Quade challenges Colvin to get better

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Quade challenges Colvin to get better

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Posted: 2:54 p.m. Updated 6:19 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs dont know where this is going, which is the entire point. Carlos Pena is working on a one-year deal and there is no first baseman of the future pushing them from the minors.

Tyler Colvin is athletic enough to play all three outfield positions. He is a left-handed power bat and a former first-round pick. The Cubs need to know whether or not he can play first, as an insurance policy against Pena getting injured and for planning purposes as they build the roster for years to come.

On balance it will probably be good for Colvins long-term career prospects. But manager Mike Quade cant help but see him misplay a few balls in the outfield and wonder if hes distracted.

I cant watch and (not think) maybe thats causing some of the problems, Quade said Wednesday. But Im not deterred. Its a challenge that Im sure hes up to.

Were going to continue looking at first and just ask him to make sure that hes getting all the work he can in the outfield. (Hell) learn to have his mind in the spot that hes at. You just dont know when youre asking somebody to do this.

READ: The Zen of Carlos Zambrano

The day before Colvin misjudged a ball in left and watched it bounce in front of him. He committed two errors in right during the first Cactus League game.

The weird part is Colvin got good reviews last week at first base, the first time hes played that position in a game since he was a sophomore at Clemson University.

It was fun over there, Colvin said afterward. It was a little nerve-wracking for that first groundball, but after that youre just ready to play your game and compete. (Its just) trying to get in the flow.

To his credit, Colvin, 25, handled everything smoothly as a rookie last season. He made enough adjustments at the plate to hit 20 homers in only 358 at-bats. He found a routine despite inconsistent playing time. He dealt with the media attention and survived a broken bat and a collapsed lung.

There are many reasons why the Cubs are confident Colvin can make it through this transition.

READ: Inside Look with Jim Hendry debuts Friday at 5:00 p.m.

Its learning to divide your time, and to focus wherever you end up in the lineup or on the field every day, Quade said. Its something that I think hes more than capable of dealing with and he told me: Im frustrated.

Through time I think everything will settle in and hell be the outfielder we know that he (can be). Hopefully (hell) develop into a decent enough first baseman that we can use him if we need to.

Quade wasnt singling out Colvin either, especially on a team that committed 14 errors through the first four Cactus League games.

Second baseman Blake DeWitt and shortstop Starlin Castro were out early Wednesday morning at HoHoKam Park working on turning the double play. DeWitt used to play third base regularly with the Dodgers. The Cubs have abandoned that and expect him to compete with Jeff Baker for at-bats. DeWitt needs to improve his timing and footwork.

There are some guys who are just naturally gifted defensive players, Quade said. And then there are some guys (where) its going to be a priority for them to work on (and) even maintain their defense their entire career.
Cubs cautious with Grabow

Left-handed reliever John Grabow hasnt appeared in a Cactus League game since the Feb. 27 opener. Though Grabow was shut down because of knee issues last summer, the Cubs are now monitoring tightness in his shoulder. Hes scheduled to throw another side session on Friday.

Its nothing serious. Were just being careful with him, Quade said. You worry about his knee, (but) every so often people coming back from that try to compensate a little bit or maybe change their mechanics. (Its) better safe than sorry early on to get him as strong as we can.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor 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.”

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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.”   

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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.”