Chicago Cubs: Chris Bosio

What would a Joe Maddon coaching staff look like?

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
2:30
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Joe MaddonKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsJoe Maddon may not have much say in who his coaches are -- at least early on -- if he joins the Cubs.
CHICAGO -- As the World Series comes to an end, so too should the Joe Maddon saga. One way or another, the Chicago Cubs will either pull the trigger on a deal or pass on the former Tampa Bay Rays manager by the end of the week, according to industry sources. They owe at least that much to current manager Rick Renteria.

As we await word from Wrigley Field, it’s worth examining what a Maddon coaching staff might look like. Remember, it’s not just the manager the Cubs said was coming back for 2015, they also invited almost everyone else back and already hired two new coaches in hitting coach John Mallee and first base coach Doug Dascenzo.

Most skippers are allowed to choose their assistants, but the Cubs aren’t likely to fire their group to accommodate Maddon, according to an industry source. He’ll have to manage with most, if not all, of the coaches already in place, at least for one year.

Let’s start with pitching.

The Cubs kept pitching coach Chris Bosio, catching coach Mike Borzello and bullpen coach Lester Strode after dismissing Dale Sveum a year ago, so there is no reason to believe they would allow Maddon to move them out unless he insists his people from Tampa Bay would be better suited for the situation. That’s not likely to happen and would probably be a deal breaker the Cubs would win out on. Theo Epstein has stated in no uncertain terms he loves the “pitching infrastructure” that’s already in place.

And it’s hard to imagine the newcomers would get canned before ever putting on a Cubs uniform, so Dascenzo and Mallee probably aren’t going anywhere either. Eric Hinske was moved to assistant hitting coach and its doubtful Maddon would make a stand there. That leaves a couple of options for him to bring in his own people. Bench coach is usually the place where the manager gets his guy, so Brandon Hyde's job could be in jeopardy. He worked for the Cubs in a non-uniformed role before taking over on the bench last season, so he could always be kicked back upstairs in some capacity. Another option for a Maddon guy could be as third-base coach. Gary Jones came over with Renteria from San Diego, so he could potentially be moved out along with the current manager. Those two spots are the most likely options for Maddon, at least for 2015.

Would former Cub Dave Martinez be Maddon’s choice for bench coach if he isn’t hired by the Rays as their next manager? It makes all the sense in the world, considering both his ties to Maddon and the city. And both have the same Chicago based agent in Alan Nero. There’s always a chance Maddon simply accepts the entire coaching staff as is, given the unique timing of his potential hire. Plus, the Rays have stated they want to keep as much of their staff in place after they hire a new manager as well. But that new skipper might want his own bench coach, making Martinez expendable.

No one is talking publicly about any of this yet, but behind the scenes these are some of the discussions that must be taking place if a deal with Maddon is to be done. Then the dominoes will fall.

Stay tuned.

Neil Ramirez deserving of some ROY votes

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
3:47
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Here's an outside the box suggestion: Chicago Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez for Rookie of the Year in the National League.

OK, middle relievers on last-place teams don't win awards like that, but one way or another Ramirez deserves some recognition. He's been that good.

[+] EnlargeNeil Ramirez
AP PhotoNeil Ramirez has been particularly stingy on the road, posting a 0.46 ERA in 21 games away from Wrigley Field.
"It would be hard not to recognize him," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said recently. "I don't know if people would want to recognize him to the extent to vote for him (though)."

It's not the strongest year for rookies in the NL so a few votes might be deserving for Ramirez. His 0.94 ERA is the best in the National League for pitchers who have faced at least 150 batters this season. Along with a 0.93 WHIP, Ramirez has struck out 49 in 38 innings while opponents are batting .164 against him, good for seventh in the NL. His strikeout percentage is 32.7 percent, good for sixth in the NL, while his home run percentage is 1 percent.

But there's another "1" that he's most proud of. Just one inherited runner has scored after Ramirez has taken the mound this season, mostly in high-leverage situations.

"Once that sixth inning comes I'm ready to go," Ramirez said. "It's awesome. Coming into big situations, it's different than starting. Starting, you're turning that lineup over 2-3 times. The adrenaline factor might not be as much, which makes relieving fun for me. I love being able to come in and make a big pitch and get a guy out for that pitcher that's been battling for 6-7 innings."

That's a different sounding Ramirez than the one that arrived as the player to be named later last August in the deal that sent Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers. Talk about a forgotten man at the time. Bigger names like CJ Edwards and Mike Olt came in that deal a month earlier, but it's been Ramirez who has paid off first. Back then he was a starter, but the Cubs put him in the bullpen, and he has thrived.

"The goal is to finish strong," he said. "I'm not going to get complacent now. The goal is go out there and compete. The culture we've created down in the bullpen where everybody wants to pass the torch to the next guy, I think that's been awesome. We're all pushing each other right now."

Ramirez is part of a young bullpen that includes Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon. More times than not they've gotten the job done and Ramirez has been the best -- and nastiest -- of the whole pen.

"We've had to calm him down a little bit because he's a real hyper guy," pitching coach Chris Bosio said. "He's had that ability to get back into counts, especially using his breaking ball. He's really been consistent since spring training. He's a big point of emphasis for us in our bullpen."

Add it all up: Ramirez is emotional, loves the quick adrenaline rush and is having success. Simply put, he might be too good at his job and his demeanor might be more suited for relieving than starting. There was a time this season when it was assumed the Cubs would give him that starting chance next season. Maybe not.

"As the season winds down I'll talk to the organization and see what they're feeling," Ramirez said. "I feel like I can be successful as a starter. Right now relieving might be my role."

Add the fact that the Cubs front office has intimated Ramirez's arm might be better off in his current role, in part due to his delivery, we might see the right-hander coming out of the bullpen for the foreseeable future. And every team needs more than one closer anyway. Rondon has proven himself this season, but that doesn't mean he's the only one needed to save a game or that he will repeat his season in the coming ones. Ramirez does have three saves in three opportunities to go along with his 15 holds.

"He has awareness of what he has that day," Bosio said of his stuff. "It's probably the biggest thing to figure out as a young pitcher."

"His stuff" has been as nasty as they come. His slider is devastating while he's hitting 94-96 mph on his fastball. But it's his demeanor that screams for him to stay where he is. Some guys are more suited for the bullpen, and to save on a shoulder that's had problems in the past, it might be the way to go.

As for that Rookie of the Year, Ramirez won't win it. He doesn't need it. He sounds like a veteran anyway.

"The focus is on the process and not getting caught up in the results," he said. "It's what makes the results happen so to speak."

A change works for Cubs rookie Hendricks

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
10:00
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Kyle HendricksAP Photo/David ZalubowskiKyle Hendricks is taking full advantage of the scouting and preparation tools available in the bigs.
CHICAGO – Every pitcher has that pitch. The one he goes to when trouble is brewing and he desperately needs an out. For Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, it’s his changeup.

“I feel really confident with it,” Hendricks said. “Really comfortable. It’s 100 percent been my go-to pitch when I get into jams. It’s nice to be confident in one, maybe two pitches because it’s something you can fall back on.”

The right-hander is scheduled to take the mound Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers for his sixth career start. But already his changeup is getting buzz around the league. According to ESPN Stats & Information, opposing batters are hitting .156 (5-for-32) against Hendricks in at-bats that end with a changeup. That’s third best in all of baseball, behind only Johnny Cueto and Felix Hernandez -- not bad company. You can see why Hendricks throws it when he does.

“He has a couple different ones,” Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “He’s unpredictable -- that’s what makes it good. The biggest thing with Kyle is the element of surprise.”

Hendricks said he isn’t concerned with the velocity of his off-speed pitches as much as the movement. And he’s getting that movement, particularly against left-handed hitters. Fifty-seven of 59 (96.6 percent) changeups to lefties have been to the outer third of home plate or farther away. Overall, he’s thrown his changeup to that area 77.8 percent of the time. That would rank first in the league, if Hendricks had enough innings under his belt.

“He’s doing exactly what he did in the minor leagues,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said recently. “He’s as polished and prepared as you’ll see with any rookie.”

Hendricks is off to a fast start to his career and is coming off road wins against the Los Angeles Dodgers (the National League West leaders) and the Colorado Rockies (in their hitter-friendly park). He’s done it throwing his changeup almost 18 percent of the time. He’s 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA entering Tuesday.

But that doesn’t mean everything has been easy. Hard-hit balls have often found his fielders, though a lot of that is by design. Not unlike a pitcher to whom the 24-year-old's approach is often compared -- Greg Maddux -- Hendricks isn’t afraid to put runners on via hits, just not via walks. As long as balls don’t leave the park -- hit hard or not -- it’s fine with him.

“A lot of those that have been hit right at people have been pretty good pitches,” Hendricks said. “I don’t worry about those results. If those had fallen in for a hit, then I have to approach the next guy different, like pitching to get a ground-ball double play. My focus is to go out there and just make the pitches. You can’t focus on results.”

Kyle HendricksESPN Stats & Information
So Hendricks doesn’t mind that he’s allowed line drives 26 percent of the time (fourth highest in the majors, per ESPN Stats & Info) or that the ball is hit hard off him 22.4 percent of the time. The league average is 15.2. But when hitters do hit it hard, they are batting .607 off Hendricks; that’s nearly 100 points (.699) below the league average. Maybe there is an element of luck right now with him, but Hendricks is OK with that too. Will these numbers come back to haunt him? The Cubs think his work habits and ability to break down a batter will allow him to overcome any deficiencies.

“We speculated he might take it to another level when he got to the big leagues because he uses all the tools available to him as well as anybody,” Epstein said. “We have video in the minor leagues, but we don’t have this much video. We have scouting reports in the minor leagues, but we don’t have them this extensive. He just attacks the video, attacks the scouting reports. It’s a huge weapon for him.”

The benefit of all the knowledge is confidence. Hendricks has the confidence to face any situation. Why not throw hittable pitches and let fielders do the work? Even if a few fall in, Hendricks knows he can break down the next guy -- usually with his changeup.

“No matter how good a hitter he’s facing, he’s likely to identify one area that he can attack and put himself in a good position to get him out,” Epstein said. “We’re awfully proud of the way he’s adjusted.”

Rondon 'composed' for back-to-back saves

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
10:51
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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BOSTON -- Lost in the hoopla of two well-pitched games by Chicago Cubs starters against the Boston Red Sox this week is the fact that the same pitcher was on the mound at the end of both games. Closer Hector Rondon saved Jake Arrieta’s 2-0 gem on Monday then came back 24 hours later to seal the deal on a one-run victory on Tuesday.

“For me it’s amazing,” Rondon said after the 2-1 win. “First time here. First two games, saves. It’s really good for me and my teammates.”

It’s no easy task to come into Fenway Park and nail down two close games. These are the World Champions playing in front of a sold-out crowd. They’re reeling in the standings and looking to right the ship. A sign of life came in the ninth with two outs when Brock Holt reached first on an infield single that third baseman Luis Valbuena couldn’t handle. The pressure built with all-everything player Dustin Pedroia at the plate and the tying run at first.

“I’m just trying to make a good pitch and see what happens,” Rondon said.

Four pitches later he induced Pedroia into a ground ball to Valbuena, who made a good play to nail him at first. Game over.

“He seemed composed,” manager Rick Renteria said of Rondon. “He didn’t get rattled. He just kept attacking the strike zone. Life on his fastball today seemed better than yesterday.”

That’s a good sign, as shutting down the opposition on back-to back nights is a prerequisite for a good closer. Rondon hasn’t been perfect, though he is pretty close with 11 saves in 13 opportunities this year. And when he blows them he hasn’t exactly been hammered by the opposition. According to ESPN Stats and Information, his hard hit ball percentage is 11.7 percent. The league average is 15.3 percent. There’s been a few broken bats and bloop hits that have hurt him.

“I don’t care about that,” blunt pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “Bloops are a result of getting the ball up in the zone. Keep it down. He did that tonight [Tuesday].”

Rondon has come a long way in a short amount of time and more often than not he’s gotten the job done in a notoriously shaky role for the Cubs in the past. Even he admits he’s not sure if he could have locked down these two wins a couple of months ago.

“I don’t think so,” he laughed.

No matter role, Ramirez treats it the same

May, 31, 2014
May 31
2:58
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MILWAUKEE – It’s only a coincidence that Chicago Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez is reading “The Closer,” the book by former New York Yankees great Mariano Rivera. Ramirez is getting a trial run this weekend doing Rivera’s old job for the Cubs, as regular closer Hector Rondon is on paternity leave.

[+] EnlargeNeil Ramirez
AP PhotoNeil Ramirez will fill in as the closer this weekend, but his future could be in the rotation.
“That guy has a ton of knowledge,” Ramirez said Saturday morning of Rivera. “He was the best for a reason. As a reliever now, trying to pick up something from one of the best guys that’s done it, it’s a great book to read.”

Ramirez was a starter up until the Cubs acquired him last season in the deal that sent Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers. In fact, he was the player to be named later, so he came to the organization weeks after more heralded players like C.J. Edwards and Mike Olt. But so far he’s made a big impression on the Cubs and pitching coach Chris Bosio, who suggested he pitch out of the bullpen this year to save his arm. Ramirez battled injuries a season ago and was only part of the trade when he got healthy.

“Everybody was on board with it,” Bosio said of having Ramirez pitch in relief. “He’s done a great job in our bullpen. He’s been real consistent. The biggest thing is his health.”

Ramirez has impressed with a mid-90s fastball and a nasty slider that has had tons of movement. He’s struck out 19 in 11 2/3 innings since being called up in late April and sports a 0.77 ERA in 13 appearances. And he’s walked just four. That’s probably the reason more than any he’s been entrusted with being the closer this weekend. Cubs relievers have had their issues with walks. But not Ramirez.

“I’m the kind of guy that wants to take every situation the same no matter what,” he said of being the closer now. “If you make it more than it is, then you get caught up in that.”

Maybe that’s why the Cubs didn’t even inform him he might finish off a close game if they have a lead against the Brewers. He made his debut in April where he could pitch this weekend – and his first career strikeout came against former MVP Ryan Braun when he blew a fastball by him. Ramirez doesn’t back down.

“It’s a good feeling they would trust me going into a big situation,” Ramirez said. “Part of that is me just going out there and just doing the job.”

Middle relief and possibly closing are his roles this year, but could he return to starting? The Cubs are short on legitimate candidates for the rotation as they head into the next phase of their rebuilding plan. Ramirez’s stuff dictates him getting a chance. He hasn’t even thrown a changeup yet, instead sticking with a fastball, curve and slider so far. Bosio didn’t dismiss the notion of Ramirez starting again.

“We have some options with (Justin) Grimm and Ramirez,” he said. “It’s going to depend on what we do in the offseason. But the biggest thing for us is it gives us options moving forward.”

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Bosio: Extra days off not good for pitchers

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
3:01
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio gave some insight into the team’s thinking regarding its starting staff for the beginning of the regular season, which starts two weeks from Monday in Pittsburgh.

“History tells us the last couple of years our starters have not done well on the sixth or seventh day so we’ll take that into account,” Bosio said on Sunday.

That sounds like the Cubs will try to keep their starters throwing every fifth day as much as possible. With three off-days in the first 15, that won’t always be the case. Jeff Samardzija will pitch opening day on March 31 and if he stays on schedule his next game would come on April 5 at Wrigley Field against the Philadelphia Phillies. Everyone else would get an extra day between starts as April 1 and April 7 are off-days. It means a fifth starter would be necessary on April 6 and April 12.

“I’ll have a couple plans of attack to give to Rick (Renteria), Jed (Hoyer) and Theo (Epstein) and we’ll plan accordingly,” Bosio said.

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Pitching coach Chris Bosio still out

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
7:19
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio has missed the past several days of spring training due to leg problems stemming from a break last season.

“He’s been dealing with his foot,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Wednesday. “Some follow-up appointments. He should be back around here soon.”

Bullpen coach Lester Strode will accompany the team to Las Vegas, where the Cubs will play exhibition games against the New York Mets this weekend.

The hope is Bosio will be back for the split-squad games in Arizona taking place at the same time.

Top starters Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood are scheduled to pitch in those games.

“[Bosio has] been in communication with Lester, so they’ve been coordinating and able to keep things on track.”

Wood to make spring debut Saturday

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
12:54
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- As All-Star pitcher Travis Wood makes his spring debut Saturday against the San Francisco Giants, he says he's as hungry as ever.

"I'm going into [the spring] like I'm fighting for a job," Wood said this week. "Stay sharp and hungry."

[+] EnlargeTravis Wood
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsTravis Wood's 24 quality starts were tied for fourth in baseball last season.
It wasn't long ago that Wood was fighting for a job. At this time last year, it was unknown if he was going to be part of the Cubs' young core moving forward. In his first year in Chicago, after being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in 2011, Wood posted a 4.27 ERA and gave up 25 home runs. There were flashes of success in 2012, but it wasn't until last season that everything came together.

"We challenged him last offseason," pitching coach Chris Bosio said. "He responded."

Wood's response was an All-Star appearance and an ERA that was mostly below 3.00 until late in the season. Unlike 2012, teams rarely hit him hard as he ranked sixth in batting average against in the National League. Opponents hit just .222 off Wood, which might have been his most impressive statistic.

"Like I said all last year, just using all sides of the plate and having the confidence to throw what I needed," Wood said.

"Confidence" is a word that comes up often with Wood. It can be a fragile thing for baseball players, but once they realize they can play the game and have success in the major leagues, there's no telling what that confidence can do.

"This game is a lot about it," Wood said. "If you believe in yourself and know you can do it, things can kind of fall into place. It's also easy to lose it. You fall into a slump or have a few rough innings, you have to find a way to get that confidence back."

It's one thing Bosio and Wood have worked on since teaming up in 2012: Maintaining that confidence through tough times. Wood says they've been on the "same page" since day one.

"He's not arrogant," Bosio said. "He's not cocky, but he means business when he gets out there. We like to dictate the tempo, and Woody does that."

Much of what Bosio wants out of Wood this year is more of the same. "Stay the course" as Bosio puts it. After all, why mess with success?

"Taking the same approach because you can never been satisfied in this game," Wood said. "I want to fine-tune everything."

The Cubs haven't had many success stories over the past few years, but Wood is one of them. With the uncertainty surrounding teammate Jeff Samardzija's future with the team, the Cubs need someone they can count on for their youth movement. There aren't many of those guys on the mound right now. Wood qualifies as he turned just 27 earlier this month and is Cubs property for two more seasons after this one before he can become a free agent. He also got an approximate $3.3 million raise from last season and could be in line for a long-term deal soon.

"Not much talks on that end, so we'll just go through this year and give it everything we have," Wood said.

Besides being its best pitcher right now, Wood might be one of the team's best athletes, as well. He's the best-hitting pitcher -- he hit three home runs last season -- and he's always full-speed on the base paths. His previous manager had to dissuade him from sliding at second on double-play balls. But it's what he does on the mound that will help determine if the Cubs can actually be contenders soon. They need him to be great.

"'You have to be hungry and you do have something to prove,'" Bosio said he has told Wood. "'Let's validate what you did last year and prove you are one of the better lefties in the league.'

"Now he's had a taste of success. Now it's time to take it to another level."

Veras looks to solidify closer job

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
12:23
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- If things go right for the Chicago Cubs, new closer Jose Veras will solidify a much maligned bullpen of a year ago.

The dye was cast early last spring. Although the Cubs believed the back end of their pen was going to be fine once the season started, the signs for early troubles were evident in Cactus League games. Former Cub Carlos Marmol wasn't very good in March, and later it was revealed that newcomer Kyuji Fujikawa was hurting. He eventually underwent Tommy John surgery and Marmol was demoted and then traded.

[+] EnlargeJose Veras
AP Photo/Matt YorkJose Veras had 21 saves in stints with the Astros and Tigers last season.
In steps the 33-year-old Veras, signed to a one-year, $3.85 million deal with an option and buyout for 2015.

"I'm here, no better than anyone else," Veras declared before the Cubs' first spring game. "But I think I can get three outs."

Those last three outs were so very difficult for the Cubs last season. The bullpen blew 26 saves and although not all came in the ninth inning, almost all were gut-wrenching.

"We had some struggles closing out games," fellow reliever James Russell said. "It's kind of tough. We lost Fujikawa early. He was one of the guys we were counting on to close games and Marmol kind of had his struggles. It was tough to pick it up from there because we didn't have guys with experience closing games until (Kevin) Gregg came."

Gregg is gone but the experience remains with Veras. He was a combined 0-5 last season with Houston and Detroit but his 3.02 ERA was respectable and he saved a combined 21 games in 25 chances. It was his first real stint as a closer after about seven years as a middle man.

"It's hard to be here (in the majors)," Veras said. "So many players all across the world want to be here. I'm blessed with that. It's not easy. There's 30 teams, I'm one of 30 closers. People think it's easy. It's not easy. You have to work for it. You have to give your life, everything you have to be here."

Veras says his out pitch is either his fastball or his curve and he believes his demeanor works for the ninth inning. He's an opposing figure on the mound at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds. As for leadership, Veras checks that box for the Cubs as well. It wasn't a role Marmol was right for, not with him fighting for his major league life.

"He's been doing a good job with (Hector) Rondon and (Pedro) Strop and those guys," Russell said. "They're always working together and running together. It's only going to help the team."

Veras responded: "If they see me that way that's great. I'm focused on showing what I have."

Predicting the success of a bullpen is a dangerous proposition. The Cubs had a decent one toward the end of 2012, but it blew up in 2013. It looks better on paper this season and frankly it can't get much worse. Then again, if all the arms aren't around all season, all bets are off. Veras could easily be on another team come the end of July. That's what the Cubs do these days: Flip veterans at the deadline.

"I don't think about what's going to happen. I'm here today, I'm going to pitch today, get my three outs and prepare for tomorrow," Veras said. "I'm not worrying about things two or three months from now."

The plan, according to pitching coach Chris Bosio, is to pitch Veras in the middle of games this spring so he faces other team's regular hitters. That wasn't always the case for Marmol, who struggled against minor leaguers anyway.

"We have a couple of tricks up our sleeves when it comes to Veras," Bosio said.

Bosio wouldn't expound on that, but if it means getting some more late-inning outs, Cubs fans will be all for it.

Hoyer on Vizcaino: Stuff as good as anyone's

February, 15, 2014
Feb 15
11:40
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
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MESA, Ariz. -- If you’re looking for a young Chicago Cubs pitcher to establish himself this year, there’s one name that keeps coming up: Arodys Vizcaino.

The 23 year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic hasn’t thrown a pitch in the major leagues in two years yet he’s still listed on Cubs top 10 prospect lists. Think about that. The Cubs minor league pitcher of the year in 2013 with a 13-4 record and 2.00 ERA, Kyle Hendricks, can’t crack those lists yet both Baseball America and ESPN.com’s Keith Law rank Vizcaino as the 10th best prospect in the Cubs system.

Arodys Vizcaino
Mike Janes/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesArodys Vizcaino has registered near 100 mph on the radar gun when he's been healthy.
“His stuff is as good as anyone in this camp when he’s healthy and he’s healthy right now,” general manager Jed Hoyer said earlier this week.

The reason for the optimism is simple. Vizcaino is a flame thrower, hitting near 100 mph on the radar gun when healthy. He just needs to put his injury-riddled past behind him. That can be easier said than done. Tommy John surgery kept him out of the big leagues in 2012 and then bone chips in his elbow set him back in 2013.

“One hundred percent healthy,” Vizcaino declared Friday. “I’m ready to show that.”

Vizcaino was originally signed by the New York Yankees as an international free agent in 2007 before being traded to the Atlanta Braves where he made his major league debut in 2011 appearing in 17 games. He was rated the Braves' second best prospect coming out of that season before undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of 2012.

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Coaching staff makes more sense now

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
3:55
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Bill MuellerAP Photo/Charles KrupaBill Mueller's ability to get on base as a player is proven but can he teach it as a hitting coach?
CHICAGO -- Time will tell if the new Chicago Cubs coaching staff will lead the organization to better days, but on the surface, the collection of coaches under new manager Rick Renteria simply makes more sense than the previous staff under Dale Sveum.

At least on paper.

Three aspects of the hirings stand out, including hitting coach Bill Mueller, bench coach Brandon Hyde and the addition of another bilingual coach in Jose Castro.

Mueller has only a short time on his resume coaching players on a day-to-day basis, as he took over the interim hitting coach position with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007 before moving back to the front office. There really isn't a history of players to look at to determine his communication abilities. However, Mueller's career on-base percentage is an outstanding .373, and getting on base is a cornerstone of the Cubs' offense under this current regime.

Former hitting coaches James Rowson and Rob Deer didn't have that kind of success at the major league level, yet they did have more coaching experience. So the Cubs potentially traded experience for know-how, although assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley does have experience as a coach in the majors for several years. It's not a stretch to assume -- since Mueller knew the strike zone well as a player -- that he can impart that knowledge as a coach; this isn't a home run and strikeout guy such as Deer teaching players how to get on base. This is a guy who has done it. It makes sense.

Hyde makes sense being on the bench, as he's had a hand in overseeing some of the Cubs' top prospects. Many will be making their way to the big leagues, and with Hyde around, there's bound to be seamless communication between the dugout and front office where Hyde previously resided as the director of player development. Often a first-time manager will have a more experienced managerial type as a bench coach, but the Cubs probably aren't as interested in needing to max out every in-game scenario as much as they are in developing players with a winning attitude. That's the aspect of the job Renteria and Hyde bring.

As quality assurance coach, it simply means Castro is another coach on the field who will have a hand in many aspects of the team, not unlike Franklin Font and Mike Borzello. But the addition of Castro means three coaches will have bilingual capabilities, including the manager. Previously, only Font spoke Spanish. The Cubs have made no secret of the fact they need more of a Latin American presence -- or at least more Spanish-speaking coaches -- on the staff, as several key prospects are either Spanish-only speaking players or rely on it heavily.

The return of Chris Bosio as pitching coach comes as no surprise, as he did well with the staff he was given, especially the starters. Lester Strode's return as bullpen coach keeps at least one aspect of the Cubs consistent.

The changes -- all the way up to the manager -- undoubtedly were made to have a profound effect on the offense. Renteria's responsibilities to teach while keeping a positive clubhouse, along with Mueller's focus to get more guys on base, will go a long way in determining if the coaching moves made Friday were the right ones.

Handicapping the Cubs' coaching staff

September, 28, 2013
9/28/13
3:21
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
ST. LOUIS – With Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum’s short-term fate to be determined Monday, what does that mean for his coaching staff? Even if Sveum is dismissed, it’s highly doubtful the Cubs would get rid of his entire staff.

Handicapping the coaches from the outside looking in can be a difficult task. They do the bulk of their work behind closed doors, in the form of video and of course communicating with – as well as teaching -- the players. They aren’t subjected to twice-a-day media scrums like the manager, and their success or failure with players can’t always be measured in numbers.

Still, there are some things that become obvious in terms of the value of a coach, especially with the task of developing a young core.

Here’s a look at the status of some on Sveum’s staff:

Chris Bosio, Pitching coach



Considering the Cubs keep trading his pitchers, he might be the hardest to judge. But by all accounts he’s done an admirable job. Travis Wood would be the poster child for a success story. Bosio has gotten him to work all sides of the plate and not be afraid to throw any pitch at any time. Jeff Samardzija still has room to grow but hasn’t embarrassed his pitching coach in any manner. And it would be hard to point to Bosio for the failures on the staff. Former pitcher Shawn Camp's struggles could not have come as a shock, considering his age and mileage on his arm. Carlos Marmol was on the decline before Bosio appeared on the scene. Kyuji Fujikawa got injured before Bosio could have much effect on him. There are enough positives -- and few provable negatives -- to think Bosio could return even if Sveum doesn’t.

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Chris Bosio dealing with a lot

April, 20, 2013
4/20/13
7:10
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
MILWAUKEE -- Like most pitching coaches, Chris Bosio of the Chicago Cubs tells it like it is. And right now he's trying to tell his staff -- especially his relief corps -- that it needs to be better.

"We have to get that bullpen figured out," Bosio said before the Cubs played the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night. "We have to produce."

Unlike the front office, or even manager Dale Sveum, an assistant coach like Bosio isn't concerned about the future or the word "rebuilding." He's about the here and now. And right now he has a bullpen in flux.

"It is what it is. You have to get these guys out there," Bosio said of two newcomers. "We have to get them on the mound."

New guy Kevin Gregg finally did get on the mound, in Friday's 5-4 loss to Milwaukee, for the first time this season. He promptly put two batters on base and was pulled.

Bosio knew Gregg would be rusty. Kameron Loe has pitched one inning in 11 days so expect some unneasiness when he gets out there again. Both pitchers were picked up off waivers, so they hadn't pitched much in quite some time.

"It's tough. Since they've been here, we've been in these really tight games, and all of a sudden we're in these one-run games and you really don't want to send a guy out there that hasn't pitched in a stadium in two weeks," Sveum said.

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Cubs haven't given up on Marmol as closer

April, 8, 2013
4/08/13
1:30
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Carlos MarmolAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe Cubs want Carlos Marmol to rebuild his confidence before making him the closer again.
CHICAGO -- Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio said Monday morning that the long-range plan for Carlos Marmol includes returning him to the closer's role.

"We want him to be our closer," Bosio told ESPNChicago.com. "We want all our players to do well, and Carlos is not any different than anyone in this room."

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Bosio comes to Marmol's defense

April, 3, 2013
4/03/13
6:52
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
PITTSBURGH -- Add Chicago Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio to the list of team personnel who still believe Carlos Marmol should be closing games -- at least for now.

"It's the first game of the season," he said before the Cubs played the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday. "I think it's magnified by the struggles he had last year."

There's little doubt Marmol's struggles are always magnified by his past. But Bosio is quick to point out Marmol's second half last season -- after early struggles -- was very good. He had 12 saves in 13 chances with a sparkling 1.52 ERA.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.292 14 65 58
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
WJ. Arrieta 10
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167