Fight on: Cubs move past Silva-Ramirez dispute

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Fight on: Cubs move past Silva-Ramirez dispute

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Posted: 12:05 p.m. Updated: 6:37 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Alfonso Soriano walked into the clubhouse during Thursdays game with a big smile on his face.

Fight? Fight? he said. No? Ok!

Soriano is relentlessly upbeat, so you knew he wouldnt be shaken by any of this. But the Cubs have a first-year manager and are coming off a 75-87 season. Only four games into spring training, they already had what might be a defining moment.

The Cubs closed their clubhouse doors on Thursday morning to address the altercation between Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez and the mental lapses that have plagued the entire group.

Manager Mike Quade ran a team meeting that wasnt aimed exclusively at Silva and Ramirez. The day before, the two teammates had to be separated in the dugout after Silva complained about the defense behind him.

Sometimes a little revolts not bad, Quade said. Im glad people were pissed off. We need to channel that anger at the opposition and within ourselves. (You) handle it the way (youre supposed to). I think we put that to bed. As far as Im concerned, we did, and then we move on.

If we were going to have everybody fighting that has made mistakes this spring, wed have the cage match of all-time.

Quade said Silva does not have any physical issues and will continue on his normal throwing schedule. The pitcher is trying to make the rotation but was sabotaged on Wednesday by three errors, including one by Ramirez, which led to a six-run first inning during a 12-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in Phoenix.

Quade didnt want to go so far as to say that Ramirez was sticking up for his teammates, or that it showed flashes of leadership potential. But of all the crazy things that could happen to the Cubs this spring, Ramirez getting into a fight with a teammate would be one of the last things youd expect.

Its just the heat of the moment, Ramirez said Wednesday, sweeping it aside. I guarantee after you shower, you sit down and realize you made a mistake and that it shouldnt happen. Were going to be together for a long time in here, so we should be ok now.

It is part of a much wider problem. The Cubs had committed 14 errors through their first four Cactus League games. And it wasnt just anonymous players youll never see in Chicago. It was major pieces to the potential Opening Day lineup: Starlin Castro; Tyler Colvin; Carlos Pena; Blake DeWitt; and Jeff Baker.

Its not just about saying we need to clean up some of this stuff, Quade said. Its offering solutions and ideas that may help clean them up. And it doesnt mean it happens overnight, but we want to make damn sure people are committed to the work theyre doing.

Reinforcing the idea that the issues run deeper than just Silva and Ramirez, Quade did not meet with the players individually.

My sense was that things had settled down between the two of them, Quade said. I didnt feel it was that big an issue that I needed to have them both in the principals office. Theyre both veteran guys. They know whats going on. Im counting on them (to be) professionals. Theyll put it behind them. Lets go back to work.

Quade counted only one mistake during Thursdays 8-7 loss to the Texas Rangers in which the Cubs generated 14 hits, Carlos Zambrano threw three scoreless innings and Braden Looper pitched in a game for the first time since 2009.

Earlier Quade had stood on a hill beyond right field at HoHoKam Park and watched the practice fields. He noticed a more focused approach. He had seen too many missed cutoff throws and base-running mistakes to let it go.

That little blow-up notwithstanding, it was time for me (to) say something about the sloppiness, not just the physical errors, but some of the mental errors, Quade said. I dont you think you walk through spring and then magically expect to turn it on and be a sharp club in these areas when the season starts.

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

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Miami Marlins on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m., followed by first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies on the call. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery (1-3, 2.26 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (3-8, 4.19 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

MIAMI – Jon Lester dropped his head and wiped the sweat from his face. The Cubs ace didn’t jerk his neck and twist his body, hoping the swing and the sound somehow fooled him. The slow turnaround revealed the obvious – the 75-mph curveball out of his left hand flew over the left-field wall and nearly into the Clevelander bar billed as an adult playground. 

Lester gripped the next ball, stared out into the visual noise at Marlins Park and went to work late Saturday afternoon after J.T. Realmuto’s two-out, three-run homer in the first inning. This is the bulldog determination and tunnel vision that’s been the antidote to the big-market pressures at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and made Lester such a big-game pitcher.

“You really just have to lock it down,” Lester said after doing just that in a 5-3 win. “You have to try to figure out a way to pitch innings. That was one thing I learned at an early age in Boston with ‘Schill’ (Curt Schilling) and Josh (Beckett). It doesn’t matter. Now we start over. You have to take that mindset of ‘It’s back to zero’ and not keep looking at the scoreboard.”

From that Realmuto moment, Lester retired the next 13 hitters he faced, 15 of the next 16 and 18 of his last 20 at a time when the Cubs needed that performance to buy time for their young hitters, weather a series of injuries and survive a brutal schedule.

Lester believed enough in the coming waves of talent to sign with a last-place team after the 2014 season, and got rewarded with his third World Series ring, continually impressed with this group’s poise and maturity.

The day after getting shut out for the sixth time this season, Addison Russell, Ian Happ, Javier Baez and Albert Almora Jr. – four 24-and-under players – combined to go 7-for-15 with five RBI and four runs scored.

“It’s a test for everybody,” Lester said. “These guys are kind of getting broken in early. They’re going to figure it out and we’re going to go. Now it seems like our guys are really feeling comfortable at the plate. We’re having good at-bats, normal at-bats.

“The results will come. This is, obviously, a results-driven industry. But the plans – as far as on the mound and in the batter’s box – just look a lot smoother right now, a lot cleaner and hopefully we can just keep playing good baseball.”

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The Cubs are 38-36, a half-game behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers and in position to win three consecutive series for the first time since April. Whether or not Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) returns to Little Havana for the All-Star Game, he is the bellwether for this rotation.  

“Jonny’s just got this thing going on right now,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He knows where the ball is going and he gets the high-number velocity when he wants to. He’s not just pitching at 92, 93, 94 (mph). It’s in his back pocket when he needs it. And he gets it with command when he wants it.

“As well as I’ve seen him pitch – I know he had a great run last year also – from a stuff perspective, command perspective, it’s as good as he can pitch.”

This $155 million investment will at some point become a sunk cost. The Cubs understand the history of nine-figure contracts for pitchers and how desperately they need reinforcements. But almost 100 innings into this title defense, Lester feels like he’s just getting started. 

“I feel better now than I did in April and May, for sure,” Lester said. “I think bigger bodies just take a while sometimes. Some years are different than others. Some years you come out like gangbusters and you’re ready to go and the body feels fine. And other years it takes a while to get into that rhythm of pitching every five days again. This was one of those years.”