No pressure: Coleman gets the job done for Cubs

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No pressure: Coleman gets the job done for Cubs

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Posted: 10:33 p.m. Updated: 11:56 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

DENVER Casey Coleman does not pitch scared. Its in his DNA.

Drop Coleman into Coors Field in front of 40,264 fans against the hottest team in baseball and see what happens. The Cubs didnt have much of a choice, but theyve long liked the savvy of this third-generation big-league pitcher.

Coleman kept the Colorado Rockies in check on Saturday night before the Cubs exploded for a huge inning and rolled to an 8-3 victory.

Coleman hasnt eased into this at all. The 23-year-old wasnt stretched out much in spring training that was for Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs viewed him as the ideal insurance policy when someone got injured. They just didnt think it would happen so soon.

Coleman has a clear idea of what he wants to do on the mound and he made big pitches at critical moments. Overall the Rockies went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 13 men on base.

Hes got a lot of guts, catcher Koyie Hill said. The thing that really helps Casey out is hes the same guy whether hes got a six-run lead or its a tie game. It makes those situations more manageable.

Coleman left with two outs in the sixth inning after a line drive hit the top of his foot. It wasnt a serious injury, but it was time to turn the game over to the bullpen. By then, he had given up only one run on four hits.

Coleman allowed the Rockies (11-3) to get the leadoff man on in four consecutive innings, but minimized the damage. He walked three and hit two more, the cost of establishing a presence inside.

They can take it however they want it, but I dont see that hitting guys is really such a negative all the time, especially for Casey, Hill said. The guys 5-foot-8 Im not knocking him. But its nice to sometimes let them know that hes going to come in there. Those are all accidents, but hes still pitching in, which is a big part of his game plan.

Coleman wont overpower hitters. He has to help himself by handling the bat and fielding his position. He showed all that in the fifth inning.

Coleman singled, raced to third on a double and scored the go-ahead run to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. Back on the mound, he handled a sharp ground ball, looked a runner back to third and got the out at first. The inning ended with Coleman sprinting to cover first.

Hes got all the intangibles, manager Mike Quade said. Hes not huge of stature. He doesnt light up the gun, but he does everything else to make himself a good pitcher and needs to. He deserves a lot of credit and he should take a lot of pride in that, whether its composure (or) the way he handles himself in the clubhouse.

From Day 1 when he got here: Whos Casey Coleman? Hes been fantastic.

Randy Wells (forearm) and Andrew Cashner (rotator cuff) will be re-evaluated this week. The Cubs will likely go with James Russell on Tuesday against the San Diego Padres. But neither Russell nor Jeff Samardzija is viewed as a fifth-starter solution.

The way it lines up now, the Cubs could win a series against the first-place Rockies and finish 5-4 on this road trip, which few saw coming.

The Cubs (7-7) stepped up their offensive support Alfonso Soriano hit his fifth home run of the season and Starlin Castro hammered a three-run shot into the left-field seats to key a five-run seventh inning.

There are many unanswered questions left about this team. But for one night Coleman showed that his eight starts late last season (4-2, 3.33 ERA) werent a mirage.

As much as anything, this had to be reassuring for the Cubs: Maybe they only have to worry about one rotation spot. If the Rockies and Coors Field didnt faze Coleman, then what will?

I can see how its tough, Coleman said. You get the rubbed-up balls and then throw one pitch and theyre all slick again. So you have to make adjustments, but its definitely good to make it out of here alive.

Box Score

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

From top to bottom, Cubs have all the pieces in place, including new deals for Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod

From top to bottom, Cubs have all the pieces in place, including new deals for Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod

CINCINNATI – From top to bottom, the Cubs now have all the pieces in place to make October baseball at Wrigley Field a reality, year after year, with family ownership, rock-star executives and blue-chip players.

“It’s nice to keep the band together,” manager Joe Maddon said, reacting to Friday’s announcement that general manager Jed Hoyer and scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod had finalized contract extensions, matching up their timelines with team president Theo Epstein’s new monster deal through the 2021 season.

Those architects constructed what’s already a 102-win team, a division champion and the National League’s No. 1 seed, making the Cubs right now the biggest story in baseball, if not professional sports.

The lineup for a 7-3 win over the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds featured two MVP candidates (Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo), a 22-year-old All-Star shortstop (Addison Russell) and marquee free agents (Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler). The last two games of the regular season at Great American Ball Park will feature Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks making their final cases for the Cy Young Award. 

“It always starts with ownership and then it goes into the front office and eventually gets to us when you have that kind of stability,” said Maddon, who led a stunning turnaround with the Tampa Bay Rays despite all the uncertainty that came with small-market payrolls, a charmless domed stadium (Tropicana Field) and speculation about relocation and contraction.

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“We have a great product on the field,” Maddon said. “We have the best ballpark in the world. Our fans are spectacular. The city itself – there’s no more interesting place to live than Chicago. All those factors play into the success.

“I know in the past the Cubs haven’t been as successful as they wanted to be. But I don’t know that all the different ingredients have been put into place this well.

“So looking ahead, you just want to build off what you’ve done. Last year was a good building block coming into this year. And we want to keep moving forward. Of course, our goal is to play the final game of the year and win it. Under these circumstances, I think it becomes more believable on an annual basis.”

Since Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod reunited in the fall of 2011 – updating their World Series blueprints with the Boston Red Sox – the Cubs are just the third team in major-league history to win at least 100 games within four years of a 100-loss season. The Cubs have now qualified for postseason play in consecutive seasons for only the third time in franchise history.

“We had some good pieces,” chairman Tom Ricketts said. “But the organization itself was not in a position where you could believe that there was sustainability and consistency and success on the field. Obviously, Theo and the guys that he brought with him five years ago kind of took the organization down to the studs and started rebuilding.

“The time and energy to do it the right way has paid off with a team that should be successful for years to come.”

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