Chicago Cubs

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.

With or without Justin Verlander, Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to stay in first place: ‘We have the pieces’

With or without Justin Verlander, Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to stay in first place: ‘We have the pieces’

The Cubs already have a Cy Young Award winner, someone who was transforming into the hottest pitcher on the planet around this time in 2015, and then beat the Cleveland Indians twice on the road in last year’s World Series.

So the Cubs can keep discussing Justin Verlander and trying to figure out the price point where it makes sense, what caliber prospects they would have to give up and how much money the Detroit Tigers would have to kick in to cover a bill that could soar toward $90 million. 

But Jake Arrieta showed why the Cubs might finally start to run away from the division and become a very dangerous team in October, dominating the White Sox on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field during an 8-3 win that vaulted them into first place in the National League Central.          

“We expect to remain in first place,” Arrieta said. “We know it’s going to be a tough task, but that’s kind of what you deal with at the highest level of sports. You expect to have really good competition from teams that are either equal with you or close behind.

“We feel like we have the group to separate ourselves at this point in time and remain in first place for the remainder of the way.”

The Cubs probably don’t have the blue-chip prospects – and the appetite to raid their farm system again – to blow away the Oakland A’s and win a bidding war for Sonny Gray. The Cubs kick the tires on everything, but Yu Darvish would be a rental and the Texas Rangers are torn over what to do with their Japanese star. 

This is another reason why the Cubs are focusing on adding a veteran backup catcher and strengthening the bullpen before the July 31 trade deadline: Arrieta Watch is back, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning in front of a sellout crowd of 38,517 before Omar Narvaez drilled a ground-rule double into the right-center field seats.  

The Cubs are 10-2 since trading for Jose Quintana during the All-Star break, erasing a 5.5-game deficit against the Milwaukee Brewers heading into this weekend’s showdown at Miller Park. At 53-47, the Cubs are a season-high six games over .500, and it all starts with pitching.  

“I think we’ve got the pieces to get it done,” Arrieta said. “If there’s a situation where we can get another guy and not lose any key players, it might work in our favor.

“Obviously, when we traded for Quintana, that’s a huge addition to our ballclub. This guy’s really good. He works his butt off. And just seeing how he carries himself in between starts is a really great sign. To have a guy like that who works extremely hard and cares about the team winning ballgames – you can’t replace that.

“That trade right there in itself is one that’s going to pay huge dividends for this ballclub, not only for this year, but for the next couple years. But we’re a great team right now, and I think we have the pieces to get it done.”  

Arrieta was on cruise control until Yoan Moncada launched his 98th and final pitch – an 0-2 curveball – 409 feet over the center-field wall with two outs in the seventh inning. Arrieta only allowed those two hits, giving up two runs and finishing with five strikeouts against two walks, continuing the correction super-agent Scott Boras predicted when the Chicago media and Cubs fans wondered about his flashes of diminished velocity and spikes in hard contact during a free-agency push.

Arrieta has methodically put together 10 wins and three straight quality starts after the All-Star break, chopping his ERA down from 5.44 in the middle of May to 4.03. Ricky Renteria’s White Sox are obviously tanking for the future and there are a lot of conditions attached to this statement: 

But if Arrieta pitches like this, Jon Lester continues to be one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation, Quintana excels in a pennant race and Kyle Hendricks regains his feel and rhythm after six-plus weeks on the disabled list, then the Cubs might have a better playoff rotation than the one that ended the 108-year drought.     

“We’re feelin’ it,” Arrieta said, thinking back to last summer, when Theo Epstein’s front office added 100-mph closer Aroldis Chapman to a team with close to a 99-percent chance of making the playoffs. “I remember last year we were in this clubhouse around this same time, and it’s no different.” 

Look at the competition: The Washington Nationals might be forced into adding a frontline starter now that Stephen Strasburg is headed to the 10-day disabled list with a nerve impingement in his right forearm. The Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping a strained lower back won’t stop Clayton Kershaw from making a few tune-up starts in September before becoming their Game 1 starter in October.

With or without Verlander, the Cubs are ramping up to defend their title.

“I’m going to continue to get stronger as the year progresses,” Arrieta said. “I feel like my best baseball, my best pitching, is still ahead of me. And I’m ready for it.”

What happened between John Lackey and Anthony Rizzo in Cubs dugout? 'None of your business'

What happened between John Lackey and Anthony Rizzo in Cubs dugout? 'None of your business'

Nothing to see here, the Cubs insisted after a TV camera caught John Lackey and Anthony Rizzo arguing in the Wrigley Field dugout on Tuesday afternoon, a scrap overshadowed by Kris Bryant’s ejection and the White Sox getting eye-for-an-eye retribution.

It still became the pregame story on the South Side, even if it somehow didn’t immediately go viral on Twitter, or really register on the Cubs-Sox Richter scale that shook for Carlos Zambrano and Ozzie Guillen, Lou Piniella vs. Steve Stone and Michael Barrett vs. A.J. Pierzynski.

So what happened?

“None of your business,” Lackey said Wednesday with a big smile and the chuckle that punctuates most of his answers to the media. “It’s in that dugout.”

Minutes later, on the other side of the visiting clubhouse at Guaranteed Rate Field, Rizzo joked: “It was almost kind of like Zambrano and Derrek Lee.”

This wouldn’t have even come up during the anger-management sessions the Cubs forced Zambrano to attend after that incident here in 2010. Big Z showed up for spring training the next year and pronounced: “I’m cured. I got approval from the psychologist that I can be by myself.”

“It wasn’t a big deal at all,” Lackey said. “Like I said, none of your business.”

Frustrated by a potential double-play ball that found a hole with Tim Anderson running and shortstop Addison Russell covering second base, Lackey bumped into Rizzo in the dugout after a second inning that also saw White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon hit a two-run double. Rizzo’s eyes widened and the franchise first baseman gestured toward the field with both of his hands. A muttering Lackey turned his back and started to walk away from Rizzo.

“Like I said, none of your business,” Lackey said. “Just two men talking.”

The Cubs are used to Lackey Being Lackey, which means glaring at hitters, jawing with umpires and sometimes showing up teammates for perceived lapses on the field (even when last year’s 103-win team played defense at a historic level).

“We won the game,” said Lackey, who also became the first Cub to hit four batters in a game since Moe Drabowsky in 1957. “Let’s move on. You guys are trying to stir s--- up.”

Everything all right with you and Lackey?

“Yeah, as far as I know,” Rizzo said. “We’re just talking, making sure he knows we’re going to give him some more runs, not to worry about it. That’s really it. It’s pretty funny I have to talk about this the next day.”

Either way, this probably won’t end well for Lackey, who is 38 and has a 4.97 ERA in the final season of a two-year, $32 million contract. But clashing with Rizzo during a 96-loss season contributed to manager Dale Sveum getting fired in 2013. And burying Miguel Montero during Rizzo’s WMVP-AM 1000 gig foreshadowed the veteran catcher getting DFA’d last month.

“I think it’s just a lot of uneducated speculation, to be honest, about our team,” Rizzo said.

Well, educate us then, a reporter said.

“I don’t need to educate you guys on in-house matters,” Rizzo said. “Lackey’s one of my probably best friends on this team. That’s the good part about this team. When you have friends, you can talk to them, and it’s nothing more than just friends talking to friends.”

Manager Joe Maddon – who has known Lackey since he was a rookie on the 2002 Anaheim Angels team that won a World Series – sounded like a press secretary during the pregame briefing.

“Not at all (unusual),” Maddon said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen it before. The thing is, I’ve heard about this and it’s really kind of funny. Really innocuous to the point where I had no idea.

“First of all, there’s two things: There’s really nothing to report. Second of all, if there is a little bit of that that ever occurs, there’s nothing wrong with it. Nothing wrong with guys calling BS on somebody else in the moment. But that’s not what happened yesterday.”

The truth is we will miss Lackey when he goes home to Texas and disappears. This is a great cartoon villain/media foil/old-school curmudgeon with three World Series rings. The Cubs-Sox rivalry needs more of those characters.  

“He’s a competitor,” Rizzo said. “It’s really, really good for us. He does bring a lot of intensity every single start, and he expects the best out of everyone. That’s good for a team like ours with young guys. Five, six, seven years from now, they’re going to be talking about how Lackey used to play, and what he used to do to the younger guys coming up, and how he was locked in for every one of his starts.”