Cubs

Marmol touched up, Cubs beat Reds

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Marmol touched up, Cubs beat Reds

MESA, Ariz. (AP) At least Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo and Chicago Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol have plenty of time to work out the kinks.Arroyo was hit hard and Marmol also struggled during Chicago's 8-6 exhibition victory over Cincinnati on Monday.Arroyo pitched two innings and was charged with four runs and six hits, including a monster home run by Alfonso Soriano. The crafty right-hander, who was 9-12 with a 5.07 ERA last season, struck out one and walked two."I faced 12 batters and they squared up six balls and the other balls they didn't square up were base hits and the umpire gave me a strike three that wasn't even a strike," said Arroyo, who is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in five spring innings. "That's not a good outing."Reds manager Dusty Baker didn't seem too concerned."Arroyo's velocity was better," Baker said. "He didn't have location today. He'll get better. When (Arroyo) had problems last year it was walks and home runs. That's what got us today."But there was some good to come out of it."It was a struggle out there, even physically I didn't feel real lively," Arroyo said. "It is nice sometimes to get runners on base in situations where you have to press in a real game. Where you have to dig deep and have to throw a fastball on the outer half to a lefty when you feel like you don't have great command."That feeling is something that needs to be worked through."Marmol was touched up for the second outing in a row and knocked over a garbage can in the clubhouse after he left the mound. He gave up three runs and two hits in one inning.The right-hander, who blew 10 save opportunities last season and finished with a 4.01 ERA, also was hit hard against Seattle on Thursday, when he yielded four earned runs and four hits while recording just two outs.Cubs starter Paul Maholm, who had the flu early in camp, made his spring debut and allowed one run and two hits in two innings. The left-hander, who signed with Chicago over the winter, struck out one and walked none."It was good," Maholm said. "I was happy to get out there. You don't feel part of (spring training) until you get out there. I wish I would have gotten ahead of a few more guys. There were no walks and I was aggressive."I was good to go and I pitch when they tell me to. If they want me to take it a little slower that is fine. I got my bullpens in so as far as pitches and innings I am where I need to be."Todd Frazier homered in the second inning for the Reds. Zack Cozart and Donald Lutz had two RBIs apiece.The Cubs got another big day from Joe Mather, who is battling Tony Campana for the fifth outfield spot. Mather hit a three-run home run in the seventh to give Chicago a 7-6 lead and is batting .545 (6 for 11) this spring.Soriano belted his fourth spring homer, and reserve catcher Blake Lalli also went deep for the Cubs.

Why Cubs should make Jim Hickey an offer he can't refuse

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USA TODAY

Why Cubs should make Jim Hickey an offer he can't refuse

Monday’s interview with Jim Hickey in Chicago — roughly 72 hours after the Cubs fired pitching coach Chris Bosio and within a week of manager Joe Maddon saying “of course” he wanted his entire staff back — is a first step in the reboot at Wrigley Field.

Maddon would probably like to have that answer back, knowing he could have softened the language with corporate speak and created some wiggle room in the middle of a National League Championship Series where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game.

But Hickey, the former Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach, is a familiar face and an expert voice at a time when Maddon’s honeymoon period appears to be over, repeatedly first- and second-guessed about his decisions, from the World Series Game 7 the Cubs won last year through a frustrating 43-45 start to this season and deep into another playoff run.

That staff is already in flux, with bench coach Dave Martinez scheduled to interview with the Washington Nationals for Dusty Baker’s old job and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske now leaving to take a lead role with the Los Angeles Angels hitters.

Here’s why the Cubs will probably have to make Hickey an offer he can’t refuse:

— A rival scout noticed how often Maddon looked like a solitary figure in the dugout, standing there looking down at his lineup card. Whatever friction Maddon felt with Bosio — a big presence who pitched 11 seasons in the big leagues and isn’t afraid to tell you exactly what he thinks — Hickey is someone the manager trusts after their eight seasons together with the Rays.

Maddon insisted he wasn’t maneuvering behind the scenes when he reached out after Hickey surprisingly parted ways with Tampa Bay in October, but it still showed the depth of their relationship: “I called him to console a friend.”

— While working for the Boston Red Sox, Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer got an up-close look at what Hickey did in the American League East, helping build the small-market contender that advanced to the 2008 World Series, the beginning of five seasons with at least 90 wins in six years.

Between his time with the Rays and Houston Astros, look at the All-Star pitchers Hickey has worked with: Chris Archer, David Price, Alex Colome, Brad Boxberger, Matt Moore, Fernando Rodney, James Shields, Rafael Soriano, Scott Kazmir, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge and Roger Clemens.

— Hickey can also offer unique insight into Alex Cobb, a free agent the Cubs will have to do more background work on as they try to replace 40 percent of their rotation. Cobb — who went 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA in 115 career starts for the Rays — just turned 30 and has only 700 innings on his major-league odometer after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in the middle of the 2015 season.

“He has a talent that most organizations search for relentlessly,” Cobb told the Tampa Bay Times after Hickey left the Rays with a year remaining on his contract. “He will have a great time being a free agent.

“I’m not going to try to explain how great Jim Hickey is. There’s really nothing I can say that would speak louder than his track record. All I can say is how fortunate I was to have him when I got to the big leagues. No one could have prepared me better.”

— Beyond the connection to Maddon, Hickey is someone who knows Chicago after growing up on the South Side, and that hometown draw will probably matter at a time when the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are among several marquee teams in the market for a new pitching coach that now might be thinking: "Better Call Boz."

In latest twist to Cubs-Nationals, Dave Martinez will interview for Dusty Baker's old job

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AP

In latest twist to Cubs-Nationals, Dave Martinez will interview for Dusty Baker's old job

Dave Martinez – Joe Maddon’s bench coach during unprecedented runs of success with the Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays – is ready to step outside of the star manager’s shadow and run his own big-league team.

A Washington Nationals franchise coming off back-to-back division titles – while having some big personalities in the clubhouse and obvious internal issues – could still be that ideal opportunity.

The Nationals have reached out to set up an interview with Martinez, a source said Monday, confirming a Washington Post report in the wake of Dusty Baker’s messy exit, eight days after a massively disappointing playoff loss to the Cubs.

Martinez had been an X-factor in Washington’s search two years ago, when negotiations broke down with Bud Black and the Nationals eventually circled back to Baker, the former Cubs manager.

Martinez has the built-in credibility that comes from playing 16 seasons in the big leagues, which would be an asset for a team that has Bryce Harper entering his final season before free agency and Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg at the top of the rotation.    

Martinez, who is fluent in Spanish and analytics, spent the last 10 years working as the bench coach for two data-driven organizations, putting him at the cutting edge of defensive shifts, bullpen management and game-planning systems.    

While Maddon thrives in the front-facing aspects of the job, dealing with the media before and after every game and selling a vision to the public, Martinez handles a lot of the behind-the-scenes issues, putting out clubhouse fires and interacting with the players in one-on-one settings.

The partnership worked to the point where the Rays captured the 2008 American League pennant and the Cubs won last year’s World Series. While the Cubs have advanced to the National League Championship Series for three straight seasons, the Nationals have been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs four times since 2012.

In the middle of the grueling five-game playoff series where the Cubs outlasted the Nationals – which may have been a tipping point against Baker for Washington executives – Maddon lobbied for Martinez to be in the manager mix during baseball’s hiring-and-firing season.

“He belongs in the group,” Maddon said. “I know all these people being considered, and I promise you our guy matches up with every one of them.

“He was such a heady, aggressive, gritty kind of player. Bilingual. All that matters. He's not afraid to have the tough conversations (that) people in that position may shy away from.

“Believe me, I see all the names. There are a lot of good names, and I like a lot of these dudes. But I’m just telling you: To not include his name with those other people baffles me.”