Your 2011 Cubs begin with Ramirez, Zambrano

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Your 2011 Cubs begin with Ramirez, Zambrano

Monday, Oct. 4, 2010
4:39 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Aramis Ramirez stood in front of his locker and sort of laughed and shook his head late Sunday afternoon when a reporter mentioned Carlos Zambranos latest comments.

The night before, on the other side of the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park, Zambrano responded to a question about offseason needs by saying he wants the Cubs to sign 6-foot-6-inch, 285-pound slugger Adam Dunn as a way to protect Ramirez and Marlon Byrd in the lineup.

After being Zambranos teammate for parts of eight seasons, Ramirez is almost numb to all this. Ramirez can be a bit of a loner, but hes honest, and even at the end still realized the implication was calling out someone else in the room.

When you add a guy like that he hits 40 homers every year it wont hurt, Ramirez said. But like I say, thats not my job and we got a guy right now playing first that I dont want to disrespect. Zambrano can say whatever he wants, but (Xavier) Nadys (been) playing there every day now and hes a free agent and I dont know what theyre going to do.

Ramirez is certain what hes going to do with his 14.6 million player option for next season, and that might be the easiest decision surrounding the Cubs the next four months.

Ill be here next year, he said Sunday after Game 162 in Houston.

And that is as good a place as any to start looking ahead to Opening Day 2011, the Cubs subject to Zambranos whims, needing Ramirez to again play like an All-Star and not knowing what they can and cannot afford.

The team charter flying back to Chicago wasnt crowded Sunday night, with most of the players already moved out and scattering across the country from Houston. By Monday afternoon, the Wrigley Field clubhouse was almost entirely empty, and Zambrano was said to be involved in a minor car accident leaving the parking lot.

Fair or not, whatever Zambrano says or does will make news. No one can match what he did in his final 11 starts 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA for an entire season. Everyone will be curious to see how he responds after a few bad games, and if those anger-management sessions will have a lasting impact.

Id like to think hell never have any adversity again, but we know thats not true, Mike Quade said. This has been a really, really nice couple months for him and I think hell take it into this winter and Im confident that hell come back next spring not forgetting whats happened.

If Quade returns as manager and he likes the odds of that happening then he will likely see many of the same faces in Mesa, Ariz.

In the final weeks of the season, Nady was the only player getting questions about his upcoming free agency. He will turn 32 next month and the Cubs have liked him as a prospect since he was in high school.

All of Nadys numbers this season .256 average, six homers, 33 RBI come with an asterisk because of the elbow-reconstruction surgery he underwent in July 2009. He enjoys playing in Chicago and expects to be at full health in 2011.

But realistically first base might be the one position where the Cubs can upgrade. The outfield is still crowded and the middle infield will be young and cheap.

The Cubs are already committed to around 102 million next season for Zambrano, Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Silva, Byrd, Jeff Samardzija and John Grabow.

The Seattle Mariners will continue to pay for part of Silvas salary, and maybe general manager Jim Hendry can get creative again with Fukudome, who has no-trade protection and is entering the final year of his 48 million deal.

Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall and Geovany Soto all enjoyed outstanding seasons and will be eligible for arbitration and nice raises. Each was signed and developed by the organization, which is supposed to be the model going forward.

The only indication chairman Tom Ricketts has given is that payroll will probably be lowered from its 2010 level (approximately 145 million). That will again place the burden on the players you already know, guys like Zambrano and Ramirez.

If youre going to start with a club thats going to contend, or youre putting something together, its wonderful to have a bunch of young guys, Quade said. But nine times out of 10 you better have some stalwarts. (You) start with guys who have a history and you say, Look, here are our guys that we can quote-unquote count on. All those veterans will be a huge part of (this).

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs, White Sox react to news of Jose Fernandez's death

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Cubs, White Sox react to news of Jose Fernandez's death

The baseball world was rocked Sunday morning by the news that Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident at the age of 24.

"All of baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez," Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "He was one of our game's great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life."

Chicago baseball teams and players shared their own messages on Twitter after the news broke.

Born in Cuba, Fernandez had a long and dangerous journey defecting to the United States. Unsuccessful attempts to defects were followed by prison terms, and during his successful attempt, he rescued his mother from drowning after she fell overboard. He was only 15 years old at the time.

Fernandez, who won National League Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, was twice named an NL All Star, including this season. He had a sparkling 2.58 ERA in his four big league seasons. After dealing with injuries that limited him to 19 combined starts during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Fernandez was stellar this season, posting a 2.86 ERA and striking out a whopping 253 batters in 182 1/3 innings.

After locking up homefield advantage, Cubs flummoxed by Cardinals in blowout loss

After locking up homefield advantage, Cubs flummoxed by Cardinals in blowout loss

At the end of the day, a loss means essentially nothing for the Cubs right now.

But the Cubs also certainly don't want to hand games to their division rival as the St. Louis Cardinals make a run at the National League wild card spots.

After the Cubs clinched homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs with the Washington Nationals' loss Friday night, they had no answer for the Cardinals in a 10-4 loss in front of 40,785 fans at Wrigley Field Saturday afternoon on national TV.

A few disturbing trends popped their heads above ground for the Cubs again Saturday, including the offense's struggles at manufacturing runs, Jason Hammel getting shelled and some bullpen woes.

The Cubs had no trouble putting runners on base against Cardinals phenom Alex Reyes, but they had a tough time plating those guys, cashing in only once with a runner on third base in six tries over the first four innings.

In two of those spots, a Cubs hitter came up with only one out, but failed to bring the run home as Addison Russell struck out in the first inning and Kris Bryant popped out to shallow left in the second.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Hammel recorded only seven outs and was tagged for six runs on six hits and a walk, watching his season ERA rise nearly 30 points to 3.83. The veteran right-hander fell to 15-10 as he attempts to make a push for one of the Cubs' final postseason roster spots.

"Honestly, I would love to be a part of [the playoff roster], as the rest of the guys on the team would love to," Hammel said. "I know there's only a certain amount of spots, so if I'm handed the ball, I'll be ready. That's the way I'm gonna view it.

"Obviously you wanna be a part of something special like that, but I think everybody here has already been a part of something special to get to this point. We're all very proud. We still got eight regular season ballgames left to build some momentum. Whether I'm on the roster or not, I'm still gonna enjoy it."

Hammel was also clearly on the wrong end of some bad luck Saturday, as the four runs he allowed in the first came via a check swing and a couple hits just out of the reach of his fielders. 

Joe Maddon won't put too much stock into one rough start in late September.

"I'm not too worried about a good or bad outing right now. I'm not," he said. "Pretty much, you know who the guy is. You know if the guy's go this stuff going on or if he doesn't. ... The greater body of work matters."

Setup man Hector Rondon struggled in his appearance, needing 26 pitches to notch just one out, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk before handing the ball off to Felix Pena.

Of course, it's also just one game and one loss for a team with 98 victories and hopes of the World Series.

Rondon had been nearly unhittable since returning from the disabled list two weeks ago and the Cubs offense had been efficient and relentless in the past four games after Maddon's meeting with the hitters earlier in the week.

Maddon also used the blowout to get regulars like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Russell out of the lineup to help keep them fresh for October.

After the game, Maddon chose to look on the bright side.

"Our starter had a tough day today; that's it. Otherwise we did some nice things," he said, referencing the solid offensive days from Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. "We had chances to score runs - runners on third, less than two outs - and we didn't fulfill that.

"We made their starter throw 115 pitches in five innings; I think that's a positive."

The Cubs will close out their season series with the Cardinals on another nationally-televised showdown Sunday night between Jon Lester and St. Louis ace Carlos Martinez.