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.

Cubs can't complete rally against Pirates in series finale

Cubs can't complete rally against Pirates in series finale

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Gift Ngoepe might not have had the weight of the world on his shoulders but he felt like a continent was counting on him.

Ngoepe, the first African to reach the major leagues, singled in his first plate appearance and Josh Harrison led off the bottom of the first with a home run Wednesday night to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Ngoepe was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis and entered the game in fourth inning as part of a double switch and finished 1 for 2 with a walk. The 27-year-old South African, who signed with the Pirates in 2008 as an amateur free agent, led off the fourth with a hit off winless Cubs ace Jon Lester.

"To accomplish this only for me but for my country and my continent is something so special," Ngoepe said. "There are 1.62 billion people on our continent. To be the first person out of 1.62 billion to do this is amazing."

It was so special that Ngoepe nearly broke into tears when he trotted from the dugout to take his positon at second base.

"I told myself not to cry because I'm in the big leagues and I'm a big guy now," Ngoepe said with a smile. "(Catcher Francisco) Cervelli hugged me and I could feel my heart beat through my chest."

A year after winning 19 games in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title since 1908, Lester (0-1) is still looking for his first victory after five starts. The left-hander was tagged for six runs - five earned - and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

"It's probably the best I threw the ball all year," Lester said. "That's baseball."

Wade LeBlanc (1-0), who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of rookie Tyler Glasnow, got the win.

The fifth leadoff home run of Harrison's career keyed a two-run first that included an RBI double by Cervelli. Andrew McCutchen and Phil Gosselin hit run-scoring doubles in a three-run third that pushed the Pirates' lead to 5-1.

After the Cubs got within two runs, Josh Bell gave the Pirates a 6-3 lead with a solo home run in the sixth inning off Lester. The rookie first baseman has reached base in 11 straight games.

Anthony Rizzo's two-run homer deep into the right-field stands in the eighth inning off Daniel Hudson drew the Cubs within 6-5. Tony Watson then got the last four outs for his seventh save in as many chances.

Glasnow remained winless in nine career starts, allowing three runs in 3 1/3 innings and requiring 89 pitches to get 10 outs.

Rizzo had four RBIs and Kris Bryant had three hits as the Cubs lost for just second time in eight games while stranding 13 runners. The Pirates won for the third time in nine games.

Cubs bullpen finding its form after early-season struggles

Cubs bullpen finding its form after early-season struggles

It was just over a week ago when Cubs fans were freaking out about the bullpen's struggles in a weekend series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It was understandable, given Cubs relievers allowed 11 runs in the course of blowing two late leads to end that three-game sweep at the hand of the Bucs.

But since then, the Cubs bullpen has been fantastic.

In eight games entering Wednesday night's series finale with the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the Cubs bullpen is working on a stretch where they've posted a 1.56 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over the last 28.2 innings.

In that span — in which the Cubs are 6 — relievers have allowed six runs (five earned) while striking out 33 batters and surrendering just one homer.

They've been especially stingy over the last three games, allowing just five baserunners in eight shutout innings, including three straight scoreless frames to close out a 1-0 victory Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Wade Davis has been the anchor at the back end of the bullpen the Cubs were hoping he'd be when they traded Jorge Soler for him over the winter. Davis is a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities and has not allowed a run in 9.1 innings, allowing just three hits and a pair of walks in the season's first month.

Setting up in front of Davis, Hector Rondon and Carl Edwards Jr. have combined to allow one run and three hits in 15.1 innings.

Brian Duensing — who started the year on the disabled list after a back issue sapped his spring training — is still searching for a rhythm and has surrendered six runs and 10 hits in 6.1 innings on the season. Over the last week-and-a-half, the 34-year-old southpaw has allowed more runs (three) than the rest of the Cubs bullpen combined.

Take Duensing's numbers away from that same eight-game stretch and the Cubs bullpen has been even more fantastic — 0.73 ERA and 0.81 WHIP.

Of course, it's still not even May yet, so this stellar stretch is just another small sample size. 

But just like that, the Cubs suddenly have a Top 10 bullpen, tied for the Colorado Rockies for ninth in Major League Baseball with a 3.07 relief ERA.