Chicago Cubs

Silva points finger at himself: 'It's all my fault'

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Silva points finger at himself: 'It's all my fault'

Friday, March 4, 2011
Posted: 12:48 p.m. Updated: 6:03 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. Carlos Silva will tell you exactly whats on his mind. Thats why he had to be separated from Aramis Ramirez, and why he waited almost 48 hours to tell his side of the story.

By Friday morning, Silva had cooled down enough to explain that the pressure to compete for his place in the Cubs rotation had been weighing on him. A pitcher who will turn 32 next month felt like a rookie all over again.

Silva relies on his sinker and his command. In the bullpen before his first start on Wednesday, he was missing his spots and overthrowing the ball. The results, as he said, were absolutely brutal.

Silva stepped down into the dugout after a six-run first inning and said something like: We need to start making plays here. Ramirez, who committed one of the three errors during that sequence, took it personally. All you saw was a blur of blue jerseys trying to break it up.

I have to prove (it) to them, Silva said. I was thinking: (I) got to show them I can pitch. (There was) too much going on in my mind.

Its like: Boom! Its a big explosion. Thats why I say it was all my fault.

Silva, who indicated that he apologized to Ramirez, said that he wasnt even aware of the team-wide defensive issues this spring. It has been a narrow focus since he showed up at Cubs Convention in January, when reporters started asking him about the openings in the rotation.

Silva didnt think that he should lose his job to the heart issue and elbow injury that limited him to 5.1 innings across the final two months of last season. He looked back on his start 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA and felt he already deserved it.

For now, this episode wont be held against him.

I thought it was over the day after it happened, manager Mike Quade said. Nothing just goes away in the blink of an eye because Q says it (does). But everybody takes a day. Look, I get furious. And if I would address things immediately a lot of times it would not be good. So why should I think players would be any different? You take a step back. You go home, you have dinner, you relax and you come in the next day.

Clearly, Silva has more at stake this month than Ramirez. He does not have the luxury of just getting in shape. He also doesnt believe that this incident will negatively impact his chances of rejoining the rotation.

I dont feel like Im the bad guy, Silva said. Hes going to be the third baseman. Im fighting for my spot. Im dying there to have a good outing.

In a sense Silva didnt really share in the late-season surge that helped Quade keep his job and made the Cubs feel so much better heading into winter. Silva admitted that he doesnt really know Quade all that well, but praised the managers communication skills.

The way he talks, the way he acts hes very professional, very clear, very mature, Silva said. He tried to keep us together (and) thats one thing we really need.

Silva is tight with Carlos Zambrano, but out of respect the two pitchers havent discussed Wednesdays incident. Silva gave Zambrano some space when he got into it with Derrek Lee and went into anger-management counseling. He does not want to be alienated from teammates who already consider the matter closed.

Thats the worst feeling you can have, Silva said. You spend more time with these guys than your own family. Thats the last thing I want. I never had problems with my teammates (before).

I know Im hard. I know Im difficult. I know Im a strong (personality). I say a lot of things, but Im not a guy that comes here to fight or to argue.

Silva can be remarkably candid. He is charming and engaging with the press when he decides he wants to be. He just got a lot off his big chest.

That doesnt mean Im going to pitch great on Monday, he said, but I got to be myself.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

How Carl Edwards Jr. regained his confidence and killer instinct out of Cubs bullpen

How Carl Edwards Jr. regained his confidence and killer instinct out of Cubs bullpen

Carl Edwards Jr. unleashed a big curveball that froze Cincinnati Reds leadoff guy Billy Hamilton with a check swing and forced Cubs catcher Victor Caratini to make a hockey goalie-style block in the dirt with two runners on. They all looked at third base umpire Ron Kulpa, who signaled strike three as the crowd of 36,698 roared on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.   

The Cubs hope that seventh-inning scene is more of a big-picture look at the rest of their season than the final score in a 2-1 loss. The Cubs believe Edwards can be an Andrew Miller-type presence during the playoffs, maybe their future closer. By striking out all three batters he faced, Edwards kept it a scoreless game and bailed out Kyle Hendricks, who looked more like last year’s major-league ERA leader.   

Edwards screamed and pumped his fist as he walked back to the dugout, an emotional release from the slump that had manager Joe Maddon getting what-do-you-do-with-C.J.? questions.

“It’s more mental than anything,” Edwards said. “I know this game is very humbling. I can look good for 30 straight appearances. And then all of a sudden – four/five big games – I can be hurt again. I just look at it as going out there and having fun.

“I knew in the back of my mind that I would get over it because I’m a strong-minded guy. It wasn’t (anything) physical. I don’t know how I lost confidence, but I lost it. Right now, I'm just slowly getting it back. And I’m feeling more and more comfortable going out there every day.”

After watching Edwards blow the save and give up a grand slam to Matt Wieters during a potential playoff preview against the Washington Nationals in early August, Maddon compared the situation to a great shooter in basketball: “You just keep throwing it back out there.”

“I don’t want to run away from him,” Maddon said. “He’s really good. He had a bad couple days. Hitters go through slumps. Pitchers go through slumps. Managers go through slumps. Writers go through slumps. We all go through slumps.

“I love the guy. I absolutely love him. I love the teammate that he is. He had a couple tough days. Everybody does.”

Edwards actually had a 1.07 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP through his first 27 appearances this season – and then put up a 6.55 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP across his next 25 games. Still, there is so much to work with here, from the swing-and-miss stuff (70 strikeouts in 48.1 innings) to his natural feel for pitching to the internal drive that allowed him to blossom as a former 48th-round draft pick.         

“A big thing has been my dad sending me messages,” Edwards said, “every day telling me to pray and meditate. He knows me like a book. It’s just getting those words from him and seeing those messages before I go out to the game. And taking that message with me: No matter what happens, I’m here for a reason.”

Keep it simple. Don’t overthink it. Be yourself.

“He’s always done that,” Edwards said. “(When) I was struggling real bad, he told me: ‘Every day, just go back to backyard baseball. Say a prayer. Miss you. Meditate and just know, son, you’re there for a reason. And no matter what the outcome is, I’m going to still love you regardless.’ Just my dad being my dad. He basically taught me pitching growing up, so he’s the one that knows me best.”

Cubs: Ben Zobrist breaks down what went wrong this season and how he can still make it right

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Cubs: Ben Zobrist breaks down what went wrong this season and how he can still make it right

Ben Zobrist is a self-made player who feels months behind where he should be, freely admitting: “If we were in September right now, I’d be like: ‘Uh-oh.’”

The Cubs have played that long game all year, hanging around and slowly moving ahead in the National League Central race, hoping they will peak at the right time and the muscle memory will take over in October. That just seems to be getting harder and harder for their World Series MVP.

“We’re still where we need to be,” Zobrist said, “even though I have not played anywhere near my capability this season.”

Zobrist is a man of faith, so he will try not to feel snake-bitten, even as the injuries keep piling up, scratched from Monday’s game with a stiff neck and held back in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.

But watching Zobrist work a pinch-hit walk in the eighth inning and line an RBI single off Reds closer Raisel Iglesias in the ninth inning underlined how much the Cubs need him without Dexter Fowler leading off and Willson Contreras hitting in the middle of their lineup. 

Coming off back-to-back World Series runs, there were questions about whether or not a stiff neck would prevent Zobrist from being ready for Opening Day. Playing a doubleheader on May 9 at Coors Field stressed his lower back and sidelined him again. An awkward swing on May 26 at Dodger Stadium would eventually put him on the disabled list with a sore left wrist and force him to miss most of June.

Playoffs? Personal three-peat? The Cubs are a 62-56 team with a 1.5-game lead in the division. Zobrist is also too much of a realist to think that he can just flip a switch when he’s hitting .223 with an OPS that’s roughly 80 points below the league average and he hasn’t homered since the first game after the All-Star break.

[MORE: Cubs don’t see finish line for Addison Russell yet: ‘I don’t think that there’s any rush’  ]

“Right now, I’ve got more important things to worry about and they’re more minute,” Zobrist said. “Am I doing the things I need to do to have a good, quality at-bat? If I can start doing that again, then I’m very confident that when we get to that time, I’ll be able to do what I normally do. But that’s a long ways away for me, still.

“I’m trying to get to the point where I normally am in May. I’m not thinking about playoff time. I need to get back to that May time where I’m getting things where they need to go.”

After getting shut down by the New York Mets’ power pitching and swept out of the 2015 NL Championship Series, the Cubs identified Zobrist as the switch-hitter to diversify their lineup and set an example for their young players.  

Whatever happens from here – the Cubs believed his ability to handle fastballs and play multiple positions would keep him productive through his mid-30s – Zobrist has already been worth every penny of that four-year, $56 million deal.

“I’ve always been a hands/wrists/forearms (hitter),” Zobrist said. “That’s been one of my strengths: Let the pitch get deep and still get my hands to the front of the zone. That’s been really difficult to do. In June, it was impossible for me.

“And when that went, it was like: ‘OK, this is a tough one,’ because I tried to play through it. It just wasn’t healing and I wasn’t able to do the work. That’s when I hit the DL. I had to figure out (that) I have to get the wrists and the hands completely healthy. Or else I shouldn’t be out there, because the pitchers are too good.”

At 36, Zobrist is old enough to remember watching the championship celebrations for Michael Jordan’s Bulls on TV, childhood memories that inspired him to give a speech during that massive Grant Park rally last November, a scene that he envisioned when he took a hometown discount to sign with the Cubs.  

“Age is about figuring out how to take care of you, because every guy is a little bit different,” Zobrist said. “There’s no formula once you get to a certain point. When you’re 25, the formula is nothing. It’s essentially just like: ‘Show up. Do the work. And you’re going to be able to do what you know how to do.’

“But as you get a little bit older, you start kind of going: ‘OK, what is it about me that I have to do to get back to where I feel great on the field?’ That’s a learning experience that’s constantly happening.

“Whereas before, you didn’t really have to do anything to get ready. You could just basically pick up a bat and run down to the cage and start swinging as hard as you want to swing.

“And now it’s like: ‘OK, if you want to go 100 mph, you’re going to have to take longer than 2.whatever seconds to get there.’ You’re going to have to really ramp it up and figure out those particular issues for you as a player that are going to pop up.”

Nights like this – the rest of the team going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, almost getting shut out by a last-place team and missing the dimensions their World Series MVP brought to this lineup – make you wonder if there will be enough time for Zobrist and the defending champs to figure it out.