LaHair trying to maximize opportunity with Cubs


LaHair trying to maximize opportunity with Cubs

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 11:15 p.m. Updated: 11:49 p.m. By PatrickMooney CubsInsider Follow @CSNMooney
Box score
READ: Cubs tell Brett Jackson wait until next year
WATCH: Dusty Baker talks NL Central on CTL
WATCH: Kap and Hollandsworth sing the stretch
WATCH: Campana says he knows he was safe
WATCH: Quade on Leake's performance

The Cubs gathered in the green seats behind their dugout late Tuesday afternoon for their annual photo. The board of directors sat in the first row, surrounded by people from marketing, media relations, baseball operations, actual players and the coaching staff.

You can be certain that the exact same group wont be there next year.

The next general manager isnt working for the organization right now. But in the final three weeks of this lost season, there will still be revealing moments.

Bryan LaHair will turn 29 in November, long past the expiration date for prospects. He lasted until the 39th round of the 2002 draft and spent parts of the past six seasons on the Triple-A level, where he has nothing left to prove.

The Pacific Coast League MVP stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 240 pounds. He absolutely hammered Mike Leakes 90 mph fastball beyond the right-field seats.

Wrigley Field was mostly empty on a cold Tuesday night nowhere near the announced crowd of 35,297 but it got loud after LaHairs two-out, two-run pinch-hit homer tied the game in the ninth inning.

Leake was one pitch away from a complete-game shutout before LaHair showed the Cincinnati Reds what he did all season long in Iowa, where he generated 38 homers and 109 RBI.

It was an incredible moment, LaHair said. This is an incredible place to play.

Few bothered to stick around until the 13th inning when John Grabow the sixth Cubs reliever that night gave up back-to-back doubles to left-center field. After almost four hours, it finally ended as a 4-2 loss at 11 p.m.

LaHair can play the outfield, where the Cubs dont seem to have any openings, and first base, where Carlos Pena has repeatedly expressed a desire to return. Thats on the agenda for the next administration.

Pena gave LaHair a scouting report on Leake before he stepped to the plate and hit his first big-league homer since Sept. 20, 2008, when he was with the Seattle Mariners. LaHairs gone 4-for-9 since being called up last week. Though its unlikely hell take starts away from Pena and get regular at-bats, this cant hurt his chances.

(Penas) been amazing since I walked in here, LaHair said. Hes really made me feel comfortable. (Were) just trying to feed off each other.

When LaHair was asked the other day about what this final month could do for his career, he sounded like someone in a 12-step program: Im just trying to take one day at a time. This time he got one unforgettable night.

The Cashner Plan
The Cubs are still going to be cautious, but the wait is almost over for Andrew Cashner, whos expected to be available out of the bullpen on Wednesday night. This would mark his first time on a major-league mound in almost five months after straining his rotator cuff.

The plan is to use Cashner for an inning at a time, and not on back-to-back days. He wont be the power arm to protect a one-run lead in the eighth inning look for him in lower-leverage situations.

Cashner, who turns 25 on Sunday, will get stretched out as a starter in the Arizona Fall League. He would be a game-changer for the 2012 rotation.

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

How Kyle Schwarber is such a ‘baseball rat’ that Cubs used him in their draft war room

How Kyle Schwarber is such a ‘baseball rat’ that Cubs used him in their draft war room

Matt Dorey and Lukas McKnight had just scouted a California Baptist University pitching prospect as they rode toward the Los Angeles Airport Marriott and pulled into the parking lot.

Dorey watched the Cubs game on his phone as the valet guys approached the car: “Holy s---!” Kyle Schwarber crashed into Dexter Fowler as the two outfielders converged in the left-center field gap, both of them tumbling to the ground as Arizona Diamondbacks leadoff guy Jean Segura sprinted for an inside-the-park home run at Chase Field. 

Dorey, the team’s amateur scouting director, and McKnight, the assistant director, walked into the hotel’s sports bar with this sort of thought in mind: Make it a double. On the night of April 7, the Cubs really didn’t know what damage this might do to Schwarber’s career, or if a severe injury could shred the franchise’s World Series plans.

“The pit in my stomach at that moment,” Dorey remembered. “Everybody starts texting me: ‘Oh, this doesn’t look good.’” 

It looked like an awful high-speed collision that might derail the 2016 Cubs. It didn’t matter that Schwarber had only turned 23 a month earlier and only had one full season of professional baseball on his resume. 

The Cubs had witnessed his quick, compact left-handed swing at Indiana University and understood what his magnetic personality meant in building the Hoosier program, using the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft on Schwarber with the belief that those qualities would strengthen the Wrigley Field clubhouse. 

An MRI at a hospital in the Phoenix area revealed a torn ACL and LCL in Schwarber’s left knee, as well as a severely sprained ankle, what was supposed to be season-ending trauma. Except Schwarber has already notched three hits and two walks in the World Series, including a double off the Progressive Field wall against Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in Game 1. 

A stunning performance that left teammate Kris Bryant predicting “they’re going to make a movie about him” couldn’t get Schwarber medically cleared to play defense on Friday night as Wrigley Field stages its first World Series game since 1945. But in what’s now a best-of-five battle, the Cleveland Indians will have to worry about Schwarber walking up to the plate for what could be a season-defining pinch-hit at-bat.

“I’m a baseball rat,” Schwarber said. “I want to be involved in it as much as I can. A lot of (credit) goes to this team and this organization for allowing me to be around. They were a big rock in my rehab.

“I could have easily just gone to Arizona, gone through the motions in rehab. But these guys really made me kick it up a notch. I’m sitting here today mostly because of those guys.”

Beyond the grueling physical exercises, Schwarber studied video, helped prepare scouting reports, brainstormed with catchers and attended meetings with pitchers. In no uncertain terms, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein made Schwarber untouchable in trade talks, allowing the Indians to acquire All-Star reliever Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees.

Cubs officials also invited Schwarber to observe their draft process in June, allowing him to sit in as they gathered in an unfinished section of the new underground clubhouse in Wrigleyville.

“We got him a computer,” Dorey said. “He had access to all of our analytics. We had the video up. I asked him questions about catching. We asked questions about guys he played against. 

“A lot of the pitchers that we were considering – in the Big Ten especially – we’re like: ‘Kyle, what do you think?’ He’d be like: ‘This guy sucks, man.’

“He was just so invested in it. He was so into it. Even for the better part of four or five days – and during the actual draft – he sat in there and he (found) a couple guys that he really liked. He was like: ‘Man, I’m just trying to get my guy.’ 

“There was a hitter (he really liked). I’m like: ‘Kyle, dude, we’re not taking many hitters.’”

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Even without Schwarber getting a hit during the regular season, the Cubs are so loaded on offense that they scored 808 runs. In the fourth round, the Cubs drafted Tyson Miller, the Cal Baptist right-hander Dorey and McKnight scouted the day Schwarber wrecked his knee. 

“It was just so fun,” Dorey said. “I was so appreciative of his willingness to try to see the organization from a different lens.

“Most guys – not that they don’t care about it – they just don’t take the time to understand what happens on a day-to-day basis to see how we bring new guys into the organization.

“It was great for our scouts to see – and great for all of us to hear a different perspective (with Kyle) talking about players that he’s seen. And he’s seen what it takes to play at this level.”

Out of that gruesome injury came another chapter in the legend of Schwarber, a baseball gym rat who’s supposed to lead the Cubs back into October for years to come.

“It was really tough to see,” Dorey said. “But I also look at it now like Kyle just went through the biggest obstacle or adversity in his career. He worked so hard to get back to this point. It’s just pretty inspiring to see that he’s even taking BP – let alone hitting 5-hole in Game 1 of the World Series.”

Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell among four Cubs finalists for Gold Glove Award

Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell among four Cubs finalists for Gold Glove Award

Four Cubs have been recognized for their defense in 2016 on Thursday.

Jake Arrieta, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell were all named finalists for the Gold Glove Award at their respective positions. Winners will be announced Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Arrieta was tied for second among National League pitchers with five Defensive Runs Saved. Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon led with eight.

Heyward, who's a three-time NL Gold Glove Award winner, had the most DRS for right fielders with 14 and also led Defensive Wins Above Replacement with 1.3.

Rizzo's 5.7 Ultimate Zone Rating ranked second among first basemen in the NL, according to, and his .996 field percentage ranked fifth.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

Russell was tied for most DRS among NL shortstops with 19 (the second-best had nine).

The two most notable Cubs left off the list were Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist due to their versatility throughout the regular season.