No pressure: Coleman gets the job done for Cubs

447660.jpg

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.

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

MIAMI – Kyle Schwarber’s offensive spiral had gone on for so long and gotten so deep that the shock value of sending a potential franchise player to Triple-A quickly wore off once the news broke on Twitter.

The Cubs sent their message directly to Schwarber. Even if the bosses wanted to, the Cubs couldn’t put the rest of the clubhouse on edge by demoting a .171 hitter with 260-plus plate appearances in late June. 

The Cubs are in survival mode, not a position to play mind tricks, beginning an 11-games-in-11-days road trip with World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (sore left wrist), Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward (cut left hand) and Cy Young Award finalist Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) all on the disabled list.   

The Cubs didn’t rebook Schwarber to Iowa so he can be converted into a pitcher. An aging, stressed rotation remains a much bigger concern than the boom-and-bust periods with a young offense. 

All these circumstances made a vintage Jake Arrieta performance during Thursday night’s 11-1 win at Marlins Park so important. Whether or not the Cubs make a blockbuster trade for a pitcher, there are still five-plus weeks left until buyers and sellers will feel the urgency of a deadline.   

“If something presents itself that makes sense, we’ll certainly jump on it,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “But to us, the answers are in that clubhouse. We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut. The answers are in there, and we believe in those guys. 

“Will we be active? No question. But that’s not going to happen for a while and there’s a lot of games to be played between now and July 31.”

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]  

On a night where he felt “low energy,” rocked a new buzz cut and covered his right thumb with Dermabond to treat a cut/blister issue that can be traced back to spring training, Arrieta needed only 82 pitches to get through seven innings, completely shutting down a strong Miami lineup except for a Marcell Ozuna home run.

Arrieta’s inconsistencies (7-5, 4.36 ERA) have mirrored a 37-35 team, but he didn’t hesitate when asked where he is at now in a season that has so far not lived up to his Cy Young/All-Star expectations.  

“I’m close,” Arrieta said. “I’m really close.”

The Cubs are still the defending champs. Kris Bryant unleashed an MVP swing when he launched a three-run homer into the left-center field patio deck. Blocking out a messy personal situation, All-Star shortstop Addison Russell almost hit for the cycle (no triple) the day after getting questions about his divorce and a Major League Baseball investigation. This year’s Schwarber – rookie Ian Happ – also went 4-for-5 and gave the team another jolt.  

“It’s tough to see Schwarber go down,” Arrieta said. “We know that he’s going to be one of our mainstays in the lineup eventually. He’s hit a rough patch and it happens to the best of us. 

“I’ve been there. I talked to him yesterday a little bit about just keeping his head down and going to work and getting his at-bats and trying to find that comfort level. He’ll be back soon. He’s a tremendous hitter who’s going through some struggles and he’s going to right the ship. There’s no doubt about that. He’s too good of a hitter.

“A night like tonight where we pitch well and we score 11 runs, it looks easy. But it’s about consistency and trying to build off of a night like tonight. We’ve got the guys necessary to do so. We’re very capable of doing that.”

Especially if Arrieta gets hot again and shows how he can lift an entire team. 

“To get Jake pitching that kind of quality game again is going to be a big boon to us,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

MIAMI – Everything aligned for the Cubs to make Kyle Schwarber their leadoff hitter. Joe Maddon’s gut instincts told him to do it – so the manager asked the Geek Department to run the numbers – and the projections backed him up. A front office raised on Bill James principles endorsed the idea after Dexter Fowler took an offer he couldn’t refuse – five years and $82.5 million – from the St. Louis Cardinals.
   
It all looked good on paper and sounded reasonable in theory. But by the time the Cubs made the Schwarber-to-Iowa move official before Thursday’s game at Marlins Park, the slugger once compared to Babe Ruth in a pre-draft scouting report had devolved into the qualified hitter with the lowest batting average in the majors (.171) and an .OPS 75 points below the league average.  

If Schwarber had been batting, say, sixth since Opening Day, would the Cubs be in a different spot right now?   

“Obviously, I can’t answer that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s an impossible question to answer. We put him in a leadoff position and he struggled. We obviously moved him out of that position (and) that didn’t work either. I know that’s what people are going to point to, because that’s a variable in his career. 

“Obviously, hitting him leadoff in 2017 didn’t work. Whether or not it caused the tailspin, I have no way to answer that question.”   

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

The Cubs also deserve credit for: drafting Schwarber when the industry viewed him as a reach with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014; fast-tracking his development to the point where he could help the 2015 team win 97 games and two playoff rounds; and overseeing a rehab process that allowed him to be a World Series designated hitter less than seven months after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.    
 
The Cubs will have their hitting instructors give Schwarber subtle suggestions, focusing on how he starts his swing and where he finishes, trying to reestablish his balance and confidence during this Triple-A timeout.
    
But deep down, this is a 24-year-old player who never experienced a full season in the big leagues before and wanted so bad to be a huge part of The Cubs Way.

“I do think a lot of the problems are mental,” Hoyer said. “These struggles have kind of beaten him up a little bit. Like anyone would, he’s lost a little bit of his swagger, and I think he needs to get that back. But I think when you look at what a great fastball hitter he’s been – how good he was in ’15, how good he was last year in the World Series – the fact that he hasn’t been pounding fastballs this year is a mechanical/physical issue that we’ll be looking to tweak. 

“This is a guy that has always murdered fastballs and he’s not there right now.”