Zambranos winning streak is over and done

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Zambranos winning streak is over and done

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 4:40 p.m. Updated: 6:35 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mike Quade walked into the interview room on Saturday afternoon with announcement to make: Kerry Woods vacation is over. The reliever who hadnt pitched since April 16 would start ahead of Carlos Zambrano on Sunday.

The manager was joking, and maybe a little annoyed at people wondering why Wood was sitting in the bullpen that long.

The Cubs do not need a radical solution like moving Wood to the rotation (an idea that also happens to be completely unrealistic). They need Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner to get healthy. They need their big-money pitchers to play up to their contracts. Theyll keep waiting.

The Los Angeles Dodgers buried Zambrano in the first inning of Sundays 7-3 loss in front of 32,943 fans at Wrigley Field. It snapped Zambranos personal 10-game winning streak, the longest for a Cubs pitcher since Rick Sutcliffe won 16 in a row across the 1984-85 seasons.

Its over with, Zambrano said. Lets get a new winning streak. I knew sooner or later I was going to lose a game. Lets move on. Lets focus on my next (one).

The Cubs rank last in the majors with five quality starts this season. They led the National League with 96 last year. As much as anything, that explains why theyre now 10-11 and havent won more than two games in a row.

Just too much to overcome, Quade said. Normally when you get on a roll and you start playing well consistently, it has a lot to do with your starting pitching. And once we get that straightened out, Ill feel pretty good about this thing. Were just very inconsistent in that area right now.

Ex-Cub Aaron Miles who went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored tripled to lead off the game. The first five Dodgers reached base and all five scored. It was pretty much game over at that point.

The Dodgers (12-11) just hammered the ball all weekend, and the Cubs were lucky that they didnt get swept. Los Angeles scored 27 runs during this three-game series.

Were right there, third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. I think weve been lucky because we havent pitched the way we liked to. Were giving up a lot of runs, but Im pretty sure we got some good arms here and the pitchers are going to come around.

The last time Zambrano lost a game June 25, 2010 he was kicked out of U.S. Cellular Field. He steered a question about what hes learned during the streak, how hes grown as a pitcher, back toward the team.

Defensive breakdowns led to that meltdown, but there was Zambrano going over to Darwin Barney and telling the second baseman to forget about the error he just made.

Zambrano promised to get the next guy out in the second, and sure enough he induced an inning-ending double play. Zambrano (2-1, 5.28) allowed six runs on eight hits across five innings. But that response may have been just as revealing.

Z loves to play hard, Barney said. He loves guys that play hard. He knows were playing hard behind him.

At this point, it all depends on whether youre an optimist or a pessimist. The Cubs are still hanging around first place, but theyve missed a real opportunity to create some space within the division.

Until the starters get rolling, Wood will be pitching in low-leverage situations, the Cubs down four runs in the eighth inning, the seagulls flying in and the fans heading toward the exits.

I say (it) every year leaving spring training, especially here in Chicago, Wood said. Get to that first week of May .500 or better, youre in a good spot. Its tough (in) this weather, (but) I think the guys have done a good job. Weve been in a lot of games. (Were) right there. I feel good about what we have here.

Box Score

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for 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.