Mooney: Rothschild picks up 2011 option

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Mooney: Rothschild picks up 2011 option

Monday, Oct. 11, 2010
5:25 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Like everyone else, Larry Rothschild is waiting to see who will be the Cubs manager next season. But that uncertainty didnt stop the pitching coach from exercising the 2011 option on his contract.

Rothschild had until Monday seven days after the end of the regular season to make that decision, though it doesnt necessarily guarantee that he will return for his 10th season as Cubs pitching coach.

It was the logical, expected move for the Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduate, who has survived several regime changes since coming back home to Chicago.

Some have been interim replacements and others have been managers of the year. But so far Rothschild has worked alongside Don Baylor, Rene Lachemann, Bruce Kimm, Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Alan Trammell and Mike Quade.

Rothschild will have to come to an agreement with the next Cubs manager or else explore his options outside the organization. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is signed through 2012 but the rest of the staff doesnt have that kind of security.

Rothschild appears to be a natural fit with Quade, who is the leading candidate of a group that includes Ryne Sandberg, Eric Wedge and Bob Melvin. Quade frequently deflected praise for the teams 24-13 finish toward his pitching coach and bullpen coach Lester Strode.

You guys know how close I am with those two guys and how much respect I have for them, Quade said during the final week of the season. The (players) deserve the credit but those guys spend a lot of hours with them and they do a great job. They miss nothing.

Rothschild also has an ally in Carlos Zambrano, who hes worked with since 2002, when Kerry Wood and Mark Prior combined to make 52 starts. Rothschild could guide the next generation of Cubs pitchers Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, Chris Archer and no one is better prepared to try to reach their enigmatic 91.5 million ace.

Hes been outstanding for me, Zambrano said. Hes been my mentor, my teacher, (but) this is a business. And whatever they (want) to do, theres nothing we can do about it.

Any pitching coach will need to maintain a relationship with Zambrano who has a no-trade clause and two guaranteed seasons left on his contract to rediscover the pitcher who went 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his last 11 starts.

That coach will also likely lobby management to add another starter to replace the 47 wins and more than 700 innings Ted Lilly accounted for in three-and-a-half seasons until the Cubs traded the veteran left-hander to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Cubs still led the National League with 96 quality starts. That means their starting pitcher went at least six innings and allowed three runs or less almost 60 percent of the time and yet they still finished 75-87 and never rose above .500 at any point all season.

Overall, the pitching staffs 4.18 ERA ranked 13th in the league. The Cubs had finished top-five in that category in each of the previous three seasons.

Rothschild can also point to the development of Sean Marshall (2.65 ERA in 80 appearances) into one of the best setup men in baseball, and the emergence of Carlos Marmol (38 saves) as a dominant closer.

But Rothschild doesnt market himself as a guru and rarely goes out of his way to speak with reporters on the record and get his name in the newspapers.

He just generally enjoys what he does, Randy Wells said. I dont think he needs to have the press or the fans (give) him the credit that he deserves. (He) just kind of sits back, watches the results and takes pride in his staff (for how) they go about their business.

The Cubs rotation could feature Wells and Tom Gorzelanny as the fourth and fifth starters next season. Each turned 28 over the summer and spent part of the 2009 season on the Triple-A level. They have felt their confidence rise and fall.

In between starts, Rothschild runs the meetings that review the mechanics and psychology of pitching. Within the next two weeks, Rothschild will likely have a similar conversation with the Cubs manager, articulating his philosophy and figuring out what adjustments need to be made.

He understands everybody, Wells said. He gives you that mutual respect. Theres no his-way-or-the-highway-type thing. Its: Lets find out what works and lets exploit it. He watches film and studies scouting reports and comes up with a game plan. Its up to us to execute it.

But when things arent going right hes the first one there to help. (He) never point fingers. Its always: Lets find a solution.

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

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

As the Cubs prepare for the winter meetings outside Washington, D.C., their messaging might as well be: It’s the pitching, stupid.

This is an arms race that will never end, the Cubs trying to defend their first World Series title in 108 years, build out a bullpen that looked pretty thin by November and target the kind of young starter who could help anchor their rotation for years to come, ensuring Wrigleyville remains baseball’s biggest party.

Major League Baseball’s owners and the players’ union avoided a foolish labor war by crafting a new five-year collective bargaining agreement that should spur some action next week. As executives, scouts, agents and reporters begin to flood into National Harbor on Sunday, the Cubs will intensify their search for pitching, everything from headliners to insurance policies to prospects.

“That’s been the significant bulk of our efforts,” general manager Jed Hoyer said, “trying to identify those kind of starting pitchers and those kind of relief pitchers and how to match up with them. It’s definitely not going to be through lack of trying on our part to make that kind of deal. That’s now. That’s at the deadline.”  

That’s all-consuming. The Cubs are preparing for Opening Day 2018, when Jake Arrieta will probably be in a different uniform after signing his megadeal, John Lackey might be kicking back in Texas and enjoying retirement and Jon Lester will be 34 years old with maybe 2,300 innings on his odometer. 

The Cubs have unwavering faith in their pitching infrastructure at the major-league level, from the scouting and analytic perspectives that identified the right sign-and-flip deals during the rebuilding years to the coaching staff that helped mold Kyle Hendricks into a Cy Young Award finalist and a World Series Game 7 starter.

Mike Montgomery notched the final out against the Cleveland Indians and the Cubs see him as their next big project. The lefty checks so many of their boxes, from age (27) to size (6-foot-5) to pedigree (former first-round pick/top prospect) to the change-of-scenery confidence boost/mental reset.

Forget about the White Sox trading Chris Sale to the North Side and don’t just think about obvious names or trade partners. Maybe it’s making a deal for a guy you never heard of before and sifting through the non-tender bin. 

Remember how team president Theo Epstein framed the Montgomery trade with the Seattle Mariners this summer – comparing him to All-Star reliever Andrew Miller – and that gives you an idea of how they can address their pitching deficit this winter. 

“If your scouts do a good job of identifying the guys who are trending in the right direction – and you’re willing to take a shot – sometimes there’s a big payoff at the end,” Epstein said.   

While the Cubs did Jason Hammel a favor by cutting him loose and allowing him to explore the market as one of the best pitchers in an extremely weak class of free agents, Montgomery has only 23 big-league starts on his resume. 

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

The Cubs had five starters make at least 29 starts this year, while four starters accounted for 30-plus starts in 2015, a remarkable run that led to 200 wins.

“As we’ve talked about so many times,” Hoyer said, “we do have an imbalance in our organization – hitting vs. pitching – and we’re trying to make sure we can accumulate as much pitching depth as possible. 

“We were very healthy this year, which was wonderful and a big part of why we won the World Series. I don’t think you can always count on that kind of health every single year. Building up a reservoir of depth – preferably guys you can option (to the minors) – is something (we’re trying) to accomplish.”  

The Cubs have Jorge Soler stuck in a crowded outfield plus the types of interesting prospects who appear to be blocked – catcher Victor Caratini, third baseman Jeimer Candelario, infielder/outfielder Ian Happ – to make relatively painless trades for pitching (if not the kind of blockbuster deal that dominates coverage of the winter meetings).

The Cubs figure to add a lefty reliever, someone like Boone Logan or Jerry Blevins. The New York Post reported the Cubs were among the teams in pursuit of Brett Cecil, who got a four-year, $30.5 million deal and no-trade protection from the St. Louis Cardinals, another sign of how shallow this free-agent pool is for starting pitchers and a reflection of a postseason where the bullpen became a major storyline. 

The idea of Kenley Jansen intrigues the Cubs – and Aroldis Chapman made a favorable impression during his three-plus months with the team – but Epstein’s front office already made the major upgrades for 2017 by spending nearly $290 million on free agents after the 2015 playoff run. Philosophically, the Cubs also see smarter long-term investments than trying to win a bidding war for a guy who might throw 70 innings a year. 

With that in mind, the Cubs could get creative and have looked at free agent Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer with the Kansas City Royals who didn’t pitch this year after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.  

Remember that Chapman left the New York Yankees and joined a team that had a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. If Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. can’t handle the late shifts, then the Cubs could always go out and trade for another closer in the middle of a pennant race.    

The Cubs have the luxuries of time, zero pressure from ownership, their fan base or the Chicago media and a stacked, American League-style lineup. 

“Right now, we could go play from an offensive standpoint and feel very good about our group,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to still continue to look to improve the depth in our bullpen, improve the depth in our starting rotation. Those are things that probably never go away. You probably never stop trying to build that depth.” 

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

LeBron James is coming to town, and he will be all decked out in Cubs gear.

The Cavs are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Friday night at the United Center and it's time for LeBron to pay up on his World Series bet with Dwyane Wade.

The two former teammates made the wager during the World Series as LeBron's hometown Indians took on Wade's hometown Cubs, with the loser wearing the winning baseball team's gear when they showed up in the opposing city. This is LeBron's first trip to Chicago this season.

Wade and LeBron already acknowledged they're having fun with this and have a whole spectacle planned with a national TV audience.

LeBron told the Akron Beacon Journal he's not going to try to take the easy way out and just toss on a Cubs jersey. He is planning socks, hat, pants and possibly more. But he won't wear cleats or bring a glove with him.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

When the Cubs won it all a month ago Friday, Wade posted an Instagram photo of LeBron wearing a Cubs uniform:

And ESPN had a cutout of LeBron sporting a No. 23 Cubs road gray jersey outside the United Center Friday morning:

CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill wonders whether LeBron will don signature Joe Maddon glasses, too.

This is gonna be fun, you guys.