Quade shows faith in Castro, Pena

454449.jpg

Quade shows faith in Castro, Pena

Tuesday, April 26, 2011Posted: 8:35 PM
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mike Quade sat in the United Center watching the Blackhawks on Sunday night and wondered about the decision to bench Roberto Luongo.

The Cubs manager thought about the goalies history, what he means to the franchise and how the Vancouver Canucks would respond in a Game 7. Quade gets second-guessed all the time, and welcomes the arguments, so hes earned the right.

The next night, Quade trudged into the interview room at Wrigley Field after his 59th game as Cubs manager. The consensus was that he had never been that angry or frustrated during a postgame media session.

Quade didnt even bother to try to put a positive spin on that 5-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies and went straight to adjectives like awful and bad.

By Tuesday afternoon, Quade was back to being upbeat, admitting that its only one game, less than one percent of the entire season. He is going to take the same long view with Starlin Castro and Carlos Pena.

Its like being the closer, Quade said. You better have a short memory.

On a cold, wet Monday night, Castro became the first Cub in almost 15 years to commit three errors in one inning. Quade didnt say much to his 21-year-old shortstop, other than offer a few words of encouragement.

The message will be the same as it ever was since Castro made his big-league debut 11-plus months ago: Slow the game down for a moment. Dont rush everything.

Im not an excuse-maker, but it wasnt the greatest of nights to play, Quade said. Every throw I watched from everybody on the field (was) made with caution (and) thats the one thing I hope he learned you might have to take a little extra time in those circumstances.

We may not be able to turn the double play. We may not be able to play this thing like its a dry day in June."

Castro doesnt lack for confidence. He doesnt care if he bats leadoff (23-for-46 entering Tuesday) or third (2-for-17). Quade says he hasnt noticed a change in approach, and thats all that matters.

I have no concerns about his psyche, no matter where he hits, Quade said. If he showed up here tomorrow and was hitting fourth, I dont think hed blink.

You just dont wake up one day and go: Hmmmlets try him third. Thats not what I do. Hes talented, hes capable and going through the first month of the season hes our best hitter. Thats whos supposed to be your third guy. Well see how it plays out.

So Quade will continue to mix-and-match, figuring that Kosuke Fukudome (.571 on-base percentage) is the best leadoff option against right-handers and believing that Marlon Byrd will start producing in the clutch (.185 average with runners in scoring position).

Quade also recognizes that Jeff Baker (.990 OPS) deserves more playing time. But the managers not prepared to automatically sit Pena against left-handed pitchers.

Pena woke up Tuesday with zero homers, one extra-base hit, a .169 average and 22 strikeouts in his first 59 at-bats. The first baseman who averaged 36 homers and 102 RBI across the past four seasons has also been dealing with a thumb injury. He got the vote of confidence.

We need to get Carlos going. Period, Quade said. It cant be a platoon system for me because I still would like the left-handed power in the middle of that lineup that I know Carlos has and Im not willing to bail on that three weeks into the season in April in Chicago.

Hopefully thats a conversation for never. Its not for now.

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.

 [SHOP: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]  

“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.”

Morning Update: Cubs, White Sox cruise to 7-3 victories

Morning Update: Cubs, White Sox cruise to 7-3 victories

Preview: Jon Lester goes for win No. 20 as Cubs battle Reds on CSN

Preview: Patrick Kane to make preseason debut as Blackhawks host Blues on CSN

Fire hope to damage rival Columbus' playoff hopes Saturday on CSN+

No guarantees, but Ben Zobrist believes Cubs can live up to ‘super-team’ hype

Young White Sox players star in win over Twins

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Bears facing Lions with Jay Cutler likely out, Alshon Jeffery dealing with hamstring issue

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Week 5 Big Ten previews: Michigan meets Badgers in top-10 showdown

Three keys and prediction: Notre Dame - Syracuse