Chicago Cubs: Reed Johnson
CHICAGO -- There were many areas that led to the Chicago Cubs' slow start and ultimate crash in 2012, and the bench was not exempt from that group.
The left-handed dominated lineup figured to have secret bench weapons when it came to opposing left-handed starters, but the strategy backfired in a hurry.
The Cubs were one of the best hitting teams against left-handed pitching over the previous two seasons, but slow starts from right-handed hitters Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson prevented the trend from continuing.
"I think the combination of those two things really turned that thing around. They're headed in the right direction for sure."
The rebuilding Cubs, who are still 15 games under .500 and 17 1/2 games out of first place, are 18-10 since calling up Rizzo from Triple-A Iowa on June 26. The 22-year-old first baseman, acquired by the Cubs in an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres for pitcher Andrew Cashner, has hit from Day 1. He leads National League rookies with a .330 batting average and a .958 OPS. He hit his eighth home run in 28 games in a victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday.
Johnson believes Rizzo, who credited Johnson and Alfonso Soriano for showing him the ropes during his brief major league stint with the Cubs, is a star in the making.
"I think the reason I see that he is going to be a star is just the attitude in general," Johnson said. "He doesn't get too high, and he doesn't get too low which is exactly what you need in this game. I think he is the real deal. He has come up here, and he's respectful to the older players, and I think that's something you don't see in that younger generation. He's got all the tools and all the opportunity there in Chicago to be that guy."
Former Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson joined "Waddle & Silvy" to discuss his trade to the Braves, the impact of Anthony Rizzo and more.
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Atlanta gets marginally better for this year with the additions of Maholm and Johnson, but the Cubs land the best prospect they're likely to obtain in this year's trade market in exchange for two players they didn't need.
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The Chicago Cubs added right-hander Arodys Vizcaino on Monday as part of a package that sent Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to the Atlanta Braves.
And while Vizcaino was rated by Baseball America to be the second-best prospect in the Braves' system, he won’t be pitching again until spring training in 2013 because of Tommy John surgery back in March.
Hoyer believes the risk is limited, although he admitted that he has never traded for a player who is still on his way back from this type of surgery.
“It's a little bit unusual,” Hoyer said. “Obviously we took a lot of time to go through the medical reports. Obviously what we got back we felt good about. I think in the case of Tommy John, of course you're taking a risk because the guy’s injured. But in the case of Tommy John, the way it sounded from the medical people generally they perfected it to the point where people come back pretty strong.
“I think it's unusual to trade for an injured guy coming off surgery. Having the medical notes and knowing the success rate of Tommy John and knowing the number of guys that have come back strong it makes it a little bit easier.”
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs’ clubhouse will have an infusion of new faces if management completes the much-anticipated pre-trade-deadline roster overhaul on Tuesday.
The beginning of a new Cubs’ era started to take shape during Monday’s contest as Reed Johnson and Geovany Soto both were pulled from the game and traded in separate deals. A source told ESPNDallas.com’s Richard Durrett the Cubs will be getting minor league pitcher Jake Brigham for Soto, a former Rookie of the Year. Along with Johnson, Paul Maholm will also be heading to the Braves in exchange for pitching prospects Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman.
Vizcaino was the key to the trade for the Cubs despite the fact he is still recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery in May.
“It is a little bit unusual but we took a lot of time going through the medical report,” Hoyer said. “Of course you are taking a risk because the guy is injured but in the case of Tommy John it has been to perfected to a point that people come back and generally come back pretty strong.
The Cubs-Rangers trade was still pending physical and cash considerations before being announced by the team.
Starter Jeff Samardzjia will miss all of his teammates who hugged and said their goodbyes during Monday’s contest.
“It was the first time I had ever been a part of anything like that,” Samardzjia said. “This is a profession. (Management has) the right to make these moves, but it is tough to see good guys go.”
Before Tuesday afternoon’s trade deadline comes and goes, the Cubs could very well move other franchise fixtures. Most notably, Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza could be traded. The Dodgers have been the main suitor for Dempster, but the Yankees could come in with a last minute offer, according to industry sources. As for Garza, the Toronto Blue Jays have the strongest interest as of Monday night.
The Cubs sent Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson and cash considerations to the Braves exactly a week after the Dempster move to Atlanta was agreed to only to have the Cubs pitcher veto the deal through his 10-and-5 rights (10 years in the league and five with the same team).
“It was one of those situations where we were aware Atlanta was in the market for a starting pitcher so that made the conversation a little easier,” Hoyer said with a laugh.
Instead of getting highly-regarded pitching prospect Randall Delgado back in return, which is the prize the Cubs would have received in the Dempster deal, they got right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman instead.
Vizcaino, 21, is currently out of action after having Tommy John surgery in March. He made his major-league debut with the Braves last season at age 20, going 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA in 17 relief appearances.
Chapman, 25, is 3-6 with seven saves and a 3.52 ERA in 40 appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett.
“In the case of Vizcaino we had a chance to get a 21-year-old that, while injured right now, we feel has a really bright future, a guy with a great arm and the kind of power arm we’re looking to add to the system,” Hoyer said. “And Chapman has had some good success in Triple-A as a reliever and is another guys we are excited about.
“But to be able to turn two guys – one guy with a year and an option (Maholm) and another guy who is a free agent (Johnson) – into an arm like Vizcaino, that’s the kind of chance we need to take right now.”
A new deal between the Cubs and Braves showed there was no animosity. But Monday’s deal also made it clear the Braves were not going to revisit a trade involving Dempster.
“There are certainly no hard feelings among the front offices for what happened,” Hoyer said. “We were up front with them about the situation going in. They were aware we certainly didn’t go into that process thinking that deal wasn’t going to happen. We had a lot of dialog and we discussed a lot of players and it probably made revisiting something a little easier.”
CHICAGO -- Winning a ballgame with a two-out bunt single – as Reed Johnson did in the Cubs’ 3-2 over the Cardinals on Saturday – is really the tip of the iceberg when evaluating the veteran outfielder.
Johnson, known throughout the game as this generation’s “Charlie Hustle,” showcased his baseball acumen one more time for scouts. And teams looking for an extra man who can help a club advance to the playoffs certainly should take notice.
While many teams are looking for impact pitching and hitting help, the smart clubs are trying to add winning players like Johnson. The 35-year-old outfielder’s pinch-hit bunt single in the seventh inning on Saturday scored Tony Campana with what would be the deciding run.
“That was all on his own,” Dale Sveum said. “Reed is one of those baseball players that has those kinds of things in his tool box. He is one of those guys who gets picked up now or even after the deadline because he is a valuable guy to a team that is vying for a championship.”
Johnson, who is in his second tour of duty with the Cubs, has never been traded, but he anticipates a possible move coming soon.
“I guess you would always be shocked but where we are at now every player in here hears the rumors,” Johnson said. “I don’t really pay too much attention to them because I have always had rumors over my 10-year career and never been traded.”
Johnson has the reputation as a real good corner outfielder who will somehow always make the big play on offense or defense with the game on the line.
“It is a situation for me where when you are packing your stuff that’s when you believe you are headed someplace else,” he said.
Batting in the leadoff spot Monday, Johnson carried a .520 career batting average into the game against Mets left-handed starter Johan Santana, with a double, triple and home run, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
In fact, it’s the highest career batting average for an opponent against Santana with at least 25 at-bats against him. Johnson is 13-for-25 against Santana.
Johnson’s .268 batting average against lefties doesn’t exactly jump off the page, but it’s far better than the team’s .215 mark against left-handers. The Cubs are not only dead last in the National League in batting average against left-handers, they are also last in runs scored with 46.
Only two other Cubs players have more than 10 at-bats against Santana. David DeJesus is 4-for-24 against him for a .167 batting average, but he is not in the starting lineup. Alfonso Soriano is hitless against him in 13 at-bats.
The good news is that when Campana has come off the bench, he has made himself useful. That was extremely apparent in Wednesday’s game against the San Diego, when he came on as a pinch runner in the eighth inning, stole second and third base then scored the game-tying run.
So now for the bad news: The type of production Campana has delivered has only magnified his value in the late innings as a guy who can come off the bench and deliver an impact in a short amount of time while fresh.
Including Campana’s two late-game steals Wednesday, he is now 7-for-7 on steal attempts in the seventh inning or later in one-run games. Of those seven steals, he has scored a run four times. And in those four games where he did score after a steal in a one-run game, the Cubs won all of them.
No team in baseball has a secret weapon like Cubs manager Dale Sveum does. There isn’t a player in the game that has more than four steals in similar late-game situations.
In all other game scenarios, Campana is still doing just fine on stolen-base attempts, going 8-for-10.
Sveum reiterated this week that Campana isn’t completely to blame for his recent role off the bench. The club has been so starved for runs that Joe Mather and his .455 slugging percentage have been getting more at-bats of late. Mather now starts in center field against most right-handed pitching and plays at third base against lefties.
Campana still has made himself useful in a reduced role, though. The questions Sveum must ponder is whether Campana can be doing more as a starter again or if his role off the bench is making him hungry to make an impact when he does get in a game.
Campana isn’t the only player that has been able to produce off the bench. Reed Johnson's seven pinch hits are tied for second in baseball, one behind the New York Mets' Mike Baxter. Johnson is 7-for-15 as a pinch hitter with a home run and three RBIs.
It’s no surprise, then that the Cubs are one of the better late-scoring teams in baseball. Heading into play Friday, the Cubs’ 34 ninth-inning runs were second in all of baseball to the Philadelphia Phillies' 37. And their 57 runs from the eighth inning or later were third best in the National League
CHICAGO – Two of the Chicago Cubs’ much maligned groups teamed up in a big way Wednesday to not only salvage a game that appeared lost, but to finish off the first three-game sweep of the season.
The offense was the gang that got the most attention Wednesday thanks to the late rally and the walkoff home run from Darwin Barney to defeat the San Diego Padres 8-6. Without the performance from the bullpen, though, the comeback never happens.
Four Cubs relief pitchers combined to deliver 4 2/3 scoreless innings after Ryan Dempster had a rare rocky outing, allowing the comeback to happen in the first place.
Casey Coleman, who didn’t even make the club out of spring training, started it off with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, getting two of his five outs by strikeout. Next came Carlos Marmol, who managed to put his earlier demotion from the closer’s role and a recent hamstring issue behind him to pitch a scoreless seventh despite allowing two more walks.
Next was Randy Wells, whose bid for the final spot in the Cubs’ rotation fell short just as spring training came to a close. He had a perfect eighth inning.
Last came James Russell’s ninth inning that he came out of unscathed despite giving up two hits.
“Confidence isn’t a problem right now,” Russell said, acknowledging the bullpen’s earlier struggles. “We’re feeling really good and everybody is just doing their job and making quality pitches and staying out of trouble. Then we make sure if we do give up runs it isn’t a crooked number.”
It’s been one of new manager Dale Sveum’s biggest challenges to get the most out of a bullpen that has been reconfigured on the fly, but for the past few days there are signs of hope.
“We've been tremendous this whole homestand really,” Sveum said of his relievers. “I think we gave up one run maybe. Marmol did a nice job after walking a couple guys, came back threw strikes. Russell made a huge pitch again. I can't say enough about Russell and what he's done. It’s just been great.
“The bullpen has just been doing a great job. It was just one of those days where Dempster didn't go out there with the same ammunition he normally goes out there with.”
Dempster might still be without a victory, but the rest of the team fought to at least make sure he didn’t end up with another defeat. A half inning after he was removed, the Cubs scored a pair of runs on two bases-loaded walks.
In the eighth inning it was a Reed Johnson pinch-hit single off Andrew Cashner, two steals from pinch runner Tony Campana and an RBI infield single from Starlin Castro to tie it. Barney then lifted his game-winning homer in the ninth inning into the wind, still managing to reach the first row of bleacher seats.
“That was the first walkoff home run I’ve had at any level,” Barney said. “I didn’t even see it go out. I was just running, running hard. It was crazy. It’s already gone and passed, it just happened so fast. It was exciting. It’s good for our club.”
There was plenty more that was good for the Cubs like Steve Clevenger’s two hits and two RBIs in his first game back from the disabled list, Castro’s two hits to extend his hit streak to eight games and Johnson’s seventh pinch hit to give him a .467 (7-for-15) batting average in that role.
Offense from unexpected sources will go a long way toward making the Cubs a more productive club and one that’s a little easier to watch.
“Yeah when you get to the bottom part of your order, putting up numbers and slugging percentage and all that, you're going to score runs,” Sveum said. “That's the bottom line sometimes. We were struggling there when the bottom of the lineup. Our top guys were actually doing their job but there wasn't anything getting done at the bottom.”
MILWAUKEE -- Despite a bullpen that has yet to gain any traction, manager Dale Sveum still trusted his relievers with the final four innings Sunday.
What looked like a questionable move when he pinch hit for Jeff Samardzija in the sixth inning, paid off handsomely when that hitter, Reed Johnson, hit a home run and the offense poured it on late with base hits.
Samardzija was even headed to the bat rack when he noticed that Sveum had other plans.
“They caught me pretty quick there coming down the dugout,” Samardzija said. “But when you have guys like Reed and them to pinch hit for you, especially with the top of the lineup coming up it’s the way it goes sometimes.”
MILWAUKEE -- If this was a tortoise vs. the hare race, the Cubs’ offense just made things interesting.
Ian Stewart gave the Cubs a little breathing room in this race with a fifth-inning home run and one inning later, Reed Johnson delivered another in pinch-hit fashion. The Cubs went on to an 8-2 victory over the Brewers.
Hamilton aside, the Cubs haven’t been getting anything in the way of power outside of Bryan LaHair. They entered the day 15th in the 16-team National League in home runs, ahead of only the San Diego Padres.
The opening month was plagued by winds blowing in during home games, not to mention a series at spacious Marlins Park, which the Cubs left empty handed. But it hasn’t helped that Alfonso Soriano has yet to hit a home run and that Stewart had just three before his shot to right field Sunday.
“Obviously power has been an issue, even with the weather,” Johnson said. “It’s still been something where you think we would have more home runs than we’ve had even with the weather. Hopefully guys can get hot and drive some balls.”
Soriano hit a double off the base of the center-field wall, but continues to look hobbled by a sore left knee that kept him out of a pair of games last week.
“Soriano is one of our key bats in the middle of the lineup that we’re going to need power from,” Johnson said. “Hopefully the combination of him getting some balls in the air and the weather starting to warm up will be good for this team.”
How soon Brett Jackson gets a chance to come up from Triple-A Iowa and make the spot his own remains to be seen. Center field came up for grabs after Byrd was traded to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday evening.
Until the Cubs think Jackson is ready to come up and take over the spot -- for what they feel could be a good long time -- they will go with a patchwork quilt of options that, in addition to Campana, also includes Joe Mather and Reed Johnson.
“I think I’ll just mix and match out there,” manager Dale Sveum said. “The way the wind’s blowing here or the bigger parks or whatever way it might be, just mix and match the matchups.”
In other words, if the wind is blowing in from center field, as it was Sunday, then home runs aren’t expected and speed is at a premium. That would figure that Campana is playing. Spacious ballparks like those in Los Angeles and San Diego would also be ideal for Campana.
But by the time the Cubs make that particular trip to the West Coast (Aug. 3-8) Jackson could already be in the starting lineup.
When he finally comes up depends a little on how he plays over the next few months in Iowa and how the Cubs view his ability to handle at-bats.
“He still needs to develop,” Sveum said. “He’s still striking out a little too much and needs to be a little more conscious and a little better in that situation because if you’re striking out that much in Triple-A, it will be that much more against big league pitching.”
Jackson has gotten off to a bit of a slow start with a .254 batting average and a .346 on-base-percentage. His 21 strikeouts lead the team, but so do his 10 extra-base hits. He has just 252 at-bats at the Triple-A level, including his 67 this season, and 1,200 minor-league at-bats at all levels.
“The development part is big for everybody and I think until you get those 500 at-bats in Triple-A, that’s something I think the organization and [president of baseball operations] Theo [Epstein] wants to impress on our young guys is you’re going to stay and play and develop,” Sveum said.
Bench Mob has been used. Super Subs lacks pizzaz. Substitute Teachers – you know, Math(er) and Reed-ing – seems too obscure and a bit of a stretch. Cold Cut Combo probably has copyright restrictions.
Whatever you want to call them, it wasn’t their fault the Cubs fell to the Washington Nationals as they each delivered on offense Saturday and were both out of the game by the time the opponent rallied for the victory.
After watching from the bench at the start of Thursday’s season opener, Johnson and Mather were put at the top of Saturday’s lineup and didn’t waste any time delivering.
Mather might have been thrown out at home plate as a pinch runner on Opening Day, but he walked in the first inning Saturday and scored on a wild pitch. Three innings later, after the Nationals had just taken the lead, the duo went back-to-back with a two-run triple (Johnson) and an RBI single (Mather).
Both RBI hits came with two outs, a problem for the Cubs that has not only existed in the recent past but continued to plague them during spring training.
Both played because the Nationals were starting left-hander Geo Gonzalez, which meant left-handed hitters David DeJesus and Ian Stewart were spectators in the early going. Expect the same lineup the next time the Cubs go up against a lefty.
“I think we did a lot of good things today,” manager Dale Sveum insisted in the aftermath of a second consecutive disappointing defeat. “[Matt] Garza pitched good, we got some timely hitting, guys ran the bases well, aggressive, took advantage of some things. So it’s just a couple of unfortunate innings so far two games into the season.”