Cubs ready to unleash Wade Davis for showdown against Cardinals

Cubs ready to unleash Wade Davis for showdown against Cardinals

Cubs manager Joe Maddon is tightening the circle of trust and ready to unleash All-Star closer Wade Davis out of the bullpen.

After dealing with the fallout from how he handled Aroldis Chapman during last year’s World Series run, Maddon took a more conservative approach with Davis and a big-picture look at his relievers (without publicly second-guessing himself about Game 7).

But after getting swept by the Milwaukee Brewers last weekend, Maddon finally sensed the moment and asked pitching coach Chris Bosio to broach the subject of Davis working multiple innings and getting four- or five-out saves in a tight three-team division race.     

“I’ve already had the conversation with him,” Maddon said Thursday. “He’s aware. He’s onboard. But I’m trying to avoid that as long as we possibly can.”

Maddon might not have a choice during this weekend’s showdown against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The Cubs just moved lefty swingman Mike Montgomery to the bullpen, in part, to cover for Justin Wilson, who was supposed to be another high-leverage guy but has bombed since getting traded from the Detroit Tigers at the July 31 deadline (14 walks, 14 hits, 6.39 ERA in 16 appearances).

[MORE: How Cubs are mapping out the potential returns of Jake Arrieta and Addison Russell]     

Maddon pulled Wilson in the middle of the ninth inning during Tuesday’s 8-3 win over the New York Mets, forcing Pedro Strop to get the last two outs. The Cubs also appeared to be phasing out Koji Uehara, who has been sidelined with an infection in his right knee and struggling near the end of his age-42 season.

With 11 games against the Cardinals and Brewers still looming this month – and less than three games separating those three teams – it now looks like Maddon trusts four relievers in critical situations beyond Davis: Strop, Montgomery, Brian Duensing and Carl Edwards Jr.

“It is a concern,” Maddon said. “I can’t deny that. Absolutely. That’s such a big part of this time of the year. It’s a big part of the playoffs.

“The threat, the concern, is that if you don’t get enough viable arms, you are going to wear somebody out. When you’re trying to not wear people out – and now all of a sudden you’re going to wear them out – that would be very detrimental.

“There’s no question we have to solidify the bullpen in different roles. To have to warm people up in blowout wins is really disconcerting and it makes it much more difficult.”  

After Chapman headlined a record-setting winter for closers – and a franchise record 29-for-29 in save chances so far – Davis will cash in as a free agent. But first the Cubs can deploy Davis as a weapon for the game’s biggest outs, the way the Kansas City Royals got creative and aggressive with their bullpen decisions while winning back-to-back American League pennants and the 2015 World Series.      

“He’s aware it’s any time right now,” Maddon said. “He’s ready to do it."

David Bote's unique perspective on the rise of the Cubs

David Bote's unique perspective on the rise of the Cubs

CLEVELAND — David Bote hugged and high-fived so many people he didn't even know.

In other words, he was just like every other Cubs fan.

Bote has been here since the beginning — an 18th round pick in 2012, Theo Epstein's first draft with the Cubs front office.

You better believe Bote was there at the end, too.

He sat down the right field line in Game 5 of the 2016 World Series, cheering on a gaggle of former teammates and a bunch of guys he had never played with.

Bote understands the family dynamic fans experience at Wrigley Field, celebrating with people he'd never speak to again.

And all along, he never told them who he was or that he had played with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell and Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. in the minors.

Bote is a Colorado native who got the call to the big leagues last weekend when Ben Zobrist went on the disabled list and played his first game in front of family and friends at Coors Field. To make it even sweeter, Bote doubled in his first MLB at-bat.

"I thought [Rockies CF Charlies] Blackmon was gonna catch it," Bote said. "I saw him kinda coastin' to it and I was like, 'No way you're about to catch this.' And then I realized he was playing it off the wall.

"I got to second base and turned around, all 24 of those guys are standing up on the top step, raising their hands, giving me the peace sign. I don't want to say it was a relief, but it's more of kinda like that jittery feeling of 'That was pretty sweet.'" 

Bote, 25, understands he's not up here to play a huge role — he's only recorded 5 trips to the plate in 4 games — but he knows the 2018 Cubs have a World Series or bust mindset and he wants to do all he can to get the team there once again.

He's never been considered a top prospect and played all over the field in the Cubs minor-league system — every position but catcher and center field (yes, he's even pitched 7 innings) — and realizes how hard it is for a utility guy to even make it to the majors.

"It's crazy because coming from where I have in my baseball career as a guy who's been bounced around or not looked at as what people say as an organizational player," Bote said. "Obviously the Cubs had belief in me and I've had belief in myself too of making it here and blocking out the outside noise.

"It was tough at times. And then to make your debut and play in the big leagues and then to be with these guys and be competing at the highest level for the highest prize in the game is something I can't even put into words.

"I'm super grateful, humbled and blessed to have been part of it and to make it and to be here with this club especially is a very humbling experience."

Bote has been at Wrigley a bunch, including the World Series contest plus Game 2 of the 2016 NLDS — where he celebrated Travis Wood's homer — as well as a memorable regular-season game in July 2015. The kid sitting in front of Bote was crying after the Cubs blew a lead and surrendered four runs to the Colorado Rockies in the top of the ninth inning on that July 27th evening. To help ease his pain, Bote told the kid they were about to witness a Kris Bryant walk-off...which is exactly what happened.

But for all the times he's been to Wrigley as a fan, Bote has never once stepped foot on the hallowed ground of the diamond.

That will change Thursday when he will finally get an opportunity to experience it as a player in those historic pinstripes and blue "C".

And you better believe Bote's got that day circled on his calendar:

"There's no better place on Earth."

Is this catch by Reed Johnson the best of the last decade?

NBC Sports Chicago

Is this catch by Reed Johnson the best of the last decade?

Ten years ago today, Reed Johnson had one of the best catches in a Cubs uniform.

On April 26, 2008, the Cubs outfielder made a spectacular diving catch off of Nationals' Felipe Lopez's liner to center field. Johnson had to run to his right in what felt like a mile to track down. He then dove for it on the warning track going head first into the wall. Remember this?

How he caught it? Not sure. And how he didn't get hurt? Don't know that either.

But a lot of members on the Cubs at the time raved about the catch (Len Kasper's call was also phenomenal), and joked that they're happy it didn't happen on W. Addison St.

"At Wrigley Field they might have had to call a timeout to find his head in the vines," manager Lou Piniella said after that game.

There have been some outstanding catches since that catch in 2008. Jason Heyward's diving grab in San Francisco, Javier Baez's catch against the Miami Marlins where he dove into the crowd, Anthony Rizzo's tarp catches. There are a handful of them. 

But where does this one rank?