Steve Stone's mailbag: Carlos Quentin's slump

Steve Stone's mailbag: Carlos Quentin's slump

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
5:45 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag toanswer some of your questions about Carlos Zambrano, Sergio Santos, and more!

Question from Ryan - Chicago: Do you think there is something wrong physically with Carlos Zambrano? He doesn't seem like the same pitcher.

Steve Stone: Well I think a couple things come into play, I don't think he has had
the same stuff for a year, a year and a half or so that he had before. That being said, I think the Cubs would tell you he is 100 percent. I personally am not too sure about that, I think his arm angle changed somewhat. I also believe he will never excel as an 8th inning setup man because I don't think he will accept that. Acceptance is the first step
in excelling. I think that is not the case with Zambrano.
Question from Lee - Oswego: Should we be worried about Starlin Castro's defense? He's looked shaky so far to start his MLB career.

Stone: I think Starlin is going to be just fine in the majors. The only thing that troubled me was essentially walking after that ball after he made that third error in that debut at Wrigley. I think that was addressed and I think he will be a good solid shortstop for a long time. As far as defense, young kids make mistakes; they have more range to get more balls and they always look to make the spectacular play other than to make all the good plays, and the rare spectacular plays. I think he has a very bright future.
Question from Tracy - Mount Prospect: How hard is it going from a position player to a pitcher like Sergio Santos has done?

Stone: Well Sergio is not the lone ranger. Randy Wells, who won 12 games and has thrown very well for the Cubs this year, was also a position player as well as Carlos Marmol. The history of baseball is loaded with position players who figure they can't hit as well as they wanted and make that conversion. Although not easy, it's not unusual. The quality of his change up and his slider, you will see a lot of guys with strong fastball but you very rarely see them with a good a slider and change up as Sergio has shown early in his pitching career.

Question from Ricky - Chicago: What does Carlos Quentin need to do to get out of the slump he is in?

Stone: I truly believe if I knew that, much smarter baseball people than I would have already gotten him out of the slump. I just know what I see is from a pitching perspective. He is probably pulling off of the ball, trying to hit more home runs every time he hits one. Realistically you dig yourself out of a slump one bat at a time. For the Sox and Carlos' sake. this will turn around sooner rather than later. We are getting to the point now where 47 games have been played and Carlos has really struggled. One day the light will turn on and he will start hitting again. I am sure because no one is more intense than Quentin and no one works harder than he does.
Question from Michael - River Forest: Hey Steve, what's your favorite current MLB ballpark?

Stone: Well, the political answer would be I like both Chicago ballparks. If I were running for office, that would be my answer. I always liked Dodger stadium, I guess because I started the 1980 All-Star Game there and the fact that it was a pitchers park. As other National League parks are concerned, I haven't seen the new Mets stadium. I always thought that Pittsburgh happened to be nice but very few go to see it. San Diego is a beautiful stadium as is San Francisco. In the American League, Detroit's is a very pretty stadium as well as Baltimore's. Fenway has that classic baseball field much like the American's version of Wrigley. Minnesota's brand-new ballpark is great, so you get the idea that a lot of the new parks are terrific. But if I had to narrow it down to one in each league, I would probably say Yankee Stadium. They carried over some of the traditions and locker room facilities and things associated with the old Yankee Stadium and spent a billion and a half, so if you didn't have to play the Yankees there, it would be outstanding. In the National League, I would say that my favorite is Dodger Stadium.

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

MESA, Ariz. – Ben Zobrist is focused on a personal three-peat, not worrying about a changing of the guard or any awkward moments with Javier Baez. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly said that Zobrist will be the primary second baseman and another "Javy Being Javy" highlight reel from the World Baseball Classic won't change that thinking right now.

Zobrist sees the big picture better than almost anyone else in the clubhouse after going undrafted out of Eureka High School in downstate Illinois, perfecting the super-utility role Maddon envisioned with the Tampa Bay Rays and helping transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into World Series champions.

While Baez started all 17 playoff games at second base last year, bursting onto the scene as the National League Championship co-MVP, Zobrist became the World Series MVP with his clutch hitting and still has three seasons left on his $56 million contract.

Maddon didn't spare anyone's feelings during the playoffs, turning $184 million outfielder Jason Heyward into a part-time player, giving a quick hook to major-league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and shunning relievers not named Aroldis Chapman.

"We haven't had an extended conversation about it," Zobrist said. "But at the beginning of spring, we talked about it. I think his words were: ‘I really think rest is the next improvement in player performance.' Learning what rest means, what good rest is for players and what kind of rest certain players need versus others.

"That doesn't necessarily mean just because you're 35. It could mean you're 25 and you still got to take care of yourself and make sure you're getting the proper rest. Because we have such a deep team, he's able to do that at any given point in time and still feel confident about the team we have on the field.

"It's a good problem to have when you have really good players not playing and sitting on the bench. We had that all last year and we had guys accept their role and just buy into the team concept.

"The makeup of this team is the same, basically. We've got a few new guys and they've got the same mindset, so I anticipate more of the same."

Injuries are one variable that prevents Maddon from getting too stressed out about dividing the playing time over 162 games while the NCAA tournament is still going. Zobrist's stiff neck felt good enough to hit leadoff and play right field in Tuesday afternoon's 10-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants, seeing his first Cactus League action since March 19.

Zobrist plans to play again on Wednesday in Mesa and catch up with more at-bats on the minor-league side of the complex. Assuming Zobrist and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell (stiff back) are ready for Opening Night, Baez will be an NLCS MVP, all-WBC talent waiting for the right matchup or break in the schedule or to sub in as a defensive replacement.

"It's pretty impressive, looking around at the young talent in this clubhouse," Zobrist said. "All throughout spring training, we've seen there's definitely other talent coming, so this team is poised to have a good, long run of success. If everybody stays healthy and we stay together, this is a very good team.

"The biggest thing that I go into the season with this year is we have to be healthy and we have to make sure that we don't relax too much. That's the temptation for teams that just won, to go: OK, well, we're tired, because we had a long season last year and you kind of just assume things are going to go as well as they did.

"You can't assume anything. No matter how good this team is, we have to still go out and execute and perform – and that's going to determine where we are in the standings."

In real time, as the Cubs experienced their lowest moments during last year's regular season, Zobrist correctly pointed out the exhaustion factor while the team played 24 days in a row, losing 15 of their last 21 games before the All-Star break.

What looks like overwhelming depth on paper should help the 2017 Cubs survive and advance into October.

"It's huge," Zobrist said. "It's up and down the lineup on offense. It's all throughout the pitching staff and on the defensive side. It's so deep that you can absorb a little bit of injury here and there.

"With that being said, there are certain guys that you just don't want to lose. So we got to protect everybody. We got to protect our horses – both on the mound and in the lineup – and just make sure that we have our key cogs in there. And if we do, we're as good, if not better, than anybody out there."

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

MESA, Ariz. - Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella - and a combination of right/left, outfield/infield and contractual considerations - appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

The Cubs returned Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to the New York Yankees on Tuesday and assigned injured non-roster players Jemile Weeks and Chris Dominguez to minor-league camp. That left 27 players still technically in the mix, though depth catcher Carlos Corporan isn't really part of that conversation.

The projected eight-man bullpen would look like this: Wade Davis; Koji Uehara; Pedro Strop; Hector Rondon; Carl Edwards Jr.; Justin Grimm; and lefties Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing.

Szczur, who is out of minor-league options, could be a good fourth outfielder on a team that didn't have so much depth and World Series expectations, making him a potential trade chip for pitching. La Stella offers infield insurance and a left-handed bat off the bench.