So far, so good for Zambrano and Quade

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So far, so good for Zambrano and Quade

Friday, March 18, 2011Posted: 8:05 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Carlos Zambrano walked back to the mound ahead of Mike Quade. It looked like he pretended to not notice his manager. They had an animated discussion as the infielders gathered around.

There were two outs in the fifth inning and Zambrano had already given up homers to Scott Rolen and Joey Votto. Quade had seen enough. The 13,182 fans at HoHoKam Park on Friday didnt witness a meltdown.

I was just playing with him, Zambrano said. I just told him: What if I dont want to leave? Hes like: Then were going to fight here. (He) told me: Get out of here.

Zambrano went on to say that while the Cubs work hard, its also about having fun. And a 14-13 loss to the Cincinnati Reds didnt change his mood during what has been a very strong spring.

Zambrano who gave up six runs in 4.2 innings likes playing for Quade. Thats not insignificant as the Cubs try to relocate the pitcher who finished last season by going 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his last 11 starts. It might take all of Quades excellent communication skills.

Hes a great guy, Zambrano said. Hes always in a good mood. Ive known him for the last seven, eight years and hes straight (with you). Whatever he thinks, he comes to you or he calls you to his office and he says whatever he (needs to) in a good way. (Its all) how you say it.

People that show respect (get) respect. Thats why we get along.

Zambrano has been nursing a sore left wrist after getting jammed on a swing during batting practice. He listed himself as doubtful to compete in Mondays softball home run derby to benefit his foundation.

Ozzie Guillen who went to dinner with Zambrano hours after he had to be separated from Derrek Lee and was sent home from U.S. Cellular Field last year is among those scheduled to participate in the charity event. This exchange showed that Zambrano already has another manager he can relate to.

Its all good, Quade said. For him to be in that frame of mind even in a spring training game (is) a good thing.

A national reporter asked Zambrano if he was indeed having more fun this spring.

The answer to that question summed up an organization with its fingers crossed. The Cubs hope that the anger-management counseling had made a difference, and that their 91.5 million man again performs at a high level.

So far, so good, Zambrano said.

The Silva Watch

Its unclear what the Cubs are going to do with Carlos Silva, who is owed 13.5 million and now has a 15.88 ERA this spring. Its getting more and more difficult to see him in the rotation, given how well Randy Wells has pitched, and how high the organization is on Andrew Cashner.

Silva labored through three innings on Friday and his defense did him no favors by committing two more errors. But in total he allowed eight runs five earned on 11 hits. Publicly, the Cubs are committed to looking at him as a starter.

Quade gave Silva another vote of confidence and said the idea of moving him to the bullpen (isnt) even worth addressing right now. The Cubs wont be rushed into a decision in case of injuries and perhaps another team could become desperate for pitching by months end.

(Maybe) Silva comes out next time and dazzles like he did last year, Quade said. You just dont know. Im not going to sit here and speculate whats going to happen. Im sure hes disappointed in his outing, but hes been down this road before.

Ojeda vs. Barney

Back spasms continue to sideline Augie Ojeda, who hasnt appeared in a game since March 11 and was supposed to be in the mix as a utility infielderbackup shortstop.

Darwin Barney is hitting .382 this spring and appears to be on the verge of winning that job on his own merits. But the 36-year-old Ojeda who once played for Quade at Triple-A Iowa so far hasnt been able to live up to his excellent defensive reputation.

Im concerned about Augie, Quade said. This has been a little longer than we thought, so Im hoping that he can get healthy and this doesnt morph into something that lasts for weeks and weeks. Hes a valuable guy, whether he goes with us (to Chicago or not). Its getting late in camp and I dont think hes real close yet.

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

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

As the Cubs prepare for the winter meetings outside Washington, D.C., their messaging might as well be: It’s the pitching, stupid.

This is an arms race that will never end, the Cubs trying to defend their first World Series title in 108 years, build out a bullpen that looked pretty thin by November and target the kind of young starter who could help anchor their rotation for years to come, ensuring Wrigleyville remains baseball’s biggest party.

Major League Baseball’s owners and the players’ union avoided a foolish labor war by crafting a new five-year collective bargaining agreement that should spur some action next week. As executives, scouts, agents and reporters begin to flood into National Harbor on Sunday, the Cubs will intensify their search for pitching, everything from headliners to insurance policies to prospects.

“That’s been the significant bulk of our efforts,” general manager Jed Hoyer said, “trying to identify those kind of starting pitchers and those kind of relief pitchers and how to match up with them. It’s definitely not going to be through lack of trying on our part to make that kind of deal. That’s now. That’s at the deadline.”  

That’s all-consuming. The Cubs are preparing for Opening Day 2018, when Jake Arrieta will probably be in a different uniform after signing his megadeal, John Lackey might be kicking back in Texas and enjoying retirement and Jon Lester will be 34 years old with maybe 2,300 innings on his odometer. 

The Cubs have unwavering faith in their pitching infrastructure at the major-league level, from the scouting and analytic perspectives that identified the right sign-and-flip deals during the rebuilding years to the coaching staff that helped mold Kyle Hendricks into a Cy Young Award finalist and a World Series Game 7 starter.

Mike Montgomery notched the final out against the Cleveland Indians and the Cubs see him as their next big project. The lefty checks so many of their boxes, from age (27) to size (6-foot-5) to pedigree (former first-round pick/top prospect) to the change-of-scenery confidence boost/mental reset.

Forget about the White Sox trading Chris Sale to the North Side and don’t just think about obvious names or trade partners. Maybe it’s making a deal for a guy you never heard of before and sifting through the non-tender bin. 

Remember how team president Theo Epstein framed the Montgomery trade with the Seattle Mariners this summer – comparing him to All-Star reliever Andrew Miller – and that gives you an idea of how they can address their pitching deficit this winter. 

“If your scouts do a good job of identifying the guys who are trending in the right direction – and you’re willing to take a shot – sometimes there’s a big payoff at the end,” Epstein said.   

While the Cubs did Jason Hammel a favor by cutting him loose and allowing him to explore the market as one of the best pitchers in an extremely weak class of free agents, Montgomery has only 23 big-league starts on his resume. 

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

The Cubs had five starters make at least 29 starts this year, while four starters accounted for 30-plus starts in 2015, a remarkable run that led to 200 wins.

“As we’ve talked about so many times,” Hoyer said, “we do have an imbalance in our organization – hitting vs. pitching – and we’re trying to make sure we can accumulate as much pitching depth as possible. 

“We were very healthy this year, which was wonderful and a big part of why we won the World Series. I don’t think you can always count on that kind of health every single year. Building up a reservoir of depth – preferably guys you can option (to the minors) – is something (we’re trying) to accomplish.”  

The Cubs have Jorge Soler stuck in a crowded outfield plus the types of interesting prospects who appear to be blocked – catcher Victor Caratini, third baseman Jeimer Candelario, infielder/outfielder Ian Happ – to make relatively painless trades for pitching (if not the kind of blockbuster deal that dominates coverage of the winter meetings).

The Cubs figure to add a lefty reliever, someone like Boone Logan or Jerry Blevins. The New York Post reported the Cubs were among the teams in pursuit of Brett Cecil, who got a four-year, $30.5 million deal and no-trade protection from the St. Louis Cardinals, another sign of how shallow this free-agent pool is for starting pitchers and a reflection of a postseason where the bullpen became a major storyline. 

The idea of Kenley Jansen intrigues the Cubs – and Aroldis Chapman made a favorable impression during his three-plus months with the team – but Epstein’s front office already made the major upgrades for 2017 by spending nearly $290 million on free agents after the 2015 playoff run. Philosophically, the Cubs also see smarter long-term investments than trying to win a bidding war for a guy who might throw 70 innings a year. 

With that in mind, the Cubs could get creative and have looked at free agent Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer with the Kansas City Royals who didn’t pitch this year after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.  

Remember that Chapman left the New York Yankees and joined a team that had a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. If Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. can’t handle the late shifts, then the Cubs could always go out and trade for another closer in the middle of a pennant race.    

The Cubs have the luxuries of time, zero pressure from ownership, their fan base or the Chicago media and a stacked, American League-style lineup. 

“Right now, we could go play from an offensive standpoint and feel very good about our group,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to still continue to look to improve the depth in our bullpen, improve the depth in our starting rotation. Those are things that probably never go away. You probably never stop trying to build that depth.” 

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

LeBron James is coming to town, and he will be all decked out in Cubs gear.

The Cavs are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Friday night at the United Center and it's time for LeBron to pay up on his World Series bet with Dwyane Wade.

The two former teammates made the wager during the World Series as LeBron's hometown Indians took on Wade's hometown Cubs, with the loser wearing the winning baseball team's gear when they showed up in the opposing city. This is LeBron's first trip to Chicago this season.

Wade and LeBron already acknowledged they're having fun with this and have a whole spectacle planned with a national TV audience.

LeBron told the Akron Beacon Journal he's not going to try to take the easy way out and just toss on a Cubs jersey. He is planning socks, hat, pants and possibly more. But he won't wear cleats or bring a glove with him.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

When the Cubs won it all a month ago Friday, Wade posted an Instagram photo of LeBron wearing a Cubs uniform:

And ESPN had a cutout of LeBron sporting a No. 23 Cubs road gray jersey outside the United Center Friday morning:

CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill wonders whether LeBron will don signature Joe Maddon glasses, too.

This is gonna be fun, you guys.