Chicago Cubs

Hoax rips Hendry, Zambrano quiets trade talk

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Hoax rips Hendry, Zambrano quiets trade talk

Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010
Updated 12:22 AM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Combined the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers began Friday 32.5 games out of first place. They are evaluating players for 2011, and weighing whether or not to bring their managers back next season.

If by the middle of September you are looking for a new angle to this I-94 rivalry, there it was at the back of the Miller Park press box. On a table filled with game notes and statistics packets, you saw a press release with this headline: A NEW BOOK CERTAIN TO BE A BEST SELLER!

It hyped a book by Cubs general manager Jim Hendry entitled: How to Finish Near Last Place with the Highest Payroll in the League. It outlined chapters like: Why I signed Milton Bradley! and Why I signed players to long-term contracts with limited trade options!

It was a juvenile hoax that ripped Hendry who did not travel with the team to Milwaukee and came across as more bizarre than funny. As in, how does something like this happen in a media workroom where three guards are stationed at the main entrance?

Hendry is tied to Carlos Zambrano, who has a no-trade clause in his 91.5 million contract and knows that he is paid to perform like one of the best pitchers in the National League.

Dominant again he almost threw a complete-game shutout on Friday night Zambrano doesnt want to hear about where he could be dealt this winter.

Im happy here, he said after a 4-0 victory over the Brewers. I love this team and I want to stay here the rest of my contract. No more trade talk.

Thats a far less nuanced answer than Zambrano gave when he came off the restricted list and said he would have to listen if the Cubs no longer wanted him around. Since rejoining the rotation on Aug. 9, the 29-year-old right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA in seven starts.

Mike Quade has been given no details on the anger-management sessions Hendry negotiated for his volatile pitcher after he got in Derrek Lees face in the U.S. Cellular Field dugout. But the manager sees a much calmer Zambrano, who allowed only three hits and struck nine in 8 23 innings against the Brewers (65-75).

I know winning is good therapy, Quade said. Not only are you allowed to get better, but youre allowed to mature. Thats none of my business to be perfectly honest (but) whatever hes doing, I really hope he keeps doing it.

A Cubs spokesman declined to comment on the stack of false Hendry documents that was removed from the press box. Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes said his department issues hundreds of credentials to individuals across the country.

Its impossible to know where this came from, Barnes said. Its an unfortunate incident. Its a lousy attempt at a practical joke, and were certainly sorry.

While speaking on or off the record, Hendry has a phrase he likes to use: Thats the world we live in. That goes for all the trade rumors and speculation that inevitably surround his job. You can safely file fake press release under that category.

Hendry has been up-front this 61-80 season hasnt lived up to anyones expectations. But he is the first general manager in franchise history to see the Cubs reach the postseason three times during his tenure (2003, 2007 and 2008).

And Hendry has earned the confidence of new ownership chairman Tom Ricketts is waiting on his short list of manager candidates and thats the only perception that matters.

Zambrano feels like hes done everything his bosses have asked. He didnt get upset when Starlin Castro committed an error with two outs in the ninth inning and Quade summoned closer Carlos Marmol for the final out. He thinks he can repair relationships with the rest of the organization.

People make mistakes, not only players, but people in the front office, Zambrano said. Were human. The most important thing here is that we learn the lesson and keep calm. You cant put your head down and think about what happened (on June 25).

You have to keep your head up and work like a winner. Theres nothing you can do about it just keep pitching, just keep doing your job and everybody will (say good things) about you.

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

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Which Cub will make biggest impact down the stretch?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Which Cub will make biggest impact down the stretch?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Chris Hine (Chicago Tribune) and Jordan Bernfield join David Kaplan on the panel. Jon Lester, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras all work out with the Cubs before their game. Which player’s return with have the biggest impact down the stretch?

Plus, the guys discuss how many snaps Mitch Trubisky should take with the first team, debate who won the big Cavs/Celtics deal and Scott Paddock drops by with the latest NASCAR news.

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

Mike Montgomery will gladly aid Cubs as spot starter, but could this be a mini audition for 2018 rotation?

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USA TODAY

Mike Montgomery will gladly aid Cubs as spot starter, but could this be a mini audition for 2018 rotation?

Jon Lester isn’t expected to be on the disabled list for long, which of course is great news for the Cubs.

But while he’s there, it’s once again time for Mike Montgomery to audition for a spot in the team’s 2018 starting rotation.

The Cubs are facing the possibility of losing two members of that starting staff this offseason, when both Jake Arrieta and John Lackey will be free agents. Montgomery seems like a logical replacement, but he’ll need to be better than he’s been as a starter this season. He’s put up a 5.13 ERA in eight starts.

He’ll get another opportunity to show his stuff over the next week or so, as he makes one or two spot starts with Lester on the shelf resting up his left lat tightness and general shoulder fatigue.

“I don’t want to see anybody get hurt, especially our ace. But it’s a challenge. I’m looking forward to going out there and helping the team win,” Montgomery said over the weekend. “I’m going to go out there and prepare and be ready to help this team get to the playoffs.”

Montgomery doesn’t have to worry about instilling confidence in his bosses. Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein both lauded Montgomery’s efforts since he was acquired about a year ago, in the middle of the 2016 team’s march to that curse-smashing World Series win. It was Montgomery who earned the save in Game 7.

And again this season Montgomery has given plenty of reason for those guys to have confidence in him. He’s turned in a strong 2.57 ERA in 27 relief appearances, one of the more reliable arms out of what is becoming an increasingly shaky bullpen. This past Thursday, he relieved the early-to-depart Lester, pitching 4.1 shutout innings and allowing just three hits and a walk against the Cincinnati Reds.

Throw in the versatility of being able to effectively switch between starting and relieving, and that’s a recipe for sticking on a big league roster.

“He’s good about bouncing back and forth,” Maddon said. “He’s been invaluable to us the last couple years. He’s still learning his craft. Every time I talk to him it’s kind of like the little lightbulb constantly goes off for him regarding his stuff and how to utilize it. That’s what I’ve been talking about with him the last couple years. This guy’s got all kinds of tools in the toolbox but he doesn’t really know how to utilize them all, and I think he’s finally understanding the cutter, the curve, the changeup to go with the fastball. He’s one of those guys that he should never get wild with his fastball because his pitches are so good and he can throw them for a strike.”

Montgomery’s reliability has been enough that Epstein said there’s no plan for the Cubs to add another starting pitcher before this month’s waiver trade deadline. Of course, the fact that Lester’s injury isn’t as bad as initially feared and the July acquisition of Jose Quintana factors into that, as well.

“We’ve expended a lot of prospect capital trying to make this team better. We think it’s just a start or two (that Lester will miss), and Mike Montgomery is more than capable of filling in,” Epstein said. “He’s thrown the ball really well, like what we saw from him (Thursday). So we’re going to fill that vacancy internally with Mike and go from there.”

While every start made by any pitcher this season seems important — the Cubs entered Monday’s day off with just a two-game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central standings, with a playoff spot hardly guaranteed — Montgomery’s efforts could have just as great an effect on next season. If Arrieta and Lackey both end up departing via free agency, the Cubs will need some replacements. Montgomery figures to be among the first options, especially if this midseason audition goes well.

Of course, Montgomery is happy to do whatever he needs to to help his team. He’s not complaining about a bullpen role or one that has him shuttling between the relief corps and the rotation. But he admitted that starting is his goal, meaning the importance of this moment likely hasn't been lost on him.

“Yeah, absolutely, I wanted to start. But also I wanted to be a guy who could fill another role and hopes that makes our team better,” he said. “If me starting makes us better in their mind, then that’s what I want ideally. But I’ve realized I can’t always control that, I can go out there and pitch well. If I pitch well, they’re probably going to give me more opportunities, which is probably going to lead to starting.

“I think it’s because I spent five years in Triple-A from the time I was 21 and I had a bigger ego. And then you realize that you just want to be in the big leagues and that Triple-A kind of stinks. I think it’s just how I’ve gotten to this point. And coming here last year from a team that was trying to get in the playoffs to a team that was clearly going to win the division, you realize that your role isn’t to come here and start making demands, it’s to come here and just do your job.”

Right now, the Cubs need Montgomery to fill the void while Lester rests up. And if he can make his starts look a little more like his bullpen outings, he’ll do just that. And if that’s what happens, maybe they’ll call on him next season to do a whole lot more.