Kaplan: The reason for Soriano's solid start

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Kaplan: The reason for Soriano's solid start

Monday, April 25, 2011Posted: 7:10 p.m.
By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com

If you are looking for a reason that Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano has gotten off to a solid start and appears to be more comfortable at the plate and in the field look no further than his injured knee that is finally 100.

For the first time in a long while I feel comfortable with my knee. Last year it bothered me a lot but this year it is healed and I have a lot more confidence in it, Soriano told me in a recent conversation that we had at Wrigley Field.

Sorianos early offensive numbers suggest a bigger power season than Cubs fans have seen from him in a long time as he is on pace to hit over 30 HRs and to drive in over 100. Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo has been spending considerable time working with Soriano and agrees that his knee problems held him back over the past couple of seasons.

Soriano mentally has much more confidence in his knee and he is doing a much better job getting into a hitting position which is allowing him to execute the plan he has at the plate. Last year he was trying to time everything and it didnt matter if it was a fastball or a breaking ball. You never change your timing. You get in a hitting position and let the ball come to you. That is why we work on our mechanics every day. Soriano has been making great decisions and going the other way with the pitch, he told us.

Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is a huge fan of Starlin Castro and he gave him high praise when we sat down with him during the CubsDodgers series "I've been in this game 21 years and I have seen many of the great hitters. This guy is really special. He has one of the best paths to the ball for any right hander that I have seen in a long time. I saw Miguel Cabrera play recently and on a ball inside I saw how he approached it and I think Starlin has a better approach. That's how good this kid can be. You haven't seen this kind of hand and eye coordination in a long time but what I really like about him is he's so humble. He just stays within himself and goes about his work. He feels no pressure and you can tell by his body language that he feels no pressure. He knows he can hit and believes it. That is a great attribute."

Hey Cubs Fans, You Think Alfonso Sorianos Deal is Long????

According to Brewers.com because of deferrals built into his new contract, Ryan Braun could be drawing paychecks from the Brewers until he's 47 years old. According to the Associated Press, the five-year, 105 million extension Braun signed Thursday includes at least 18 million in interest-free deferrals to be paid in equal installments each July 1 from 2022-2031. The deferrals were key to the deal from both sides. Read the rest of the article HERE.

David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.

Kyle Hendricks is back, but Cubs will likely have to wait for their next shot at Yu Darvish

Kyle Hendricks is back, but Cubs will likely have to wait for their next shot at Yu Darvish

Within the first several weeks of the Theo Epstein administration, the Cubs finished second in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes, though nowhere close to the $51.7 million the Texas Rangers bid for the exclusive rights to negotiate a six-year, $60 million deal with the Japanese superstar.

The Cubs will probably have to wait a few more months for their next shot at Darvish, who is “unlikely to move” before the July 31 trade deadline, a source monitoring the situation said Monday. Darvish means enough to the franchise’s bottom line as a box-office draw and magnet for corporate sponsors that the Rangers would be reluctant to trade a player with global appeal and potentially jeopardize that relationship heading into free agency this winter.

Beyond the possible impact on re-signing Darvish, that would also mean foreclosing on a season where Texas is only 2.5 games out of an American League wild-card spot, making this final week critical to the buy-or-sell decision.

The Cubs would obviously prefer to stay out of the rental market after shipping two top prospects to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana deal. Quintana’s reasonable contract – almost $31 million between next season and 2020 once two team options are picked up – creates financial flexibility for a free-agent megadeal (Darvish?) or the next big-time international player.

But the cost of doing business with the White Sox probably means the Cubs wouldn’t have the super-elite prospect to anchor a trade for Darvish, anyway. That would be another obstacle in any possible deal for Sonny Gray, with an AL source saying the New York Yankees are going hard after the Oakland A’s right-hander (and have a deeper farm system and a greater sense of urgency after missing on Quintana).

All that means Kyle Hendricks could function as the trade-deadline addition for the rotation, with the Cubs instead trying to shorten games and deepen their bullpen by July 31.

After spending more than six weeks on the disabled list, the Cubs activated Hendricks for the start of this week’s crosstown series, watching him pitch into the fifth inning of Monday’s 3-1 loss to a White Sox team that had lost nine straight games.

[Willson Contreras may be ‘the f------ Energizer Bunny,’ but Cubs still need to get another catcher before trade deadline]

Hendricks is a rhythm/feel pitcher who blossomed from an overlooked prospect in the Texas system into a piece in the buzzer-beater Ryan Dempster deal at the 2012 deadline into last year’s major-league ERA leader.

Hendricks clearly isn’t locked in yet. He gave up eight hits, but minimized the damage against the White Sox, allowing only one run while putting up five strikeouts against zero walks.

“He wasn’t as normal,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The velocity was still down a little bit. There was not a whole lot of difference between his pitches. He was not what you would call ‘on.’ He would be the first one to tell you that. He looked fine delivery-wise, but the ball just wasn’t coming out as normal.”

Hendricks described his fastball command as “terrible,” called his secondary pitches “OK” and ultimately came to this conclusion: “Health-wise, everything felt great, so we’ll take that. Just got to get back (to my routine).”

The biggest takeaway is Hendricks didn’t feel any lingering effects from the right hand tendinitis that was initially classified as a minor injury in early June. Meaning the Cubs (51-47) are just about at full strength and have another week left to upgrade the defending World Series champs.

Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan?

Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan?

The crosstown rivalry doesn't end on the diamond.

Both Cubs and White Sox fans are highly competitive when it comes to trivia, too. 

We found that out when we bounced around Wrigley Field to quiz North and South Siders in a special edition of "Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan?" 

Watch the video above as we pitted fans against eachother for the chance to win a killer shirt.