Chicago Cubs

Quades audition was a smashing success

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Quades audition was a smashing success

Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010
4:50 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

HOUSTON Mike Quade still remembers the nights they sold beer for a quarter at an old stadium in Charleston, S.C., to lure in students from The Citadel. The rowdy fans would be hanging over the railings.

Quade cant forget the 14-hour bus rides, and a back wheel falling off somewhere between Jacksonville, Fla., and Memphis, leaving his players stranded. He couldnt read the newspapers in the Dominican Republic, but knew they were ripping him when his winter ball team got off to a slow start.

It took Quade 17 years and 2,378 games as a manager in the minors to get to this point. He won a Caribbean World Series in between and had to wait until almost the end of his seventh season as a major-league coach before receiving the phone call from Jim Hendry.

Quade had no idea why he was summoned to the general managers office on Aug. 21. He wasnt aware of how deep Lou Piniellas family issues ran in Tampa, Fla.

Two days later, a man who had only 215 career at-bats above the Class-A level would be replacing a potential Hall of Fame manager (Piniella) and bypassing a bench coach with borderline Cooperstown credentials (Alan Trammell).

On Sunday night, Quade flew back to Chicago after a 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. By any measure, his 37-game audition was a smashing success. The 53-year-old baseball lifer returns as the leading candidate to be the Cubs manager in 2011.

The Mount Prospect native will spend a few days packing up and visiting with his family in the suburbs. By the end of the week, he plans to be waist-deep in saltwater fishing off the Gulf coast of Florida. He likes his chances with Hendry and the Ricketts family.

I believed that I was capable and ready to get an opportunity to do this at this level. But believing it and proving it to yourself are two different things, Quade said. Its no different from (the players). They have great minor-league careers (but) now (youve) got to do it here.

I still wanted to find out myself if (the) way I do things (was) going to resonate with this group of guys.

Quade gave the players a clearer sense of when they would be playing and how they would be used. No longer would they keep circling back to that empty space on the clubhouse wall, waiting for the lineup to be posted. The rookies in the bullpen could relax a little bit and trust their stuff.

I dont think its a secret that everybody in the clubhouse (would) really like to see Quade get the job, catcher Koyie Hill said. Hes been through it all. (He) related to everybody.

Ive never seen a manager or a coach get everything out of every single player. Veteran guys, rookie guys, bench players, starters, relievers he brought it out of everybody.

Hendry appreciates that Quade didnt manage every night like it was Game 7 of the World Series. And the results were still there. The 75-87 Cubs finished with a strong 24-13 push, winning eight of 12 series. They had won 11 of their 40 series under Piniella.

We always knew what type of baseball guy Mike was, Hendry said. A lot of people were surprised when we named him the manager for the rest of the season and hes certainly done nothing but enhance his situation.

Weve won probably more games than any of us would have expected. The young players certainly developed at the rate that we needed them to going forward. (The) clubhouse responded extremely well to Mike, so for me to sit here and be critical in any way would be wrong.

On purpose Hendry never labeled Quade as an interim manager. Quade says he wont change if he gets the job next season. These past six weeks hes thought often about where hes been and at the end he quoted the Grateful Dead.

I dont get real nostalgic, Quade said. How does that song go? What a strange trip its been? For my year to end this way whod have thunk it?

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Which Cub will make biggest impact down the stretch?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Which Cub will make biggest impact down the stretch?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Chris Hine (Chicago Tribune) and Jordan Bernfield join David Kaplan on the panel. Jon Lester, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras all work out with the Cubs before their game. Which player’s return with have the biggest impact down the stretch?

Plus, the guys discuss how many snaps Mitch Trubisky should take with the first team, debate who won the big Cavs/Celtics deal and Scott Paddock drops by with the latest NASCAR news.

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

Mike Montgomery will gladly aid Cubs as spot starter, but could this be a mini audition for 2018 rotation?

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USA TODAY

Mike Montgomery will gladly aid Cubs as spot starter, but could this be a mini audition for 2018 rotation?

Jon Lester isn’t expected to be on the disabled list for long, which of course is great news for the Cubs.

But while he’s there, it’s once again time for Mike Montgomery to audition for a spot in the team’s 2018 starting rotation.

The Cubs are facing the possibility of losing two members of that starting staff this offseason, when both Jake Arrieta and John Lackey will be free agents. Montgomery seems like a logical replacement, but he’ll need to be better than he’s been as a starter this season. He’s put up a 5.13 ERA in eight starts.

He’ll get another opportunity to show his stuff over the next week or so, as he makes one or two spot starts with Lester on the shelf resting up his left lat tightness and general shoulder fatigue.

“I don’t want to see anybody get hurt, especially our ace. But it’s a challenge. I’m looking forward to going out there and helping the team win,” Montgomery said over the weekend. “I’m going to go out there and prepare and be ready to help this team get to the playoffs.”

Montgomery doesn’t have to worry about instilling confidence in his bosses. Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein both lauded Montgomery’s efforts since he was acquired about a year ago, in the middle of the 2016 team’s march to that curse-smashing World Series win. It was Montgomery who earned the save in Game 7.

And again this season Montgomery has given plenty of reason for those guys to have confidence in him. He’s turned in a strong 2.57 ERA in 27 relief appearances, one of the more reliable arms out of what is becoming an increasingly shaky bullpen. This past Thursday, he relieved the early-to-depart Lester, pitching 4.1 shutout innings and allowing just three hits and a walk against the Cincinnati Reds.

Throw in the versatility of being able to effectively switch between starting and relieving, and that’s a recipe for sticking on a big league roster.

“He’s good about bouncing back and forth,” Maddon said. “He’s been invaluable to us the last couple years. He’s still learning his craft. Every time I talk to him it’s kind of like the little lightbulb constantly goes off for him regarding his stuff and how to utilize it. That’s what I’ve been talking about with him the last couple years. This guy’s got all kinds of tools in the toolbox but he doesn’t really know how to utilize them all, and I think he’s finally understanding the cutter, the curve, the changeup to go with the fastball. He’s one of those guys that he should never get wild with his fastball because his pitches are so good and he can throw them for a strike.”

Montgomery’s reliability has been enough that Epstein said there’s no plan for the Cubs to add another starting pitcher before this month’s waiver trade deadline. Of course, the fact that Lester’s injury isn’t as bad as initially feared and the July acquisition of Jose Quintana factors into that, as well.

“We’ve expended a lot of prospect capital trying to make this team better. We think it’s just a start or two (that Lester will miss), and Mike Montgomery is more than capable of filling in,” Epstein said. “He’s thrown the ball really well, like what we saw from him (Thursday). So we’re going to fill that vacancy internally with Mike and go from there.”

While every start made by any pitcher this season seems important — the Cubs entered Monday’s day off with just a two-game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central standings, with a playoff spot hardly guaranteed — Montgomery’s efforts could have just as great an effect on next season. If Arrieta and Lackey both end up departing via free agency, the Cubs will need some replacements. Montgomery figures to be among the first options, especially if this midseason audition goes well.

Of course, Montgomery is happy to do whatever he needs to to help his team. He’s not complaining about a bullpen role or one that has him shuttling between the relief corps and the rotation. But he admitted that starting is his goal, meaning the importance of this moment likely hasn't been lost on him.

“Yeah, absolutely, I wanted to start. But also I wanted to be a guy who could fill another role and hopes that makes our team better,” he said. “If me starting makes us better in their mind, then that’s what I want ideally. But I’ve realized I can’t always control that, I can go out there and pitch well. If I pitch well, they’re probably going to give me more opportunities, which is probably going to lead to starting.

“I think it’s because I spent five years in Triple-A from the time I was 21 and I had a bigger ego. And then you realize that you just want to be in the big leagues and that Triple-A kind of stinks. I think it’s just how I’ve gotten to this point. And coming here last year from a team that was trying to get in the playoffs to a team that was clearly going to win the division, you realize that your role isn’t to come here and start making demands, it’s to come here and just do your job.”

Right now, the Cubs need Montgomery to fill the void while Lester rests up. And if he can make his starts look a little more like his bullpen outings, he’ll do just that. And if that’s what happens, maybe they’ll call on him next season to do a whole lot more.