Slow down: Cubs, Ramirez want green light to run

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Slow down: Cubs, Ramirez want green light to run

Sunday, March 6, 2011
3:14 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com
MESA, Ariz. Aramis Ramirez carried a sandwich and a Mountain Dew back to his locker on Sunday and saw five reporters approaching.

I thought I got traded or something, he joked.

They were curious about another idea that seems just as unlikely Ramirez telling manager Mike Quade that he wants the green light to run. Ramirez, who made his major-league debut in 1998, has 15 stolen bases in his career. He thinks he could get as many as 10 this year.

Hey, if you can sneak one here and there theyre not paying attention to me. I know that for a fact, Ramirez said. I dont think you have to be a fast runner to steal bases. I dont think (Albert) Pujols is fast. He steals 15 to 20 bags.

The Cubs do not have a prototypical leadoff hitter. The middle of their order Marlon Byrd, Ramirez, Carlos Pena and Alfonso Soriano will be at ages 34, 33, 33 and 35 by seasons end. Their lineup is built around power, not speed.

But as Byrd pointed out, new first-base coach Bob Dernier is pushing the Cubs to be more aggressive. Dernier stole 218 bases in his career and previously worked as the organizations minor-league base-running coordinator.

Oh yeah, we can run, Byrd said. Im sure 'Q' is going to let us run a little bit with all our athleticism that we do have on the team. We didnt show it last year. Now its time to pick it up.

The message from Quade on Sunday was slow down. Ryan Theriot, who was shipped out at last seasons trade deadline, led the team with 16 stolen bases in 2010. Overall the Cubs stole 55, which tied them for last in the majors.

I know Bobby is very interested in making sure that this label that we dont run gets eliminated, Quade said, but we need to run intelligently. (We) dont have a bunch of flyers on this club, but we want to take advantage when the situation presents itself. Were not selling out to quote-unquote run.

I always used to laugh (when guys say): I want to be aggressive and I want to run. I look at his roster and (they) got a bunch of heavy-legged home run hitters. Youre going to run yourself out of innings.

That sounds like a more accurate description of your 2011 Cubs. But Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome, Tyler Colvin and Fernando Perez if he makes the team as the fifth outfielder should pressure teams.

Ultimately, its not a question of running or not running. Its being smarter, more decisive and aware of your surroundings.

If you get a good jump, Ramirez said, you can steal some bases.

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

Cubs tinker with rotation for series in Boston

Cubs tinker with rotation for series in Boston

With all the off-days in the season's opening month, it's given the Cubs an opportunity to tinker with their rotation.

They're shaking things up with the order again ahead of the three-game set against the Red Sox in Boston. The Cubs will roll with Jake Arrieta Friday on CSN, John Lackey Saturday and Kyle Hendricks Sunday. 

Hendricks just threw Tuesday night in the second game of the Pirates series in Pittsburgh. He enjoyed the best start of his 2017 season, allowing six baserunners in six shutout innings, lowering his ERA to 4.50 and WHIP to 1.27.

Despite the strong start, the 2016 MLB ERA leader wasn't willing to say he's "back."

"It's just one start," he told reporters Tuesday night. "It's not a "back" thing. I'm not in the zone, dialed in like I was last year. That was a completely different feeling and sensation.

"[But I] felt a lot better. It's more on track."

Brett Anderson will get an extra day and is on track to start the first game back at Wrigley against the Philadelphia Phillies Monday.

Assuming there are no other changes to the rotation, Jon Lester will follow Anderson before the Arrieta-Lackey-Hendricks trio goes again.

The Cubs won't have another off-day until Thursday, May 11 and are set to play 13 games in 13 days.

Cubs can't complete rally against Pirates in series finale

Cubs can't complete rally against Pirates in series finale

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Gift Ngoepe might not have had the weight of the world on his shoulders but he felt like a continent was counting on him.

Ngoepe, the first African to reach the major leagues, singled in his first plate appearance and Josh Harrison led off the bottom of the first with a home run Wednesday night to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Ngoepe was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis and entered the game in fourth inning as part of a double switch and finished 1 for 2 with a walk. The 27-year-old South African, who signed with the Pirates in 2008 as an amateur free agent, led off the fourth with a hit off winless Cubs ace Jon Lester.

"To accomplish this only for me but for my country and my continent is something so special," Ngoepe said. "There are 1.62 billion people on our continent. To be the first person out of 1.62 billion to do this is amazing."

It was so special that Ngoepe nearly broke into tears when he trotted from the dugout to take his positon at second base.

"I told myself not to cry because I'm in the big leagues and I'm a big guy now," Ngoepe said with a smile. "(Catcher Francisco) Cervelli hugged me and I could feel my heart beat through my chest."

A year after winning 19 games in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title since 1908, Lester (0-1) is still looking for his first victory after five starts. The left-hander was tagged for six runs - five earned - and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

"It's probably the best I threw the ball all year," Lester said. "That's baseball."

Wade LeBlanc (1-0), who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of rookie Tyler Glasnow, got the win.

The fifth leadoff home run of Harrison's career keyed a two-run first that included an RBI double by Cervelli. Andrew McCutchen and Phil Gosselin hit run-scoring doubles in a three-run third that pushed the Pirates' lead to 5-1.

After the Cubs got within two runs, Josh Bell gave the Pirates a 6-3 lead with a solo home run in the sixth inning off Lester. The rookie first baseman has reached base in 11 straight games.

Anthony Rizzo's two-run homer deep into the right-field stands in the eighth inning off Daniel Hudson drew the Cubs within 6-5. Tony Watson then got the last four outs for his seventh save in as many chances.

Glasnow remained winless in nine career starts, allowing three runs in 3 1/3 innings and requiring 89 pitches to get 10 outs.

Rizzo had four RBIs and Kris Bryant had three hits as the Cubs lost for just second time in eight games while stranding 13 runners. The Pirates won for the third time in nine games.