Cubs stand by Coleman after rocky outing

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Cubs stand by Coleman after rocky outing

Friday, April 22, 2011
Posted: 6:04 p.m. Updated: 7:37 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Casey Coleman doesn't have to look over his shoulder yet. He's built up enough capital within the organization.

The Cubs know that Coleman doesn't have overpowering stuff. He got to this point because of his intelligence, his control and his ability to make the big pitches that minimize the damage.

It simply didn't happen in Friday's 12-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"People are allowed a mulligan or two," manager Mike Quade said.

It's easy to forget just how much the Cubs are asking of Coleman, who will turn 24 this summer and has only 70 innings on his major-league resume.

That's because of his pedigree - third-generation big-league pitcher - and the way he finished last season, going 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in eight starts.

On a cold, gray afternoon - 41 degrees at first pitch - the Cubs waited 74 minutes to start Friday's game and were soon probably wondering: Why did we bother?

There was an announced crowd of 36,595, but nowhere near that many showed up, and by the end it was mostly just the seagulls circling overhead.

Coleman got through the first two innings before unraveling in the third. He looked out of character by walking in one run and ultimately couldn't stop the bleeding.

A.J. Ellis sliced a two-out, two-run single into center to give the Dodgers a 5-0 lead. Even pitcher Chad Billingsley lined an RBI single into right. The Dodgers (11-10) generated six runs on six hits during that sequence.

"I didn't do a good job of slowing down the game," Coleman said. "I had it in my mind (that) I was going to make that one pitch to get out of the inning. (I) got myself in too much of a hurry.

"One after another - even if I got ahead of the guy - I let him right back in the count (and) they were able to get some singles."

Though Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner have made progress, they've still only just begun to play catch and have no idea when they'll be able to come off the disabled list.

Quade said he has "no idea" what the Cubs are going to do for a fifth starter on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies. James Russell hasn't been completely ruled out for another spot start yet, though the 25-year-old left-hander is best-suited as a situational reliever.

Quade will discuss the options with general manager Jim Hendry and assistant general manager Randy Bush this weekend. Quade will also make calls to the managers at Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee for their input.

"If we have somebody that's ready (in the system), I would like to explore that," Quade said. "Everything's still on the table until we take a closer look at it."

Having already survived a doubleheader this week, the Cubs will also consider bringing up a new reliever from Iowa.

Once Coleman was knocked out in the third, it fell to Jeff Stevens to eat up the next 3.1 innings. Stevens threw 89 pitches, allowed three runs and became the first Cubs reliever to walk six batters in a game since Joe Kraemer in 1990.

"If they asked me to throw 200 pitches, I would have," Stevens said. "I'll pitch in any situation. We needed to pick up Casey."

The Cubs (9-10) can look forward to Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza starting the next three days. But there's a drop-off after the "Big Three" that will make it hard to sustain momentum.

The Cubs became just the third team since 1900 to hit the .500 mark every step of the way to 9-9, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They will stick with Coleman, who also gave up six runs in his major-league debut last August before finding his rhythm.

"You got to move on," Coleman said. "Everyone has that one bad start. I had it last year, (which) was probably worse, but the guys in the locker room had confidence in me (and) played hard behind me. ... I'm not worried about this."

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

MIAMI – Kyle Schwarber’s offensive spiral had gone on for so long and gotten so deep that the shock value of sending a potential franchise player to Triple-A quickly wore off once the news broke on Twitter.

The Cubs sent their message directly to Schwarber. Even if the bosses wanted to, the Cubs couldn’t put the rest of the clubhouse on edge by demoting a .171 hitter with 260-plus plate appearances in late June. 

The Cubs are in survival mode, not a position to play mind tricks, beginning an 11-games-in-11-days road trip with World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (sore left wrist), Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward (cut left hand) and Cy Young Award finalist Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) all on the disabled list.   

The Cubs didn’t rebook Schwarber to Iowa so he can be converted into a pitcher. An aging, stressed rotation remains a much bigger concern than the boom-and-bust periods with a young offense. 

All these circumstances made a vintage Jake Arrieta performance during Thursday night’s 11-1 win at Marlins Park so important. Whether or not the Cubs make a blockbuster trade for a pitcher, there are still five-plus weeks left until buyers and sellers will feel the urgency of a deadline.   

“If something presents itself that makes sense, we’ll certainly jump on it,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “But to us, the answers are in that clubhouse. We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut. The answers are in there, and we believe in those guys. 

“Will we be active? No question. But that’s not going to happen for a while and there’s a lot of games to be played between now and July 31.”

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On a night where he felt “low energy,” rocked a new buzz cut and covered his right thumb with Dermabond to treat a cut/blister issue that can be traced back to spring training, Arrieta needed only 82 pitches to get through seven innings, completely shutting down a strong Miami lineup except for a Marcell Ozuna home run.

Arrieta’s inconsistencies (7-5, 4.36 ERA) have mirrored a 37-35 team, but he didn’t hesitate when asked where he is at now in a season that has so far not lived up to his Cy Young/All-Star expectations.  

“I’m close,” Arrieta said. “I’m really close.”

The Cubs are still the defending champs. Kris Bryant unleashed an MVP swing when he launched a three-run homer into the left-center field patio deck. Blocking out a messy personal situation, All-Star shortstop Addison Russell almost hit for the cycle (no triple) the day after getting questions about his divorce and a Major League Baseball investigation. This year’s Schwarber – rookie Ian Happ – also went 4-for-5 and gave the team another jolt.  

“It’s tough to see Schwarber go down,” Arrieta said. “We know that he’s going to be one of our mainstays in the lineup eventually. He’s hit a rough patch and it happens to the best of us. 

“I’ve been there. I talked to him yesterday a little bit about just keeping his head down and going to work and getting his at-bats and trying to find that comfort level. He’ll be back soon. He’s a tremendous hitter who’s going through some struggles and he’s going to right the ship. There’s no doubt about that. He’s too good of a hitter.

“A night like tonight where we pitch well and we score 11 runs, it looks easy. But it’s about consistency and trying to build off of a night like tonight. We’ve got the guys necessary to do so. We’re very capable of doing that.”

Especially if Arrieta gets hot again and shows how he can lift an entire team. 

“To get Jake pitching that kind of quality game again is going to be a big boon to us,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

MIAMI – Everything aligned for the Cubs to make Kyle Schwarber their leadoff hitter. Joe Maddon’s gut instincts told him to do it – so the manager asked the Geek Department to run the numbers – and the projections backed him up. A front office raised on Bill James principles endorsed the idea after Dexter Fowler took an offer he couldn’t refuse – five years and $82.5 million – from the St. Louis Cardinals.
   
It all looked good on paper and sounded reasonable in theory. But by the time the Cubs made the Schwarber-to-Iowa move official before Thursday’s game at Marlins Park, the slugger once compared to Babe Ruth in a pre-draft scouting report had devolved into the qualified hitter with the lowest batting average in the majors (.171) and an .OPS 75 points below the league average.  

If Schwarber had been batting, say, sixth since Opening Day, would the Cubs be in a different spot right now?   

“Obviously, I can’t answer that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s an impossible question to answer. We put him in a leadoff position and he struggled. We obviously moved him out of that position (and) that didn’t work either. I know that’s what people are going to point to, because that’s a variable in his career. 

“Obviously, hitting him leadoff in 2017 didn’t work. Whether or not it caused the tailspin, I have no way to answer that question.”   

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The Cubs also deserve credit for: drafting Schwarber when the industry viewed him as a reach with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014; fast-tracking his development to the point where he could help the 2015 team win 97 games and two playoff rounds; and overseeing a rehab process that allowed him to be a World Series designated hitter less than seven months after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.    
 
The Cubs will have their hitting instructors give Schwarber subtle suggestions, focusing on how he starts his swing and where he finishes, trying to reestablish his balance and confidence during this Triple-A timeout.
    
But deep down, this is a 24-year-old player who never experienced a full season in the big leagues before and wanted so bad to be a huge part of The Cubs Way.

“I do think a lot of the problems are mental,” Hoyer said. “These struggles have kind of beaten him up a little bit. Like anyone would, he’s lost a little bit of his swagger, and I think he needs to get that back. But I think when you look at what a great fastball hitter he’s been – how good he was in ’15, how good he was last year in the World Series – the fact that he hasn’t been pounding fastballs this year is a mechanical/physical issue that we’ll be looking to tweak. 

“This is a guy that has always murdered fastballs and he’s not there right now.”