Cubs won't give Sandberg a September call-up

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Cubs won't give Sandberg a September call-up

Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010
9:17 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

The legend of Ryne Sandberg seems to grow every time another player is promoted from Triple-A Iowa. Everyone wants to know about the Hall of Famer who throws batting practice and rides buses from one city to the next.

Finally, Jeff Samardzija just had to laugh at a reporters line of questioning on Tuesday afternoon inside the Cubs clubhouse.

No, we carried all his bags for him every time, Samardzija said. He big-leagued us the whole time.

Samardzija was joking and in a pretty good mood after being brought up from Iowa along with reliever Justin Berg, infielder Bobby Scales, and outfielders Sam Fuld and Brad Snyder. To make room for Scales and Snyder on the 40-man roster, the Cubs transferred pitchers John Grabow and Esmailin Caridad to the 60-day disabled list.

Barring injuries, general manager Jim Hendry does not plan to make any more September call-ups. And he gave no thoughts to adding Sandberg to the major-league coaching staff for the final 27 days of the season.

No, no, no, never considered that, Hendry said. Thats not something that would be conducive.

Hendry visited with Sandberg last week during a scouting trip to Albuquerque, N.M., but wouldnt classify their meeting as a formal interview during his search for the next Cubs manager.

Sandberg suddenly showing up for work this week at Wrigley Field where the fans adore him and the Ricketts family used to root for him would be a massive distraction to the team.

And it would be unfair to Mike Quade, the other candidate Hendry publicly identified. Quade, who used to manage in Iowa, learned a great deal during his Septembers in Chicago with Dusty Baker. But he also doesnt want to give this up.

Iowas season ended abruptly on Monday with a 7-6 loss to the Memphis Redbirds in Des Moines. At 82-62, Iowa finished tied for first in its division, but Memphis won the tiebreaker and advanced to the playoffs.

Even if the Cubs dont hire Sandberg the Pacific Coast League's Manager of the Year in 2010 his work wont go unnoticed by other organizations.

He never aired us out or (anything) like that, Scales said. I dont think he really had to. We played so well all year long that he just had a steady hand on the team (and) a good pulse on the clubhouse.

For his part, Quade hasnt been paralyzed by decisions, or overwhelmed by the public nature of his job. On the same day Iowa was eliminated from playoff contention, Quade benched Starlin Castro (and did so again Tuesday night).

The manager said he might challenge a veteran, and wont necessarily confront young players the same way.

Some of (Castros) lapses of concentration, Quade said, just (have) youth written all over it. You discipline your six-year-old different than you discipline your 17-year-old. Its case-by-case.

In sitting the 20-year-old shortstop for at least two games, it didnt sound like Quade was acting alone, though he wont be on the phone constantly asking permission.

(Jims) given me leeway to do what I want, Quade said. But I think any time you do something like thisits just not in my nature to do it and not talk to Jim or (assistant general manager Randy Bush) or my staff and say, Look, this is what Im thinking.

I get feedback from all over the place. But Ive been real happy because Jims given me the opportunity and said, Just do it. So in these situations Im kind of doing what I want.

Building consensus will be the responsibility of whoever manages the Cubs in 2011. Its not like hell enjoy the autonomy Bill Belichick does with the New England Patriots, or even the level of influence Lou Piniella used to wield earlier in his career.

Itll be about teaching, reading moods and developing relationships, or what worked for Sandberg during the fourth season of his apprenticeship.

It wasnt anything crazy, Scales said. He knew his team. He knew his guys. And its managing it doesnt matter what it is. Whether youre managing a team or a business, you got to know your personnel, and he did. (He) had a great handle on us all year.

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

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

MESA, Ariz. – Ben Zobrist is focused on a personal three-peat, not worrying about a changing of the guard or any awkward moments with Javier Baez. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly said that Zobrist will be the primary second baseman and another "Javy Being Javy" highlight reel from the World Baseball Classic won't change that thinking right now.

Zobrist sees the big picture better than almost anyone else in the clubhouse after going undrafted out of Eureka High School in downstate Illinois, perfecting the super-utility role Maddon envisioned with the Tampa Bay Rays and helping transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into World Series champions.

While Baez started all 17 playoff games at second base last year, bursting onto the scene as the National League Championship co-MVP, Zobrist became the World Series MVP with his clutch hitting and still has three seasons left on his $56 million contract.

Maddon didn't spare anyone's feelings during the playoffs, turning $184 million outfielder Jason Heyward into a part-time player, giving a quick hook to major-league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and shunning relievers not named Aroldis Chapman.

"We haven't had an extended conversation about it," Zobrist said. "But at the beginning of spring, we talked about it. I think his words were: ‘I really think rest is the next improvement in player performance.' Learning what rest means, what good rest is for players and what kind of rest certain players need versus others.

"That doesn't necessarily mean just because you're 35. It could mean you're 25 and you still got to take care of yourself and make sure you're getting the proper rest. Because we have such a deep team, he's able to do that at any given point in time and still feel confident about the team we have on the field.

"It's a good problem to have when you have really good players not playing and sitting on the bench. We had that all last year and we had guys accept their role and just buy into the team concept.

"The makeup of this team is the same, basically. We've got a few new guys and they've got the same mindset, so I anticipate more of the same."

Injuries are one variable that prevents Maddon from getting too stressed out about dividing the playing time over 162 games while the NCAA tournament is still going. Zobrist's stiff neck felt good enough to hit leadoff and play right field in Tuesday afternoon's 10-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants, seeing his first Cactus League action since March 19.

Zobrist plans to play again on Wednesday in Mesa and catch up with more at-bats on the minor-league side of the complex. Assuming Zobrist and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell (stiff back) are ready for Opening Night, Baez will be an NLCS MVP, all-WBC talent waiting for the right matchup or break in the schedule or to sub in as a defensive replacement.

"It's pretty impressive, looking around at the young talent in this clubhouse," Zobrist said. "All throughout spring training, we've seen there's definitely other talent coming, so this team is poised to have a good, long run of success. If everybody stays healthy and we stay together, this is a very good team.

"The biggest thing that I go into the season with this year is we have to be healthy and we have to make sure that we don't relax too much. That's the temptation for teams that just won, to go: OK, well, we're tired, because we had a long season last year and you kind of just assume things are going to go as well as they did.

"You can't assume anything. No matter how good this team is, we have to still go out and execute and perform – and that's going to determine where we are in the standings."

In real time, as the Cubs experienced their lowest moments during last year's regular season, Zobrist correctly pointed out the exhaustion factor while the team played 24 days in a row, losing 15 of their last 21 games before the All-Star break.

What looks like overwhelming depth on paper should help the 2017 Cubs survive and advance into October.

"It's huge," Zobrist said. "It's up and down the lineup on offense. It's all throughout the pitching staff and on the defensive side. It's so deep that you can absorb a little bit of injury here and there.

"With that being said, there are certain guys that you just don't want to lose. So we got to protect everybody. We got to protect our horses – both on the mound and in the lineup – and just make sure that we have our key cogs in there. And if we do, we're as good, if not better, than anybody out there."

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

MESA, Ariz. - Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella - and a combination of right/left, outfield/infield and contractual considerations - appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

The Cubs returned Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to the New York Yankees on Tuesday and assigned injured non-roster players Jemile Weeks and Chris Dominguez to minor-league camp. That left 27 players still technically in the mix, though depth catcher Carlos Corporan isn't really part of that conversation.

The projected eight-man bullpen would look like this: Wade Davis; Koji Uehara; Pedro Strop; Hector Rondon; Carl Edwards Jr.; Justin Grimm; and lefties Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing.

Szczur, who is out of minor-league options, could be a good fourth outfielder on a team that didn't have so much depth and World Series expectations, making him a potential trade chip for pitching. La Stella offers infield insurance and a left-handed bat off the bench.