Quade a 'non-stop ball of energy' at Cubs camp

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Quade a 'non-stop ball of energy' at Cubs camp

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011Posted: 1:06 p.m.

By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com

The latest from Cubs camp for Thursday, and Friday February 24, 25...

Thursday

Mesa, AZ: Today the entire team spent a considerable amount of time working on base running with first base coach Bobby Dernier teaching and instructing the entire team on what is expected of them.

Camp is run in stations and with no time wasted moving from field to field. Pitchers I saw on the mound today included Randy Wells and Jeff Samardizija who are both hoping to make the team after very disappointing 2010 campaigns. Samardizija is showing excellent velocity while Wells looks trim and very eager to put last season behind him.

Baseball Tonight has their Baseball 2011 bus here today with Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk and they interviewed Ryan Dempster, Mike Quade, and Marlon Byrd as they preview the Cubs. Dempster did a spot on impersonation of Chris Farleys Matt Foley character that was so good that it will probably go viral...

Aramis Ramirez looked great in a live BP session as he ripped line drive after line drive. Also, looking good was Tyler Colvin...

Manager Mike Quade was right in the middle of a base running drill and was nearly smoked by a line drive that came right back through the box. Quade was on the pitchers mound teaching and deftly snagged the shot with his glove, drawing a large cheer from the fans in attendance at Fitch Park...

Quade also announced the scheduled pitchers for the first four exhibition games:

Sunday: Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza

Mon: Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner

Tuesday: Ryan Dempster, Todd Wellemeyer, and Casey Coleman

Wednesday: Carlos Silva, James Russell

Friday

Today is moving day for the Cubs as they officially end the Fitch Park portion of camp and move over to Ho Ho Kam Stadium with Cactus League play opening on Sunday when the Cubs play the Oakland As. The locker rooms are filled with boxes as the clubhouse staff led by the incomparable Tom Otis Hellman and Gary Stark are packing up the stuff they just unpacked a few weeks ago and moving it just a mile away to the stadium where the Cubs play their spring training home games. Having to move in the middle of camp just further demonstrates the need for a new spring training facility. The people who run the current facilities are extremely dedicated and very nice but the Cubs have extremely outdated facilities compared to the rest of the teams in the Cactus League.

Lots of work in the batting cages again today as all of the players seem to really be buying into Rudy Jaramillo and his philosophy. In fact, one player said to me that upon his arrival in camp last week, Aramis Ramirez went to Jaramillo and asked to work with him to make sure he gets off to a great start. Thats a far cry from a year ago when he and Derrek Lee went about their work themselves despite being mired in terrible slumps.

Just watched a GREAT teaching moment this morning as Mike Quade stopped a contact drill (where the Cubs have men on first and third and have the runner on third going home on contact) to instruct top prospect Brett Jackson who was the base runner on third. Jackson tried to score when he clearly had no chance on a ball hit right back to the pitcher. Quade stopped the drill to instruct Jackson and told me this after he finished his teaching moment.

I had to tell him that the base runner on third has the responsibility on a hard hit ball that he cannot score on to get caught in a rundown long enough to allow the man on first to get to second. That makes the best out of a bad situation because the man on third will be tagged out. He was hustling on the play but I have to make sure he understands the correct way to run that play. We saw great energy from Quade and it is great to see him stressing fundamentals to this degree.

Again, I cannot stress to you enough the energy that is evident in camp. Long time baseball writer Tim Kurkjian told me yesterday that he has visited all of the camps in Arizona and the energy at Cubs camp was something he hadnt seen in a long time. That is all a tribute to Mike Quade who is a non-stop ball of energy from the moment he arrives at camp, which is around 6 a.m. until well into the evening.

Tune in for a live report from Cubs spring training today on CTL at 5:30 and on SportsNet Central at 6:30, 10:00 and midnight

David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.

How Justin Grimm could be X-factor in Cubs bullpen

How Justin Grimm could be X-factor in Cubs bullpen

Justin Grimm doesn't care what role he's in anymore, a sign of growth from the past few years when he still held out hope of getting a chance to become a starter again or a more glamorous late-inning role if he had to be in the Cubs bullpen.
 
Grimm is now just focused on taking that next step forward, however he can.
 
"I know my talent. I know what I'm capable of doing," Grimm said. "I'm in a really good spot this spring mentally, physically. I feel good and that's all I'm concerned with right now.
 
"Just being ready to go April 1. Whatever's asked of me, not getting caught up in, 'Aw man, I don't have this role.' I really think that's hurt me in the past. And I think that's why you see me probably excel in games that are tight, because I embrace that. You know they're confident in you to come in, shut it down, whatever it may be."
 
Grimm is focused on consistency, eyeing a full season of dominance instead of flashes that last a month or two at a time.
 
From June 27 through Sept. 13 last season, Grimm gave up just one run in 22.2 innings, striking out 30 batters while allowing only 20 baserunners. Yet even with that spectacular run, Grimm's season ERA was still 4.10 after a bad June overall (10.38 ERA) and five earned runs allowed in his last five appearances.
 
Grimm acknowledges that step forward has to come from between his ears. The talent and stuff is there, as evidenced by his 132 strikeouts in 102.1 innings the last two seasons — a mark that ranks him 12th in baseball in that span (among pitchers with at least 100 innings), just behind dominant relievers like Cody Allen, Ken Giles and Shawn Kelley.
 
"It's just a mental confidence thing," Grimm said. "It's not even necessarily getting caught up in [the role]. You come into a seven-run game, you get a little comfortable.
 
"It's finding ways not to do that. Like, 'OK, well it's 0-0 right now, even though we're winning by eight.' And I feel like that's going to happen a lot this year because we got an offense that's going to put up a lot of runs.
 
"How to handle that and stay locked in, I think it's just having a chip on my shoulder. All the guys are getting all the talk and I like it that way. I'm just in the shadows, doing my job and staying locked in. And I think it's going to help out a lot."
 
Grimm’s self-awareness is on point: With a bullpen that added Wade Davis and Koji Uehara to a group that already included Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr., Grimm is something of a forgotten man.

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Only Rondon and Strop have predated Grimm in the Cubs bullpen and the 28-year-old right-hander has posted a 3.29 ERA across 213 appearances over the last four seasons. This year figures to be more of the same, settling into that "mid-innings closer" role Joe Maddon talked up last year with Grimm and Travis Wood.
 
"He fits in everywhere. Probably earlier in the game, he'll be a great bridge guy," Maddon said. "I've always liked the middle-innings closers. They're the kind of guys that help win games.
 
"All our guys are capable to pitch at almost any time. There's going to be some guys that are probably relegated more to earlier in the game and [Grimm] probably will be one of them, unless we get on a nice roll and everybody's a little bit overused.
 
"But I'm here to tell you, man, when he's throwing the ball right, he can get anybody out and he's very good against lefties."
 
When the Cubs sent Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for Davis over the winter, Grimm was immediately drawn to baseball's ERA leader over the last three seasons. In Davis, Grimm sees a guy who's gone through the starter-to-reliever transition and morphed into one of the top arms in the game. Grimm spent a lot of time around Davis this spring, grabbing the veteran to break down Grimm's game in the video room.
 
"I just looked at him like, 'Wade, it's there. I just gotta find a way to consistently do that for six months, not five months, and have one month where I implode,'" Grimm said.
 
"He's been there. He knows. I look to learn a lot this year from him. It's cool to have a guy like that around. I was saying two years ago when Kansas City came to Wrigley, I would just love to sit down and talk with that guy. When we [traded for] him, I was pumped. 
 
"It's time to learn something from him. Everybody's different, so you can't really try to be like that guy, per se. You just gotta find little things that might work for you, that might change a little bit and help you out. That was the majority of our convo. I literally felt like I was reliving my career listening to him. It was pretty cool."
 
Now it's just a matter of carrying it all over into the games that matter.
 
"I'm not worried about what the hell my role's gonna be," Grimm said. "It's here; it's right now. I know what I'm capable of doing. It's just as much as anybody in this room."

Jon Lester thinks Cubs have a special player in Willson Contreras: ‘It’s about time we got an offensive catcher’

Jon Lester thinks Cubs have a special player in Willson Contreras: ‘It’s about time we got an offensive catcher’

MESA, Ariz. – Jon Lester couldn't resist when a reporter mentioned the two home runs Willson Contreras launched off Danny Salazar, an All-Star talent who might have changed last year's World Series if he had been at full strength.

"It's about time we got an offensive catcher," Lester said.

Zing! Lester had already seen David Ross on "Dancing with the Stars" by the time he finished up against the Cleveland Indians and met with reporters on Monday night at Goodyear Ballpark. While Lester knew Grandpa Rossy would appreciate that one-liner, there is also some truth behind it.

Yes, Ross became the security blanket for a $155 million pitcher, helped push and encourage young players like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and got carried off the field after delivering his own Game 7 homer. But whatever Contreras may lack now in game-calling experience and pitcher psychology, he can make up for it with his rocket arm, smooth swing and willingness to learn.

A camp that began with questions about how Lester would work with Contreras ended with a sincere endorsement.

"Willie's obviously very special, to be serious about it," Lester said. "He's definitely going to add a presence to that lineup as far as protecting ‘Rizz' and ‘KB' to where they're not going to be able to just pitch around those guys. We're going to have some other guys to do some damage in the middle to the bottom of that order.

"He's a special kid, just like anybody else on this team. He's (24), so he'll only get better as time goes on and (he gets) the at-bats and the innings and all that stuff. So I'm excited to see him for a full season and how well he can do back there."

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That's another reason why the defending World Series champs might actually look better on paper than the unforgettable 2016 Cubs. Ross did a "Dancing with the Stars" routine based off Young MC's "Bust a Move," a song released in 1989, or years before Bryant, Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Albert Almora Jr. were born.

Before the Cubs packed up and left Arizona, Ross made a promotional appearance in Mesa this week and caught up with some old friends like John Lackey.

"We got rid of Rossy," Lackey told reporters as the Cubs finished their Cactus League schedule with Wednesday's 15-11 win over the Oakland A's at Sloan Park. "He stinks. And we should be better. Actually, I was just inside talking to Rossy and he said that, so that's from him."