Cubs

All-Star snub? Jake Arrieta proves his worth as Cubs beat Cardinals

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All-Star snub? Jake Arrieta proves his worth as Cubs beat Cardinals

As of right now, Jake Arrieta will have four days off next week instead of taking an All-Star Game detour to Cincinnati.

Arrieta wasn't named to the National League team, but he went out and proved he's one of the game's top pitchers by shutting down the St. Louis Cardinals in a 7-4 win, setting the Game 1 tone in Tuesday's doubleheader at Wrigley Field.

Arrieta had a shutout going until the seventh inning, when the Cardinals strung together a few two-out hits to push across a pair of runs.

"He pitched great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Great stuff again. I thought he was in a really good position to go eight solid, maybe eight-plus (innings), and it just went away on us. But nevertheless, he pitched wonderfully."

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Arrieta finished with his fourth straight quality start, striking out four and allowing seven hits and two walks. Arrieta even came through at the plate, singling twice and scoring what proved to be an important run in the sixth inning.

Over those last four starts, the 29-year-old righty has taken his game to the next level, going 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 30 2/3 innings. He's also found success against the Cardinals in his career, improving to 4-1 with a 1.63 ERA in nine starts against the division rival.

After Tuesday's outing, Arrieta's strikeout-to-walk ratio is now 4.56, good for ninth in the NL, ahead of All Stars like Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha and A.J. Burnett.

"He's a strike-thrower. You look at the walk-to-strikeout ratio, it's fantastic," Maddon said. "His stuff is in that 'elite' category of stuff — velocity, movement, other pitches, breaking ball, what he can do to the opposite side (left-handed hitters). He's an elite pitcher."

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Arrieta is 9-5 with a 2.80 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, racking up 114 strikeouts in 112 2/3 innings. But the NL roster is loaded with pitchers, so much so that big names like Johnny Cueto (2.84 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (3.08 ERA, NL-leading 147 strikeouts) are among the Final Vote candidates.

Maddon believes Arrieta deserves to be in the Midsummer Classic but understands they can't take everybody.

"A lot of guys (got snubbed)," Maddon said. "That's the thing. In that moment of having to make those choices, there are so many tough ones to make. It's so difficult.

"So at the end of the day, everybody's going to feel that way. Of course, Jake is worthy. No question, he's worthy. But I guess Kershaw is worthy, too. And Cueto is worthy, too.

"It's hard to make any kind of argument when you see those other names out there, too."

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Arrieta agreed but also thought his name would be in the discussion.

"I figured I had a shot," he said. "I just knew that there's a lot of guys this year — especially in the National League — that are putting together tremendous years. Obviously the guys at the top — (Zack) Greinke leading the league in ERA, Cole, Burnett, (Max) Scherzer. It's a tough crop to hang with."

Arrieta also made sure to mention how happy he is for his two teammates — Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. But Rizzo was still making the case for Arrieta and Jason Hammel after Tuesday's Game 1.

"I am very surprised (neither guy was taken)," Rizzo said, "but you look at the way things are handled with the whole All-Star process, you just never know."

San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (3.34 ERA) made the NL roster over guys like Arrieta, Cueto and Kershaw. But because the Giants are the defending World Series champions, Bruce Bochy gets to manage the team and take his guy.

"Is it the spoils go to the victors? That's exactly what it is," said Maddon, who managed the 2009 American League All-Star team after his Tampa Bay Rays made it to the 2008 World Series.

"I have no problem with that. Because when I have this opportunity to do that again, you'll probably see the same thing."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”