With cuts coming, it's decision time for Cubs

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With cuts coming, it's decision time for Cubs

Monday, March 21, 2011
Posted 6:42 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

TEMPE, Ariz. Mike Quade doesnt act like the smartest guy in the room, and he genuinely enjoys the give and take within every argument. But the Cubs manager might not get everything he wants.

Behind closed doors on Tuesday morning, Quade will meet with general manager Jim Hendry, assistant general manager Randy Bush, pitching coach Mark Riggins and bench coach Pat Listach.

Together they will break down the entire roster, identifying who still has a chance to make the team and who doesnt. They will analyze the depth at each position and rank players. They will assess the entire pitching staff and make contingency plans, in case someone gets injured.

You try to look at every angle, every possibility, Quade said. The picture (should) be a lot clearer (by) Wednesday after weve had a chance to digest this and figure out what were doing.

When the decision-makers walk out of that meeting, they will be some 240 hours away from Opening Day. This is what they will be talking about.

Blake DeWitt

Cubs staffers rave about DeWitts work ethic. On a recent morning at HoHoKam Park, DeWitt was the only player on the field, taking grounders from coach Ivan DeJesus and throwing to Listach at first base.

The 25-year-old DeWitt is a former first-round pick and a left-handed bat, but sources confirm that hes not yet out of minor-league options. Hes hitting .163 this spring, while utility infielders Jeff Baker (.395) and Darwin Barney (.371) make claims on the second-base job.

DeWitt is not a naturally gifted defender and needs to work on his double-play pivot, especially after spending so much time playing third base with the Dodgers. Quade was asked if DeWitt still has a spot on the roster.

Right now he does, Quade said, but theres some guys pushing him, and we aint left yet, so well see.

Reed Johnson

The fifth outfielder looks like it will be Johnson, who becomes a free agent if he doesnt make the club but will likely force the Cubs to make a change to their 40-man roster.

The 34-year-old is hitting only .206, but hes remembered as a key contributor to the 97-win team in 2008 and a solid veteran presence.

Fernando Perez, who turns 28 next month, might be the fastest guy in camp. But he has struggled at the plate (.161) and committed two errors in the outfield, showing that the rest of his game may need to catch up to his speed.

Im still learning about Fernando, Quade said. Thats a much tougher feel for me than Reed. I think we have a real feel for who he is, no matter what takes place.

Welington Castillo

A month away from his 24th birthday, Castillo is hitting .706 and has displayed what Quade calls a game-changing arm. But the Cubs view Geovany Soto as a foundation piece, so the young catcher can either sit the bench at Wrigley Field or play every day at Triple-A Iowa.

Koyie Hill has gone 1-for-27 (.037) so far, but is well-respected for how he handles the pitchers and what he does behind the scenes. The Cubs place a high value on his experience.

With Castillos bright future in mind, Quade has a good feel for what should be done.

Wow, hes a talented kid, Quade said. Hell continue to mature and if he can handle the mental part of the game, I think weve all watched some pretty darn good physical tools.
Bullpen

This meeting will take place the day before Carlos Silva is scheduled to throw again, and the Cubs will have to figure out how to salvage a pitcher guaranteed 13.5 million. Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner appear to be the fourth and fifth starters.

Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer are non-roster players with long resumes that could get consideration as the long man. James Russell, who was being stretched out, threw about 10 pitches on Monday in a minor-league game, which shows he could again be part of the Cubs bullpen.

Whatever the group decides, Quade will have to make the pieces fit.

Quade has been fired from other organizations for speaking his mind. But he enjoys a close relationship with the front office, and helped them out by pushing young players late last season. This is, after all, Hendrys hand-picked manager. They share a similar enough philosophy.

I expect the facts to win out in all these situations, Quade said. I have no doubt that people will enlighten me (about) contractual issues (and) options. All I can do is take a look at what Ive seen (here in Arizona and) in the past.

I (dont) have to (decide everything). Im not an ego guy. I want to do the right thing. I understand theres a lot more than just my opinion involved here.

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

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs look to stay hot vs. Mariners Saturday on CSN

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs look to stay hot vs. Mariners Saturday on CSN

Jake Arrieta and the Cubs look to stay hot against the Mariners on Saturday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Wade Miley (6-8, 5.23 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.76 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Cubs battle rain, explode for blowout over Mariners

Cubs battle rain, explode for blowout over Mariners

A little rain Friday couldn't dampen the Cubs' spirits as they welcomed the Seattle Mariners into town.

The Cubs offense rudely greeted their American League opponent en route to a 12-1 victory at Wrigley Field that included a 74-minute rain delay after the game was well in hand.

As the Cubs have gone through a little offensive lull over the last week or so, they've maintained they need to take what's given to them from opposing pitchers and try not to do too much.

They did that and a whole lot more Friday afternoon, giving the announced crowd of 40,951 fans a lot to stand up and cheer about all game.

"Just a really well-played game," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We pitched well, we played well, we did everything well. After a really hard-fought series with the White Sox, it was kinda nice to play a game like that today."

Chris Coghlan — just activated off the disabled list Friday morning — got things started with a two-out, two-run single in the second inning and then came around to score on Kris Bryant's single.

Jason Heyward added a two-run homer in the fifth inning and the Cubs then touched up the Mariners bullpen for six runs in the sixth inning, including a three-run double from Anthony Rizzo and a solo homer from David Ross.

In all, the Cubs rapped out 14 hits and walked six times. Bryant led the way with three hits and a pair of walks.

"These days are great," Ben Zobrist said. "It's a mental breather for everybody. When you get up early in the game like that, you allow the pitcher to have some breathing room.

"... I think all across the board as a team, it's a real feel-good win."

It was all the offense starter Jon Lester needed, as he tossed six shutout innings with seven strikeouts for his 11th victory on the season.

"I felt actually a lot better than I have here recently," Lester said. "Still two pointless, useless walks out there. Still trying to clean that up for whatever reason.

"But at the end of the day, we win. That's what you want to do. Guys swung the bats really well. I try to always tell them: 12 runs and an airtight defense makes the pitcher's job a lot easier."

Lester even got in on the offensive onslaught, drawing a walk and scoring a run in that sixth inning explosion. 

With the Cubs up big, Joe Maddon opted to take out Lester for the top of the seventh after 95 pitches, giving way to Justin Grimm and former Mariner Mike Montgomery for the final three innings.

The game got so out of hand, the Mariners brought in infielder Luis Sardinas to pitch the eighth inning (and he promptly retired Addison Russell, Heyward and Javy Baez in order).

The lopsided score also helps the Cubs' new bullpen, giving Aroldis Chapman, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop the day off.

The Cubs have looked like a different team since the All-Star Break, with their starting rotation once again leading the National League in ERA (2.60) in the second half.

The Cubs also haven't lost a series since before the All-Star Break, taking two of three from the Rangers, Mets and Brewers before splitting a four-game set with the White Sox.

"I think to a certain degree, yes [we have gotten our mojo back since the break]," Zobrist said. "It gave us the rest that our staff needed to get back to the kind of staff that they are and our hitters — we've struggled a little bit coming out of the All-Star Game.

"But today was a good day to kinda bust through with a lot of runs early. Hopefully there's some more games like that to come."

Cubs demoting La Stella for Coghlan just about numbers game and 'rules'

Cubs demoting La Stella for Coghlan just about numbers game and 'rules'

As the new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement is negotiated this winter, count Cubs manager Joe Maddon among those who would be in favor of 27-man rosters.

Maddon and the Cubs had to make arguably the toughest roster call of the year Friday as they activated veteran Chris Coghlan from the disabled list and optioned Tommy La Stella to the minor leagues.

La Stella is not an everyday player, but performance has not been his issue at all, hitting .295 with an .846 OPS as a left-handed bat off the bench receiving spot starts at third and second base.

La Stella has also been effective lately, hitting .308 with a .419 on-base percentage in 32 plate appearances since returning from his own DL stint in early July.

"Honestly, it's just about rules," Maddon said of the move. "It's just getting Coghlan back. He was ready to come back. And Tommy had an option."

The option is really the biggest part, and the fact both Coghlan and La Stella are lefties. 

The Cubs couldn't send Matt Szczur down because he is out of options and they didn't want to risk losing him to another organization. (Plus, he's a right-handed bat off the bench who is also performing well with a .759 OPS.)

The Cubs are currently carrying three catchers, but David Ross is a valuable presence in the clubhouse, Miguel Montero is a veteran and a two-time All Star and Willson Contreras is the backstop of the future and has also seen some time in the outfield.

Among the bullpen arms, Carl Edwards Jr. can be sent down to the minors with no issues, but he has a 1.84 ERA and 0.75 WHIP.

When it came down to it, La Stella was the only option for the Cubs if they wanted to bring back Coghlan.

"(La Stella did not take it) well. And he shouldn't take it well, honestly," Maddon said. "It's an unusual moment we're in right now where we have so many guys. This is definitely an advocacy for a 27- or 28-man roster. 

"It's difficult. These are hard decisions. Guys are not gonna like 'em. I don't expect them to like 'em.

"I would not make up any kind of excuse or try to give (the media) any kind of reason other than the fact it was hard to do, (La Stella) didn't like it and again, it's part of the rules and how they are constructed in our game that kinda forces you into different moments."

Maddon said he doesn't expect La Stella to get over this move right away, suggesting it may take a few days before the 27-year-old can come to terms with it.

"The fact that he got it straight up matters," Maddon said. "And that's all you can do. There's no saying, 'You're not playing good enough; you're not hitting good enough.' You can't tell them that. It's not true.

"These are the rules. And in order to retain everybody that we want to, we had to do it this way."

Coghlan — who landed on the DL with a side/rib injury — said the Cubs told him earlier in the week that he would be activated on Friday if all continued to go well in his rehab stint but also said he did not know the corresponding move until reporters informed him in the clubhouse before Friday's game.

Coghlan felt he was ready to come back earlier than this, and his numbers in five rehab games back that up. He posted a .500 average and 1.369 OPS with Double-A Tennessee.

"You gotta get over some of those mental hurdles, but that was kinda done probably the first couple games," Coghlan said. "I had a check swing, kinda did all those things.

"I think it was just key to get some timing back. And obviously it's not the same caliber, but it's what you could get, so I was grateful for that time and (trying to) carry that over here."

The Cubs will have another tough call to make when Jorge Soler is activated from the disabled list, too.

Soler has played in six rehab games in his return from a hamstring injury but is just 2-for-19 in those contests, so the Cubs want him to work more on getting his timing back before activating him.