Chicago White Sox

Word on the Street: Cubs ink Pena to one-year deal

Word on the Street: Cubs ink Pena to one-year deal

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
CSNChicago.com

Cubs ink Pena to one-year deal

Ideally the Cubs wanted a left-handed first baseman who could hit for power and improve their overall defense. They needed someone who would make a short-term commitment and be flexible enough to fit within their budget.

From the start, Carlos Pena matched that description. And in a negotiation that stretched from late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, the Cubs finalized an agreement with Pena on a one-year deal worth 10 million, (CSNChicago.com).

Kane out 'upwards' of three weeks

After a previous report in which Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Patrick Kane's injury was "not real serious," the news has become far more pessimistic. The injury is now being referred to as "significant" and, Tracey Myers is reporting that Kane will miss "upwards" of three weeks. In the meantime, the Hawks will once again have to find a way to win without one of their top players, something they have become all too accustomed to this year.

"We've found a way to play without some of our top players," team captain Johnathan Toews said. "Guys like Campbell and Hossa and I guess now we don't have a choice, we'll have to do it without Kane. It's about everyone else stepping up. (CSNChicago.com)
Kid K back in Chicago?

Maybe, but not on the north side. Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the White Sox have interest in former-Cub Kerry Wood to fill their eighth inning vacancy. Wood, however, is seeking a multi-year deal worth 9 million or more; which could be a problem for the Sox who are already significantly over budget.

If Wood is to end up on the south side, though, it likely won't be until after the winter meetings end on Thursday. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

Alou to the Mets?

Former Cubs outfielder Moises Alou is reportedly a candidate to join the coaching staff of the Met's new manager Terry Collins. Alou is currently serving as the general manager of Escogido in the Dominican Winter League, where his team won the Caribbean World Series in his first year on the job. It is believed that Alou is now simply waiting on a front-office job in the majors. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

NBA buys the Hornets

On Monday the NBA officially announced that the league would be buying the New Orleans Hornets from current owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest. NBA Commissioner David Stern said that, in light of the current state of the economy in New Orleans - and the lack of viable suitors to buy the franchise - it is in the best interest of the team and the league for the NBA to take control of the Hornets.

"The Hornets have a strong management team in Hugh Weber, Dell Demps, and Monty Williams and we have recruited Jac Sperling, a seasoned sports executive and New Orleans native, to be the teams chairman and governor, with Hugh serving as president and alternate governor," said Stern. "I have notified Governor Jindal and Mayor Landrieu about this transaction and will continue our dialogue with them about ways to strengthen the franchise for new ownership in New Orleans. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Nationals to make 'huge' offer to Lee

Just one day after signing Jayson Werth to an obscenely large 7-year 126 million deal, the Washington Nationals may be on the verge of doing it again. Juan C. Rodriguez of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel is reporting that the Nats might be ready to give Cliff Lee, the most prized free agent on the market this winter, a "huge" offer. While the Rangers and Yankees are considered the front-runners for Lee, the Nationals may be prepared to jump into the race with a 7-year offer. (Chicago Tribune)

Lucas Giolito puts together another strong outing in White Sox loss to Astros

Lucas Giolito puts together another strong outing in White Sox loss to Astros

HOUSTON — He didn’t have his best stuff against baseball’s top offense on Tuesday night, but Lucas Giolito had his changeup.

The young White Sox pitcher showed once again that when he has confidence in an offspeed pitch he’s able to overcome situations where his fastball might not be as good as he’d prefer. Trust in the changeup and a good command of the fastball were more than enough to put together another strong performance.

While Giolito took the decision in a 3-1 White Sox loss to the Houston Astros, he once again earned plaudits for his pitching.

“He was really good,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “His changeup's very good. He obviously can spin a couple different breaking balls. It looks like a heavy fastball. So, a really impressive young starter to be able to navigate the lineup in different ways and get guys out in different ways and really compete.”

Perhaps no one hitter better demonstrated Giolito’s ability to compete than his sixth-inning showdown with Astros No. 5 hitter Marwin Gonzalez. Having just issued his first walk down 2-1 with two outs and a man on second, Giolito threw both his two- and four-seam fastball, changeup and curveball during a lengthy at-bat. With the count full, Gonzalez fouled off six consecutive fastballs before Giolito threw a changeup in the dirt for the whiff on the 12th pitch of the at-bat.

It was one of 18 changeups Giolito threw, with 11 going for strikes.

“The changeup was a good pitch for me aside from a few I left up in the zone,” Giolito said. “I had a lot of confidence in it and that was probably the offspeed pitch I was most comfortable going to in situations.”

Given his fastball velo was an average of 92.2 mph, confidence and comfort were critical. Houston entered the game with a team slash line of .282/.345/.479 and averaging 5.47 runs per contest. The American League West champions offer few easy outs and were clearly the sternest test to date for Giolito, who has never pitched more innings in a season than his current 167 between Triple-A Charlotte and the majors.

Even though the velo isn’t where he’s wanted it in the past two outings, Giolito has pitched well enough. Giolito produced his fourth quality start in six outings in the big leagues as he limited the Astros to two earned runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out three.

“Felt pretty good about it,” Giolito said. “It was one of those days where I didn’t have my best stuff working. Had a lot of trouble getting the ball to the extension side. That’s something to work on this week going into the next start. But I felt good about how I pitched tonight for sure.”

The White Sox feel pretty good about the production they’ve received from Giolito, who struggled with consistency earlier this season at Triple-A and dropped down in the prospect rankings as a result. The right-hander said he’s pleased with how he’s learned to be more composed on the mound this season. He’s also clearly gained confidence and trust in his stuff.

“Based on everything we saw, the skill set that he would be able to manage his ability on the mound to attack the strike zone,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s throwing his breaking ball more effectively now, the changeup as well.”

“All in all he’s doing what he needs to do. He’s kept hitters off balance. His ball has some life. He has angle. We’re happy with how he’s continued to develop.”

Giolito’s offense didn’t do what it needed to earn him a victory despite another big night from Yoan Moncada. Moncada went 3-for-4 with three singles and shortstop Tim Anderson extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a ninth-inning single.

Joe Maddon finally sees Cubs playing with the right 'mental energy'

joe_maddon_cubs.jpg
USA TODAY

Joe Maddon finally sees Cubs playing with the right 'mental energy'

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Joe Maddon looked back on the perfect baseball storm that hit the Tampa Bay Rays and played all the greatest hits for local reporters, waxing poetic about the banners hanging inside Tropicana Field, stumping for a new stadium on the other side of the Gandy Bridge, telling Don Zimmer stories, namedropping Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and riffing on sabermetrics and information buckets.

But the moment of clarity came in the middle of a media session that lasted 20-plus minutes, Maddon sitting up on stage in what felt like the locker room at an old CYO gym: “We only got really good because the players got really good.”

There’s no doubt the Cubs have the talent to go along with all the other big-market advantages the Rays could only dream about as the have-nots in the American League East. Now it looks like the defending champs have finally got rid of the World Series hangover, playing with the urgency and pitch-to-pitch focus that had been lacking at times and will be needed again in October.    

Maddon essentially admitted it after Tuesday’s 2-1 victory, watching his team beat Chris Archer and work together on a one-hitter that extended the winning streak to seven games and kept the Milwaukee Brewers 3.5 games back in the National League Central.

“You’re really seeing them try to execute in moments,” Maddon said. “When they come back and they don’t get it done, it’s not like they’re angry. But you can just see they’re disappointed in themselves.

“Their mental energy is probably at an all-season-high right now.”

Six days after the Cubs moved him to the bullpen, lefty swingman Mike Montgomery took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, when Tampa Bay’s No. 9 hitter (Brad Miller) drove a ball over the center-field wall. Maddon then went to the relievers he will trust in October – Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Wade Davis – with the All-Star closer striking out the side in the ninth inning and remaining perfect in save opportunities (32-for-32) as a Cub.       

“We want to go out there and prove every day that we’re the best team in baseball,” said Kyle Schwarber, the designated hitter who launched Archer’s 96-mph fastball into the right-center field seats for his 28th home run in the second inning. “The way our guys are just going out there and competing, it’s really good to see, especially this time of year. It’s getting to crunch time, and we just got to keep this same pace that we’re going at.

“Don’t worry about things around us. Just keep our heads down, keep worrying about the game and go from there.”     

In what’s been a season-long victory lap, Maddon couldn’t help looking back when the sound system started playing The Beach Boys and “Good Vibrations” echoed throughout the domed stadium, a tribute running on the video board and a crowd of 25,046 giving him a standing ovation.

“It was cool,” Maddon said. “I forgot about the bird, the cockatoo, I can’t remember the name. Really a cool bird. I told (my wife) Jaye I wanted one of those for a while. But then again, she gets stuck taking care of them.

“I was just thinking about all the things we did. You forget sometimes that snake. I think her name was Francine, like a 19-year-old, 20-footer. And then the penguin on my chair. You forget all the goofy stuff you did. But you can see how much fun everybody had.

“I appreciated it. They showed all my pertinent highlights. There’s none actually as a player. It’s primarily as a zookeeper.”

But within the last week, you can see the Cubs getting more serious, concentrating on their at-bats and nailing their pitches. There is internal competition for roster spots and playing time in the postseason, when Maddon becomes ruthless and doesn’t care at all about making friends. This just might be another perfect storm.

Montgomery – who notched the final out in the 10th inning of last year’s World Series Game 7 – put it this way: “I feel ready for anything after how this year’s gone.”