Cubs will find out what they're made of

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Cubs will find out what they're made of

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted 7:27 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Tony La Russa has already gone viral in 2011, storming away from the podium after ranting about how: Its the first week of the season!

WATCH: La Russa quits his press conference

Each manager deals with the stress in his own way. La Russa has the juice to pull that off in St. Louis, and there is roughly 96 percent of the schedule left to play.

When Lou Piniella called you sir, you knew he was seething inside. Mike Quade still addresses reporters by their first name, and it doesnt take much effort for him to put a positive spin on the days news.

The Cubs have lost 40 percent of their rotation. Theyve so far scored 26 runs and allowed 26. They play in a city where every bullpen and pinch-hit decision is second-guessed. If that wears on the manager, he hasnt let it show yet.

I always say its about the process of giving yourself a chance to win every game. Quade said. Ive said all along: If we play intelligent baseball and we get a quality effort every game, the rest of its supposed to take care of itself. I certainly cant go back on that now (because) we had a 3-3 homestand.

The Cubs live in their own bubble and thats the only way to make it through 162 games. With pitchers Randy Wells (forearm) and Andrew Cashner (rotator cuff) heading to the disabled list, they will have to move on to a nine-game, three-city trip that begins on Friday in Milwaukee.

There are no negatives at all, outfielder Marlon Byrd said. Now its time to go on the road and see what were made of.

From here until April 17, the Cubs will have to go through the Brewers, a trendy pick in the National League Central. Theyll head to Houston, where on Tuesday night theyll need a new fifth starter. Then theyll have to deal with the Rockies and three games in Denvers thin mountain air.

By then, everyone will have forgotten that the Cubs were almost injury-free in spring training. The Cardinals had to put a brave face on Adam Wainwrights Tommy John surgery. The Brewers had to make excuses for Zack Greinke, who cracked a rib while playing pickup basketball.

When they heard about that, the Cubs didnt gloat. They knew that the injuries would balance out over the next six months they just didnt think it would happen this soon.

Unbelievable, thats the way this game is its become such a matter of health, general manager Jim Hendry said. Sooner or later, You have to overcome adversity to be in the hunt. ... Were going to get ours a little unexpectedly in April.

Through six games, the Cubs have committed five errors and stolen zero bases. Starlin Castro the youngest player in the majors shows his inexperience but still looks like an elite shortstop.

Alfonso Soriano has launched three homers and Aramis Ramirez is hitting .333. Yet that only added up to a split against the Pirates and Diamondbacks, two last-place teams in 2010.

We can be better, Soriano said.

It could be worse. Publicly, the Cubs are trying to be philosophical about the whole situation.

Wells was accommodating and patient with the media while laying out his timeline a little soreness after his final spring training start, but nothing through his side session or while warming up in the bullpen before Mondays game. But even he had trouble pinpointing a reason.

Its hard to explain, Wells said. I know you guys are looking for the answer, and I am, too, but its just one of those freak things. As disappointing as it is, I think were going to came away a lot stronger.

That means its time for the Cubs to raise their game. The front office has invested tons of capital in Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza, and theyll carry the rotation the first two nights at Miller Park.

This much is certain the answers will start coming quick. At a certain point, you cant say its still early in the season.

Were going to see what were made of, Wells said.

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

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta is a Cy Young Award winner who won't get the Opening Night assignment. John Lackey is a No. 3 starter already fitted for his third World Series ring. Kyle Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA last year and won't start until the fifth game of this season.  

Do you feel like this is the best rotation in baseball?

"We're up there, yeah," Arrieta said after homering off Zack Greinke during Thursday afternoon's 5-5 tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "I think on paper – and with what we've actually done on the field – it's tough to not say that.

"We like the guys we have. People can rank them, but time will tell. Once we get out there the first four or five times through the rotation, I think you can probably put a stamp on it then, more so than now. 

"But, yeah, we stack up just as well as anybody out there, for sure."  

Arrieta made it through five innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up three runs and eight hits in what figures to be his second-to-last Cactus League tune-up before facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 4. 

The New York Mets blew away Cubs hitters with their power pitching and game-planning during that 2015 National League Championship Series sweep. The Washington Nationals are trying to keep Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg healthy and already watched Tanner Roark deliver for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Cubs dreaded the idea of facing Johnny Cueto in a possible elimination game at Wrigley Field last October. The Los Angeles Dodgers almost became a matchup nightmare for the Cubs with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill during the 2016 NLCS.

But slotting Hendricks at No. 5 – five months after he started a World Series Game 7 – is a luxury few contenders can afford. 

"That just speaks to our length in the rotation," Arrieta said, "and being able to keep relievers out of the game, longer than most teams. That's a big deal, especially when you get into July and August. 

"Obviously, Kyle could be a 1 or 2 just about anywhere. Not that he's not here. We've got several of those, which is a good problem to have. It's going to be favorable for us when there's a No. 4 or No. 5 guy in our rotation going up against somebody else's. Our chances are really good, especially with our lineup." 

Arrieta talked up No. 4 starter Brett Anderson as "a little bit like Hendricks from the left side" in terms of his preparation, cerebral nature and spin rate, a combination that makes him an X-factor for this rotation and an organization starved for pitching beyond 2017. 

The if-healthy disclaimer always comes with Anderson, who played with Arrieta on the 2008 Olympic team and has been on the disabled list nine times since then. Coming out of high school, Arrieta initially signed to play for Anderson's father, Frank, the Oklahoma State University coach at the time, before going in a different direction in a career that wouldn't truly take off until he got to Chicago. 

"We're all looking forward to seeing how we pick up where we left off," Arrieta said. "Judging by what we've done this spring and the shape guys are in and the health – I don't see any reason we can't jump out to an early lead like we did last year and sustain it throughout the entire season."
 

Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

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Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull sits down with CSN executive producers Ryan McGuffey and Sarah Lauch, the creators of 'Reign Men: The Story Behind Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, which premieres March 27 at 9:30 p.m. on CSN.

McGuffey and Lauch share their experience making the 52-minute documentary as they sifted through hours of sound from the likes of Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and more recapping one of the greatest baseball games ever played.

Plus, hear a sneak peak of 'Reign Men’ as Heyward and Epstein describe their perspective of the Rajai Davis game-tying homer and that brief rain delay that led to Heyward’s epic speech.

Check out the latest Cubs Talk Podcast right here: