Cubs

Mattingly: No disrespect, Dodgers missed the sign

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Mattingly: No disrespect, Dodgers missed the sign

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 12:43 p.m. Updated: 3:42 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mike Quade rarely veers this far off script. The Cubs manager usually sits in the interview room and stays on his positive message.

But after Fridays 12-2 loss, Quade took a question about his starting pitcher (Casey Coleman) and went in an entirely different direction, wondering why the Los Angeles Dodgers would be running with a seven-run lead.

A.J. Ellis got thrown out at second base in the fifth inning of an 8-1 game. The next morning there was Dodgers manager Don Mattingly talking with Quade during batting practice.

We figured they were going to be irritated, Mattingly said Saturday. We missed the sign.

Mattingly indicated that third-base coach Tim Wallach put the sign on by mistake and then motioned to call it off. Ellis is a 6-foot-2-inch, 224-pound catcher with zero career stolen bases.

I definitely wouldnt run A.J, Mattingly said.

Mattingly also pointed out that Wrigley Field is unpredictable and that the other night his team gave up eight runs in the ninth inning of a 10-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves. You play to win the game.

Quade downplayed a similar incident on April 9 in Milwaukee, where Brewers speedster Carlos Gomez stole second and third with a 5-0 lead. If that violation of baseball code bothered Quade, he didnt let it show too much publicly.

There wasnt much restraint on Friday it definitely burned Quade. It will be fun to watch the manager if he reveals his sarcastic side more often as he grows into the job.

I do think that I probably need a copy of the Milwaukee and L.A. unwritten rules books, Quade said. I dont know if they missed a sign (or) if it was a hit-and-run. I got to brush up on my unwritten rules. There might be an L.A. and Milwaukee version I need to read.

How many runs are too many?

Oh, I dont know, I was just curious, Quade said. I guess 15.
Pitching plans
The Cubs are leaning toward giving James Russell a third spot start rather than promoting someone from the minors for Tuesday night against the Colorado Rockies.

Russell has lasted 5 23 innings in his two starts, giving up nine runs on 14 hits. The 25-year-old left-handers future is in the bullpen, but hes stretched out to around 70 pitches and apparently the Cubs arent overly impressed by the options within their system.

This time the Cubs are going to try to avoid using Russell out of the bullpen in between starts, hoping that will make him more effective.

Fresh arm

Jeff Stevens took the bullet and went 3 13 innings in relief of Coleman on Friday, which essentially made him unavailable for the rest of the weekend. So the Cubs optioned him to Triple-A Iowa on Saturday and recalled right-hander Justin Berg to give them another fresh arm in the bullpen.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Why Joe Maddon sees Anthony Rizzo coming out of his slump

Why Joe Maddon sees Anthony Rizzo coming out of his slump

CLEVELAND — It goes down as two line drives in the scorebook.

Anthony Rizzo has been mired in a season-long slump (OK, that's a little dramatic given it's still not even May yet and he missed more than a week with a back injury), but he may be showing signs of getting out of it thanks to a couple of weak groundballs.

Rizzo finished Tuesday's 10-3 win over the Indians with two hits in his final two at-bats, though one hit barely made it past the pitcher's mound and the other barely made it to the outfield grass.

In fact, Rizzo's exit velocities on both balls combined was 109.2 mph, or 8 mph less than Kyle Schwarber's 117 mph homer in the second inning Tuesday.

So how can a 35.5 mph jam-shot with a hit probability of 8 percent get a player like Rizzo going?

It's all about the hands.

"When I was a hitting coach, I swear, if one of my better hitters got jammed his first at-bat, I went up to him and I said, 'I promise that's at least two line drives tonight,'" Joe Maddon relayed before Wednesday's game.

"My explanation of getting jammed is that you make a mistake with your bottom hand. Your bottom hand gets too far out, you expose the weak part of the bat to the ball, thus you get jammed. That's not a bad way to go. 

"But if you're always coming open too soon, exposing the fatter part of the bat to that particular pitch, eventually they're going to go further away. So anything you hit well is gonna be a foul ball more than likely or rolled over. So this is a better method to go — staying inside the ball, getting the head of the bat there."

Maddon pointed to how Rockies second baseman D.J. LeMahieu and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and how they made/make a living based off keeping their hands inside a ball and driving it to center or the other way.

That's what Maddon wants to see from not just Rizzo, but all the Cubs hitters. It's what the manager has been preaching all season, especially the last week or so, as the Cubs have seen better offensive results.

The Cubs entered play Wednesday winners of four of their last five games while the offense has cruised to a .342 average and 9 runs/game in that span. 

However, they've been doing a lot of that while Rizzo still doesn't look like Rizzo. 

He went on the disabled list with a .107 batting average and though he raised it 67 points in the six games since returning from injury, it was with only a modest .240 average in the last week with zero extra-base hits. Rizzo has just one extra-base hit on the season — a homer in the very first game of the season on March 29.

For a guy that's been remarkably consistent in his career, you can bet on Rizzo's numbers normalizing in the long run, which would be a big boost to a Cubs team currently without Kris Bryant.

And maybe it really will be a ball off the fists that traveled roughly 75 feet that gets Rizzo in a groove.

Cubs are still without Kris Bryant, but insist there's no need to worry

Cubs are still without Kris Bryant, but insist there's no need to worry

CLEVELAND — The Cubs will play a second straight game without Kris Bryant, but that doesn't mean fans should start panicking.

Bryant hasn't played since getting hit in the head in the top of the first inning in Sunday's game with a 96 mph fastball.

Bryant has been cleared by doctors in Colorado and Cleveland and will meet with the Cubs team doctor Thursday in Chicago. 

The Cubs kept their MVP third baseman out of the lineup Tuesday to give him an extra day of rest, initially hoping he'd be back Wednesday before deciding Tuesday night they should give him another day.

"He's not bad, he's fine," Joe Maddon said. "It's just one of those things. He's been seeing the doctors. There's nothing awful. It's just a matter of getting him ready to play.

"I'm not hearing anything bad. Not at all. I really anticipate good soon. If anything went the other way, I think we'd be surprised."

Head injuries are very tricky and sometimes symptoms can show up days after the initial trauma. That doesn't appear to be the case here with Bryant, but the Cubs also don't want him to rush back until he's ready physically, mentally and emotionally.

The key word there is "trauma," because it was a traumatic experience for Bryant and something he'll have to come to terms with mentally before he can step back in that batter's box.

"Sometimes that's necessary," Maddon said. "Again, he got hit, I didn't. I'm listening to him right now. So whatever he says, I'm very amenable to right now. 

"I could sense [Tuesday] he wasn't quite ready. ... I don't anticipate any long delay."

The Cubs started Tommy La Stella for a second straight game Wednesday in Bryant's place. La Stella played third base Tuesday and was originally slotted for the same spot Wednesday before a last-minute change moved him to second with Javy Baez playing the hot corner.