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.

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Clubhouse frustration bubbling up for Cubs and Jake Arrieta

Clubhouse frustration bubbling up for Cubs and Jake Arrieta

PITTSBURGH — We interrupt your regularly scheduled coverage of The Plan and that wacky, fun-loving Cubs team to bring you a snapshot of clubhouse frustration.

Jake Arrieta sounded defensive while talking to reporters after Wednesday night’s 8-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, standing in front of his locker and second-guessing manager Joe Maddon. On the other side of the room, veteran catcher Miguel Montero questioned the way the Cubs are preparing for the playoffs with Cactus League scripts.

The postgame questions started with Arrieta’s first-inning issues with umpire Chris Guccione’s strike zone. When reporters mentioned Maddon’s positive spin on a seven-run outing, Arrieta dismissed those happy-talk answers about his stuff — “it just wasn’t crisp” — and then wondered why he went from throwing to Montero to rookie Willson Contreras.

“The feeling of the game, from the first pitch, just wasn’t there,” Arrieta said. “Switching catchers just felt like we were trying to do a little too much instead of win a ballgame. But I didn’t throw well, no way around it.”

Montero went with a similar passive-aggressive tone, riffing on how the Cubs will maintain their edge almost two weeks after clinching the National League Central title and nine days before their first playoff game at Wrigley Field.

“Did it feel like spring training?” Montero said. “I do believe that. And that’s not a good feeling for a pitcher, for a player, to go into a game knowing that you’re going to play just four innings or five innings or whatever it is.

“This game is still important for all the players. It’s still important for every single guy. I don’t want to go out there not caring about winning or losing. That’s not my mentality. My mentality is going out there because I want to win, regardless.

“We have to trick our mind. Because if that’s how we’re going to go the rest of the way, I guess we need to trick ourselves.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Unprompted, Montero brought up the Pirates scoring three runs in the ninth inning on Tuesday night before the Cubs hung on for a 6-4 victory — without using Aroldis Chapman — as Maddon tries to keep the bullpen fresh for the playoffs.

“We didn’t have our closer warming up,” Montero said. “That’s something I take personally because I’m catching and I want to win.

“It’s hard. I understand (Joe’s) point. And I understand the organization’s point. I respect it. I can only control what I can control. It is what it is.”

OK then, the Cubs are still a 101-win team and the NL’s No. 1 seed. But this became a sharp contrast to all the backslapping after the pregame announcement of Theo Epstein’s monster contract extension. And Arrieta didn’t look like a reigning Cy Young Award winner, giving up 10 hits while John Jaso — who does look like a Pirate — lined a curveball into the right-field seats for a three-run homer in the fourth inning and hit for the cycle.

“We’re moving on,” Arrieta said. “We’ll prepare for the next one. I don’t like giving up seven runs. I’m pissed about that. But moving forward, everything’s fine.”

With Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks lined up at the front of the playoff rotation, Arrieta’s next start is almost two weeks away.

“It doesn’t matter,” Arrieta said. “I’ll throw sides. I’ll prepare. And whoever I face first round — they’re going to be in trouble.”

After burning through 103 pitches in five innings, Arrieta’s regular-season odometer is now at 197 1/3 innings, but he has zero interest in a gimmick that would get him to 200 this weekend against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

“Listen, I want to pitch on a schedule,” Arrieta said. “I don’t want to throw an inning in a game. I’m not trying to do anything different. Let’s just prepare like we normally do and go out and try to win games. I’m not trying to throw a bullpen in a game.”

Look, if this isn’t trouble in paradise, then it’s obvious that the Cubs are a hyper-competitive group that knows what’s at stake in October and has some independent thinkers and strong personalities. And that Arrieta’s unreal 2015 season created impossible standards for this year that couldn’t be met with an 18-8 record and a 3.10 ERA, the type of numbers that still get pitchers $200 million contracts.

“I don’t think you know how hard this game is unless you play it,” Arrieta said. “I feel I can have another season like that. People have done it before. Why can’t I do it? I can do it again. So, yeah, I appreciate it. But at the same time, that’s what you strive for. That’s why you work hard. You go out and you try to perform that way.”