Chicago Cubs: Doug Padilla

Cubs enjoy Little League thriller

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Rain delays in baseball are not usually welcomed, unless they manage to be timed perfectly to provide a little inspiration.

As it turned out, the 3-hour, 9-minute rain delay that hit during the Chicago Cubs-Baltimore Orioles game managed to give players from both teams the opportunity to watch Little League Baseball's United States final.

For the Cubs, there was a little more on the line since a team from Chicago was playing the Nevada champion out of Las Vegas for the U.S. title, with Chicago winning a thrilling 7-5 decision. The contest among mostly 12-year olds ended right before play in the Cubs-Orioles game resumed.

"Yes, we saw it. It was a really exciting ballgame," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "The finish, I saw that they won on a 1-6-3 double play. I think the Little League World Series has been pretty exciting for everyone, a lot of interest.

"Obviously these kids are probably getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. They're going out there and having a good time. Hopefully they remain humble through the whole thing because it can be overwhelming."

Chicago's Jackie Robinson West Little League has one more game remaining Sunday for the overall championship against South Korea.

"Yeah, that was actually a really fun game to watch," Cubs pitcher Justin Grimm said. "It was going back and forth a lot, so it was a fun game. We were in here having fun with it."

Grimm's enjoyment of the game was interrupted slightly when pitching coach Chris Bosio came to him to say that he would be on the mound when play resumed after the delay. "My heart just started beating really fast," Grimm said. "I was like: 'All right, here we go.' "

Right before the rain delay started, affording the Cubs' players the chance to watch the Little League game on television, Chris Coghlan had just delivered a bases-clearing triple that helped the Cubs take a 4-1 lead into the interruption.

"It was pretty cool to watch," Coghlan said. "I hadn't sat down and watched any Little League game from start to finish. I thought it was a really good game, fun, entertaining, intense for Little League. Obviously we were pulling for Chicago so it was pretty cool to see them win."

Cubs' kids are growing up fast

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- As the roster keeps getting younger, the play is getting more spirited, and while it is no guarantee the Chicago Cubs have moved past rock bottom and are now trending upward with their franchise overhaul, a better brand of baseball is clearly visible now.

The Cubs sucker-punched the Baltimore Orioles early, let nature cool off their opponents with a 3-hour-plus rain delay and then returned with more late rabbit punches to the midsection.

[+] EnlargeJavier Baez
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJavier Baez smacked his seventh home run in 19 games since being recalled from the minors as the Cubs beat the Orioles.
When it was over, Arismendy Alcantara had three hits, Javier Baez had a line-drive opposite-field home run to the basket in right field and Logan Watkins had two hits and two RBIs.

"Yeah, I think they're playing with a lot of confidence," manager Rick Renteria said. "The kids that have been joining us, like all young players they want to show you that they belong. So you have that going for you. But the skill set, they have the skill set, the variable to use and right now we've been able to get some decent at-bats and generate some offense.

"Javy lines it out to right, you have Watty driving balls into the gap. We have a lot of guys contributing right now. You talk about it and you have peaks and valleys in offenses but right now they seem to be picking each other up and doing a nice job."

Even the most complimentary offense doesn't work without pitching so there was Justin Grimm picking up the pieces after the long delay with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball. He improved to 4-2 while delivering his longest outing of the season.

Knocking off the American League East leaders for the second consecutive day was truly child's play with Grimm, Alcantara, Baez and Watkins playing such vital roles.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 7, Orioles 2

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
Padilla By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs moved one game away from a series sweep with a 7-2 victory Saturday over the Baltimore Orioles.

How it happened: Chris Coghlan had three RBIs, Arismendy Alcantara had three hits and Javier Baez hit his seventh home run. Kyle Hendricks pitched two innings but was removed after a 3-hour, 9-minute rain delay, giving way to Justin Grimm, who pitched 3 ⅓ scoreless innings. The Orioles have lost two consecutive games at Wrigley Field after sweeping the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

What it means: Maybe the Cubs would rather skip that long-awaited rest that arrives Monday. After Sunday's series finale, the Cubs will end a string of 33 games in 34 days. Monday's off day will be the Cubs' first since Aug. 4. Their young roster, though, seems to have the energy that most teams are lacking at this time of the year. The Cubs have now won five of their last seven games and 15 of their last 26.

Outside the box: Baez's all-or-nothing tendencies were in full display Saturday. He struck out in each of his first three at-bats, then went deep against Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter in the seventh. Baez now has seven home runs and 11 RBIs in his first 19 games and has hit a home run in both games of this series.

Offbeat: The grounds crew got it right this time. As a massive rain storm arrived at the end of the second inning, the Cubs' grounds crew got the tarp over the infield in barely over a minute. That wasn't the case Tuesday, when issues with the tarp led the game to be called, only to have it resumed two days later.

Up next: The Cubs will send left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada (3-1, 2.75 ERA) to the mound Sunday in the finale of the three-game series. The Orioles will counter with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (6-6, 3.80) in the 1:20 p.m. CT start from Wrigley Field.

No trouble for Cubs' grounds crew this time

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO – Determined not to be embarrassed again, the Chicago Cubs' grounds crew solved its tarp issues Saturday during a rain delay in a game against the Baltimore Orioles.

Saturday was the first in-game delay for the Cubs since Tuesday when the undermanned grounds crew couldn’t get the tarp unfolded properly in a game against the San Francisco Giants, creating a muddy infield. After a four-hour, 34-minute delay while the grounds crew tried to make the field playable again, the game was eventually called.

Major League Baseball, however, determined that the game must be resumed at the point it was stopped, and the Cubs eventually won that game 2-1 on Thursday. As fate would have it, the resumed game was also delayed another two hours before it was played.

With a massive storm approaching Saturday, the Cubs had plenty of grounds crew members prepared for their most recent delay. The rain started to fall at the end of the second inning and the tarp was unrolled and unfolded on the field in about a minute to a mock cheer from the capacity crowd.

Rondon's 20th 'a tremendous accomplishment'

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO – Lost in the shuffle of the Chicago Cubs' 4-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday was the 20th save from former Rule-5 pickup Hector Rondon.

While plenty of emphasis was placed on Cubs starter Jake Arrieta pitching against his old team, Friday was just another instance of Rondon’s strong season flying low under the radar.

[+] EnlargeHector Rondon
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesHector Rondon has converted his last six save opportunities for the Cubs.
“It’s obviously a tremendous accomplishment,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s a young man who is really chipping away at the role. He’s had some hiccups along the way, obviously, but he continues to develop his slider, his mix of pitches in order to get guys off his fastball because there was a point and time there where guys were just looking for his fastball and taking advantage of him and not allowing him to get through that particular inning.”

Rondon has blown four save opportunities this season, but he has converted his last six chances, a season-best run. He has walked just one batter with 17 strikeouts over his last 20 innings, a stretch that goes back to June 30.

Going back to Aug. 10, Rondon has pitched seven consecutive scoreless innings, and over his 50 1/3 innings this season he has just 13 walks with 53 strikeouts.

Just last year he was in survival mode after the Cubs picked him up from the Cleveland Indians as a Rule-5 selection. If the Cubs tried to send him down to the minor leagues, he would have to first be offered back to his former team. That didn’t happen, as Rondon posted a 4.77 ERA over 45 outings after having just 19 games of Triple-A experience.

“He’s made adjustments and it’s a good story,” Renteria said. “He’s been getting better. I think everybody is comfortable with coming into closing out the ballgame that they can do what they need to do to give us a chance to close out ballgames.”

By saying that everybody is comfortable with closing it’s a reminder that Renteria never did announce that Rondon officially has the closer job. He has simply been doing the best with it of late.

“I think you have some guys with very good arms that you can comfortable slot into those positions and it just kind of takes care of itself,” Renteria said. “You let it play itself out. They chip away, they earned their ability to have the comfort level that everyone has for them in that particular situation to play itself out. It has and they have fallen into roles.”

Renteria said he wouldn’t hesitate using Pedro Strop in the role and he would even consider Neil Ramirez, but Rondon has clearly stood head and shoulders above that group.

“I think right now the way it’s kind of developed they can all be used to be able to help us chip away at closing down the back end of the ballgame," Renteria said.

Jacob Turner in as Cubs reset rotation

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs will make some rotation alterations in the wake of Edwin Jackson's trip to the disabled list this week.

Jackson’s regular spot in the rotation comes up again Tuesday at Cincinnati, but Travis Wood will be able to move to that spot on a regular four days of rest thanks to an off day Monday. Jacob Turner, who was acquired Aug. 8 in a trade with the Miami Marlins, will move into the rotation and pitch Wednesday.

Jake Arrieta will remain in his regular spot in the rotation and pitch in Thursday’s series finale at Cincinnati.

Wood is 7-11 this season with a 4.91 ERA and hasn’t won a game since June 15. In 12 starts since then, he is 0-6 with a 5.43 ERA and opponents are batting .300 against him.

Turner has made two appearances in a Cubs uniform since he was traded, both in relief. He made 20 appearances with the Marlins this season, 12 of which were starts. In those starts, he was 4-5 with a 6.03 ERA and gave up eight home runs in 62 2/3 innings. In 20 innings as a reliever he has not given up a home run.

Turner did “start” for the Cubs when Tuesday’s rain delayed game against the Baltimore Orioles was resumed Thursday. Technically a relief appearance, he gave up one run in two innings and the Cubs went on to the victory.

Jackson went to the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a right lat strain.

Maddux starts at head of Hall rotation

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
Padilla By Doug Padilla
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Just like he carved up opponents from 60 feet, 6 inches away, Greg Maddux moved through his Hall of Fame speech Sunday with deft precision.

There was family to thank, teammates and coaches he appreciated and a few people who were key to his development at a young age. He showed love and respect to his wife Kathy for holding down the fort at home. He explained why his Hall of Fame plaque won't have a logo on the cap since he was unable to choose between the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.

[+] EnlargeGreg Maddux
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesGreg Maddux's Hall of Fame speech was short and sweet, done with precision, which was similiar to his approach to pitching during his career.
He even sprinkled his own deadpan humor into the proceedings, talking about flatulence, how he was mistaken for the batboy before his first major league game, and how he spent much of his time with the Braves watching John Smoltz's hairline recede.

Appropriately at the head of the rotation among Hall of Fame inductees, it took less than five minutes for Maddux to mix in a little potty humor during what he called the first speech of his life.

"My brother, Mike, led by example," he said about his sibling who is also the pitching coach of the Texas Rangers. "Everything I was about to do on and off the field, he had already done. I was very fortunate to have a brother that I could learn from. He even taught me a little bit about science. It has to do with a little methane and a lighter, and I still get a huge kick out of it today. That's funny, huh? OK."

In his more serious moments, Maddux expressed appreciation to the four franchises for which he pitched, focusing most on the Cubs and Braves, obviously. He ended his career with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers.

"With the Cubs, I had the opportunity to play with Andre Dawson, Rick Sutcliffe, Ryne Sandberg and two fine catchers, Damon Berryhill and Joe Girardi," he said. "The city of Chicago and the Cub fans were awesome, maybe the best in baseball."

The comment managed to bring out some groans from a large contingent of Atlanta fans in the crowd estimated to be 48,000 strong. He made up for it seconds later when talking about his free-agent move from Chicago to Atlanta.

"I picked Atlanta because I finally wanted to get a World Series ring and start a family," he said. "All right, sorry, Chicago, but yeah."

Maddux eventually did get that ring in 1995, with his career bringing him back to Chicago in 2004.

"I love Chicago so much," Maddux said. "The first time I played there, that I was very grateful that Gary Hughes and Jim Hendry brought me back over to Chicago. That would give me a second chance to win there, and maybe retire where it all started, but I wouldn't be a Cub if I couldn't handle a little heartache and we missed the postseason by one game my first year back.

"I was thankful I got a chance to play for Dusty Baker and work with Larry Rothschild. I enjoyed throwing most of my games to Henry Blanco and Michael Barrett, and again, it was even funnier when they would get hit in the face [with foul tips]."

For a first speech, Maddux handled the moment with aplomb. He didn't have to explain why he will go in to the Hall of Fame without picking the Braves over the Cubs or the Cubs over the Braves. He did anyway.

"People ask me why I have no Hall of Fame plaque, no logo, or why my Hall of Fame plaque has no logo," he said. "I spent 12 years in Chicago, 11 in Atlanta and both places are very special to me. Without experiences in both cities, I would not be standing here today."

Maddux's edge takes him to Cooperstown

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
Padilla By Doug Padilla
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Greg Maddux didn't use a blazing fastball to have one of the best pitching careers in major league history, yet he was intimidating nonetheless.

He crafted 355 victories over a storied 23-year career that at its peak earned him four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-95.

[+] EnlargeGreg Maddux
AP Photo/Mike GrollGreg Maddux used precision to the highest level during his 23-year career, and his Hall of Fame speech figures to follow a similar blueprint.
Maddux was a study in consistency, and he was never above the subtle tricks of the trade, when he needed that little extra something to get to where he needed to go.

If quick-pitching a batter who didn't quite have his feet set could get Maddux back in the count, or get the out he needed, he wouldn't shy away from such a tactic.

"You're always looking for any edge you can get," Maddux said Saturday. "You're always trying to find out what's the easiest pitch to throw in any situation."

His savvy approach will lead to his Hall of Fame induction Sunday, and in typical Maddux fashion, the low-key pitcher will keep it short and sweet. He has 10 minutes to give his speech, but Maddux estimates he will only need seven.

Why take a long time to finish off what can be done so much sooner? Like his pinpoint precision from the mound, the speech figures to be precise and won't deal with too much fluff.

His gift of precision, though, wasn't just something he inherited.

"It's something you're always working on," he said of his ability to throw a ball wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted. "It wasn't like, 'Oh yeah, I can do it.' You're always constantly working on it and trying to improve.

"I think if you look at your delivery from the time you entered the game to the time you left the game, it's obviously a lot better when you left. It's a continuous thing where all you're really trying to do is get better."

Despite his accomplishments in the game, baseball still gives him a thrill. He had a memorable encounter as recently as Friday night.

"I got a chance to talk to Tom Seaver and that was pretty cool," Maddux said. "He played for the Reds and he was a good pitcher and somebody I tried to watch when he pitched. I wish maybe the games back then were more than just Saturdays."

He no longer has any more Saturdays on the field, but he continues to have the love from the two cities where he spent the bulk of his career. Maddux spent his first seven seasons with the Chicago Cubs and the next 11 with the Atlanta Braves, before returning to Chicago for 2½ more years.

"I appreciate both cities," he said. "I had two careers, one in Chicago and one in Atlanta when it boils down to it. I love both places."

Everywhere else and everybody else he loves will be mentioned Sunday in the most precise of speeches.

"I never wrote a speech before. I've never given a speech before so to sit here and have your first speech be at this event, I'll wish I went to class those days when you had to get up and give a speech," Maddux said. "I'll say what I want to say and hopefully the people I mention in the speech understand that I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for them. I took a piece from everybody. Everybody in that speech I took a piece from."

Cubs showing a youthful exuberance

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Finally home after a road trip that would shake even the most confident player to his core, the Chicago Cubs insist they still have plenty of fight left inside them.

Five days into an 11-day journey that ended Thursday, the Cubs saw pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel get traded to the Oakland Athletics. A day after that a six-game losing streak started.

[+] EnlargeArismendy Alcantara, Justin Ruggiano
AP Photo/Andrew A. NellesJustin Ruggiano, right, says he likes the inclusion of Arismendy Alcantara, left, in the Cubs' lineup. "He's got a little spark to him," Ruggiano said.
Now the Cubs say they are ready to scratch and claw, but in comparing their roster to teams around the league, any fight they face in the foreseeable future looks to be fairly lopsided. The past two days, though, they have looked willing to stand up to conflict, both literally and figuratively.

On Friday, the Cubs went toe-to-toe with the Atlanta Braves, getting past the disappointment of a Hector Rondon blown save to win it 5-4 in walk-off fashion on Justin Ruggiano’s RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning.

“[The spirit] is still there,” Ruggiano said. “We were probably a little down losing those two guys, they were big guys in the clubhouse. But we’ve got a pretty tight group of men in here and we all pull for each other. We’ll be all right.”

Fight, and youthful exuberance, will get you only so far, though. New staff ace Jake Arrieta was his typical stingy self on Friday, giving fresh-faced Arismendy Alcantara the chance to deliver when it mattered. Alcantara not only singled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, his steal of second base helped set up Ruggiano’s game winner.

“When you have a young person come in fresh to the big leagues there is a lot of energy and excitement,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There is a willingness to want to go out and show you what they have. This young man actually just has the energy and desire to get out there. He is very composed. He has a lot of composure to him for being out there for the first time.”

The problem is that he doesn’t have numbers on his side, specifically roster numbers. The Cubs can actually get away with only three starters until July 22 and with four starters until July 24. That means somebody will have to go when the rotation is returned to full strength, and Alcantara might be on borrowed time.

“I think that any player when they impact your team and show you what they have, I think the easiest thing to do is for people to start to speculate if he will stick around,” Renteria said. “We’ll have to make that decision as an organization when we come to it. It would be premature and irresponsible for me to say something like that, but he does impact the way you view him for sure.”

On Thursday, Alcantara had three hits in a game that ultimately became known for Anthony Rizzo’s beef with Aroldis Chapman. After Chapman sent two fastballs to the backstop while facing Nate Schierholtz, Rizzo was among Cubs players who expressed displeasure with the pitches.

When Chapman dismissed the Cubs’ gripes with a wave of his glove, Rizzo kept the conversation going before the next half inning started by shouting in Chapman’s direction while walking toward the Reds’ dugout.

Benches cleared, with no punches thrown, but the biggest happening of all might have been Rizzo’s move into a leadership role. The backup All-Star first baseman might have set a tone moving forward in the wake of Samardzija and Hammel taking a combined 2.91 ERA with them to Oakland, while not leaving a whole lot of experience behind.

“Yeah, there is always spirit, win or lose,” Rizzo insisted. “It’s a great group of guys and you just want to keep coming together and keep getting better.”

Since winning will be tough, getting better will be the key. It’s uncertain how far a rotation of Arrieta, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood and whoever else (likely Tsuyoshi Wada and Kyle Hendricks) will take the Cubs.

But for now it’s about not letting things get too out of hand, while also learning as much as possible in the process. The Cubs know that a whole lot of talented young players are coming soon, so for now it’s about bridging the gap until they are ready to arrive.

“The future's bright; that's very apparent,” Arrieta said. “There are guys like Alcantara, and we know we've got some guys in the pipeline who can definitely help us in the near future. I look forward to seeing those guys, [Javier] Baez and [Kris] Bryant, a couple of others.

“It's going to be a fun, fun period of time here over the next six to eight months, toward the end of season and beginning of next season -- just seeing those guys blossom and continue to grow and get some experience up here. That'll be very valuable for them leading into the coming season.”

For now, it’s Alcantara’s time to blossom, however long his stay lasts.

“We saw him play in spring, I saw him play in my rehab and he’s got all kinds of tools,” Ruggiano said. “Youth eventually can sometimes be a factor, but from what I see, he’s got enough tools I think where he could stay afloat and probably be a very good player for many years. Who knows what will happen? But I like him around. I like him in the lineup. He’s got a little spark to him.”

Ricketts on Wrigley: Time to move forward

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO – One day after the Chicago Cubs received approval for their revised plans to renovate Wrigley Field, chairman Tom Ricketts described an upbeat feeling at the corner of Clark and Addison streets.

“Obviously, it’s very important for us to get those approvals to move forward,” Ricketts said Friday before the Cubs took on the Atlanta Braves. “We’re excited to begin the renovation process as opposed to the political process.”

On Sheffield and Waveland – addresses to the rooftop owners – there probably wasn’t much celebrating. The revised renovation plan includes five more outfield signs to be erected along with the two that were approved last year, that figure to block sightlines from across the street.

With the threat of eventual legal action still hanging in the air, Ricketts was asked if the team has reached out to the rooftop owners, who charge people to watch games and then return 17 percent of revenues back to the Cubs.

“Obviously the hearing was just yesterday,” Ricketts said. “We’ll reach out and talk to everybody. We’re confident there will be a solution that works.”

If there is any animosity from the Cubs side toward the rooftop owners, Ricketts wasn’t about to reveal it one day after scoring a major political victory.

“Obviously it’s been a long process,” he said. “We’re just glad that it’s behind us. I’m not worried about anything that happened in the past. We’re just going to go forward. As I’ve said, we’re just looking forward to moving forward.”

There remains no scheduled groundbreaking date on the project that could run over the $375 million mark, with an additional $200 million in related construction costs.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved the revised plans. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to work with the Cubs and the rooftop owners to avoid litigation. The 20-year contract that allows the rooftop owners to charge people to watch Cubs games still has another 10 years on it.

“I was confident that everyone has an incentive to work together to save Wrigley Field,” Ricketts said. “Obviously we’ve always had a very long-term perspective, so a lot of short-term setbacks or friction in the process, we just kept in perspective and tried to take the high road and keep moving forward. I think we’re in a good spot now. We’re looking forward to getting things rolling.”

The project is expected to take four years once it is started, with some reports that the historic bleachers might be knocked down and replaced by a newer version with modern amenities. Rickets would not confirm that a razing of the bleachers was on the agenda.
“I don’t really know how the construction process works well enough to go into that,” Ricketts said. “… It’s a four year project. I’m not sure about all the final sequencing of everything, and not sure exactly how you start in October and finish in April.”

While the renovation plan isn’t on-field related, the on-again-off-again nature of the subject managed to creep into the clubhouse.

“I think just in general, just to have the approval to move forward is a big thing for the Cubs, for us,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I know it's been in the making for a long time. I'm just here for the first year, so I know it's kind of been worked through.

“If that's one less thing for us to think about, it's good for all of us. We keep moving forward and put the ballpark in a better position, and hopefully we can take advantage of it.”

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 5, Braves 4

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
Padilla By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs started their final series before the all-star break Friday with a 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

How it happened: Justin Ruggiano's single in the bottom of the ninth inning scored Arismendy Alcantara to give the Cubs the walk-of victory. Chris Coghlan's single in the sixth inning had tied it and Luis Valbuena's walk with the bases loaded put the Cubs ahead, but the Braves' Christian Betancourt tied it on an RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning. Starter Jake Arrieta was solid yet again, giving up three runs on four hits over 7 2/3 innings. Arrietta even drove home the first Cubs run of the game on a suicide squeeze in the third inning. Hector Rondon stranded a runner at third base in the ninth inning for his

What it means: The Cubs look to be moving past the shock of the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade to the Oakland Athletics with a second consecutive victory after the six consecutive defeats that followed the deal. They definitely looked happy to be home after playing 11 games in 11 days on the just-concluded three-city road trip.

Outside the box: It was just the third time this season in 13 starts that Arrieta gave up at least three runs in a start. His season ERA remained a tidy 1.95, though. In fact, Arrieta has the second lowest ERA since May 3, which is when he made his season debut after starting the season on the disabled list. Only the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (1.81) has a lower ERA over that time, while the Mariners' Felix Hernandez is at 1.99.

Off beat: Junior Lake showed off his bat-breaking prowess again in the sixth inning. The Cubs had just loaded the bases with nobody out as Lake came to the plate with his team trailing by a run. After he struck out on a pitch well outside of the strike zone, Lake raised his right knee and cracked his bat in half just above the handle. He has pulled off the stunt multiple times this season, the most recent before Friday coming when the Cubs were in Boston on the just-concluded road trip.

Up next: The Cubs will send right-hander Edwin Jackson (5-9, 5.05 ERA) to the mound Saturday in the middle game of the three-game series. The Braves will counter with left-hander Mike Minor (2-5, 4.54) in the 3:05 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.

Cubs welcome back Barney, recall Rosscup

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs made a pair of roster moves Friday, reinstating Darwin Barney from the paternity list and calling up left-hander Zac Rosscup from Triple-A Iowa.

To make room for both players, right-handed pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Blake Parker were optioned back to Iowa.

Barney was not in the lineup Friday as Arismendy Alcantara started at second base. The 28-year-old Barney is batting .224 with a .261 on-base percentage in 70 games this season.

Rosscup is beginning his fourth stint with the Cubs this season. He has made a total of four appearances for the Cubs this year and has not been scored upon in four innings. He is 2-0 at Iowa with a 2.61 ERA in 20 appearances.

Hendricks got word of his demotion one day after making his major league debut at Cincinnati. He gave up four runs in six innings of the Cubs’ eventual 6-4 victory in 12 innings.

Parker, who had a 9.53 ERA in five appearances with the Cubs, has 18 saves and has a 1.44 ERA at Iowa this year, earning Pacific Coast League All-Star honors.

All-Star Rizzo now leading way for Cubs

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- That on-field dust-up the Chicago Cubs had with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday was all part of Anthony Rizzo's master plan to get to the All-Star Game.

"You know, I knew there was 30 minutes left in the Final Vote, and I didn't hit a home run that day so I had to do something," Rizzo joked Friday.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Rizzo
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastAnthony Rizzo says he's looking forward to being a part of the final All-Star Game for Derek Jeter, a childhood hero.
Rizzo did end up winning the Final Vote and securing a spot on the National League All-Star team so it was easy to look back and laugh. But in the heat of the moment Rizzo didn't like it that Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman threw two fastballs to the backstop when Nate Schierholtz was at the plate.

He seemed to be angered even further when Chapman was dismissive of the Cubs' protests and stepped toward the Reds dugout before the next half inning started, a gesture that caused the benches to empty.

A day later, Rizzo had no regrets, saying it was something he had to do.

"It was just an incident where you stick up for your teammates and that's all it is," Rizzo said. "I respect the Reds, I respect Chapman, I respect their players, but you just have to stick up for your teammates."

The entire incident might just be one more sign that Rizzo is becoming the complete player as he evolves into a leader.

"I think yesterday, quite frankly, I thought Anthony standing up in that moment yesterday during the ballgame showed that he's got a little bit of heart in what it takes to be a leader, and I think everybody gravitated to it," manager Rick Renteria said.

While Rizzo might work hard in the batting cage and on his defense, he isn't trying to force the issue when it comes to leadership, so that wasn't his intention when it came to the mostly verbal sparring with the Reds.

But the leadership skills of both Rizzo and Starlin Castro have been emerging all season, with both being rewarded with an All-Star spot.

"I don't think we'll ever look back; that's not the type of players we are," Rizzo said. "I don't know, we just want to get better and keep our heads down and when we are good just go with it and don't think about, 'Remember when we weren't good.' We just want to get the pieces and keep getting better."

He is obviously respected by his teammates. The cheer that broke out in the Cubs clubhouse Thursday when Renteria told the team Rizzo was an All-Star was as genuine as it was spontaneous. But it didn't just end with the cheer.

"I walked in after the game, a nice big win and (director of media relations) Peter Chase looked like his dog just died, so from that look I accepted that I didn't win the Final Vote," Rizzo said. "But we were happy with the win and Rick called a team meeting and he told me. It was unbelievable. All the guys rallied around me, poured some stuff on me and it was great."

While sitting in the same clubhouse with all his NL teammates will be nice, he will have his eye on one particular player from the opposing side.

"I'm looking forward to Derek Jeter, seeing him,' Rizzo said. "He's a childhood hero, basically. I can always say I was a part of his final All-Star Game. He's just the true definition of a professional. Everything he has done in his career, on the field and off the field as well, everything he has done and to be part of his last All-Star Game will be surreal. I will just soak it all in, be very wide-eyed and enjoy it all."

Sveum: Wouldn't have changed a thing

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Dale SveumJohn Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Getty Images"Players know when you change and you're not yourself," Dale Sveum said. "I am what I am."

CHICAGO – Former Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum had nothing bad to say Friday about his time on the North Side, but did suggest that his candor wasn’t always appreciated.

Back in Chicago this weekend as the hitting coach for the Kansas City Royals, Sveum said his time as Cubs manager was a good experience and he still sends text messages on occasion to both team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

But Epstein and Hoyer might not have always appreciated Sveum’s tendency to speak his mind about his players during his two-year stint as manager, which ended after last season.

“I’ll take the fifth on that one,” Sveum said with a chuckle before Friday's game against the Chicago White Sox when asked about his tell-it-like-it-is style.

Nevertheless, Sveum said he wouldn’t have changed anything.

“That’s the way I am,” Sveum said. “Players know when you change and you’re not yourself. I am what I am. Maybe I would have left a pitcher in an inning more or took him out an inning earlier and all that, but I don’t think how I managed, and managed people and the communication, I’m not going to change that way.”

Sveum started this season as the Royals’ third-base coach, but when the offense struggled he replaced hitting coach Pedro Grifol, who was moved to catching instructor.

Under Sveum’s tutelage, the Royals’ power-strapped offense has delivered at least six runs seven times in the past 14 games.

With Sveum as Cubs manager, key players such as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo failed to produce as expected, which likely was one of the reasons Sveum was let go. He doesn’t see it as an indictment of his leadership abilities that both players have been better this season.

“People grow into being better hitters,” Sveum said. “You guys heard me say that many a time. It’s age and learning and getting all these major league at-bats, it’s all different things. Don’t forget, I was the one to ask Rizzo to finish low and lower his hands. So you can mix apples and oranges, but I wish them all the best. I got fired, but they’re still people I care about.”

The entire experience with the Cubs hardly soured Sveum on managing. Asked if he would like to manage again, the 50-year-old emphatically said he would. He said that’s why he immediately jumped at the Royals’ offer to be a coach instead of sitting out a year knowing he was still getting paid by the Cubs.

So how long did it take before the Royals reached out to him?

“The phone did ring pretty quick; I was on the way back to my apartment [after getting fired],” Sveum said. “It didn’t take too long to get a new job, which was great. People thought just because I was getting paid that I was going to sit around for a year, but that’s not the way I am and I know how hard it is to get back in this game as well. I enjoy it, and I enjoy being on the field in any capacity.”

Sveum might not show a lot of emotion, but that is much different than being an unhappy person. He might have been taken aback over his firing at the time, but he has no hard feelings at the decision made by the Cubs’ front office.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “You wish them all the best. We all have these jobs to get fired someday, and there’s not a lot of [longevity] for most people. It was a great experience in a great city. This is the best city in the country as far as I’m concerned.

“Managing every day in the National League, obviously the game gets going a little bit in the seventh inning on. So you have all that under your belt that you’ve done it and you’ve done it to the best to your ability. It’s a great, great experience and I’ll always thank Theo and the Ricketts family for giving me the opportunity.”

Rondon states his case on mound

May, 18, 2014
May 18
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Hector RondonDavid Banks/Getty ImagesHector Rondon earned his second straight save on Sunday.

CHICAGO -- The door is now wide open for Hector Rondon to prove he can be the Chicago Cubs' closer moving forward.

Firing nothing but fastballs that ranged from 96-98 mph, Rondon held off the Milwaukee Brewers for the second consecutive day to finish off a 4-2 victory Sunday.

He not only closed out victories on back-to-back days, he also improved to 5-for-5 on save opportunities this season.

“I put it in my mind to try to keep the game close, make good pitches and get guys out,” Rondon said. “That is what was on my mind.”

It seemed, though, that his mind would only get scrambled once the Brewers’ Ryan Braun led off the ninth inning with a double off the top of the ivy in right-center field. It brought the tying run to the plate with nobody out.

Instead of folding in a key moment, though, the right-hander only got better. He struck out cleanup hitter Jonathan Lucroy with a 97 mph fastball, got power-hitting Mark Reynolds to pop up to first base and closed things out by striking out Khris Davis on a 98 mph pitch.

Instead of getting him off his game, the Braun double had the opposite effect.

“Yeah, I think he was just thinking about getting after the next hitter,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “Once a guy gets on, I think those guys just settle down and try to make the pitches to the next guy. I don’t think it really rattled him and he always seems excited when he gets the last out.”

When the final strike was recorded, Rondon bent down in a crouch and pumped his right fist in a move that could end up becoming his trademark celebration if things continue this way.

While it might have looked like the Braun double got Rondon to put more energy into his outing, it might have been that the opposite was happening. Like a golfer who uses a controlled swing to hit it farther, Rondon actually improved with a more deliberate approach.

“I try to make a good pitch and be aggressive to the hitter and I think he got me on that pitch,” Rondon said. “I still was working on keeping the ball down and keep trying to help the team to win.”

It’s but a small sign that the often chaotic ninth inning could be a place that Rondon can shine.

The Cubs clearly will need to see more. After all, Sunday was only the team’s 11th save opportunity all season, tied with the Chicago White Sox for fewest in the major leagues. By contrast, the Brewers already have experienced 24 save situations, which leads baseball.

So does Rondon think he has shown enough to be the permanent closer even when Pedro Strop returns from his groin strain?

“Most of the time I will be ready for any situation,” Rondon said. “If they want to put me in the second or third inning, whatever situation I’ll take it. I say thank you to give that chance to me.”

Saying the right things won’t hurt his chances either.



Jason Hammel
8 2.98 104 108
BAS. Castro .287
HRA. Rizzo 30
RBIA. Rizzo 71
RA. Rizzo 81
OPSA. Rizzo .889
ERAT. Wood 4.72
SOJ. Arrieta 135