Cubs

Family weighs heavily on Loopers mind

Family weighs heavily on Loopers mind

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Posted: 7:34 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Braden Looper has made it clear that theres only one team he wants to play for in 2011.

Its not like playing at Wrigley Field is some lifelong dream. Its just the reality of his wife and three children living in Chicagos south suburbs. The Cubs fit what Looper wants to be as a husband, father and a pitcher.

Its not about the money, because the 36-year-old Looper has made almost 25 million in his career, according to the Baseball-Reference.com salary database.

Its uncertain if the Cubs will ultimately have enough room on their pitching staff for Looper, but he made strides during Sundays 7-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He scattered five hits and allowed one run across 3.2 innings to earn the victory in front of 12,346 fans at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Not bad for a guy who hadnt started a game since Oct. 2, 2009 and spent last summer coaching his kids Little League team.

He was on target, bench coach Pat Listach said. Its a nice competition for the fourth and fifth spots. Weve got a few guys involved and hes keeping himself right there in the running.

Looper already proved how serious he is about family by sitting out last season, when he didnt receive an offer he liked. He doesnt want to drag them all across the country.

Looper worked out this offseason but didnt really throw all winter. His agent knew it had to be the right situation, and a minor-league deal came together in late January.

Physically, Looper feels good, and he says his right arm is basically caught up to where it needs to be. Hes waiting for his kids to get out of school for spring break. He knows that while there are trade-offs being away from home this much, there are also perks in having your dad play in the big leagues.

Everybody where were at is either a Cubs fan or a Sox fan, so theyre real excited, Looper said. My sons excited to be able to come to Wrigley Field and run around. (But) well see what happens. We got a long ways to go. I think today was a good, positive step in the right direction. Hopefully we can make more positive steps.

Looper has made 30-plus starts and won at least 12 games in each of the last three seasons hes pitched, a wealth of experience that shouldnt be discounted. Hes willing to share, even with the younger pitchers hes competing directly against.

Whether Im talking to (Andrew Cashner) on the side about pitching or his routine between starts, Looper said, whether its whoever you can fill that name in with whoever you want Im always going to be that way.

If I cant play and be part of whats going on in other peoples lives and help them get better? Thats what its all about. Yeah, were here to win. Yeah, I want to start. But if you cant do the other stuff, its not worth doing it.

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

Cubs announce minor league staff for 2018, with many familiar faces receiving new roles

chrisvalaikacubscoach.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs announce minor league staff for 2018, with many familiar faces receiving new roles

The Cubs finalized their minor league staffs for 2018 on Thursday, making changes at numerous staff positions.

The organization has retained managers Marty Pevey (Triple-A Iowa), Mark Johnson (Double-A Tennessee), and Buddy Bailey (Single-A Myrtle Beach) and Jimmy Gonzalez (Single-A South Bend). New to the organization is former Philadelphia Phillies' catcher Steven Lerud. Lerud, 33, will manage Single-A Eugene in 2018.

Eugene also added Jacob Rogers to its staff as assistant hitting coach. Rogers, 28, played in the Cubs organization from 2012-2016. Also new to the organization is Paul McAnulty, who is the new assistant hitting coach for South Bend. McAnulty, 36, played in parts of four seasons with the Padres from 2005-2008 and with the Angels in 2010. He recently served as a coach in the Angels' system in 2016.

Those with new roles for 2018 include Chris Valaika, who is now an assistant coach with Triple-A Iowa. Valaika, 32, began his coaching career last season with rookie league Mesa after playing ten seasons professionally. The former utility player hit .231 in 44 games with the Cubs in 2014.

Like Valaika, former Cubs' farmhand Ben Carhart has a new role with the organization for 2018. Carhart, 27, is now an assistant coach with South Bend after serving as a rehab coach with Mesa last season. From 2012-2016, he hit .270 in 372 minor league games, all in the Cubs' organization.

The Cubs also announced their minor league coordinators for 2018. Holdovers include Darnell McDonald and John Baker. McDonald played for the Cubs in 2013 and will return for his fourth season as the organization's mental skills coordinator. Baker, who played for the Cubs in 2014, will return for his second season as a mental skills coordinator.

Jeremy Farrell returns to the organization for a third season, although 2018 will be his first as the Cubs' minor league infield coordinator. Farrell played in the White Sox farm system from 2013-2015 and is the son of former Red Sox and Blue Jays' manager John Farrell.

Here is a complete list of the organization's major league training staff and minor league managers and staff for 2018:

 

 

 

Albert Almora Jr. is hungry for more

Albert Almora Jr. is hungry for more

While most of the Cubs were focusing on rest and relaxtion this winter, Albert Almora Jr. sees no need for chillin'.

Kris Bryant admitted he was worn down by the end of the Cubs' playoff run last October and most other regulars would say the same thing.

But some Cubs saw the winter not as an "offseason" but as the first opportunity to prove something.

Kyle Schwarber has shed weight and looks to be in great shape, but Almora is in the same boat.

The 23-year-old outfielder is chomping at the bit, anxious for the season to start. So anxious, in fact, that he spent just a couple weeks at home in Florida before heading to Arizona to start training for 2018. 

Yes, that's right. He's been in Arizona since November — training, eating right, mentally preparing himself for the grind ahead, taking swings. 

That's nothing new for the first draft pick under Theo Epstein's front office who's constantly trying to validate the sixth overall selection in the 2012 Draft.

"I'm always going out there trying to prove them right, trying to make them happy," Almora said.

This is a kid who earned a World Series ring before his 23rd birthday and has five gold medals from playing for Team USA as a teenager. 

Almora's no stranger to the big stage and he's already accomplished so much at such a young age, but he's never experienced anything quite like the 2017 season.

He's always been a starter and everyday player. From age 8, when he was playing up with 14-year-olds, Almora has been among the youngest guys on any team he's been on. 

That was the case with the 2017 Cubs once again, but this time, he wasn't a key contributor. He played nearly every day — notching 132 games — but only started 65 times throughout the course of the year. He had to learn a lot about waiting for his moment and making the most of his one at-bat or one inning in the field.

"[Playing time is] not in my control and I'm gonna do whatever I can when my name is called to help the team win games and have a lot of fun with it," Almora said. "That's the only way to stay sane and not worry too much.

"At the end of the day, all I can control is what I do on the ballfield and that's it."

Almora admitted he's let that external stuff creep into his mind in the past, though that was mostly in the minor leagues when he was wondering when he'd get called up to the next level.

In the majors, it's all about winning and Almora believes he can help the big-league team get back to the Promised Land.

Even Epstein admitted Almora is primed for a larger role in 2018, as the young outfielder proved down the stretch last year he could contribute against right-handed pitching as well as southpaws.

What does he make of his progression the last couple years?

"I can answer that by just saying I'm confident," Almora said. "The more opportunity I get, the more experienced under my belt. You're not intimidated, you're having a lot of fun out there and your confident in your game.