Cubs

Carlos Pena's still waiting for the power surge

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Carlos Pena's still waiting for the power surge

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Posted: 9:59 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Carlos Penas Zen philosophy allows him to look at the big picture. Where others see zero home runs, he takes snapshots of the good at-bats. He insists that it will all balance out.

So on a frigid April night, fly balls will die at the warning track against the cold winds blowing in off Lake Michigan. Welcome to Wrigley Field.

Hopefully in July Im going to get some off the end (of the bat) that are going to be gone, Pena said, and nowhere else would they have been homers. So Im just waiting for (that) reward.

Pena is being paid 10 million this season to drive balls into the bleachers and onto Sheffield Avenue. But the Cubs cant wait for karma in a zero-zero game.

Pena saw the defensive shift on Monday against the San Diego Padres. Thats nothing new. He got that for years in Tampa Bay and the Milwaukee Brewers lined up that way in the second game of spring training.

Pena dropped a perfect bunt on a 1-2 count and sprinted to first base to begin the seventh inning. It was a risky, heads-up play that ultimately didnt factor into a 1-0 victory in the 10th.

Hes bound and determined to take some base hits that way, manager Mike Quade said. We need him to hit homers. But he can contribute a whole bunch by getting on base.

Pena wants to get in the opponents head as much as they want to mess with his concentration. The Padres called off the shift in the ninth inning, but Pena pointed out that they moved into it after strike one he flew out to left on a first-pitch fastball that at-bat.

I dont know if its a secret weapon, Pena said, (but) there will be times where I think its just the right play.

Pena isnt a one-dimensional player. His Gold Glove defense at first base helps the middle infielders. Hes a calming presence for the pitchers on the mound. He was a foundation piece for a Rays team that won 277 games and two division titles across the past three seasons.

Pena is a good acquisition for us. Hes been firing us (up) every game, Carlos Zambrano said. Every day he comes ready to play and hes a gamer. (He) wants to win.

The past four years Pena has finished with 46, 31, 39 and 28 homers and averaged 102 RBI per season. The Cubs are banking on him producing like that.

So far Pena has generated only one extra-base hit on April 3 and is batting .143 with runners in scoring position and .077 against left-handers.

Though Pena doesnt want to make excuses, part of that .214 average can be explained by the right thumb injury thats forced him to wear a kind of cast inside his glove while playing first base.

Still, Penas seeing the ball well enough to draw walks and that patience has pushed his on-base percentage to .346. Hitting home runs is what he does. He believes things will heat up soon enough.

Im very careful with the way I analyze myself, Pena said. I know Im swinging the bat pretty well, even though the numbers may not say so. I have to be wise when it comes to that and not let that stuff affect my confidence.

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

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

In the latest CubsTalk Podcast, Kelly Crull and David Kaplan look ahead to Thanksgiving and discuss the official coaching hires for the Cubs.

They also talk about where the Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, whether Alex Cobb could factor into the rotation plans and Kap goes off on the 11:30 a.m. Opening Day start time.

Check out the entire podcast here: