Epstein begins putting Cubs pieces together

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Epstein begins putting Cubs pieces together

The Miami Marlins wanted Jose Reyes to feel wanted.

Team executives arranged to meet with Reyes and his camp at 12:01 a.m. on the first day of free agency. They would have drinks at The Carlyle, a luxury hotel in New York. It was cold enough on Nov. 3 for owner Jeffrey Loria to wear a long overcoat, which hid the new Marlins jersey that hadnt yet been released to the public.

A few other people in the bar thought that this was some sort of strange, freaky show, Marlins president David Samson recalled, because this man the owner of the team stood up and literally (opened his coat) and underneath was Jose Reyes jersey.

Samson told this story at a news conference to announce the Reyes signing this week at the winter meetings in Dallas. That is where the Marlins are as an organization, trying to break through the clutter in their market and make a splash.

The Cubs are content with a slow drip of news, seemingly unlikely to make a 100 million-plus commitment to a single player this winter. Theo Epstein is trying to buy low and methodically put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Ian Stewart was the 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft and will be 27 next season. His home run totals with the Colorado Rockies the last three years have gone from 25 to 18 to zero. But the Cubs believe he can be their third baseman.

It does wonders for a guys confidence, Stewart said Friday on a teleconference. Theo Epstein just the name is one of those guys in sports that everyone can recognize just for the success he brought to the Boston Red Sox organization in such a short amount of time. To hear his voice on the phone was very refreshing.

The logic behind Thursdays trade was that the four players involved would benefit from a new environment, even if Stewart didnt necessarily see it that way.

I was never really a big change of scenery type guy, Stewart said. I always felt like I fit in great with the Rockies when I was there. It just didnt seem like all the time I was given the best opportunity to play.

(With Aramis Ramirez gone), this gives me a great opportunity to come in and to be that everyday third baseman and get those 500 or 600 at-bats that I need to be able to be successful. Change of scenery? I dont know. But I think in the long run being in the spot where Im going to be able to play every day is going to be the best thing for me.

Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu wont be part of a homegrown youth movement on the North Side and their athleticism could play well at Coors Field. Casey Weathers another former first-round pick who once played with David Price at Vanderbilt University represents more pitching inventory for the Cubs.

Stewart is looking forward to working with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and showing that a string of injuries (knee, hamstring, wrist) caused a 2011 season in which he hit .156 at the big-league level.

We have opportunity, Epstein said. We can acquire players and give them 500, 600 at-bats, players with real upside and see if they can blossom and reach their potential here. Thats a way of building for the future.

Maybe these names will become answers to a trivia question, or simply forgotten. It depends on how quickly the Cubs can rebuild. The first moves of the Epstein administration have been measured, like the modest commitment recently given to outfielder David DeJesus (two years, 10 million).

You cant necessarily point to anything with David and say, Hey, this guy is going to hit you 30 home runs because hes not, Epstein said. You cant say, Hes going to hit .320. Hes not going to do that either. Hes not going to steal you 40 bags. But I like players whose contributions are consistent across the board.

They help you defensively. They can swing the bat. They have good consistent at-bats. They run the bases well. The totality of their contribution can be equal to or more than the player who does one thing extremely well, like the guy (whos) going to go out and hit you 25, 30 home runs, but really hurts you in other areas.

If we have a club full of well-rounded players, were going to far exceed the expectations, because those subtle contributions really add up.

The president of baseball operations doesnt have to wine and dine superstars, or worry about filling a new ballpark in Little Havana. Epstein credited the Marlins for developing enough players and keeping their powder dry so they could fire away when the time was right. The Cubs arent there yet.

Road Ahead: Cubs look for revenge against Pirates

Road Ahead: Cubs look for revenge against Pirates

CSN's Cubs Pregame and Postgame host David Kaplan and analyst David DeJesus discuss the upcoming matchups in this edition of the Cubs Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Cubs' bats are finally coming around. 

On the back of Anthony Rizzo, who hit three homers this weekend, the North Siders took two out of three from the Cincinnati Reds and have been winners of four out of five overall. 

The offense will attempt to stay in their groove against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who swept the Cubs at Wrigley during the teams' last meeting. 

Luckily for Chicago's pitching staff, Starling Marte won't be anchoring the Pirates' order. The outfielder is serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. 

After Pittsburgh, Joe Maddon's club hits Fenway Park for what should be a wild three-game set against the Red Sox. 

Watch David Kaplan and David DeJesus break down the upcoming matchups in the video above. 

 

John Lackey struggles as Cubs drop series finale to Reds

John Lackey struggles as Cubs drop series finale to Reds

CINCINNATI — With his high leg kick and below-the-radar breaking balls, Bronson Arroyo showed the Cubs a little old-style pitching. Who needs to throw 90 mph to beat the World Series champions?

The 40-year-old righty gave his best performance yet in his long comeback from elbow problems, pitching three-hit ball over six innings on Sunday, and the Cincinnati Reds salvaged a 7-5 victory . Arroyo worked fast, varied the angles of his deliveries, and kept `em guessing with his minimalist pitches.

"I'm happy for him, to see him back up," Chicago catcher Miguel Montero said. "He's a tough pitcher to face. Obviously he's throwing below hitting speed right now."

Arroyo (2-2) needed more than two years to recover from Tommy John surgery. The Reds gave him what amounted to a final chance this spring, and he's back to fooling `em with his unusual repertoire. Jon Jay saw pitches of 67, 74, 83, 75 and 70 mph during one at-bat.

"I don't want to say I had pinpoint control, but I was throwing the breaking ball down and out where it was almost impossible to hit," Arroyo said. "They knew where I was going, but I still had enough late movement to surprise them."

Arroyo allowed Anthony Rizzo's two-run homer - his third of the series - and struck out seven batters for the first time since May 13, 2014.

"This was the first time he looked like the Bronson of his first time through here," manager Bryan Price said, referring to Arroyo's 2006-13 stay in Cincinnati.

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Raisesl Iglesias gave up a pair of runs in the ninth before finishing off the Reds' 3-7 homestand.

Patrick Kivlehan's bases-loaded double highlighted a four-run sixth inning off John Lackey (1-3) and decided a matchup of up-in-years starters. The 38-year-old Lackey and Arroyo have combined for 793 starts in the majors.

Despite the loss, the defending champs took two of three in the series and moved back into first place in the NL Central. No surprise that it happened in Cincinnati - the Cubs have won 17 of their last 22 at Great American Ball Park. They've taken 20 of their last 25 overall against the Reds.

"I have nothing to complain about," manager Joe Maddon said.

Rizzo extended his hitting streak to 12 games - matching his career high - with his two-run homer in the fourth inning. His three-run shot with two outs in the ninth helped the Cubs rally for a 6-5, 11-inning victory in the series opener. He had another three-run homer during a 12-8 win on Saturday.

The Cubs have homered in their last 15 games at Great American. They hit seven in all during the series.