Plesac, Glanville out; Deshaies in the mix for Cubs TV job

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Plesac, Glanville out; Deshaies in the mix for Cubs TV job

Updated: 9:10 p.m.

The Cubs could go in several different directions and find their next voice for the broadcast booth. It wont become the existential crisis that was the American League MVP debate Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout but whoever is hired to replace Bob Brenly will generate strong reactions from the fans.

The search process led by WGN continues, and you can add at least one more name to the list: Jim Deshaies. Sources confirmed the longtime Houston Astros color analyst recently interviewed for the job.

Another source said that Dan Plesac who was viewed as a frontrunner informed WGN on Friday that hes withdrawing from consideration and will remain at the MLB Network.

Judging by the messages across Twitter, Doug Glanville definitely appealed to a certain demographic. Heres a University of Pennsylvania graduate, a gifted writer for The New York Times who gets social media and has a three-dimensional view of the game.

Contact was made, but the two sides never had a sit-down. Theres an extension with ESPN in the works, according to a source close to Glanville, so cross him off the list.

The X-factor is what happens when WGNs contract expires after the 2014 season and the Cubs look to cash in on the local television deals that have fundamentally changed the baseball economy.

Earlier this month, sources identified five contenders who were targeted for interviews: Plesac; Rick Sutcliffe; Eric Karros; Gary Matthews; and Todd Hollandsworth.

Sutcliffe is under contract at ESPN and viewed as a long shot given his high profile. Karros has a broad television portfolio, working nationally on Fox and around Los Angeles Dodgers local broadcasts.

Sarge has done the job before, calling games for the Philadelphia Phillies. Hollandsworth, who has occasionally filled in for Brenly, is the pre- and postgame analyst on Comcast SportsNet, which will have some input along with the Cubs and WGN.

With these ex-Cubs believed to be in play, its worth noting that Brenly was a relative outsider when he replaced Steve Stone. Brenly played almost his entire career with the San Francisco Giants and returned to their coaching staff after spending two seasons in the WGN radio booth with Harry Caray and Thom Brennaman.

Brenly lasted eight seasons alongside play-by-play man Len Kasper before the Arizona Diamondbacks made what sounded like an offer he couldnt refuse. The two had developed a strong chemistry, even when the on-field product was barely watchable.

Brenly accepted the new job in October and went back to his home in the desert. Nothings imminent his replacement might not be named for a few more weeks.

Deshaies never played for the Cubs, but one rave review described a broadcasting style that sounded Brenly-esque. Heres what the Houston Press wrote in its Best of section for 2008, naming the citys best commentator:

Jim Deshaies had some tough shoes to fill when he took over the Astros analyst spot from Larry Dierker. But lets just say, as J.D. settles into his second decade as the Astros TV analyst, that he has not only surpassed Dierker, he has perhaps surpassed every other analyst in baseball. The former starting pitcher knows the ins and outs of the game, from pitching to hitting to fielding to strategy.

Best of all, hes not a homer, and if the good guys goof up, hell let you know how and why. And then theres his quick wit and his ability to throw out a Seinfeld reference or obscure pop culture trivia at a moments notice. Nothing gets past Deshaies, and, if you pay attention, youll learn more from him than just about any baseball geek in the country.

Within the past 13 months or so, the Astros have transitioned to a new ownership group and a new front office, and they will be moving to a new league and a new television home, switching from Fox Sports Houston to the recently launched CSN Houston.

On Oct. 3 at Wrigley Field, a 101-loss Cubs team beat a 107-loss Astros team, mercifully ending their seasons. That day, the Houston Chronicle reported that Deshaies is expected back next season. Stay tuned.

Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

CSN will also carry the live audio call of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully during Sunday's game as the SportsNet LA audio feed will be featured during the third inning.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester vs. Kenta Maeda

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Cubs: Jason Hammel still fuming after Joe Maddon’s quick hook at Dodger Stadium

Cubs: Jason Hammel still fuming after Joe Maddon’s quick hook at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES – Even from the upper levels of Dodger Stadium, inside the Vin Scully Press Box, you didn’t need binoculars or a lip reader to tell that Jason Hammel wanted nothing to do with Joe Maddon. 

Not this early on Saturday afternoon, not when the Cubs pitcher came into a possible playoff preview with a 13-6 record and a 3.07 ERA. An animated Hammel gestured toward home plate and walked off the mound in the middle of the third inning, continuing a sometimes awkward/usually productive relationship with the star manager that dates back to their time together as Tampa Bay Rays.    

The media waited several extra minutes outside the visiting clubhouse after a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers while Hammel met with Maddon in his office. Maddon’s postgame press conference then lasted almost eight minutes, giving Hammel time to shower and change into his street clothes. Hammel was still fuming by the time reporters wandered over to his locker.

“That’s between me and Joe,” Hammel said. 

Hammel – who normally enjoys the back-and-forth exchanges and gives insightful answers, even to uncomfortable questions – declined to get specific about the meeting, the decision-making process or how to work with Maddon.  

“That’s a conversation for me and him,” Hammel said. “There’s no reason for that to be in the papers. It’s a professional way of working through it. We’ll leave it there.” 

No, Hammel doesn’t get much latitude, even during his 11th year in the big leagues and a strong individual season that had so far answered questions about a second-half fade. But Maddon didn’t like what he saw against a stacked left-handed Los Angeles lineup.

Maddon walked out from the dugout with two runners on and one out in the third inning. Adrian Gonzalez loomed next, trying to extend a 3-1 lead with one big swing. Maddon summoned Rob Zastryzny from the bullpen and watched the rookie lefty get two groundball outs.  

“I didn’t even pitch today in my mind,” Hammel said. “I barely threw 40 pitches, so this is a side day for me.”

Zastryzny looked extremely impressive, retiring 11 of the 12 batters he faced, eight days after getting called up from Triple-A Iowa and making his big-league debut, showing that he could become an X-factor for October.

“He was not happy with me taking him out that early,” Maddon said of his conversations with Hammel. “I can understand why, because it’s happened in the past. But I just didn’t see the game straightening out.

“Watching them one time through, it looked like they were on him a little bit. And I thought that was a great lineup for ‘Rob Z.’ One of the things with bullpen arms – I want to put them in a meaningful spot. 

“I didn’t see it happening for ‘Hammer’ today, and that’s cool, because he didn’t throw that many pitches. He’s going to be very well-rested for his next start. But it also illustrates ‘Rob Z’ and what he can do for us in the future.” 

No, Hammel didn’t look all that sharp, giving up five hits to the 12 batters he faced, including a first-inning homer to Corey Seager and three consecutive hits to begin the third. But Hammel is also a respected veteran teammate who helped the Cubs transform into a playoff team last year and build baseball’s top-performing rotation this season. 

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Who cares? The Cubs are still 36 games over .500 and began the day with huge leads over the St. Louis Cardinals (14) and Pittsburgh Pirates (16.5) in a watered-down division. 

Well, Hammel is a guy who feeds off confidence and positive reinforcement. The Cubs might need him in October, especially if John Lackey (shoulder) experiences a setback before coming off the disabled list or another starter gets hurt down the stretch.  

“It is what it is,” Hammel said. “The guys fought hard. ‘Z’ did a hell of a job coming out of the ‘pen.”

Then again, the Cubs already think Mike Montgomery could develop into a good big-league starter – the lefty swingman got a longer leash given this particular Los Angeles matchup on Friday night – and thought enough of Zastryzny to make him a second-round pick out of the University of Missouri in 2013.

But for now, Maddon allowed Hammel to take advantage of his open-door policy and vent.

“I want them to be able to do that,” Maddon said. “I have a reason why I did it. I’m not going to hide about anything. It’s not like I just picked that out of the hat and chose to do it today. 

“You just got to shoot them straight back. And hopefully they can deal with it. There’s a great line: ‘Honesty without compassion equals cruelty.’ So at some point, you got to understand your audience, too.”

Joe Maddon defends bunt decision after Cubs can’t knock out Dodgers phenom Julio Urias

Joe Maddon defends bunt decision after Cubs can’t knock out Dodgers phenom Julio Urias

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs had Julio Urias and the Los Angeles Dodgers on the ropes, but couldn’t knock out the young lefty from Mexico who’s drawn comparisons to franchise icon Fernando Valenzuela and could be the next star to burst from this pitching-rich pipeline.  

The Cubs created their “you go, we go” sense of momentum on Saturday afternoon at Dodger Stadium with Dexter Fowler drawing a leadoff walk and MVP candidates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hitting back-to-back singles into right field to generate the game’s first run.

Urias had already thrown 17 pitches in the first inning when manager Joe Maddon instructed cleanup hitter Ben Zobrist to try to bunt for a hit. It became an easy out for Urias, who then struck out Addison Russell and Jorge Soler looking and began to find his rhythm during a 3-2 victory in front of 49,522 at Chavez Ravine. 

“Second and third was kind of a nice spot to be,” Maddon said. “(Zobrist) could have hit into a double play. He’s the one guy who’s heavy groundball against that particular pitcher. 

“I actually like the bunt for the hit right there, (because) we had (already) scored (and) Addison’s been a pretty good RBI dude. I thought it was a nice move right there (to) at least get one (run) out of that. 

“You got him and Soler coming up versus a left-hander who’s a little bit shaky right there – I kind of liked it.”

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The Cubs had roughed up Urias during his second career big-league start on June 2 – or two-plus months before his 20th birthday – by hitting three homers and scoring six runs off him in five innings at Wrigley Field.   

But Urias – who pitched at four different minor-league levels last season – clearly has an accelerated learning curve. He managed to last six innings this time and didn’t allow another run after that early flurry, finishing with eight strikeouts against two walks.  

Urias has gone 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his last six games (four starts), helping bail out a $250 million team and a fragile rotation that’s used 14 different starting pitchers. If the Dodgers (72-57) can get Clayton Kershaw back to full strength, keep Rich Hill healthy and continue to bring along Urias, then the Cubs might have some matchup nightmares in October. 

“(Urias is) all of what they think he is,” Maddon said. “The kid was outstanding. He knows how to elevate against the guy you’re supposed to elevate against. He knows how to throw the ball down against the guy you’re supposed to throw the ball down to. He’s got a nice move to first base. He handled himself well at the plate. And he’s 20 years old. That’s pretty good.”