Chicago Cubs

LIVE: Cubs trailing Pirates 6-3

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LIVE: Cubs trailing Pirates 6-3

Friday, April 1, 2011
Posted: 9:27 a.m.

CHICAGO (AP) Kerry Woodgot his old locker back in the Chicago Cubs clubhouse, even though he'dbeen away for two years. And now he'll enjoy something else heremembers well - another opening day at Wrigley Field."There's a buzz," Wood said Thursdayas the Cubs pulled on ski caps and hoods and headed out for a workouton a sunny day with temperatures in the low 40s.The forecast is for rain and maybesome snow flurries when the Pirates and Cubs start the season Friday.Wood felt the chill when he got off the plane from Arizona on Wednesdaynight. He expected it after six weeks-plus at spring training."It definitely hits you in the face," Wood said. "That's what it's about. It's baseball in April in Chicago."The Pirates went 57-105 a year ago, their 18th straight losing season. Of course, 10 of Pittsburgh's wins came against the Cubs."They always give us a good fight," said Ryan Dempster, who will start for the Cubs against Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia.Carlos Pena,who signed with Chicago as a free agent after playing for Tampa Bay thelast four years, is looking forward to playing in the second-oldestpark in the majors. He played briefly with Boston in 2006 and spentfour seasons in the AL East, so he's already spent time in the oldest,Fenway Park.But once he arrived to Wrigley on Thursday, he had to see for himself."I walked in this morning and Iwalked up on that concourse and got the fans' perspective and all Isaid was, 'Thank you.' I'm pumped to be here," he said.Pena's performance will be a pivotalone for the Cubs. He batted just .196 last season for the Rays but hehas the left-handed power and the great glove at first base thatChicago needs.Like teammate Matt Garza,who also came over from Tampa - his arrival via a trade - he'll have toadjust to the weather, a new league and a home schedule heavy with daygames."He's going to be fine. He's the kind of guy I think he'll love it," Cubs manager Mike Quade said.Pena and Garza are newcomers andWood is making his return after two seasons with Cleveland and theYankees, but it's Quade who really has a new task. He is going to runthe team for the first time as the full-time manager. He was theskipper on an interim basis for the final 37 games a year ago after LouPiniella retired in August. The Cubs responded with a 24-13 record.Quade entered a press room Thursdayand began counting the number of recording devices in front of him -11. There were also a half-dozen TV cameras aimed at him.Quade, who managed more than 2,000minor league games and was Chicago's third base coach before beingpromoted last season, brought along a familiar companion with him - hisfungo bat."I always feel like a little kid,"he said, looking forward to Friday. "I think there will be a millionemotions and I'll deal with them however I do. My folks will be there,that's great. Long journey and all that stuff."He has got a lot of work to do toimprove on the Cubs' fifth-place finish of last season. And no oneneeds to bring up that the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908,a record of futility that always surfaces.Clint Hurdle's job? Lead the Pirates out of their nearly two-decade stretch of losing baseball.Pittsburgh features young players to build with in Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata, and they've also added a veteran in Lyle Overbay.Among Hurdle's ideas to change things up has been to give the team more structure on the road - workouts, breakfasts, meetings."We don't want guys rolling out ofbed at noon, coming to the park and eating three meals before we takethe field," he said. "We got to be smarter with our time."He said he and the coaching staff have also sought input from the players."We want them to take ownership," he said, something he said he stressed while managing the Rockies.And how about the cold that inevitably is part of early season baseball, especially in cities like Chicago?"It is what it is," Hurdle said. "Ihad a game here with (Colorado star) Ubaldo (Jimenez) and Ubaldocouldn't get a grip on the ball. For four innings, his command was allover the joint. What are you going to do? You go play. You just figureit out."Everybody would like it to be balmy and 75 or 80. It will. In June."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs and Sox gear up for the decisive Game 4 in the Crosstown Cup

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs and Sox gear up for the decisive Game 4 in the Crosstown Cup

Sports Talk Live is on location at Guaranteed Rate Field to preview the decisive Game 4 of the Crosstown Cup. 

Kap is joined by David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Sahadev Sharma (The Athletic), David DeJesus and Scott Podsednik. 

Plus new Cubs outfielder Jon Jay talks about his first season with the Northsiders .

Listen here. 

Even as they find their offensive groove, Cubs know there's more left in the tank

Even as they find their offensive groove, Cubs know there's more left in the tank

221.

That's how many pitches the Cubs saw during Wednesday night's 8-3 win over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

11.

That's the amount of runners the Cubs left on base Wednesday.

To Joe Maddon, those numbers don't quite add up.

The Cubs had 20 baserunners on 10 hits, eight walks and a pair of errors committed by Sox fielders. Yet they only plated eight, going 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Over the last two games, the Cubs have seen 412 pitches and scored 15 runs, but they've also left 24 guys on base and and gone just 9-for-33 with runners in scoring position.

"The proverbial grinding of the at-bats has been there," Maddon said after Wednesday's game. "[221 pitches], you'd think we'd score — I'm not talking about being greedy — we need to capitalize more.

"Eleven runners left on base. Again, I'm not complaining. Just the fact that we have to be more efficient as we move further along. Keep working those at-bats and I think if we do, at some point, it's gotta catch up to us in a positive way where it comes back to us and the ball's gotta fall in better moments, too."

The Cubs have gotten out to a 10-2 start to the season's second half, averaging six runs a game during that stretch and forcing the opposition to throw 154.5 pitches per game.

The Cubs have rapped out 124 hits in those 12 games as opposing pitchers have only recorded four quality starts.

And for all the issues with runners in scoring position in the first half, Anthony Rizzo and Co. are hitting .293 (37-for-126) with guys in scoring position since the All-Star Break. (Even with that, they're still only 27th in baseball with a .238 average with RISP, showing just how much the team underperformend in that area in the first half.)

The Cubs are starting to look more and more like the 2016 version of themselves as a host of other players — led by Willson Contreras, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist — have joined Bryzzo in consistently contributing offensively.

"It's very rare when you have a game where everybody hits to their full potential," said Rizzo, who had three hits and drove in four runs Wednesday. "It's guys carrying the load one day and some other guys doing it the next day."

That's been a different script than the one the Cubs were playing off of in the first three months of the season, when only Kris Bryant and Rizzo were reaching their offensive potential.

As the Cubs hit their stride and gear up for the stretch run, they're finally starting to click offensively.

And what's scary is there's still more left in the tank.

"We don't wanna leave guys on, but we want to keep putting guys on to give ourselves opportunity," Rizzo said. "As long as we come away with the win, it doesn't matter.

"We're putting together good at-bats as a unit. [Seeing a lot of pitches] is a good formula for us. We know that if we grind at-bats, good things will happen."