Cubs

Cubs will find out what they're made of

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Cubs will find out what they're made of

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted 7:27 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Tony La Russa has already gone viral in 2011, storming away from the podium after ranting about how: Its the first week of the season!

WATCH: La Russa quits his press conference

Each manager deals with the stress in his own way. La Russa has the juice to pull that off in St. Louis, and there is roughly 96 percent of the schedule left to play.

When Lou Piniella called you sir, you knew he was seething inside. Mike Quade still addresses reporters by their first name, and it doesnt take much effort for him to put a positive spin on the days news.

The Cubs have lost 40 percent of their rotation. Theyve so far scored 26 runs and allowed 26. They play in a city where every bullpen and pinch-hit decision is second-guessed. If that wears on the manager, he hasnt let it show yet.

I always say its about the process of giving yourself a chance to win every game. Quade said. Ive said all along: If we play intelligent baseball and we get a quality effort every game, the rest of its supposed to take care of itself. I certainly cant go back on that now (because) we had a 3-3 homestand.

The Cubs live in their own bubble and thats the only way to make it through 162 games. With pitchers Randy Wells (forearm) and Andrew Cashner (rotator cuff) heading to the disabled list, they will have to move on to a nine-game, three-city trip that begins on Friday in Milwaukee.

There are no negatives at all, outfielder Marlon Byrd said. Now its time to go on the road and see what were made of.

From here until April 17, the Cubs will have to go through the Brewers, a trendy pick in the National League Central. Theyll head to Houston, where on Tuesday night theyll need a new fifth starter. Then theyll have to deal with the Rockies and three games in Denvers thin mountain air.

By then, everyone will have forgotten that the Cubs were almost injury-free in spring training. The Cardinals had to put a brave face on Adam Wainwrights Tommy John surgery. The Brewers had to make excuses for Zack Greinke, who cracked a rib while playing pickup basketball.

When they heard about that, the Cubs didnt gloat. They knew that the injuries would balance out over the next six months they just didnt think it would happen this soon.

Unbelievable, thats the way this game is its become such a matter of health, general manager Jim Hendry said. Sooner or later, You have to overcome adversity to be in the hunt. ... Were going to get ours a little unexpectedly in April.

Through six games, the Cubs have committed five errors and stolen zero bases. Starlin Castro the youngest player in the majors shows his inexperience but still looks like an elite shortstop.

Alfonso Soriano has launched three homers and Aramis Ramirez is hitting .333. Yet that only added up to a split against the Pirates and Diamondbacks, two last-place teams in 2010.

We can be better, Soriano said.

It could be worse. Publicly, the Cubs are trying to be philosophical about the whole situation.

Wells was accommodating and patient with the media while laying out his timeline a little soreness after his final spring training start, but nothing through his side session or while warming up in the bullpen before Mondays game. But even he had trouble pinpointing a reason.

Its hard to explain, Wells said. I know you guys are looking for the answer, and I am, too, but its just one of those freak things. As disappointing as it is, I think were going to came away a lot stronger.

That means its time for the Cubs to raise their game. The front office has invested tons of capital in Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza, and theyll carry the rotation the first two nights at Miller Park.

This much is certain the answers will start coming quick. At a certain point, you cant say its still early in the season.

Were going to see what were made of, Wells said.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Who was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick with the Cubs?

The answer to that trivia question will always and forever be Albert Almora Jr. picked sixth overall in the 2012 amateur draft.

In some ways, the young outfielder from Florida became the forgotten man in the stable of can’t-miss prospects that Epstein and top lieutenants Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod amassed since their arrival over six years ago. While players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ zoomed through the minor leagues on their way to the majors, Almora took a different path – one that included seven different stops over parts of five developmental seasons before he broke into the big leagues during the 2016 season.

But Almora’s road to the majors began years before he was selected by the Cubs, when he began playing for Team USA as a 13-year-old. Over the next several years, Almora played for the Red, White & Blue seven times, his final appearance coming in 2015. The seven appearances are the most in the history of USA Baseball, and Almora recognizes the impact his time with the national squad had on his playing career.

“[It was] one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "Every year I had something special to play with, unbelievable guys, went to crazy places, and out of those six years, five of them came with a gold medal so that was pretty special as well. Also, that helped me in my baseball life, how to experience things and learn from those type of experiences.

“I’m a Cubbie and that’s what’s on my chest right now, but Team USA will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Almora carries those national team experiences with him every day, his main focus coming into the 2018 season is becoming a consistent difference-maker. Almora made only 65 starts during the 2017 campaign, and 63 percent of his at-bats last year came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit a robust .342. That led to a platoon role in a crowded outfield, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all taking turns on the merry-go-round. But with the departure of Jay, Almora believes his time is near.

“I have the most confidence in myself that I can play every day, but I try not to think about that kind of stuff because it’s out of my control," Almora said. "All I control is like last year what I did; whenever I was given an opportunity, I tried to do my best and help the team win.”

Almora’s ultimate role on the 2018 Cubs remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Theo’s first Cubs pick will earn whatever role he ends up with, and the foundation of Almora’s journey to Clark and Addison was laid many summers ago during his time with Team USA.

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

News broke to Willson Contreras that the league will be limiting mound visits this upcoming season, and the Cubs catcher —notorious for his frequent visits to the rubber — is not having it.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If you have to go again and pay the price for my team, I will," he said.

The new rules rolled out Tuesday will limit six visits —any time a manager, coach or player visits the mound — per nine innings. But, communication between a player and a pitcher that does not require them moving from their position does not count as a visit.When a team is out of visits, it's the umpire's discretion to allow an extra trip to the mound.

But despite the new rules, Contreras is willing to do what's best for the team.

“There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? They cannot say anything about that. If you’re going to fine me about the [seventh] mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”