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April 26, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Bruce Levine, Doug Padilla

Bruce Levine
  (1:01 PM)

Welcome to mediocrity that is Cubs baseball. The average play has gone south for at least one day. Hopefully better times are ahead for them. Away we go...

Mo (Chicago)

Bruuuuuuce! What's the difference with Samardzija? I refuse to believe it's confidence because he's always had that. Think he's turned a corner or is this a fluke?

Bruce Levine
  (1:02 PM)

It's always been about his command. Late last year and in spring training he began working on a cut fastball that has really madea a difference -- especially against lefties. But Samardzija keeping the ball below the belt is the key to his success.

Jason (Palatine)

Bruce, missed opportunities for clutch hitting aside, the pitching has been suspect at best. I haven't seen Cubs starters give up home runs like this in a long time. Dempster has been serving up gifts. They all seem off...what gives?

Bruce Levine
  (1:04 PM)

None of the pitchers have been consistenet -- as you stated. Garza's stuff has been the best from the trio, yet fielding your position is a part of the game and he sabotaged his own start yesterday with several bad throws to first. In his defense, the mud and the wetness last night made things rough on all defenders. If you haven't noticed, the Cubs have the highest ERA in the NL.

Adam (Loop) [via mobile]

Bruce- Byrd and Pena's slow start, especially in RBI situations, has me concerned...I know 20+ games isn't a big enough sample size, but how worried is the organization? If those two don't combine for 160+ RBI, there's no chance for the Cubs to be in the race come August and September.

Bruce Levine
  (1:07 PM)

It's difficult to figure out if Pena is struggling because that's what he's done the past two years, or the result of the bone bruise on his right hand. He did center-up a couple balls the last few days, which is encouraging. Byrd is not really an RBI guy, although he peaked out a couple years ago with 89 in Texas. The keys are Ramirez and Pena -- those two are the guys that need to put up the power numbers. With just one HR between the two of them, that's not enough run production for them to win all that often. They need to pick it up.

Bruce Levine
  (1:07 PM)

Ramirez has hit the ball well, just not for power.

Dick Keane (Chambana)

Bruce:Any chance a team takes Soriano at the break if he keeps hitting despite his salary?

Bruce Levine
  (1:09 PM)

There's zero chance of trading Soriano. He has three years left after this season at $60 million. Feel free to buy that Soriano jersey -- he'll be there a long time.

Jay (Chicago)

Did the Cubs just not make defense a priority (at all) as they built the team? They have, in my opinion, a plus defender in Kosuke and Pena and that's it. And one of those guys can't hit and the other won't hit in another month.

Bruce Levine
  (1:11 PM)

Maybe you need an American League team to cheer for as well. My suggestion is to try the Red Sox and Rangers, who both should win many games this year. To answer your question, defensive speed is something that the Cubs have been lacking for a while. Castro and Barney will eventually be solid defenders, but there will be some bumps in the road -- especially with Castro.

John (Chicago)

Two words, Tyler Colvin. Why isnt he playing at 1st and center? Is he in quades doghouse?

Bruce Levine
  (1:12 PM)

Quade has no doghouse, but does has a bck of the bench. In case you have haven't noticed, Colvin's recent at bats have not been good, and he's struggling about as bad as Pena has. A platoon at 1B with Baker and Pena, at least for a short period of time, might be the solution.

Rob (Chicago)

Bruce, how about a shout out for our Blackhawks? Know your the Cubs guy but you have to be impressed with them.

Bruce Levine
  (1:13 PM)

Last I looked, they haven't won anything yet. In order to be the NHL's Packers, they have to win tonight. Otherwise, they're just another failed team this season.

Andrew (St. Louis)

After Fukudome's hot streak ends, will Quade try to groom Barney to be the leadoff man of the future?

Bruce Levine
  (1:15 PM)

I would hope not. I think Castro should be leading off. He hasn't fared well in the three-hole -- in 19 at-bats he has just two hits. I would leave him where he was. Having speed at the top with Castro and Barney up there makes sense to me (although Quade still hasn't asked me for my opinion on the matter).

Eric (Chicago)

Bruce, I think many people need to keep in perspective that the Cubs aren't/weren't going all in for this year, that it's somewhat of a rebuilding year with tons of money coming off the books after this season. If the Cubs can stay competitive great, but is there anybody out there who has high hopes for this year? I didn't and still don't...and we're seeing why right now.

Bruce Levine
  (1:17 PM)

I think your perspective is a fair analysis of where the Cubs are actually at. Games like last night indicate that they're in a rebuilding mode and there will be some hiccups along the way. I always insist that you can't rebuild and compete at the same time -- there are just too many variables that can go wrong. Nonetheless, the Cubs have some good looking players for the future, which is something you should be encouraged by.

Brandon (Las Cruces, NM)

Why is Russell starting again? Is there anybody else Quade could give a chance to fill in for Cashner or Wells?

Bruce Levine
  (1:19 PM)

Right now Carlos Silva is pitching for the Yankees in Triple-A, so he's not available. The basic answer is that the Cubs didn't think they had anyone in the minors who was stretched out enough to pitch to major leaguers. After this Russell start tonight, the Cubs can probably change their rotation and use the off days coming up to skip the fifth starter. They have 5/5 and 5/9 off. The hope is that Wells can be back by the third week of May.

Scott (QC)

Ive heard rumors Byrd is being asked about from a few teams. Any chance we move him and bring up Brett Jackson?

Bruce Levine
  (1:20 PM)

Brett Jackson coming to the major leagues will happen at some point, but it's a little too early to start trading off your veterans. That would put them in a total rebuilding mode. In an average division like the NL Central, you don't want to take yourself out of it too early. Regardless, Jackson is on the fast track.

Tony (Chicago)

There seems to be a general level of apathy among Cubs fans lately. Maybe its the Blackhawks and Bulls making playoff runs, or whatever but it seems like the anger and frustration that Cubs fans deal with most years is not there. Eventually this will turn into many more empty seats than usual when the Cubs are out on contention in August. What does Ricketts think about the general apathy from Cubs fans right now and will it change his line of thinking this offseason?

Bruce Levine
  (1:22 PM)

I think Tom and his family are concerned about the mood of Cubs fans, but they're not going to react to every bad game the team plays. Fact of the matter is that the Cubs have already sold 2.6 million tickets, so with any decent play in May and June they will sell 3 million tickets again this season. There is some apathy due to the lousy team last year, and I believe the bad Chicago weather and $5 gasoline has affected people as well.

Randy (Minneapolis)

Bruce, how concerned are the Cubs about Starlin Castro's defense? He's on pace for over 40 errors.

Bruce Levine
  (1:23 PM)

If you consider how many outstanding plays he makes and his great range, you have to weigh that against the inconsistencies on the average plays. He's by far the best defensive shortstop they've had in a long time, but at 21 he's still learning how to be a professional player.

Dave (Bucktown)

Hi Bruce, great writing as always. Question about the Cubs' temperament: I know this year's group is all happy-go-lucky about "team chemistry and bustin' tail and tipping one's cap," and that always plays nice in the press . . . but you've been around the team, so do you see any personalities on the team that are going take charge and lead some swagger to start whipping some b*tt on the field and push this team out of .500 mediocrity?

Bruce Levine
  (1:26 PM)

As an example, you look at last night's game. Nobody can whip the team into shape when they're making rookie mistakes. Errors are part of the game, but Barney's decision to swing away instead of bunt with the tying runs on base and no outs in the sixth was as big as anything in the loss. They have good leadership, but chemistry and leadership have very little to do with players learning how to play at this level.

Mitch (des moines)

How much will Quade put up with from Pena? Hes not bringing the power, his BA is of course low, and striking out in key spots. Not to mention his so called "great defense" has been spotty.

Bruce Levine
  (1:27 PM)

The problem is that, beyond Colvin and Baker, Quade doesn't have a lot of bench players to bring in. As I said earlier, Baker could be brought in to platoon, which Quade may do soon if Pena continues to struggle.

Bob (Chicago)

Bruce, anybody that looked good in Spring Training that got sent to the minors still having good springs? I know you don't cover them every day anymore but I'm sure you still hear some talks once and a while! Thanks

Bruce Levine
  (1:28 PM)

Jackson has been lighting ip up at Double-A Tennessee.

john alllen (effingham)

When are the media going to be hard or turn on Ryan Dempsters? Or is it because you all hate Carlos Zambrano?

Bruce Levine
  (1:30 PM)

Dempster deserves criticism, without a doubt, and his biggest critic is himself. He's been lousy all year. I don't think the media hates Zambrano -- he's just a different dude. He also happens to be a VERY nice guy off the field.

Anthony (Chicago)

But why pay $10 million dollars to rent Pena for a rebuilding year? There were other, cheaper options. LaRoche signed for $10 million and two years. Baker can play first and they would not have had to sign anyone. Rebuilding makes sense. Rebuilding and the Pena deal together do not.

Bruce Levine
  (1:31 PM)

The Cubs didn't like LRoche or Overbay, and were not anxious to get into a two- or three-year contract with either of them. Pena fit because it allowed them some flexibility with Pujols and Fielder, who are both goign into their free agent year.

Bruce Levine
  (1:31 PM)

Have a great week -- hopefully the Cubs can get back to .500 for the 11th time.

Bruce Levine
  (1:32 PM)

Now Doug will take all your questions about Ozzie, Kenny and the Sox's lack of offense.

Doug Padilla
  (1:33 PM)

Nice day in NYC for what it's worth. Just bumped into S. Stone at Carnegie Deli. Away we go.

Ryan (Boston)

Is hitting coach Greg Walker's job in jeopardy due to the Sox recent offensive issues?

Doug Padilla
  (1:34 PM)

Despite those rumors, K. Williams said "no" when he arrived in NY yesterday. This happens seemingly every year and Walker has the track record of getting the hitters to bounce back - for the most part. KW knows that and doesn't blame Walker for the current struggles.

Bob (Chicago)

DOUG!!!When does Ozzie really blow it? He's heating up already and it's only April, that is not a good sign. I think we need to get him back here to Chicago to heat up our weather!

Doug Padilla
  (1:36 PM)

Yeah Bob, he has been playing it cool. Part of it is that he's working on a pretty nasty cold. But he doesn't want to freak out on the team and get them to panic even more. Ozzie might seem crazy but his classic rants do have a purpose. Most of the time.

JOSH (KANKAKEE)

do you see Santos closing for now?

Doug Padilla
  (1:38 PM)

I do. He handled the heart of a pretty tough order last night. Saves are hard enough but Santos pulled off the four-out variety last nite in the Bronx. Ozzie still isn't saying Santos is the guy officially, but if he's available I can't see him not getting the save oportunity. Might not be avail tonight.

Nino (Chicago)

Vague question here, but why is it always SOMETHING with the Sox? It's like a soap opera that the actors relish being players in. Even Kenny's foreboding "I'll answer everything in NY" quote seems like an attention-grab.

Doug Padilla
  (1:39 PM)

Seems like drama just finds them. Some of it is self created (See Ozzie vs. Kenny) but this team is always a roller coaster on the field. Guys like Konerko and Quentin run hot and cold all season. Konerko controls it better than Q though.

John (West Lafayette, IN)

Do you think Vizquel has earned a spot to start daily? I feel like our infielders aren't hitting and since last year he has been good at getting on base.

Doug Padilla
  (1:41 PM)

As tempting as that is when you consider what he did last season, Ozzie isn't going that route. Vizquel is the main backup at three infield positions and Ozzie sees the value in that. Plus he doesn't want to push his luck with a 44 year old.

Rob (St Louis)

Any chance the Sox go with a 6 man rotation if Humber is still pitching well when/if Peavy returns?

Doug Padilla
  (1:43 PM)

Cooper talked about giving Humber a start here and there in a 6-man look when the White Sox are in long stretches without a day off. But they wouldn't do it for the rest of the season.

Bryan (Chicago)

So assuming Humber maintains the lowest ERA of the five starters, do the Sox really put him back in the bullpen or would they be willing to keep him in the rotation?

Doug Padilla
  (1:45 PM)

Lots of questions about Humber staying in the rotation when Peavy returns. He's gonna hve to stay very hot to stay in there. This only heightens the debate about Peavy possibly closing this season then movng back in to the rotation next year.

Tommy Tuckin (Romeoville)

Don't be afraid, what player has the hottest wife/girlfriend? Comon

Doug Padilla
  (1:47 PM)

Picking one means I just rejected the other 24. I'm no fool. Not going there.

Fitz (My Cube)

My best friend Doug, I don't think walker is to blame nor do I think he should be fired but do you see Kenny doing something to shake up the club house? I know it is early but before we know it, it will be June and we will be 5-10 back. BTW I have no idea what he can do...

Doug Padilla
  (1:49 PM)

He's not about to panic now. He actually seemed calmer than I expected yesterday. Putting on a good face for the team, I suppose. I really posted this question because of the Hangover reference.

Tom (ILLINOIS)

Please tell Ozzie to start learning the game of baseball...he has no feel for a pitching staff..I have wanted to know since 2004 if Cooper gets the final say in who to put in from the bullpen or Ozzie? Neither of them put the pitchers in a position to be successful from the start of the season..Ozzie just goes with the same 2 guys every year in close situations and by august their arms are done!

Doug Padilla
  (1:51 PM)

Most teams have just one dedicated closer all year. But I know you knew that.

John (Cincinnati, OH)

How long is the leash on Morel? No hitting and no fielding seems more like a Cubs player.

Doug Padilla
  (1:52 PM)

Yeah, it's not unlimited. He's going to have to show something. They won't let him hit .200 and just be happy with his defense. That's why Teahen got three consecutive starts last week.

Fitz (My Cube)

My best friend Doug, your thoughts on 2 bunts in a row with nobody on and the 2nd being with 2 outs....

Doug Padilla
  (1:53 PM)

That surely raised eyebrows. Just looked like guys desperate to get on base. Especially Alexei.

Eric (Tinley Park)

Hows Viceido's injury coming along? Any sense that he will be a mid-summer call-up? BTW Doug u da man!

Doug Padilla
  (1:56 PM)

.231 in the early going but seven RBIs in 15 games. He's only coming up if there's a place to play.

John (Chgo)

How's Jordan Danks doing?

Doug Padilla
  (1:58 PM)

Not good. .167 in about 15 games.

Bill Wiggins (Rockville, VA)

Do you know what are sucessful running % is vs. our opponents? Both stealing and taking the extra base. I bet their catchers and outfielders throw out a higher %.

Doug Padilla
  (1:59 PM)

15 steals but caught 12 times heading into last night's game. Not good. Plus they can't throw anybody out. Just another part of their game not clicking in the early going

Chris (Chicago)

I also agree that the hitting issues should not get Walker fired, but am wondering what a hitting coach's role is. Is there an aspect to hitting that a hitting coach should take the blame for?

Doug Padilla
  (2:02 PM)

The advice is individual to each hitter. If a bunch of them stop hearing or applying that advice then another voice is necessary. If they can't motivate then they go. But yeah, it's really the fault of the hitters.

Doug Padilla
  (2:02 PM)

Good stuff White Sox fans. Off to enjoy the sun in NYC then to the subway for the game.