Ready or not, Cubs kids coming back to Wrigley

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Ready or not, Cubs kids coming back to Wrigley

SAN DIEGO Jeff Samardzija snapped the bat over his knee after striking out in the seventh inning and tossed the two pieces to the ground in disgust.

Samardzija channeled his inner Big Z for a moment, but you saw a Cubs team that wasnt just going through the motions in a 2-0 loss to the San Diego Padres at sleepy Petco Park.

There was Darwin Barney ready to chuck his bat after lining into a double play in the eighth inning, and James Russell screaming and flexing by the dugout minutes later after giving up an unearned run.

As much as Theo Epsteins front office and Dale Sveums coaching staff talk about patience and development, the losing is getting old and the frustration is beginning to show.

Samardzija had a message for Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters and all the kids heading back to Wrigley Field on an eight-game losing streak that started a few hours after the trade deadline.

They better be ready to play, Samardzija said. Dont expect any freebies from any of the fans or from anybody. You got to show up and play the game, regardless of your record, regardless of how you feel. Youre still representing your team. Youre still wearing the jersey. You got to show up and play all-out every day.

I dont think thats going to be a problem here. I dont think quote-unquote veteran guys are going to let that happen. Were going to play hard. Were going to try and win every game we can.

Samardzija is one of only six remaining players from the 2011 Opening Day roster. The Cubs (43-66) have already used 15 rookies and 46 different players this season.

It was hard for Andrew Cashner the 2008 first-round pick flipped to the Padres in the Anthony Rizzo deal to imagine this team without Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, his idol growing up in Texas.

Those were the two guys that I really looked up to while I was over there, Cashner said. Its definitely going to be different with a lot more young guys. Theres going to be a lot more feeling out on their own, versus guys pointing them in the direction.

Cashner didnt ask to be part of the Three Cs marketing campaign leading into the 2011 season, and only Starlin Castro remains after Tyler Colvin was traded to the Colorado Rockies last winter. So it will be interesting to see how long the shelf life will be for Jackson and Vitters.

Thats just kind of the way things work, Cashner said. I wasnt one of their guys. I was one of Jim (Hendrys) guys. Its just kind of the way they do things as far as wanting their (own) guys.

Cashner, whos on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, spoke with Rizzo during this series and they agreed this was probably a good trade for both sides. Cashner gets to pitch at Petco Park, while Rizzo gets to hit at Wrigley Field.

Rizzo was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on June 26, which seems like old news given everything thats happened to this team since then. Now Jackson and Vitters have to get ready for their close-up.

The fans are probably curious to look at all the guys that all the hype is about, Sveum said. Theres no mystery now going on with the team.

In terms of direction, yes, but eight games in 12 days against Dusty Baker and the first-place Cincinnati Reds will be revealing. Jackson will try to avoid chasing bad pitches, Vitters will be working on his defense and there are jobs that could be won in the rotation and the bullpen. See how they handle the big moments.

Were going to learn a lot here in this next month-and-a-half, Samardzija said. Were really going to see what were made of as a team. A lot of guys are going to be cutting their teeth against some good teams.

Samardzija (7-10, 4.21 ERA) again looked like a frontline starter, allowing only one run across seven strong innings. He rolls with everything, ignoring the people who thought he was a bust and not buying into the hype that hes one of the untouchables on this team.

The kids could learn from someone whos almost seen it all in Chicago and remains the same guy. He was certainly paying attention when Carlos Zambrano was breaking bats.

Just felt good to snap it like a toothpick, Samardzija said. I lost the bunting tournament in Round Sweet 16 and I snapped that thing like a twig, too. What are you gonna do? It happens.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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