Stay or go? Veteran Cubs on the brink in Mesa

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Stay or go? Veteran Cubs on the brink in Mesa

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Posted 9:05 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs didnt want to be anywhere near bench coach Pat Listach on Tuesday morning. A tap on the shoulder meant you were wanted in the managers office.

There Mike Quade and general manager Jim Hendry informed 18 players that they were heading down the street to minor-league camp. The Turk isnt on call yet for the next rounds of cuts, but after Wednesdays off-day the Cubs have less than two weeks left in Arizona.

During his six-week audition last season, Quade didnt manage every night like it was Game 7 of the World Series. He won points and almost two out of every three games by using players the front office needed to evaluate.

But as the 25-man roster comes into focus, Quade will have to find his voice and articulate what he needs to win now.

Jims been upfront about so many of these decisions being mine, but Im always mindful, Quade said. Whos got options? Whats the contractual status?

I fully expect to have the loudest voice, at least of the group in here. And if (chairman) Tom Ricketts or Jim Hendry or (assistant general manager) Randy Bush shouts me down, thats because theyre ahead of me. Theyre my bosses. Itll be a group effort and then well put our heads together.

Hendry purposely brought in character guys on minor-league deals to add a sense of professionalism this spring. They are still hoping to fly back to Chicago.

Braden Looper

With his gray hair and stubble, the 36-year-old pitcher looks like Brett Favre, and he has ideas about retirement. Looper sat out last season to be a stay-at-home father in Chicagos south suburbs. Across the past 18 months, hes been trying to get a job with the only team he wants to play for.

Looper is still a candidate for the two open spots in rotation, along with Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner and Carlos Silva. He might be a fit as the long man in the bullpen. He becomes a free agent if he doesnt make the team and would have to decide if he really wants to walk away again.

I got a wife and three kids at home that I dont want to drag all over the place anymore, Looper said. They put up with that for a long time. I played almost (12 years) traveling all over the country and its a lot to ask of a family.

Were going to do this and see if it works out, and then Ill cross that bridge when it comes. But hopefully this works out and Ill be pitching for the Cubs.

Todd Wellemeyer

Admittedly still a little rusty, Wellemeyer has essentially thrown six innings since tearing his quadriceps last June. The San Francisco Giants were six games out of first place when they released Wellemeyer on Aug. 19. Hes waiting for his World Series ring and dealing with a sore right hip, something hes felt every spring for the past three years.

The Cubs go way back with Wellemeyer, their fourth-round pick in the 2000 draft, and they remember what he did eight years later 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals. At the age of 32, he figures: If these guys dont have a spot for me, maybe one of the other teams will.

Augie Ojeda

The Cubs brought in Ojeda to help mentor Starlin Castro, and they need a utility infielder to back up their young shortstop. This is Ojedas third tour with the Cubs, and he once played for Quade at Triple-A Iowa. The manager says that when it comes to defense, you wont find them much better.

The 36-year-old Ojeda will have to beat out Darwin Barney, who is almost 11 years younger and hitting .333 this spring. Barney could also play himself into more at-bats as the second baseman.

Reed Johnson

Last month Marlon Byrd stood in front of his locker and raised his voice while talking about when Johnson makes the team. Johnson still has many allies in the organization after his two seasons on the North Side (2008-09), when Quade was his outfield coach.

Though Johnson has hit only .138 so far, the Cubs value his experience and ability to play all three outfield positions. Fernando Perez has unbelievable speed, and that could be a real asset for a team that could struggle to score runs. But Perez may need more time in Iowa to develop as a switch-hitter.

If Johnson doesnt make the club, he will become a free agent.

I know (what) he can do on the field, Quade. The fact that he played well here in this division, in this ballpark, in this city theres a lot of real good stuff that comes with Reed.

What is that worth exactly? Those are the types of conversations the Cubs will be having behind closed doors.

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

Cubs bash three homers in come-from-behind win over Red Sox

Cubs bash three homers in come-from-behind win over Red Sox

BOSTON — The Chicago Cubs adjusted quickly to Steven Wright's knuckleball.

Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Montero had a solo shot off Wright, helping the Cubs rebound from a series-opening loss with a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

"I thought we did a nice job. It's just awkward hitting against the knuckleball," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "There is no real training ground for it. You don't necessarily get a guy out there throwing a knuckleball in BP."

All the Cubs faced Wright for the first time.

After collecting just one single in the first three innings, Rizzo's homer started Chicago's comeback from a 3-0 deficit. Montero's shot tied it in the seventh.

"It's just hard. You really don't know what to look for," Montero said before joking "I told the umpire I'm going to close my eyes and swing hard in case I hit it."

Ben Zobrist added a solo homer, and Kris Bryant had two hits and scored twice for Chicago, backing a decent start by former Red Sox righty John Lackey.

Lackey (2-3) gave up four runs in six innings, snapping his string of losses in three straight starts. He was part of Boston's 2013 World Series title team.

Lackey said he texted former teammate Dustin Pedroia on the way to the ballpark.

Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi had solo homers for the Red Sox, who have the majors' fewest homers. Boston's streak of nine straight interleague wins in Fenway Park was snapped.

Wright (1-3) gave up five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.

"I think with the exception of the 0-2 slow knuckleball that Steven threw to Rizzo, this was his best knuckleball that he's had to date," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

Wright has given up nine homers after allowing only 12 last season.

"I felt a lot better today overall," he said. "The one pitch I wish I could get back was that 0-2 pitch to Rizzo. I was trying to get it a little bit more in front of the plate and it kind of stood up a little bit and he made me pay."

Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his sixth save.

With summer-like temperatures for the second straight day and a marquee matchup with the defending champs, there was added buzz around the ballpark hours before the game.

Mixed in the fans flocking around Fenway were numerous Cubs fans wearing jerseys - many with "Sandberg," ''Bryant" or "Rizzo" on the back. There was a loud "Let's Go Cubbies!" in the ninth, and that was followed by some large "W'' flags after the Cubs won - a staple in Wrigley Field.

The Cubs overcame a 4-2 deficit with a run in the sixth inning and three in a seventh that was highlighted by two errors on one play.

Zobrist's run-scoring grounder sliced it to 4-3. Montero homered leading off the seventh against Wright before Kyle Schwarber's RBI single pushed them ahead.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts threw the ball away for an error on Rizzo's fielder's choice, allowing Schwarber to score. First baseman Mitch Moreland retrieved and fired it into left field.

Jackie Bradley Jr.'s RBI single made it 1-0 in the second.

Benintendi had a sacrifice fly and Ramirez belted his homer over the Green Monster seats completely out of Fenway, a shot estimated at 469 feet, in the third.

Bryant opened the fourth with a hard single and Rizzo followed with his drive to the back of Chicago's bullpen.

Benintendi hit his homer over Boston's bullpen.

Jake Arrieta gives up five runs in first, Cubs fall in series-opener with Red Sox

Jake Arrieta gives up five runs in first, Cubs fall in series-opener with Red Sox

BOSTON — Andrew Benintendi hit a solo homer off Jake Arrieta during a five-run first inning, and the Boston Red Sox held on to beat the Cubs 5-4 on Friday night.

Every Boston starter had at least one hit, and Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vazquez drove in a run each.

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz got the win with six innings of two-run ball, surrendering solo homers to Kris Bryant and Albert Almora Jr. in the early innings before settling in. He allowed six hits and two walks while striking out seven.

Boston has won its last nine interleague games at Fenway Park.

Arrieta logged his shortest start since Aug. 28, 2014, lasting only 4 1/3 innings and giving up 10 hits and three walks with five strikeouts.