Mooney: Cubs, Looper feel Wainwright's pain

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Mooney: Cubs, Looper feel Wainwright's pain

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
Posted 4:45 p.m. Updated 8:32 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The St. Louis Cardinals still have Hall of Fame pieces. Albert Pujols will be in the lineup and Tony La Russa will be in the dugout, at least for one more season.

Chris Carpenter has a Cy Young Award and Matt Holliday has a 120 million contract. This is an organization that has finished under .500 just once in the past 11 years, making seven playoff appearances and winning the World Series during that time.

Self-pity is not part of the approach that were going to take, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told a St. Louis radio station.

The Cardinals will not crumble without Adam Wainwright, who had his right elbow examined Wednesday for whats being called a serious injury. He will seek a second opinion that may tell him to get Tommy John surgery. A baseball town should have the resources to do something.

Its a great franchise, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. They always have the ability to get better and add on. I fully expect them to be right in the thick of it no matter what.

The 29-year-old Wainwright has finished second and third in the Cy Young voting the past two seasons. Within that timeframe, hes won 39 games, made 67 starts and accounted for 463.1 innings.

Thats a damn shame, Cubs manager Mike Quade said. I dont know what else to say.

Braden Looper walled himself off from baseball last year. He went with his kids Little League team to two White Sox games, but otherwise didnt watch much of it as he eased toward retirement in Chicagos south suburbs.

Looper did make it a point to tune in when Wainwright pitched. Looper, whos trying to make the Cubs as a non-roster invitee, remains close with Wainwright from their time together as Cardinals teammates. Looper took the rookie out to lunch almost every day when he first came up.

You hate to hear that, Looper said. Hes such a great guy and has been pitching so well. You dont ever want anybody to get hurt. Its kind of sad, but hes young. Hell be all right. Hes strong.

Hendry, who once had so much invested in Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, knows what its like to receive those phone calls.

Its the nature of this business, Hendry said. The years you think you have it knocked and got great pitching, (one) or two devastating things happen and youre looking at a whole different ballgame.

The 36-year-old Looper has thrown 1,176 innings in 670 major-league games. Hes been on the disabled list just once in his career. He has no idea why hes remained so healthy.

The National League Central became a lot more interesting this winter when the Cubs traded for Matt Garza and the Milwaukee Brewers added Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Its still a wide-open division. The Cubs were in no way gloating over this misfortune.

The Wainwright news was a reminder that this is a fragile game and pitching is an unnatural action. The best offseason plans can be shredded instantly.

Any team youre ever on has to deal with adversity in some way, Looper said. Inevitably, theres something, (but) they got a good group of guys over there. Theyll be fine. Its going to be a good battle, with or without Adam. Its still a rivalry.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs: The Aroldis Chapman Show begins at Wrigley Field

Cubs: The Aroldis Chapman Show begins at Wrigley Field

Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up” blasted from the Wrigley Field sound system at 9:51 p.m. on Wednesday as Aroldis Chapman trotted toward the mound. Nothing would get lost in translation as the Cubs unleashed their new closer on the White Sox.

Chapman didn’t feel the full rush of adrenaline, because a revived offense scored five runs in the eighth inning, ending the save situation and any real suspense for the crowd of 41,166. The game within the game became looking up at the 3,990-square-foot LED video board in left field for the velocity reading after each pitch and listening to the oohs and aahs.

Chapman made it look easy against the middle of the White Sox lineup, with 13 of his 15 pitches clocked between 100 and 103 mph in the ninth inning of an 8-1 victory. That triple-digit default setting, fluid left-handed delivery and intimidating presence showed why the Cubs made a game-changing trade with the New York Yankees.

The first impressions from Tuesday’s press conference apparently bothered Chapman enough that he initially refused to speak to the reporters waiting around his locker after his debut. There had been questions about his 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, the off-the-field expectations from chairman Tom Ricketts and where the wires got crossed with coach/translator Henry Blanco.

After taking a shower – and listening to a few associates inside the clubhouse – Chapman agreed to two minutes of questions with catcher Miguel Montero acting as his translator.

“It happened,” Chapman said when asked about his portrayal in the Chicago media. “Don’t want to go further with it.”

The controversy will begin to fade after Chapman struck out Jose Abreu swinging at a 91-mph slider that almost scraped the dirt, forced Todd Frazier into a routine groundball and struck out pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia looking at a 103-mph fastball.

“It’s just entertaining to watch the gun, beyond everything else,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s a different kind of a pitcher. You don’t see that every 100 years or so. He’s just that good. Everybody talks about the fastball. How good is the slider? The slider is devastating.

“He was very calm in the moment. He was able to get through the last couple days to go out there. It was almost good it wasn’t a save situation just to get his feet on the ground.”

Picture the drama and the excitement when Chapman isn’t throwing with a seven-run lead and has to get the final three outs in a playoff game at Wrigley Field.

“I’m not impressed – I thought we were getting a guy that threw 105,” winning pitcher Jason Hammel joked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It’s jaw-dropping. To see that type of velocity and command, it’s almost unfair to have a slider and offspeed pitches after that, too.”

This is what the Cubs envisioned when they decided to weather the media storms and absorb the PR hits, how Maddon could reimagine the entire bullpen and the whole team would sense the game-over feeling when the ball is in Chapman’s left hand.

“That’s a confidence-booster for us and it’s a morale kick for anybody out there,” Hammel said. “For the other side, it’s got to be black clouds: ‘Oh man, we can’t let the bullpen get in there.’”

Cubs felt the inevitable sense of trading a big-time prospect like Gleyber Torres

Cubs felt the inevitable sense of trading a big-time prospect like Gleyber Torres

The New York Yankees directed blanket coverage of the Cubs in the weeks leading up to the Aroldis Chapman deal, looking closely at prospects throughout their farm system. Three names figured to be prominent if the Yankees decided to sell and the Cubs wanted to make a blockbuster trade: Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ.

The Yankees made Torres their headliner in that four-player return from the Cubs, getting the organization’s top prospect and a supremely talented defensive shortstop out of Venezuela. The Cubs invested $1.7 million in Torres during the summer of 2013, the signing formalized the same day as the Jake Arrieta trade with the Baltimore Orioles.

This has been years in the making for Theo Epstein’s front office, building the first-place team that drew 41,116 to Wrigley Field for Wednesday night’s 8-1 crosstown victory over the White Sox, watching Chapman throw 13 pitches in the ninth inning that hit triple digits on the huge video board, understanding that the Cubs had to sacrifice parts of their future for the now.

“That’s the right word – inevitable – just because of the timing of when we thought we were going to be good,” said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. “We all knew as we were doing this that there was going to come that time when you trade the player that you not only feel is an impact-type prospect, but the organization just loves the person.

“Gleyber certainly fits that. That was one of the tougher calls I’ve ever had where we’re trading a guy, just because of how much the kid meant to us personally, and just hearing him, too.

“He was – as you would expect (with) a 19-year-old – shaken up and saddened by it, just because in three short years he had dreamt of nothing but being a Cub and playing here at Wrigley. I just told him: ‘You’ll still be wearing pinstripes. They’ll just be a different (color).’”

The Cubs didn’t want to trade core guys off their major-league roster and have a middle-infield foundation with Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist. So they gave up a high-floor player from Class-A Myrtle Beach while holding onto Jimenez and Happ and seeking out more possible deals before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

“All of them would have been hard to swallow,” McLeod said. “But we know that’s part of why we try to stockpile as much talent as we can.”

The Cubs can market Happ as another polished college switch-hitter with first-round pedigree, second baseman/outfielder versatility and an early ETA (already at Double-A Tennessee during his first full season of professional baseball).

Jimenez – who got a $2.8 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic during the same signing class as Torres – enjoyed a breakout performance during the All-Star Futures Game in San Diego and almost has a .900 OPS at Class-A South Bend.

At the age of 19, with a 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and a smooth right-handed swing, Jimenez reminds the Cubs a little bit of Kris Bryant during his freshman season at the University of San Diego, meaning the sky is the limit.

Tonight on CSN: Cubs-White Sox finale from Wrigley

Tonight on CSN: Cubs-White Sox finale from Wrigley

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Today’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (14-3, 3.18 ERA) vs. John Lackey (7-7, 3.79 ERA)

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