Cubs

Beaten down, Cubs pitching in survival mode

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Beaten down, Cubs pitching in survival mode

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 11:34 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

HOUSTON As soon as James Russell walked off the mound, the Minute Maid Park sound system pumped out the music: Mama said thered be days like this.

Russells family traveled to Houston for his first career big-league start, but its not really about the 25-year-old Texan. For the Cubs, this was just trying to get through Tuesday night and fast-forward to tomorrow.

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, was among the 23,523 fans who watched the Astros cruise to an 11-2 victory. When the Cubs look at the big picture, its unclear what they see in their rotation.

Russell maxed out at 55 pitches in the second inning and that was it for a reliever who was only expected to go one time through the lineup. This was a bridge to next week, possibly April 19, when the Cubs will again need a fifth starter.

The Astros dropped two perfect bunts to begin the game and didnt let up until Russell had given up five runs, four earned, on seven hits. It didnt help that Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney committed errors in the first inning.

I felt pretty good overall, but unfortunately a couple (breaks) didnt go my way, Russell said. You can only worry about the stuff that you can actually control. I must have done something to piss off the baseball gods. It happens.

Hours earlier, the Cubs confirmed that Doug Davis signed a minor-league deal and will stay in Arizona for extended spring training. General manager Jim Hendry projects that the 35-year-old left-hander could be at Triple-A Iowa by months end.

The night before Ramon Ortiz, another veteran pitcher who recently agreed to a minor-league contract, pitched well for Iowa, giving up two runs in 5.2 innings. The 38-year-old right-hander has pitched for six different teams and made 212 career starts.

Ortiz is just a phone call away. Todd Wellemeyer, who has been dealing with a hip issue, only recently began a throwing program and isnt close enough yet.

Davis was sidelined with heart and elbow issues last year. He made only eight starts, none in the seasons second half. The Cubs know him from his five years in Milwaukee, where he went 38-40 with a 4.11 ERA. They remember him with the Arizona Diamondbacks, helping to sweep them out of the 2007 playoffs.

Hendry insisted that the Cubs still would have done these deals even if Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner hadnt gone to the disabled list. Hendry described both pitchers as insurance policies. They might be needed sooner rather than later.
Watch: Quade on Russell
Weve got some time, manager Mike Quade said. Well reassess the group thats here, too. To me, one disappointing outing doesnt mean the end of the road and that we scrap this thing. We have to take a look at it.

Theres no doubt that Russell who emerged as a trusted bullpen piece last season would like another chance to start: Absolutely, I feel great and confident in my stuff. Its just one of those things that didnt go my way.

Going against Brett Myers, this was a game to write off. The Astros right-hander allowed one run in seven innings, making him 11-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 14 career starts against the Cubs.

By late Tuesday night, it was already time to think about who didnt pitch out of the bullpen Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol and the high-leverage situations they could handle in the series finale. The Cubs are in survival mode.

It was ugly, Quade said, but we were able to get through it.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: