Cubs

As manager search continues, Wells impresses

259288.jpg

As manager search continues, Wells impresses

Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010
11:26 PM
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

ST. LOUIS Mike Quade took over a team adrift, and he was assured that he would be judged beyond wins and losses. No matter what criteria general manager Jim Hendry laid out that night, it was an offer Quade couldnt refuse.

Quade understands the process, that Hendrys due diligence will lead him to other candidates. He could be developing players for the next Cubs manager, and he already inherited several from Ryne Sandbergs Triple-A Iowa team.

Fredi Gonzalez declined a chance to interview for the job, according to Tuesdays AOL FanHouse report. Gonzalez has a history with Hendry, as they have ties in Miami and worked together in the Florida Marlins organization.

The Marlins fired Gonzalez in June, but hes viewed as the leading candidate to replace Bobby Cox. Gonzalez used to be the Braves third-base coach and has a home in the Atlanta area and was reportedly high on Hendrys short list.

Bob Melvin who managed the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks and now scouts for the New York Mets is expected to speak with the Cubs.

Sandberg was publicly identified as a candidate nearly two months ago. Hendry has already met with Eric Wedge, who was one game away from leading the Cleveland Indians to the 2007 World Series before being fired last year.

With the way things are moving, Quade might want to be evaluated by the scoreboard and not teaching moments. After Randy Wells dominated the St. Louis Cardinals in a 7-2 victory on Tuesday night, the Cubs improved to 13-7 since Quades promotion.

Im too honest to say Im not looking at our record, Quade said. Im proud of the progress that we see. Can you make progress and lose? Yeah, but right now its (working out) and theres still plenty of work to do.

But to me (its) so far, so good. Im happy with the way theyre going about their business.

This is a diminished Cubs-Cardinals series, and not just because Lou Piniella isnt staring out across the field at Tony La Russa, his childhood friend from Tampa, Fla.

The day after the Cubs (64-81) were officially eliminated from playoff contention, a Baseball Prospectus simulation that plays the rest of the season a million times gave the Cardinals (74-69) a 1.5 percent chance of winning the National League Central.

And Albert Pujols wasnt in Tuesdays lineup, resting his left elbow after getting a cortisone shot. It didnt matter to Wells, who grew up in downstate Belleville and made his first career start at Busch Stadium in front of 40,509 fans.

This is my team its no secret. This is a great baseball town, Wells said. The people are passionate about their team just like Chicago and until youre drafted or signed by a team its tough to let go of something like that. But it was nice to see family and friends (dressed) in blue and cheering me on.

My grandma told me to take it easy on the Cardinals. I was like, What is that all about?

Wells limited St. Louis to one run on five hits across eight innings, striking out five and walking none. He is now 7-13 with 4.46 ERA in what he admits has been a disappointing second season on the major-league level.

Once viewed as a No. 3 starter at the beginning of the season while Ted Lilly recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, Wells has slid to the back of a rotation that has incorporated Casey Coleman and Jeff Samardzija.

Wells will be pushed, but so will everyone else without a no-trade clause in his contract. Like Quade, he hopes he does his job well enough that the Cubs dont need to look at other options.

There are guys coming up here that can throw just as good as I can or better, Wells said. The key to this whole thing is keeping those guys off your tail and not giving the team a reason or a chance to fill your spot.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for 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.”