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.

Honda Road Ahead: Cubs offense looks to build off showing against Clayton Kershaw

Honda Road Ahead: Cubs offense looks to build off showing against Clayton Kershaw

CSN's Kelly Crull and analyst Dave Otto discuss the upcoming matchups and Kyle Schwarber's slump in this edition of the Cubs Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Cubs haven't received any California love so far on their six-game road trip. 

At Dodger Stadium this weekend, the North Siders were swept away in three games that were never really close. And, now, Joe Maddon's club must regroup on the fly as they head to San Diego to open a three-game set with the Padres on Monday. 

If it's any consolation prize, the Cubs' bats did show signs of life against three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw on Sunday. They roughed him up for 11 hits and four earned runs. 

"I liked the at-bats that the Cubs had against Kershaw and the Dodgers today," Dave Otto said following the Cubs' 9-4 loss in the series finale. 

To salvage a decent road trip, the offense has to find some sort of consistent groove. The lineup was shutout twice in Los Angeles. 

Watch the video above to hear Kelly Crull and Dave Otto break down the upcoming series and the slumping order. 

 

Stranger than fiction: Dodgers sweep Cubs as Lester vs. Kershaw doesn’t live up to expectations

Stranger than fiction: Dodgers sweep Cubs as Lester vs. Kershaw doesn’t live up to expectations

LOS ANGELES – In a Cubs season that has already gone off script – or at least not followed the dynasty-in-waiting narrative – it made perfect sense that a Jon Lester vs. Clayton Kershaw matchup at Dodger Stadium would devolve into a slugfest and a bullpen battle.

Randy Newman’s voice – “I Love L.A.” – echoed from the sound system late Sunday afternoon as the Dodgers put the finishing touches on a three-game sweep of the defending World Series champs. The Cubs led for one half-inning during this entire weekend and a Hollywood team will wake up in San Diego on Memorial Day with a 25-24 record.

This 9-4 blowout again showed that the Dodgers should be a force in October. Forget about the way forward-thinking manager Dave Roberts basically tried to MacGyver his way through last year’s National League Championship Series with three pitchers: Kershaw, lefty curveball specialist Rich Hill and star closer Kenley Jansen.

“That’s the big separator between what I saw last year and right now,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, “how they’re pitching.”

This time it didn’t matter that the Cubs knocked Kershaw out in the middle of the fifth inning. Willson Contreras, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo launched home runs off Kershaw and the Cubs generated all of their 11 hits against the three-time Cy Young Award winner. This game still never really got tense or felt like the Dodgers were out of control.

“It sounds like fiction to me, but it happened,” Maddon said.

Kershaw still outlasted Lester, who dropped his head, stared at the grass and walked off the mound with one out and two runners on in the fourth inning. Lester (3-3, 3.86 ERA) – the sturdiest piece to a shaky rotation – put the Cubs in a 6-1 hole after giving up three-run homers to Cody Bellinger and Kike Hernandez.

[MORE: Joe Maddon has no choice but to ignore noise and trust young Cubs lineup]

In back-to-back shutouts, the Dodgers (31-20) had already beaten a Cy Young Award winner dealing with questions about his velocity and looming free agency (Jake Arrieta) and a three-time World Series champion who is 38 years old and now has a 5.18 ERA (John Lackey).

“It seems like they’re firing on all cylinders,” Lester said. “They played better than us all the way around this weekend.”

Standing in the middle of a cramped visiting clubhouse, Lester sounded annoyed – “Put what together?” – after being asked when or how the Cubs will go on a run and start playing up to expectations. 

“We have to play for today,” Lester said. “You can’t worry about a run. You can’t worry about showing up and trying to go nine (innings) before you throw a first pitch. You can’t worry about trying to go 3-for-4 before your first at-bat. Worry about today. Worry about the task at hand.

“You can’t worry about a run. You can’t make runs happen. Sometimes, it’s better to kind of sit back and let things come to you. You’re not pressing. You’re not grinding. You’re not doing things that you don’t need to be doing.

“We got a good team. It’s just a matter of showing up, day in and day out, and putting the work in and it will come. It will click.”

Take Kershaw out of the equation and the Cubs generated zero runs, five singles and no extra-base hits in 22.2 innings against Los Angeles pitching. The Dodgers only used Jansen in one non-save situation.

“You got to tip your cap to them,” reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant said. “That was a pretty impressive pitching performance on all days. I felt like we got to Kershaw a little bit. But their bullpen – it just felt like every pitch was right there at the top of the strike zone. Every single one. To all of us. It was unbelievable.

“It felt like every guy they ran out there was throwing it right where they want.”

Three games against a last-place Padres team tanking for the future should change the subject before the Cubs head home to Wrigley Field. But the Dodgers sure looked like the talented, balanced, hungry team that wants to take down the Cubs.

“It’s always tougher the second time, because everybody’s gunning for you,” said Ben Zobrist, who should stabilize the lineup on Monday after missing two games with a sore left wrist. “Your expectations are even higher than they were before.

“But this team is definitely equal to the task. That’s not the problem as much as we just got to get back to the fundamentals and execution of the little details in the game. And everything else kind of takes care of itself.”