Feeling good again, Colvin will keep his maple bats

Feeling good again, Colvin will keep his maple bats

Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010
9:45 PM

By Patrick MooneyCSNChicago.com

HOUSTON There are still restrictions on Tyler Colvin, who couldnt fly to Houston to visit his teammates this weekend. The Cubs outfielder wont lift weights for another six weeks, but hes been cleared to begin running, and he has no trouble breathing.

Colvins outlook could have been much different if the shattered piece of a maple bat pierced his heart or neck instead of his chest. That freak accident on Sept. 19 in Miami opened a national debate. But he isnt about to make it his cause.

I cant say much about it because I use maple bats, Colvin said Saturday on a teleconference from his fiances home in West Virginia. It happens and Major League Baseball is doing a good job of reducing the number of broken bats. I think theyll keep working on it and get it better.

It drew the attention of commissioner Bud Selig, who contacted Colvin as he recovered from a collapsed lung at a Miami hospital. Colvin, the teams assistant union representative, hasnt seriously considered not using maple bats anymore.

If somebody really made me, I guess Id have to, Colvin said. But (bats are) going to break and Ive seen ash bats break like that before. As long as they keep trying to improve them and make them better, I dont see whats wrong with them.

Two weeks ago, the 25-year-old turned his head and moved down the third-base line as Welington Castillos double soared toward the left-field wall at Sun Life Stadium. At first it didnt register that the sharp edge of Castillos bat stabbed him.

Colvin thought he was out of breath as he walked back to the dugout until Jeff Samardzija told him he was bleeding. Colvin would have a tube in his chest for a few days, ending a promising rookie season in which he lived up to the potential the Cubs saw when they made him the 13th overall pick in the 2006 draft.

Its been kind of tough just (because) the season wasnt over and Im sitting at home right now with all my teammates playing the season out, Colvin said. Were playing so well right now and I wish I could be a part of that. But I know I need to get better and be ready for next year.

Colvin will presumably handle this like he has everything else this year without getting caught up in all they hype. No one expected him to make the team out of spring training, but he absolutely crushed the pitching in Arizona and eventually became more of an every-day player.

In 358 at-bats, Colvin hit .254 with 20 homers, 56 RBI and a .316 on-base percentage. He finished with 100 strikeouts and 30 walks. There are no immediate plans to have him start working again at first base.

Theres nothing to (be concerned) about playing at this level defensively, manager Mike Quade said. He can fool around at first. Thats always in the back of your mind somewhere if need be. But hes a solid corner guy in the outfield. (Hes) just got to continue to get better identifying pitches and being a good, disciplined power-type guy.

Colvin has already spoken with Castillo, who was also his teammate coming up through the minor-league system. The message to Castillo was simple: Dont worry about it. Theres nothing you could have done about it. Keep playing. That will be Colvins mindset as well.

I'm still going (to) play the same way I always did, he said. It's not going to scare me to go out there on the field again, if that's what you're implying.

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.