Chicago Cubs: 2011 regular season

Agent: Aramis Ramirez done with Cubs

November, 14, 2011
11/14/11
7:21
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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MILWAUKEE -- Third baseman Aramis Ramirez' tenure with the Chicago Cubs is officially done, according to his agent, Paul Kinzer.

Kinzer, who is attending this week’s general managers meetings, said he will meet with other clubs this week about Ramirez’s future, but that he does not plan to speak to the Cubs.

“That ship has sailed,” Kinzer said. “We have a lot of interest in Aramis from different teams. But the Cubs will not be one of them.”

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Theo: Fate of Quade to be decided soon

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
3:56
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Tuesday he expects a quick decision on the future of manager Mike Quade.

Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer met Quade for a lengthy meeting in Chicago last week.

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Sources: Epstein, Hoyer meet with Quade

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
10:09
AM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein met with manager Mike Quade in a lengthy meeting at the end of last week to discuss his status with the team, according to sources familiar with the situation.

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Ramirez opts for free agency

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
10:07
AM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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The Chicago Cubs have picked up the one-year, $16 million option on Aramis Ramirez's contract, but Ramirez will turn down the option and declare for free agency, according to his agent Paul Kinzer.

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Garza finishes strong with 10th win

September, 28, 2011
9/28/11
1:23
AM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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The Chicago Cubs traded five outstanding players from their farm system for Matt Garza last winter, and in Game 161, Garza proved his worth once again.

Count manager Mike Quade among those who feel the heavy price the Cubs paid in prospects was certainly worth it.

"Sure," Quade said. "Because he's a good pitcher. I was real fond of a lot of those kids that left, but we got a quality pitcher in return. And for as tough a season as it's been at times, where in the hell would we have been without him?"

[+] EnlargeMatt Garza
Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesCubs starter Matt Garza allowed two runs in seven innings to beat the Padres on Tuesday.
Garza ended the season with 198 innings pitched and 197 strikeouts with a 3.32 ERA. There's no question he should have won 17 or 18 games. His teammates blew seven games after Garza left with a lead in 2011.

His other numbers on the season surpassed what he did in 2010 in Tampa, except for the 15 wins, as he earned his 10th for the Cubs on Tuesday night.

"It was good," Garza said. "But I missed my goals by two innings and three punch-outs. It is what it is. I'm really just learning and breaking into what I've got. I'm just pretty excited about this offseason. I just look forward to strengthening what I can strengthen and get ready for next season."

Garza is tied with Ryan Dempster for the team lead in victories. Dempster has a shot at No. 11 on Wednesday in the season finale.

Outfielder Alfonso Soriano's three-run home run in the eighth gave Garza the victory after he trailed 2-1 going into the inning.

"He deserves the win in his last start of the season," Soriano said. "He's been so good for us the whole year. It's his first year with the team and everybody loves him because no matter how he pitches, he's out there the next day cheering and giving emotion to everybody."

There's a possibility Soriano may play his last game as a Cub on Wednesday if the team decides to move the veteran outfielder and the $54 million left on his contract.

"I don't think about it," Soriano said. "I have control over it. But if they want to trade me, I hope it's to a contender. If not I want to be here and win here."

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 6, Padres 2

September, 28, 2011
9/28/11
12:43
AM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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SAN DIEGO -- A quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 6-2 win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Tuesday night.


How it happened: Cubs starter Matt Garza, who was looking to win his 10th game of the year, threw another outstanding game. Garza allowed just two runs on Kyle Blanks' two-run double in the second inning and nothing more in his seven innings pitched. Garza ended the season 10-10 with 198 innings pitched and 197 strikeouts. Alfonso Soriano’s three-run home run in the eighth inning, his 26th of the season, gave the Cubs and Garza the victory. Aramis Ramirez also hit his 26th home run, a solo shot in the fourth inning.

What it means: The Cubs snapped a three-game losing streak.

Outside the box: Prior to Tuesday night, four of the five previous games between the Cubs and Padres ended up in a shutout. … Shortstop Starlin Castro's single in the first inning gave him a 10-game hitting streak. He now has five hitting streaks of 10-or-more games in 2011. On Wednesday, Castro, 21, will become the youngest player to ever lead the National League in hits. Cubs shortstop Charlie Hollocher was 22 when he led the league in hits in 1918.

What’s next: The Cubs end the season on Wednesday with right-hander Ryan Dempster (10-13, 4.53) taking on the Padres’ Wade LeBlanc (4-6, 4.83) at 7:35 p.m.

Castro's 200th hit puts him in record book

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
11:17
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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ST. LOUIS -- They used to say it about Hank Sauer, then Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa. Now Cubs fans can put Starlin Castro on the list of players who are worth the price of admission, even when the team is not.

On Friday night, Castro, 21, became the youngest Cub ever to get 200 hits in a season. His line drive single in the first inning off Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter put him in the record books.

“I’m very happy for him,” said Alfonso Soriano, whose three-run home run in the eighth inning proved to be the game-winner. “Two-hundred hits in his first full year in the big leagues looks easy for him. But it’s not easy. I did it once, but I never did it again.”

Castro is the 16th Cub in history to record 200 hits in a season and the first major leaguer since Alex Rodriguez in 1996 to do it at age 21.

“As long as he continues to work hard and improve, he’s a potential superstar,” Cubs starter Ryan Dempster said. “He sure can hit. His hand-and-eye coordination is incredible. He has great ability to put the barrel of the bat on the ball. He’s going to be better defensively, and baserunning and knowledge of the game. The sky is the limit for him. It’s fun to watch someone grow with so much talent.”

Castro has led the National League in hits for most of the season. And even approaching 700 plate appearances, he still isn’t looking for a day off.

“That’s why I keep working, because I want to be a superstar in the major leagues,” Castro said.

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 5, Cardinals 1

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
10:24
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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ST. LOUIS – A quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 5-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

How it happened: Alfonso Soriano's three-run home run in the eighth inning was the difference in the ballgame, coming off reliever Kyle McClellan. It was Soriano’s 25th home run of the season. Right-hander Ryan Dempster, who was seeking his 11th win for the eight time, allowed just one run in six innings but got a no-decision. Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro led off the game with a sharp single to centerfield for his 200th base hit of the season. He became the 16th Cubs to reach the 200-hit mark in a season. He added an RBI single in the ninth.

What it means: Although the Cubs won the game, Dempster remained winless in his last eight starts (0-5, three no-decisions). Dempster has logged 196 2/3 innings this season. He’ll get a chance to go over 200 in his final start against the Padres in the Cubs’ last game of the season on Sept. 28. Dempster has three straight seasons of 200 or more innings.

Outside the box: Aramis Ramirez told ESPNChicago.com that he’ll be ready to play on Monday or Tuesday. Ramirez aggravated a quad strain on Wednesday. … Carlos Pena's 97 walks set a record for a Cubs first baseman in a season.

What’s next: The Cubs send right-hander Rodrigo Lopez (6-6 4.71) vs. Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.47) on Saturday at 12:10 p.m.

Quade confident he'll be back in 2012

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
1:38
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Chicago Cubs manager Mike Quade said Wednesday that he plans to be back next year, despite a disappointing season and the fact the Cubs are in the process of searching for a new general manager.

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Rapid Reaction: Brewers 5, Cubs 1

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
9:45
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Here is a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 5-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday:

How it happened: Cubs starter Randy Wells looked strong through two innings. The roof caved in on him in the third when he gave up four runs on five hits. The damage began with Shawn Marcum's double. Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Braun and Rickie Weeks all had RBIs base hits to put Milwaukee up 4-0. Weeks' fielder's choice scored Morgan with the Brewers' fifth run in the fifth inning. Starlin Castro reached base for the 33rd straight game with his 10th home run of the season in the sixth inning. Castro established a new Cubs record of 336 hits to start a career in the first two seasons (Glen Beckert had 335 from 1965-66). Aramis Ramirez left the game in the seventh with a mild right quad strain. It's being called a day-to-day injury.

What it means: Wells gets one more start after taking his fifth loss on Tuesday. The Brewers have taken the first 10 of 15 games with the last game on Wednesday.

Outside the box: Special adviser to the general manager Gary Hughes resigned effective Oct. 31.

Next: The Cubs' season finale at Wrigley Field features Matt Garza (8-10, 3.51) going against left-hander Randy Wolf (13-9, 3.45) in a 1:20 p.m. game on Wednesday.

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 5, Brewers 2

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
9:52
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- A quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 5-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night at Wrigley Field.

How it happened: Geovany Soto had a two-homer evening for the Cubs, hitting his 16th home run in the third inning and his 17th in the sixth. Both were two-run homers. Soto also had an RBI single in the fourth inning. Right-hander Casey Coleman allowed just two hits over six innings, walking two and striking out a career-high eight. Naperville native Jerry Hairston got the scoring going for the Brewers in the first inning, hitting his first home run as a Brewer. The home run snapped an 0-for-18 for Hairston.

What it means: Milwaukee’s magic number to clinch the NL Central remains at four with their loss to the Cubs and St. Louis’s 4-3 win over Philadelphia. Soto has three career two-homer games, all against Milwaukee.

Outside the box:Shortstop Starlin Castro has reached base 32 games in a row and is the first Cub to do that since Derrek Lee in 2007. The Cubs recalled catcher Steve Clevenger and pitcher Rafael Doliz from Double-A Tennessee after the Smokies were eliminated 3-1 in their playoff series. Quade said he’d implement the two young players as he sees fit. Clevenger may get a start in San Diego during the last series of the season.

What’s next: The Cubs send Randy Wells (7-4, 4.93) vs. the Brewers Shaun Marcum (12-7, 3.40) on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m.

Rapid Reaction: Astros 3, Cubs 2

September, 18, 2011
9/18/11
5:36
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- A quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros on Sunday at Wrigley Field.


How it happened: Ryan Dempster threw 33 first-inning pitches, allowing three runs. Dempster was coming off a game in which he threw 128 pitches, his most since 2001. After the first, Dempster was stellar, giving up just four hits and no runs through his last six innings and finishing at 110 pitches. The Cubs offense has only given Dempster two runs in his last two outings. Bryan LaHair's sacrifice fly off Houston starter Brett Meyers scored Starlin Castro in the first. Aramis Ramirez's pinch-hit sac fly in the eighth inning scored Darwin Barney. Umpires used instant replays to negate what appeared to be a two-out, two-run home run by Carlos Pena in the eighth, reversing the call to a double.

What it means: Dempster is stuck on 10 wins for the seventh straight start. He’s 0-5 with two no-decisions in that span. Dempster needs 9 1/3 innings pitched to get to 200 innings for the fourth straight season.

Outside the box: Castro’s first-inning double extended his on-base streak to 31 games. That’s the most by a Cubs shortstop since 1930, when Woody English had 32.

What’s next: The Cubs open a series with the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday, sending right-hander Casey Coleman (2-8, 7.06 ERA) vs. Brewers lefty Chris Narveson (10-7, 4.40) at 7:05 p.m.

Cubs relievers mostly home-grown group

September, 17, 2011
9/17/11
5:59
PM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
ESPNChicago.com
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While the Chicago Cubs have been much maligned for their inability to develop quality starting pitchers, they’ve built a solid relief corps through their minor league system. A few of those arms were on display in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field as James Russell and Sean Marshall helped shut down the Astros to preserve the victory.

The Cubs bullpen currently features nine arms, seven of which were brought up through the Cubs system. Only veterans John Grabow and Ramon Ortiz didn’t spend the majority of their careers with the organization.

Neither Grabow nor Ortiz is expected to return next season and it’s possible the Cubs will replace them with internal candidates like the recently recalled John Gaub or the soon-to-be-called-up Rafael Dolis.

After being acquired in a trade for Mark DeRosa, Gaub had an outstanding 2009 season, recording a combined 80 strikeouts in 60 innings for Double-A Tennesee and Triple-A Iowa . One scout who watched him that season called him the best lefty relief prospect in the game. Gaub struggled mightily in Iowa in 2010 (his BB/9 jumped from 5.0 to 8.3), but bounced back with a strong 2011 campaign and looks to once again have a bright future in the big leagues as more than just a one-out lefty.

Dolis is a power pitcher and while hopes are high for him, he’s going to have to improve upon his 4.3 BB/9 if he’s going to be a relied on arm out of the bullpen.

The good news for both pitchers is that with the likes of Marshall and Jeff Samardzija around, Dolis and Gaub hopefully won’t be pressed into high pressure situations too soon.

Samardzija and Marshall, both of whom struggled when originally used as starters at the major league level, have thrived in their current roles. Marshall, who picked up the save on Saturday, has struck out 75 and walked only 17 in his 72 innings of work this season, becoming one of the best lefty set-up men in all of baseball. Samardzija is finally starting to live up to the high expectations that were heaped upon him when he was first drafted in 2006. He’s struck out 86 in 85 1/3 innings and while his 48 walks on the season are a tad high, it’s an area that he’s improved as the season has gone on.

Other arms that could help bolster the bullpen in the coming years include Jeff Beliveau (who, along with hot prospect Brett Jackson, will play for Team USA in the Pan-Am Games this spring), Chris Carpenter, and even further down the pipeline, Aaron Kurcz and Kevin Rhoderick.

It’s possible that Kerry Wood may not be re-upped for next season and Samardzija may fill a rotation spot. If that happens, at least young reliever will have to step up. Unless acquiring a dominant closer, it’s unwise to give high-paying long-term deals to a reliever; they rarely seem to work out. The Cubs have been bitten numerous times in the recent past by this strategy, with Bob Howry, Scott Eyre and, most recently, John Grabow, none of whom lived up to the multi-year deals they signed.

Of course, the main objective for a minor league system is to provide high-end starting pitching talent. Unfortunately, the Cubs have been unable to accomplish that recently, and once-highly-thought-of starters Jay Jackson and Trey McNutt are both having disappointing seasons. Jackson seems to have lost the velocity that scouts once raved about, but finished his season strong, compiling a 2.95 ERA with 32 strikeouts and only 11 walks in his last 7 starts.

Injuries have also played a big part in the Cubs’ attempt to develop starting pitchers. McNutt was hampered by blister issues and bruised ribs for much of the year and likely deserves a pass on his subpar 2011.

Andrew Cashner looked brilliant in his one start with the Cubs this season (one earned run in 5 1/3 innings) before exiting with shoulder pain. After a long rehab, Cashner is finally back and pitching out of the bullpen, but there is hope he’ll be a big part of next season’s starting rotation.

Even breakout prospect Robert Whitenack, who had a 1.73 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 14 walks in 11 starts at two levels in the minors, had his season cut short by Tommy John surgery.

While the starting pitching situation is hardly ideal, the Cubs have been able to effectively build a bullpen. With more promising arms on the horizon, the Cubs should only have to spend lightly on undervalued veteran bullpen arms. That way they’ll be able put their resources where they’re most needed, -- acquiring starting pitching, quality defenders and offensive players with the ability to get on base.

Rapid Reaction: Reds 8, Cubs 6

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
10:28
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CINCINNATI -- A quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 8-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in 11 innings on Thursday at Great American Ball Park.


How it happened: The Reds’ Joey Votto led off the 11th with a double off Cubs reliever James Russell and Jay Bruce ended the game with a home run. The Cubs had sent the game to extra innings with two runs in the ninth. Tony Campana led off that inning with a single and scored on a double from Alfonso Soriano. Darwin Barney then singled home Soriano. In the first inning, the Cubs offense provided a nice cushion for starter Randy Wells, who has not lost a game in nine starts. Carlos Pena's 28th homer of the season off of Reds starter Homer Bailey got the Cubs offense going and Marlon Byrd's two-run homer padded the lead. The Cubs loaded the bases in the third with no outs and failed to score. The Reds batted around in the fifth inning, scoring three runs and knocking out Wells, who lasted 4 1/3 innings in his shortest outing since July 6. Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips and Chris Heisey each hit solo homers off Wells.

What it means: The Cubs finished their seven-game road trip with a 3-4 record. Shortstop Starlin Castro extended his on-base streak to 28 games with a single in the second inning. Pena’s 28 homers equal his 2010 output with the Tampa Bay Rays. All 28 have come since May 3.

Outside the box: Cubs catching coordinator Marty Pevey has been working with Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill on this road trip. The Cubs have not had a catching instructor at the major leage level in 2011. Bryan LaHair extended his hitting streak to nine games with a base hit in the first inning.

Up next: The Cubs begin their last homestand, sending right-hander Matt Garza (8-10, 3.54 ERA) against Houston left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (11-10, 3.51) on Friday at 1:20.

Quade doesn't see any quit on North side

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
7:23
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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While Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said on Wednesday that some of his players have quit on him and his coaches, Chicago Cubs manager Mike Quade doesn’t believe he’s seeing any telltale signs of that with his team.

“I don’t know what’s going on on the South Side, Quade said. “I only know what’s going on with this group here. They haven’t [quit] and they didn’t last year either.”

The term “quitting” is thrown around a good deal in sports, however defining how a team has quit seems to be a difficult process.

“Everybody looks at things a little differently,”Quade said. “I suppose if you see a change in a way people are going about their business or approaching things in May or June compared to now, you might know.”

Quade’s team is 7-6 in September, coming off its first winning month of the season in August. Watching Cubs hitters swing at the first pitch or not get deep into counts really doesn’t tell you that much about their effort since they have been one of the least patient teams at the plate all season.

So how would Quade go about judging whether his players approach the game correctly or not?

“It’s effort,” Quade said. “I watch every day when we hit and take ground balls and the way we go about our business. If I saw any lackadaisical approach, that would concern me,”

Quade heard Guillen’s comments that the Sox quit fighting three days ago, but refused to judge if a team’s giving up could be seen as an indictment on the manager or the coaches.

“I’m not going anywhere near that,” Quade said. “Ozzie has a better feel for his club than anyone else. Whatever he thinks or says is what it is. It’s not my place to judge him. Ozzie’s always worn it on his sleeve. That’s what he does. He’s been more vocal about things than I am. If he’s upset about things, you don’t have to sneak around to know it. However, his passion has made him good at what he does.”

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.53 167 156
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167