Nady will wait to see what future holds

Nady will wait to see what future holds

Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010
3:31 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Xavier Nady rejoined the New York Yankees during last years postseason run, celebrated their 27th World Series title and rode up Broadway during the championship parade.

After rehabilitating his right elbow in California, Nady was at once a part of and separate from the team. And on some level its been like that with the Cubs, not fully integrated.

Thats not to say that Nady sulks or keeps to himself. He is a positive clubhouse presence, and well-liked by teammates. But since he signed a one-year deal in January, hes had to place percentages on how his arm feels, and measure the distance he can throw in long toss.

Until recently, its been a struggle to find to find regular at-bats. Hes averaged about 10 per week, and quoted that number off the top of his head.

I knew it was going to be a long year, Nady said. I just didnt know to what extent. You try to be optimistic and come back and be Superman after two Tommy John (surgeries). Its not ideal, not realistic. (You) just try to finish strong.

Gradually, Nady is restoring his value. August was his strongest month by far as a Cub he hit .320 with a .386 on-base percentage in 22 games and the deadline to be eligible for a postseason roster passed without him being dealt to his sixth team in the past six years.

And when Derrek Lee decided to approve a trade to the Atlanta Braves, it opened a spot for Nady at first base. Nows the chance to show hes still the middle-of-the-order hitter who generated 25 homers and 97 RBI in 2008.

You dont know how an arm injury effects a guy, manager Mike Quade. You can take a year off and come back and maybe make some pitches or maybe play defense. But swinging the bats a little different deal.

He looks way more comfortable and were all watching the same guy now that he was earlier. (Its) just getting back into what hes done for his career.

Quade described Nadys defensive play at first base as excellent, one reason why the manager still has no immediate plans to use Tyler Colvin there during a game. Its unclear what the organizations long-term answer will be at that position.

Nady, who will turn 32 in November, didnt worry about it when his name was mentioned in trade rumors throughout the summer. He certainly isnt anxious about free agency.

Nadys agent, Scott Boras, is one of the most powerful men in baseball. Coming off elbow-reconstruction surgery, Nady still got 3.3 million guaranteed, plus performance bonuses, after only seven games and 28 at-bats with the Yankees last season.

So Nady enjoys playing in Chicago and the Cubs might need a first baseman, but there are many moving parts to any deal.

Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena and Lee are among the first basemen approaching free agency. Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez could all hit the market after the 2011 season. Teams will have options.

Nady also figures to market himself as an outfielder. He will have the entire winter to build up his arm strength. He thinks hell be physically able to play the outfield five or six times per week. By Opening Day 2011, he will be 21 months removed from his second Tommy John procedure.

But with three weeks left in the season, thats not where Nadys focus is at. He needs consistent playing time to get his timing down and be comfortable with his leg kick at the plate. A player who woke up Sunday morning batting .253 with six home runs and 30 RBI no longer feels like he has to make up for it all at once.

(Now) you dont put a ton of pressure on yourself to get that one start and try to get three or four hits to prove yourself again, Nady said. Ive always believed in myself. (I) still feel like once I get healthy, and start playing every day, that everything will work out.

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

Willson Contreras is playing his butt off right now for first-place Cubs

Willson Contreras is playing his butt off right now for first-place Cubs

This really is becoming Willson Contreras' team.

The dude is absolutely on fire right now and has almost singlehandedly lifted the Cubs back into first place.

Since the All-Star Break, Contreras has crushed four homers and three doubles while driving in 11 runs in just eight games. 

The Cubs have won seven of those games, including Sunday night when Contreras' two-run shot in the sixth inning turned out to be the game-winner that pushed the Cubs into a first-place tie with the Milwaukee Brewers. (The Cubs also won the only game Contreras hasn't started since the Break.)

In the span of nine games, the Cubs have already erased the 5.5 game deficit they had in the National League Central entering the midseason break.

"He's just playing his butt off, literally, right now," Joe Maddon said. "Everything he's doing is pretty darn good. He plays with enthusiasm, also. You gotta feel that in the stands.

"There's some times he might get over-enthusiastic. I prefer toning people down as opposed to pumping them up all the time. He's doing everything. He's hitting fourth, he's catching, he's handling a really good pitching staff, he's throwing people out, he's blocking the ball really well and he's hitting homers, so God bless him."

Contreras' offense has been amazing, but Maddon credits the young catcher's block on a Wade Davis pitch in the dirt last week in Atlanta with helping to save the season. That play helped ensure a victory by not permitting the tying run to score from third base as the Cubs rattled off six straight wins to start the second half of 2017.

It's at the point now where Maddon cannot rationally find ways to get Contreras out of the lineup, even though the veteran manager is a huge proponent of rest and wants nothing more than to keep his players healthy and playing at a high level late in the season and into the playoffs.

Contreras is like the Energizer Bunny out there, hopping all around behind the plate to block balls, throwing guys out, pumping his chest, screaming obscenities at his first base coach after home runs. He even plays long toss (from the warning track in left-centerfield to about the spot the second baseman normally plays) before games with catching coach Mike Borzello.

The 25-year-old just does not turn down for anything when he's at the ballpark.

So does he ever get weary?

"I do get tired, but when I get home," he said. "When I'm here, I'm never tired. This is my job, this is what I love and you're gonna see me like that all throughout my career."

Contreras credits the Cubs coaching staff with helping him make the mental adjustments that has him in the conversation as one of the best catchers in baseball.

"He's growing up," Anthony Rizzo said. "He's really taking control behind the plate, which is nice. His at-bats just keep getting better and better and it's really fun to watch."

Contreras is on pace for 25 homers and 87 RBI, second only to Kansas City's Salvador Perez in both categories among catchers.

"He definitely has the abilities to be one of the elite catchers," Maddon said. "You gotta consider him one of the elite catchers in the National League already. Because he just does everything so well.

"The biggest next hurdle is just — without pulling him in too much — controlling his emotions a tad more without losing that enthusiasm that he has. Really understanding the game and calling the game and working his pitchers. 

"Mike Borzello does a great job with him. He started out this year and wasn't so good — missing his pitches, missing fastballs, fouling stuff off. But he stayed with it and now you see what he's capable of doing. He is really good right now and he's gonna get better."

Jose Quintana reveling in first place vibes after 'overexcited' home Cubs debut

Jose Quintana reveling in first place vibes after 'overexcited' home Cubs debut

Jose Quintana is grateful for his defense and offense picking him up.

That's not something he's used to feeling after years of borderline-laughable run support from the White Sox in games he started.

But as he made his Wrigley Field debut in a Cubs uniform Sunday night, Quintana served up three rockets in a row to the heart of the Cardinals order and all three wound up as outs.

First it was a lineout to Jason Heyward in right field where the Gold Glover leapt in the air and did something of a karate kick while catching the ball.

Another hard liner at Heyward followed before Jedd Gyorko laced a double into the left-centerfield gap. But Kyle Schwarber retrieved it quickly, made a perfect throw to Addison Russell who spun and made a quick throw to Willson Contreras at the plate to nab Matt Carpenter by a mile.

Thus endeth the first top of the first inning for Quintana at "The Friendly Confines."

"At the beginning of the game, he might've been a little overexcited," Joe Maddon said. "He was too quick with all of his actions. The pitches weren't going where he wanted them to go.

"And then I thought he settled in very well. He wasn't as sharp as in Baltimore, but he was good. He was very good."

Quintana allowed three runs on five hits and a pair of walks in six innings, recording the bare minimum requirements for a quality start. He also picked up his second win in as many outings with the Cubs when batterymate Willson Contreras hit a game-winning two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth.

Quintana agreed with Maddon that he was a little over-exuberant in this one.

"Too many emotions for me," he said. "It was one I enjoyed a lot. I was just trying to focus on inning by inning."

This is the first time Quintana has been on a team in the playoff hunt since his rookie season in 2012 when the Sox went 85-77 and missed the playoffs.

With Sunday's win, the Cubs have moved back into a share of first place and Quintana is all about the success.

"That's awesome," he said. "First time. To come into a team like this one and get to first place, that's amazing. I want to keep doing my job."

Now Quintana will have four days to sit back, relax, strap it down and watch the Crosstown Series knowing he won't have to go in and face a bunch of guys who he called teammates just two weeks ago. 

Quintana's next start will come Friday in Milwaukee.

"He's as advertised," Anthony Rizzo said. "Really didn't enjoy facing him. When we played the White Sox, he was the guy I always hoped to miss. To have him here and his demeanor on the mound is awesome."