Chicago Cubs

Mooney: Leadoff questions start with DeWitt

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Mooney: Leadoff questions start with DeWitt

Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011
Posted 9:13 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Cowboy boots next to his locker, a crossword puzzle in his hand, Blake DeWitt doesnt act like hes owed anything. The Cubs second baseman separated his offseason into two categories: working out and bowhunting.

Especially for a former first-round pick, DeWitt is quiet and low-key and serious about his craft. Those qualities were probably noticed by front-office assistant Greg Maddux, who played with DeWitt in Los Angeles and recommended him in the Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot deal last summer.

Though only 25, this will be DeWitts eighth professional season 2010 was the first time he spent all year on the major-league level. And he continues to make adjustments.

DeWitt talked extensively with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and decided to eliminate the toe-tap mechanism from his swing, which he used throughout his rise in the Dodgers organization.

DeWitt, who grew up Missouri and enjoyed moving back to the Midwest, does not view this as a make-or-break year in his career. As a rookie in 2008, he hit .264 with nine homers and 52 RBI in 117 games for a division champion. He just wants to get back to the playoffs.

I dont necessarily set any personal goals right now, he said. I want to win the World Series and thats it. I concentrate (on) the right things and the personal stuff will fall into place.

The Cubs still dont know exactly what they have in DeWitt its only been 184 at-bats but they see youth and potential, someone who should hit to all fields and with more power.

Manager Mike Quade thinks DeWitt can grow into being the leadoff hitter, though Jeff Baker and Kosuke Fukudome figure to be in the rotation.

It would be a huge challenge for him, Quade said, but theres probably a whole bunch of guys that have a chance (if) we have to mix and match. You always say stuff and then someone asserts himself and takes the job. And then my decisions easy.

(But) you cant lose sight of the fact that if (Fukudomes) in the lineup, (hes) the guy that fits the best of this whole group to me.

Since Ryne Sandbergs last game in 1997, the Cubs have used seven different starting second basemen on Opening Day in the past 14 years.

DeWitt, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time next year, could stabilize the position. Or, six weeks from Opening Day, at least represent some possible upside in a lineup filled with players over 30.
Defending Soriano

Alfonso Soriano, who turned 35 last month, is at an age where hes no longer a threat to steal bases, and his days as a leadoff hitter are over. The Cubs hope he can still hit enough home runs to make up for his defensive lapses.

Its too early for Quade to say whether he will pull Soriano from the outfield late in close games. It will likely depend on the situation.

Look, hes not running the way he (once) did, and its a thought, Quade said Thursday. But of all the decisions Ive got right now, thats way far off in the distance. I want him to come in here expecting to play nine innings every day and to get better and continue to work and be as good as he can defensively.

Stay healthy (and) when it comes time to play ballgames and stuff, well figure out all that. Ive got other issues that are way ahead of that.

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

Brewers whiffing on Jose Quintana may have changed everything for Cubs

Brewers whiffing on Jose Quintana may have changed everything for Cubs

The White Sox got close enough to a potential Jose Quintana deal that they almost pulled their ace from his July 8 start at Coors Field. The next day, Theo Epstein got a text message from White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, suddenly reviving a trade discussion the Cubs president assumed was dead after a post-draft check-in that sounded like a formality in June.

If the Chris Sale asking price started at reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant, why would the White Sox want to help the defending World Series champs now?  

The New York Yankees at one point felt close to landing Quintana, the minor-league free agent who left them after the 2011 season and then blossomed into an All-Star on the South Side. The Milwaukee Brewers also had active talks with the White Sox, doing extensive research and background work on one of the game’s most underrated pitchers.

The Brewers will get an up-close look at what they missed on Friday night at Miller Park, where Quintana will stand out as the move that may have changed the entire trajectory of this Cubs season and the future of the NL Central.

“I think it figures in more than you think or may even realize,” manager Joe Maddon said before Thursday’s 6-3 win over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

While the Cubs have gone 11-2 since the All-Star break, regaining sole possession of first place for the first time since late May, the Brewers endured a 15-2 loss to the Washington Nationals that showed the crash may be coming. With Matt Garza and Chase Anderson on the disabled list, Michael Blazek gave up six home runs in his first career big-league start – at the age of 28 after getting drafted in 2007.

While Quintana’s presence stabilized the rotation and gave the Cubs a shot of adrenaline, the Brewers have seen their 5.5-game lead vanish after a first half where they played way above expectations and projections and ahead of their rebuilding schedule.         

“Getting a new guy, he comes out and he pitches great,” Maddon said, referencing Quintana’s July 16 debut against the Baltimore Orioles where he put up 12 strikeouts and zero walks in seven scoreless innings. “He also set a standard the way he did it – strike throwing, aggressive (and a) calm demeanor. Everything he did out there that day was what you want everybody else to watch.

“So that has a lot to do, I think, with how our starting pitchers have settled down a bit. And then beyond that, just the thought among the group that Theo and (GM) Jed (Hoyer) went out there and got somebody like that.”

The Brewers (54-50) still have more than three full business days until the July 31 trade deadline, one of the industry’s best farm systems and 10 games left against the Cubs. The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates have also stayed in the picture, hovering around .500 in a weak division that could wind up being very entertaining in September.   

Epstein insisted that trading for Quintana shouldn’t be interpreted as an overreaction to three-and-a-half months where the disappointing Cubs didn’t have the same edge, because his team-friendly contract made this a long-term play through 2020. But the Before and After pictures are striking.

“The trade should be read as a vote of faith in this group,” Epstein said in Baltimore on the first day back from the All-Star break. “Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in what’s happening at the moment – the tough first half that we had – that you fail to take a step back and realize that not only can this be a winning group, it is a winning group.

“These guys just won a World Series. Our goal is to win more World Series with this team. We all felt like to do that there’s a significant rate-limiting step: We had to add starting pitching.

“It looked for a while like there might have to be a trade-off – we might have to take away from this group in order to add the starting pitching. But to be able to make this trade and add a significant starting pitcher without touching the core of this major-league team – or the major-league team at all – should be read as a show of faith and support in this group.”

It’s also impossible to miss the big smile on Quintana’s face. He called the video tribute here “amazing” and said he “almost cried” watching it. He wanted to say thank you to the fans and the entire White Sox organization.       

Without this assist from the White Sox, where would the Cubs be now?

“I miss those guys,” Quintana said. “Now I have to focus on trying to help my team here and try to do my job. It’s a really good opportunity for me to be in first place. I want to do the best I can.”

Are Dabo Swinney and Joe Maddon BFF's?

Are Dabo Swinney and Joe Maddon BFF's?

Joe Maddon and Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney had one thing in common in 2016. 

They were both champions. 

Yet the extent of their connection does not end there. Swinney, who made his way to Gauranteed Rate Field with his family on Thursday, took a moment to speak with CSN's Kelly Crull. 

Swinney talked about his affection for Maddon and even shared that he had the Cubs skipper address his Clemson Tigers during the season.

He said that Maddon "cares about the players, he engages with them, he develops relationships with them," all things Swinney tries to mirror with his coaching philosophy. 

This begs the question, are Dabo and Joe now BFF's?

Watch the full interview above to find out.