Cubs showing the next Mark Prior and Kerry Wood what it takes

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Cubs showing the next Mark Prior and Kerry Wood what it takes

The Cubs bookended their rookie development program around Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. The next generation got to hear about how you carry yourself in the big leagues and what it takes to make it in Chicago.

Do they have any idea what theyre getting into? That question might have gone through your mind on Thursday if you were watching those 12 prospects working out inside Northwestern Universitys field house in Evanston.

It shouldnt have been hard to see the warning signals. Last years Cubs Convention was overshadowed by the sexual-assault allegations against Starlin Castro. The night before, the Internet exploded with Deadspins story about Manti Teos fake dead girlfriend and the scandal at the University of Notre Dame.

Everyones under a microscope, said Jason McLeod, the vice president of scouting and player development. So weve spent a lot of time trying to help talk about those types of things and letting them know what to watch for. Of course, we cant be babysitters 247, but we can give them the tools to make good decisions. Ultimately, thats what were trying to do.

McLeod highlighted seminars on media training and how to deal with social media and watching what they put on Twitter (because team officials are definitely tracking it).

The run of guest speakers included baseball czar Theo Epstein, chairman Tom Ricketts, president of business operations Crane Kenney, pitching coach Chris Bosio and Bears linebacker Nick Roach, along with presentations from nutritionists and strength and conditioning staffers. It started last week with Wood and was scheduled to end Thursday afternoon with Prior at Wrigley Field, leading into this weekends convention at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers.

Who better to know and understand having all the hype, having all the pressure, being the young guy coming up and then performing in this environment? McLeod said. Who better than those two guys? Those had to have been two of the most hyped Cubs prospects of the last 15-20 years.

Prior, who hasnt pitched in the big leagues since 2006, is said to be looking for another chance to play, though that isnt expected to come with the Cubs. McLeod didnt know all the details about how it ended here, but hes friendly with Prior because theyre both San Diego guys.

The audience included four position players Javier Baez, Jae-Hoon Ha, Matt Szczur and Logan Watkins and pitchers Dallas Beeler, Marcus Hatley, Barret Loux, Trey McNutt, Zach Rosscup, Nick Struck, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych. The ETA for these prospects could be within the next year or two.

McNutt remembered being blown away as a kid in 1998, watching Woods 20-strikeout game against the Houston Astros on television at his grandfathers farm in Alabama: It was like: Oh my God, this guys awesome.

During this trip to Chicago, McNutt made a point to ask Wood how he threw that curveball and took mental notes on the grips.

Its real awesome to get their opinion, McNutt said, (see) the way they carried themselves to the majors, (hear) what they accomplished, how they accomplished it.

The Cleveland Indians are widely credited with first developing this kind of assimilation program several years ago. Epstein, McLeod and general manager Jed Hoyer had worked to put together a similar one for the Boston Red Sox.

One of the challenges we had in Boston was really getting young players to come up and be able to perform at a high level right away in a big market, Hoyer said. The difference between playing in the minor leagues and the big leagues is enormous anywhere. But now you take it to a big market like Boston or Chicago and its really difficult the media pressures, the fan pressures.

We want these guys to be able to come up here and get used to what its like to live here, what its like to deal with the media, whats expected of them every day. Because at some point, theyre going to get called up for the first time and theyre going to be scared to death to go out and face Adam Wainwright.

We want them to focus on facing Adam Wainwright and not focus on: How much do I tip this guy? How do I get to the ballpark? (So) they can worry about playing baseball when they get here and not feel totally overwhelmed.

Jose Quintana admits trade rumors have affected him negatively this season

Jose Quintana admits trade rumors have affected him negatively this season

Jose Quintana emerged from the third-base dugout, taking in Wrigley Field for the first time in a Cubs uniform.

But he quickly snapped back to Earth as he realized he and the other Cubs starting pitchers were to take batting practice and he forgot to bring his bat out.

Ah, the life of an American League pitcher.

It was no big deal, obviously. And minutes later, Quintana's new teammates were marveling at his swing. Even Jake Arrieta — who has five career homers (all during the last three seasons) and sported a .720 OPS last year — was impressed.

Quintana doesn't start until Sunday night against the St. Louis Cardinals, so he has two days to acclimate to Wrigley Field.

Which is good, because Quintana showed up for work today — he took Lake Shore Drive in (better known as LSD to Chicagoans) — and didn't even know where the players' entrance was:

But once he figured that out, he was all smiles, learning the lay of the land from Cubs traveling secretary Vijay Tekchandani.

It's also good for the 28-year-old left-hander to get some consistency in his life.

Everything will be easier from this point on after he admitted the trade rumors had been bouncing around his head all season.

"It was my first time [being mentioned in trades]," Quintana said. "I never heard anything about trades [before]. It was on my mind all the time. 

"[Until I realized] it's because I'm doing something good and teams want me. I just try to do my job in season. It's really hard when you have trade [rumors] around you, but for me, it's over now and I'm excited for that and really happy to be here."

The White Sox organization was all Quintana had known since 2006 and after watching as teammates Chris Sale and Adam Eaton were shipped out of town over the winter, it is easy to see how it would've been tough dealing with the uncertain future. 

Quintana entered this season with a career 3.41 ERA, but that mark sat at 5.60 through the first two months of the season as the trade rumors swirled.

But the veteran southpaw eventually figured it out — just like he said — and has been on fire since then, posting a 2.30 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 47 innings since the start of June.

His first game as a Cub — Sunday against the Orioles in Baltimore, still with a DH — resulted in 12 Ks across seven shutout innings.

Quintana is excited for his first start in a Cubs uniform at Wrigley Sunday night (so much so that he used the word "excited" at least seven times in his five-minute media session) and just recently got a few bats to put that BP prowess into action in a game.

He was pushed back a day, so he will completely miss the Crosstown series next week and will not pitch against his former mates. 

That might be the right move, as he admitted it would've been very difficult with the trade just over a week old by the time Monday's Crosstown opener comes along.

"It was difficult for me because I played there for six seasons," he said. "It wasn't easy when I heard [I was traded]. It was a little hard for me, but I understand it's part of business and this is the best for me, too.

"Trades happen for a reason and I'm really happy to be here with these teammates, this organization; they were champions last year. We have a really good chance this year. I'm excited to be here."

As for the trade rumors, Quintana is content now. Especially since he and his family don't even have to move.

"As my wife said," Quintana stated, "'You can sleep now.'"

Joe Maddon updates injury status of Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks heading into Cardinals series

Joe Maddon updates injury status of Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks heading into Cardinals series

Kris Bryant will likely miss the first two games of this weekend's series against the St. Louis Cardinals and could miss the whole three-game set, according to Joe Maddon.

The Cubs manager said the reigning National League MVP will be sidelined as he recovers from a sore finger, injured when he slid head first into third base in the first inning of Wednesday's series-finale against the Atlanta Braves down in Georgia.

"He's just not ready today, but we're going to do this (as) a day-by-day thing," Maddon said. "I really don't know. If I had to guess, probably not tomorrow, too. And possibly on Sunday, but I really don't know.

"He healed well with the ankle, we did not expect that to come back very quickly and it did. So I'm just trying to not jump to conclusions right now."

"It's sore. It's just a soreness and he's got to grip the bat, and that's what it really comes down to."

The Cubs have suddenly closed within a game of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers after winning the first six games out of the All-Star break. Certainly losing Bryant for any time, no matter how brief, is a blow to the Cubs' lineup — and their rampage up the NL Central standings — but things could be way worse. A day-to-day situation is preferable to Bryant and his .401 on-base percentage heading for a lengthy stay on the disabled list.

Bryant's absence Friday meant right fielder Jason Heyward was at the top of the Cubs' lineup. It's just the third time Heyward has started in the leadoff spot since joining the Cubs. He was 0-for-7 in those two starts in June of last year.

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In addition to Bryant, there was an update of sorts on injured starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who could return to the rotation next week, per Maddon.

"More than likely next week, probably early next week. We're looking at that, but we're really not ready to make any other kinds of conclusions or announcements yet," Maddon said. "He's there. He's ready to rock n roll."

Hendricks' return to the rotation will be another shot in the arm for a starting staff that just received a huge upgrade in the form of Jose Quintana. Hendricks has been on the disabled list since June 8, when he went on the shelf with tendinitis in his right hand.

Hendricks logged 8.1 innings in two rehab starts with Double-A Tennessee recently, going 15 up, 15 down in his second outing. It sounds like he'll pitch in one of the four games against the White Sox next week.

Adding Hendricks and Quintana to a rotation featuring Jon Lester and an improving Jake Arrieta figures to make for a far different starting-pitching picture in the second half of the season following an inconsistent first half.