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.

Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer

Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Cubs are reportedly moving closer toward acquiring Wade Davis — an All-Star closer who’s already notched the final out of the World Series — in a deal with the Kansas City Royals that would involve outfielder Jorge Soler.

The Cubs are making pitching their top priority this week at the winter meetings as they build out the team that will defend the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years. If healthy, Davis would provide exactly the kind of late-game force the Cubs were looking for when they checked into the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C.

At a time when Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are looking to smash the record contract the San Francisco Giants just gave Mark Melancon (four years, $62 million), the Cubs could stay flexible for the future and mitigate risk with Davis, who will make $10 million in 2017 and can become a free agent after that season.

“We’re still talking about a lot of things,” manager Joe Maddon said before the Davis reports surfaced late Tuesday night. “We’re always looking to augment bullpens. Bullpens are so different on an annual basis. And I think every organization — especially after this (postseason) — is looking to reinvent their bullpens in different ways.”

The Royals had been at the forefront of that movement, using Davis as part of a deep, powerful bullpen that helped them shorten games and win back-to-back American League pennants and the 2015 World Series.

Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays teams originally groomed Davis as a starter before flipping him to the Royals as part of the blockbuster James Shields/Wil Myers deal in December 2012.

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Davis blossomed in Kansas City, putting up ridiculous numbers as a setup guy/closer. He allowed zero homers in 2014 (1.00 ERA) and 2016 (1.87 ERA) and gave up only three in 2015 (0.94 ERA). During that time, he piled up 234 strikeouts against 59 walks in 182 2/3 innings. He has a 0.84 ERA in 32 1/3 career postseason innings.

Davis, 31, dealt with a strained right forearm this year, but injuries have been a recurring issue for Soler, who would be getting squeezed for playing time even when healthy at Wrigley Field.

The Cuban outfielder has shown flashes of his enormous potential since signing a $30 million contract in the summer of 2012. But Soler (.762 career OPS) looks more like a designated hitter who might benefit from a change of scenery to help unlock some of those physical gifts.

Soler still hasn’t turned 25 yet — or come close to playing a full season in the big leagues — but this is why the Cubs stockpiled so many hitters and prepared to make trades for pitching.

Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop almost disappeared during the playoffs, though the Cubs think that can be largely written off as late-season injuries and issues of timing and sharpness. The Cubs believe in Carl Edwards Jr. but still had to carefully manage his innings and appearances during his rookie season.

This wouldn’t necessarily stop with Davis, either. The Cubs plan to give Maddon some shiny new toys in the bullpen.

The second-guessing follows Joe Maddon from World Series to winter meetings

The second-guessing follows Joe Maddon from World Series to winter meetings

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — At least 10 cameras lined up in a cramped corner of a huge hotel ballroom to capture Joe Maddon’s media session late Tuesday afternoon. For almost six minutes, reporters fired off Game 7 questions as the Cubs manager explained his thinking during the World Series.

And then a beat writer abruptly switched topics and asked who would hit leadoff once Dexter Fowler is gone.

“I don’t know, that’s a really good question,” Maddon said. “We’ve talked. There are some brilliant people standing around me right now.”

For a moment, Maddon sounded a little annoyed and defensive during Day 2 of the winter meetings. But the guy who designed “The Process is Fearless” T-shirts will point to the results from that instant classic against the Cleveland Indians.

“It’s fascinating to me regarding the second-guessing, because the only reality I know is that we won,” Maddon said at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C.

“We have oftentimes in the past talked about ‘outcome bias.’ Or if people would anticipate, had you done something differently, would it have turned out better?

“But better than winning — I don’t know what that is.”

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There won’t be enough space on Maddon’s Hall of Fame plaque to bullet-point all the twists and turns during those 10 innings in Cleveland, how he pulled Cy Young Award finalist Kyle Hendricks in the fifth and brought $155 million reliever Jon Lester into the game with a runner on base, a situation the Cubs wanted to avoid, in case that triggered the yips.

Maddon wrote off Aroldis Chapman giving up a game-tying, two-run homer to Rajai Davis in the eighth inning as a matter of location — not velocity — even though the closer wound up throwing 97 pitches in Games 5, 6 and 7 combined.

If anything, Maddon might have to do more of the convincing within his own clubhouse. Jason Heyward watched from third base as the manager ordered Javier Baez to bunt on a 3-2 count in the ninth inning and felt compelled to call a players-only meeting inside a Progressive Field weight room during the 17-minute rain delay.

“You can’t control the narrative when the game is in progress,” Maddon said. “I’ve talked about the barroom banter. And I definitely know that I was able to fill up — based on my decision-making in that game — a lot of barroom banter throughout the Chicago area, or nationally, internationally.

“But the point is, when you work a game like that, there’s not an eighth game. There’s only a seventh game. Everything that you saw us do that night, I planned out before the game ever began and felt really strongly about it — and still do.

“Just take away one hit by Davis, it worked out pretty darn well. But then you have to give our guys credit for the way we withstood the onslaught and eventually won the game.”

Ultimately, an 8-7 victory ended the 108-year drought, meaning Maddon should someday have his own spot in Cooperstown.

Instead of taking a public victory lap — the way his players have celebrated on “Saturday Night Live” and the talk-show circuit — Maddon went into decompression mode. Maddon bought a Dodge Challenger Hellcat muscle car, saw “Hamilton” on Broadway and partied at the Zeta Psi fraternity house for the Lafayette-Lehigh football game at his old stomping grounds in Pennsylvania.

Without Maddon, the Cubs don’t win 97 games and two playoff rounds last year, which opened the floodgates for nearly $290 million to spend on free agents. But after “Embrace The Target,” Maddon will have to come up with a new message for the 2017 Cubs, a group that might find some of his tactics a little old.

“You still want to ‘Try Not To Suck,’ but you can’t wear that out,” Maddon said. “I really feel confident. I like our group a lot. If you look at our core group and what we did last year — the youth, the inexperience turning into experience, the authenticity of our players — I want to believe (in) the humility of our players.

“All those things (are) what I’m going to rely on. That’s going to permit us — beyond our skill abilities — (to) be good for a period of time.”