He doesnt lack for confidence. Hes on a fast track that could put him in the majors sometime this year.

But first he has to go to minor-league camp with: pitchers Chris Carpenter, Jay Jackson, Trey McNutt and Scott Rice; catchers Steve Clevenger and Chris Robinson; infielders Bryan LaHair and Marquez Smith; and outfielders Jim Adduci, Lou Montanez and Brad Snyder.

Pitchers Robert Coello and Thomas Diamond were optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Pitchers Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis and Kyle Smit were optioned to Double-A Tennessee.

The Cubs are particularly high on the pitchers they mined from the 2008 draft, a group that includes Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, Carpenter and Jay Jackson. Their impact can already be felt.

We have a mutual respect for each other, Jay Jackson said. We kind of came through the organization together. Its always been a fight to see (wholl be) the first one to the top. Weve all had success at every level. (Weve) all pushed each other. You see one guy go, youre like: Well, I want to be next.

But the Cubs have historically had more trouble developing position players. There have been concerns where Vitters ultimately projects as a corner infielder.

If he makes the kind of progress from last year to this year to next year, Quade said, hes going to be a good third baseman.

Here are a few names the Cubs passed on in the 2007 draft: Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (No. 5); Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner (No. 10); Braves outfielder Jason Heyward (No. 14); and Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello (No. 27).

Vitters knows those arent necessarily fair or direct comparisons, and he doesnt pay attention to any of the prospect rankings anymore. His fifth professional season will be a pivotal one. The clock is ticking.

People are trying to make an impression, Quade said. Theyre trying to show you they can handle themselves in this environment. There are a lot of different things kids can accomplish even if they dont break with us.

Now its time for them to go to work and be ready when the phone rings.

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

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Washington Nationals today, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) vs. Joe Ross (4-3, 5.40 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Jake Arrieta doesn’t see fractures forming in Cubs clubhouse

Jake Arrieta doesn’t see fractures forming in Cubs clubhouse

WASHINGTON – An erratic, distracted, disconnected Cubs team got a pregame Moment of Zen at Donald Trump’s White House on Wednesday afternoon, a smaller group of players, staffers and executives going back to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for the second time in less than six months to celebrate their World Series championship.    

The Cubs showed up at Nationals Park and of course had new Joe Maddon T-shirts folded all over the chairs in the visiting clubhouse: “Embrace the Suck” superimposed on the Captain America shield. Miguel Montero’s locker was completely empty after injecting some truth serum into the group media sessions where the Cubs almost always insist that everything is fine and will be all right in the end.

But the Cubs are at an awkward, sensitive point here, 39-39 after an 8-4 loss to a first-place Washington team that saw reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant leave the game with a sprained right ankle and veteran pitcher John Lackey give up all eight runs as his ERA ballooned to 5.24.

Paying $7 million to make Montero go away won’t magically solve the problems. Even the guy who Montero targeted late Tuesday night after the Nationals stole seven bases didn’t really have a problem with the message or the messenger. 

“I’m sad to see him go,” Jake Arrieta said. “I love Miggy. As you guys know, he’ll say some things from the heart, the way he feels. He’s open and honest. That’s the way Miggy is. He regretted what he said. He felt bad about it. I told him that I’m not upset or mad at him. I didn’t even really see the comments, and I don’t care what they were. 

“I know what it was about – and there was a lot of honesty there. I didn’t do him any favors. I was slow to the plate and (Trea) Turner’s one of the fastest guys in baseball, so it just makes it look worse than it was. It’s unfortunate it had to happen that way, but it is what it is.”

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Arrieta took his teammates along for the ride when he transformed into a Cy Young Award winner in 2015. Montero had trouble hiding his frustrations with Maddon and diminished playing time, not exactly pumped about the idea of wearing a onesie on an overnight flight from the West Coast. Montero wound up catching Arrieta’s no-hitter that unforgettable night at Dodger Stadium.    

The clubhouse vibes now aren’t necessarily awful – to use a Maddon term to downplay the injuries that have decimated the roster – but something is clearly off here.  

“It’s been slightly different, honestly, just because we’ve been up and down so frequently this season,” Arrieta said. “As soon as we get on a roll, we kind of hit the skid. We win two, lose two, win one, lose one. It’s just been this back and forth sort of rollercoaster that we’ve been dealing with. 

“As far as the guys in here, everybody gets along great. We got good relationships. Sometimes, there can be a lull in the dugout from time to time. That’s just kind of the nature of the back and forth that we’ve had, ups and downs. 

“But we’re all on the same page. We know that we need to tighten some things up. And it’s not just in one area. We’ve pitched well at times. We’ve swung the bats well at times. 

“Obviously, last season we were able to kind of collectively do all of that at the same time. That’s what we’re searching for. We’re trying to find that consistency on both sides of the ball.” 

The ironic part is that Montero clung to the idea of being Arrieta’s personal catcher last season, hoping that connection would prevent him from getting bumped off the playoff roster, and now it got him designated for assignment.        

“I don’t think either way it would have fractured the clubhouse,” Arrieta said. “There are certain things that are handled behind closed doors, but Miggy wears his heart on his sleeve. That’s one of the main reasons we all liked him. But we’re going to move forward from this and embrace the guys that are here.”