Cubs shake up pitching staff, planning to stretch out Adam Warren

Cubs shake up pitching staff, planning to stretch out Adam Warren

The Cubs made a bunch of roster moves Tuesday to shuffle up their pitching staff.

Clayton Richard is headed to the disabled list with a blister/nail issue on the middle finger of his throwing hand and Adam Warren was sent down to Triple-A Iowa to stretch out as a starting pitcher.

The Cubs called up left-hander Gerardo Concepcion and righty Spencer Patton as reinforcements for the big-league bullpen, joining Carl Edwards Jr., who arrived in Chicago Monday when the Cubs put Dexter Fowler on the disabled list.

When Warren came to the Cubs from the New York Yankees in the Starlin Castro deal, they envisioned the 28-year-old right-hander as a starter at some point down the line. 

After making 25 appearances out of the bullpen with the Cubs, he will get that opportunity in the coming weeks. 

The plan is for Warren to make two starts in the minors after throwing 51 pitches Sunday against the Pirates. The Cubs will have him start one game before the All-Star Break, but don't have a set gameplan for how the rotation will line up after the midseason break.

The idea is for Warren to help provide some relief for a Cubs starting rotation that will be taxed during a stretch of 24 games in 24 days, as the Cubs do not have an off-day until the All-Star Break.

"For Adam, we had talked about that during spring training about the potential to have him start," Joe Maddon said. "This stretch we're on right now with starters not getting any kind of blow, we thought it was the most optimal moment to attempt to do something like this."

Maddon was not ready to make Warren's exact plan public, but did admit the swingman has a specific schedule they hope to stick to that would include one pre-break start.

Maddon also said the Cubs' big lead in the division (11.5 games entering play Tuesday night against the Cardinals) had no factor on stretching Warren out, but the veteran manager has talked almost daily about his desire to keep his guys fresh for a potential World Series run.

"Between rainouts and off-days, a lot of our guys have pitched with an extra day's rest," Maddon said. "Now we're going through this stretch where they're not. I'd have to say that our starters have been pretty successful in this first half and a lot of them have had the benefit of an extra day for a variety of different reasons.

"So let's keep it going. This is where it gets a little bit sticky. Guys get into this time of year, leading into August and September and you really want to make sure they are healthy and well, so we thought it was the right thing to do."

Richard was a revelation with the Cubs late last season, but has struggled mightily in 2016, posting a 7.30 ERA and 2.189 WHIP.

Over his last eight appearances, the 32-year-old southpaw has surrendered 11 hits, seven runs (five earned) and three walks in just four innings (an 11.25 ERA).

Concepcion, 24, signed with the Cubs out of Cuba before the 2012 season and has mostly struggled in the minors before figuring out this season and posting a 1.29 ERA and 0.971 WHIP in 22 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

Patton, 28, spent a couple days in Chicago earlier this season and has been dominant in the minors with a 1.04 ERA, 1.038 WHIP and a whopping 42 strikeouts in 26 innings in the minors.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.