Arrieta buzz quickly fades around Cubs heading into September


Arrieta buzz quickly fades around Cubs heading into September

Outside of October, Jake Arrieta probably couldn’t have found a bigger and better stage than “Sunday Night Baseball” at Dodger Stadium to show the country he’s one of the game’s best pitchers. Period.

“If you don’t know about me by now, you better ask somebody,” Arrieta said Monday at Wrigley Field, replaying his no-hitter from the night before while wearing his Cubs hat backwards and a “We Are Good” tank top.

More than two dozen reporters squeezed into the dungeon, with a row of at least six TV cameras lined up in the middle of the interview room for a weeknight game against the Cincinnati Reds.

So much for the big bounce after Arrieta’s no-hitter and Joe Maddon’s pajama-themed overnight flight from Los Angeles. The buzz started to wear off during this ugly 13-6 loss to a last-place team.

“It didn’t start that good,” Maddon said. “The middle part of the book was actually a pretty good read and then eventually it became a nasty ending.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs allowed Jake Arrieta to be himself after trade from Orioles]

Reinforcements are coming on Tuesday with outfielder Austin Jackson (acquired from the Seattle Mariners) and the first wave of September call-ups: power-hitting infielder Javier Baez; designated runner Quintin Berry; lefty Tsuyoshi Wada; and right-hander Trevor Cahill. (The Berry and Cahill moves will force the Cubs to make changes to their 40-man roster.)

To get to a wild-card game, the Cubs will need more out of Kyle Hendricks, Dan Haren and Jason Hammel, the pitchers lined up for this three-game series against the Reds (54-76). If not, the cumulative effect will damage the bullpen and put even more pressure on a young lineup that needs some cover.

Hendricks lasted five innings and gave up three runs and has now gone 1-for-9 in quality starts since the All-Star break. Haren has a 6.31 ERA in five starts since the Cubs acquired him from the Miami Marlins at the July 31 trade deadline. Hammel hasn’t finished the seventh inning since the Fourth of July and put up a 4.88 ERA in August.

“I wouldn’t say letdown,” Hendricks said. “It’s just hard. They got in about 5, 6 in the morning. You don’t want to make excuses. But to turn around like that and come play this night game, it’s tough to do.

“Not that that was the reason for it out there tonight. But it was going to be a tough one for us.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs honor Jake Arrieta at Wrigley Field for no-hitter]

Especially when dominant reliever Justin Grimm gives up two out-of-character two-run homers to Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall in the sixth inning. And Starlin Castro gets booed after committing three errors at second base. And Travis Wood and James Russell were charged with six unearned runs in the ninth inning.

“It was a really bad night for me and the team,” Castro said. “Just come back tomorrow and keep our head up and try to make every play.”

The Cubs have 13 games against the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates in September. The best team in baseball leads the Cubs by 10 1/2 games in the division. The Cubs trail the Pirates by 5 1/2 games for home-field advantage in the wild-card game.

At 18 games over .500, the Cubs could go 16-16 the rest of the way and still finish with 90 wins. No matter what, this team should be relevant until at least Game 162.

“September provides its own energy,” Maddon said. “I really believe that, man. The weather’s going to start cooling off. You look in the paper, you see where you sit in the standings. You’re playing pretty good baseball. You have a shot to go to the dance. All that kind of good stuff.

“You really come to the ballpark (and) any kind of bumps, bruises, fatigue is lessened. I’ve always felt that way. I think our young guys are going to find that out for the first time.”

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


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.”