Russell struggles; Time to look at Plan B?

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Russell struggles; Time to look at Plan B?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011Posted: 10:05 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Matt Garza protected his teammates late Monday night, blaming the loss to the Colorado Rockies on his error, not the three committed by Starlin Castro. Garza was upfront and accountable, saying it was all his fault.

Garza didnt throw anyone under the bus. But when asked a big-picture question about the state of the team, he accidentally let this line slip.

Were a good ballclub, man. (We) keep fighting, Garza said. Were doing all this with practically three starters.

Yes, the Cubs have lost 40 percent of their rotation and they took another hit with Tuesdays 4-3 loss to the Rockies in front of an announced crowd of 38,261 at Wrigley Field.

Making his third spot start, James Russell essentially kept the Cubs in the game, but allowed all four runs and used up his 82 pitches after four innings. Manager Mike Quade said he hasnt thought about what the Cubs will do next for a fifth starter.

(Options) change every time someone makes a start somewhere else, Quade said. You keep looking at the people that are pitching in Triple-A and anybody that can give you length and quality. And if no ones ready to do that, then well do something from within again.

Soon it could be time to take a closer look at Jay Jackson, who was part of the 2008 draft class that also yielded Andrew Cashner and Casey Coleman.

Jacksons believed to be past the elbow tendonitis issues that delayed the start of his season. Hes already made two starts for Triple-A Iowa and on Tuesday allowed one run on four hits across 6.2 innings in Memphis.

No matter what the Cubs decide, Russell has earned their trust as a situational left-handed reliever, and their respect for going with the flow.

Im here to do whatever they need me to do, Russell said. I get paid to throw a baseball. Whenever they want me to throw it, Im ready.

Todd Helton was responsible for two of the three homers that Russell allowed. Helton launched a 78 mph slider into the right-field seats Russell described it as wind-aided and blasted an 80 mph changeup that landed on top of the batters eye in center.

Heltons been doing it for a long time, Russell said. More often than not, hes going to get you.

Russell has allowed six home runs in his past two starts, a stretch of eight innings at Wrigley Field. The total damage from his three starts: 13 runs on 19 hits in 9.2 innings.

The Cubs (10-13) will send the 23-year-old Coleman (7.43 ERA) to the mound on Wednesday afternoon to avoid the sweep against the first-place Rockies (16-7). Theyll be hoping for good news by then.

Cashner (rotator cuff strain) and Randy Wells (forearm strain) will have been re-evaluated by the teams medical staff and should have a better idea when they can start throwing off the mound and thinking about bullpen sessions.

The two right-handers have been playing long toss. There is only a general feeling that Wells will come off the disabled list before Cashner, though the Cubs are not setting a timetable.

The Cubs will charter to Phoenix on Wednesday night. This upcoming series against the Arizona Diamondbacks will allow them to check on two veteran pitchers building up strength in Mesa.

Todd Wellemeyer who may have already been in the rotation if not for the hip injury that derailed his spring training continues to make progress. Doug Davis who agreed to a minor-league deal two weeks ago is also working out at the complex but will still need to pitch at an affiliate first.

Whoever joins the rotation will need more help. Alfonso Soriano who homered in the ninth inning put it simply: We got to score more runs.

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

Joe Maddon offers up Cubs strength coach to be Madonna's trainer

Joe Maddon offers up Cubs strength coach to be Madonna's trainer

MESA, Ariz. — Think the stir-crazy Cubs have been in Arizona long enough? Near the end of a camp that has been relatively tame — at least compared to last year's parade of mimes, zoo animals and karaoke jams — manager Joe Maddon heard about Madonna's contest to find a new dance trainer and immediately thought of the man behind those gonzo stunts.

Because that's what a three-time Manager of the Year does. So the organization's content arm put together a one-minute clip nominating strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss, releasing it to 1.7 million followers on Friday through the @Cubs Twitter account.

"We're hoping that Madonna has an opportunity to check that out," Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. "We're willing to send even more information — whatever she possibly needs — to see that our guy's the best."

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Set to synthesized 1980s-style music, the aerobics video is rated more PG than the actual "Bussy" experience. The Cubs didn't show Buss leading the team stretch in a Speedo and a Lucha Libre mask. A slow-motion part of the montage does feature Buss standing alone in the clubhouse, dousing himself in beer during a clinching celebration.

"We could have made it more edgy," Maddon said. "There were so many more ways to go with it. I was kind of pleased with it. I thought it presented his abilities very well. His physique was presented in a manner that she could be duly impressed with the fact that our strength and conditioning coach fashions that form."

What if Madonna steals Buss from the Cubs?

"We could share somehow," Maddon said. "She'll fire him after a couple weeks anyway."

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta is a Cy Young Award winner who won't get the Opening Night assignment. John Lackey is a No. 3 starter already fitted for his third World Series ring. Kyle Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA last year and won't start until the fifth game of this season.  

Do you feel like this is the best rotation in baseball?

"We're up there, yeah," Arrieta said after homering off Zack Greinke during Thursday afternoon's 5-5 tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "I think on paper – and with what we've actually done on the field – it's tough to not say that.

"We like the guys we have. People can rank them, but time will tell. Once we get out there the first four or five times through the rotation, I think you can probably put a stamp on it then, more so than now. 

"But, yeah, we stack up just as well as anybody out there, for sure."  

Arrieta made it through five innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up three runs and eight hits in what figures to be his second-to-last Cactus League tune-up before facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 4. 

The New York Mets blew away Cubs hitters with their power pitching and game-planning during that 2015 National League Championship Series sweep. The Washington Nationals are trying to keep Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg healthy and already watched Tanner Roark deliver for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Cubs dreaded the idea of facing Johnny Cueto in a possible elimination game at Wrigley Field last October. The Los Angeles Dodgers almost became a matchup nightmare for the Cubs with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill during the 2016 NLCS.

But slotting Hendricks at No. 5 – five months after he started a World Series Game 7 – is a luxury few contenders can afford. 

"That just speaks to our length in the rotation," Arrieta said, "and being able to keep relievers out of the game, longer than most teams. That's a big deal, especially when you get into July and August. 

"Obviously, Kyle could be a 1 or 2 just about anywhere. Not that he's not here. We've got several of those, which is a good problem to have. It's going to be favorable for us when there's a No. 4 or No. 5 guy in our rotation going up against somebody else's. Our chances are really good, especially with our lineup." 

Arrieta talked up No. 4 starter Brett Anderson as "a little bit like Hendricks from the left side" in terms of his preparation, cerebral nature and spin rate, a combination that makes him an X-factor for this rotation and an organization starved for pitching beyond 2017. 

The if-healthy disclaimer always comes with Anderson, who played with Arrieta on the 2008 Olympic team and has been on the disabled list nine times since then. Coming out of high school, Arrieta initially signed to play for Anderson's father, Frank, the Oklahoma State University coach at the time, before going in a different direction in a career that wouldn't truly take off until he got to Chicago. 

"We're all looking forward to seeing how we pick up where we left off," Arrieta said. "Judging by what we've done this spring and the shape guys are in and the health – I don't see any reason we can't jump out to an early lead like we did last year and sustain it throughout the entire season."