Cubs

How a team meeting in San Diego helped the Cubs hit the reset button and sweep the Cardinals at Wrigley Field

How a team meeting in San Diego helped the Cubs hit the reset button and sweep the Cardinals at Wrigley Field

It wasn't quite a rain delay before extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series, but the Cubs had another crucial team meeting last week and they've once again found immediate success after.

Prior to the final game on an 0-6 road trip, the Cubs players all got together in San Diego and hashed some things out.

Of course, the Cubs wound up losing to the Padres that day, but they've since stopped the bleeding and put the finishing touches on a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday night at Wrigley Field.

"We just talked," Kyle Hendricks said. "It was good stuff, just getting back to focusing on what we do. Inside the clubhouse, focusing on the guys and playing the game."

Jason Heyward was the leader of that now-famous Game 7 weight room meeting. He downplayed the San Diego meeting as standard regular maintenance.

"We're not gonna dwell on it," Heyward said. "It's just checking in. You gotta check in. You gotta be on the same page, regardless of how things are going.

"That's something we're going to continue to get better at and do a great job of. Not to say it's a lack of this and that. It's just nice to be on the same page. It's nice to hear how everybody's doing.

"Everybody just kinda saying whatever you need to say. If you feel like you need to say something, voice it. You just want to hear each other. You just want to check in and say, 'Hey, what we got, guys?' 

"... Regardless of what our coaches tell us, regardless of whatever kind of work you put in, if you're not on the same page as a team, you're not gonna go anywhere."

The Cubs scored just nine runs in six games on the road trip, but put up 15 on the board in three games against St. Louis over the weekend.

One of the main issues on the West Coast last week was a lack of timely hitting, but the Cubs went 3-for-4 with runners in scoring position Sunday night, including Ian Happ's three-run homer in the fourth inning and pinch-hits from Albert Almora Jr. (third inning) and the game-winner from Jon Jay (seventh inning).

"It's always good to just slow things down and just talk," Jay said. "That's what we did — slowed things down, talked a little bit and just reminded ourselves how good we really are. 

"You look around, you look at a lot of guys' baseball cards here. They've done a lot of good things. The younger guys, they've done stuff and they're gonna continue to get better. That's kind of how the season is. There's 162 games for a reason."

Jay also downplayed the meeting as "nothing big. Just reminding ourselves what we really can do. We all have each other's backs."

Prior to Sunday's game, Joe Maddon spoke about how he stands on the top step in the dugout every night to get a feel for his players.

And the Cubs manager noticed a difference in his team this weekend at Wrigley Field compared to the West Coast trip, citing a certain "believability" that has returned.

Hendricks has noticed the same thing.

"There has been a little mindset change," Hendricks said. "I don't know what to attribute it to, honestly. The guys kinda got together and talked amongst ourselves. Maybe it's just that team confidence that's back.

"Everybody's just a little bit more relaxed, focused on ourselves and what we're doing moreso than what's coming from the outside. It's just what we needed to get back to — playing our brand of baseball."

CubsTalk Podcast: The cost to get Chris Archer and how Brandon Morrow can fill an Andrew Miller-esque role

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CubsTalk Podcast: The cost to get Chris Archer and how Brandon Morrow can fill an Andrew Miller-esque role

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Tony Andracki and Kelly Crull break down where Brandon Morrow and Drew Smyly fit in the Cubs' pitching plans while Kyle Schwarber craziness reaches new heights.

Peter Gammons and Bob Nightengale weigh Schwarber’s trade value and how likely it may be that the Cubs could secure a Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole or Michael Fulmer this winter. Nightengale also explains how Brandon Morrow could fill an Andrew Miller-esque role for the Cubs.

Plus, Cubs manager Joe Maddon stops by the CubsTalk Podcast to chat with Kelly about his offseason gameplan and why he’s still such a staunch believer in rest even when away from baseball.

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Where Brandon Morrow and Drew Smyly fit in Cubs pitching plans for 2018 and beyond

Where Brandon Morrow and Drew Smyly fit in Cubs pitching plans for 2018 and beyond

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Brandon Morrow is officially official as a member of the Cubs pitching staff (finally), and the team also added another intriguing arm Tuesday night at the Winter Meetings.

The Cubs announced a two-year deal for Morrow with a club/vesting option for 2020. They also signed left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly on a two-year deal worth a reported $10 million, though the 28-year-old pitcher had Tommy John in June and likely won't contribute much in 2018.

The Cubs are looking toward the future with Smyly as a possible 2019 rotation piece. If he's able to return at all in 2018, it will probably only be as a bullpen option.

"This is a move that’s focused on 2019," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Tuesday night. "Really good high-quality starting pitcher, and we’re excited to get him on this deal, rehab him and hopefully get him back to exactly where he was.”

Smyly did not pitch at all in 2017 and was non-tendered by the Seattle Mariners on Dec. 1. He made 30 starts for the Tampa Bay Rays (and new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey) in 2016, going 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA. Joe Maddon also managed Smyly for a couple months at the end of the 2014 season.

“Both [Hickey and Maddon] liked him a lot," Hoyer said. "We talked to Jim about him, thinks really highly of him, says he’s exceptionally deceptive with how he pitches.

"Both his fastball and his curveball are really deceptive, good cutter and loves how he competes. So Jim was a big part of us wanting to do this.”

Smyly was one of the pieces that went from the Detroit Tigers to the Rays for David Price at the trade deadline in 2014. In his first 19 starts with the Rays between 2014 and 2015, Smyly went 8-3 with a 2.52 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 114.1 innings.

With Smyly not expected to impact 2018's rotation, the Cubs might still be in the market for another starting pitcher this winter, or they might choose to honor Mike Montgomery's wishes and insert him into the rotation full-time (and subsequently look for a potential swingman for the bullpen and rotation depth).

It'd be hard to just hand Smyly a spot in the 2019 Cubs rotation, but the Cubs committing somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million on a two-year deal indicates they're serious about his long-term potential. Plus, he won't turn 30 until June 2019.

The Cubs also have their other four starters — Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood — all signed through the 2020 season, so either they won't be in hard on long-term free-agent signings like Alex Cobb or would just stockpile pitching and sort out any possible six-man rotation issues a year from now.

As of right now, Morrow would serve as the Cubs' closer, but they're still in the market for impact relief pitching and are open to anything. Morrow is also a guy that could slot in as a setup man or high-leverage guy coming in at the most opportune time in the game, even if that means the fifth or sixth inning.

“Did an awesome job in the eighth inning last year for the Dodgers," Hoyer said. "We’re excited to have him. He’s going to pitch super high-leverage innings. If the season started tomorrow and we played a game, he’d be our closer.”