Cubs

MLB suspends Willson Contreras for two games after ejection; appeal filed

MLB suspends Willson Contreras for two games after ejection; appeal filed

Willson Contreras is facing a two-game suspension from Major League Baseball for his actions Friday at Wrigley Field.

Contreras filed an appeal and he is in the lineup Saturday for an important game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Depending on how long the MLB takes to process the appeal, Contreras may also be able to play in Sunday's game.

"We'll just wait for the appeal to work its way through," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We haven't decided anything beyond that. We'll abide by that, try to figure it out and make the best of it."

The young catcher was thrown out of Friday's game in the fifth inning after he and John Lackey exploded on home plate umpire Jordan Baker following a blown strike three call. 

Immediately after the call, Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez lined an RBI single to right center to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead. 

As Lackey ran in to cover home on the play, he was thrown out. Contreras was thrown out a few seconds later and slammed his catcher's mask down in frustration. The mask bounced and hit Baker, which Contreras insisted was accidental and apologized for after the game.

Does it help that Contreras was contrite about the incident after the game?

"I would hope so," Maddon said. "He was. Listen, he's a wonderful young man. He is emotional. We're all working on attempting to help him curb that a bit. But you don't want to take it all away either. That's a big part of why he's so good. That was a little bit difficult yesterday; I understand that. He does play with his hair on fire."

It was that mask incident that weighed heavily on the MLB's decision to suspend Contreras. He was also fined an undisclosed amount.

Lackey only received a fine and did not make contact with Baker at all.

Maddon and the Cubs are trying to reign in Contreras' emotional style a bit, but they also love the passion in which he plays the game, so they're not trying to go too far in the other direction and lose what makes him so good as a ballplayer. But moving forward, the Cubs know it's important Contreras picks his spots, especially given how important the relationship between catcher and home plate umpire is.

"You're a catcher man, you're working in front of these guys all the time," Maddon said. "Listen, I really believe you're gonna see a nice progression of him. He's still gonna get upset at times. But you're still gonna see a nice progression of him not go from 0-to-60 like that.

"Like I said though, there's a part of it I do like. Just the fact that he does play with that emotion, we love that. But there's a way to curb that a bit. I think as he gets older, he'll do that."

Maddon admitted Friday was a learning experience for the dynamic backstop, but the Cubs manager also made sure to point out Contreras' upbringing in Venezuela and how he wasn't playing baseball in America full-time until 2011.

"We didn't come from where he came from, either," Maddon said. "What's going on in that country right now, it's a different method. To walk a mile — even a hundred feet, a hundred yards in his shoes — I've never done that. So I think it's my responsibilty, our responsibility to continue to talk to him to explain why it's probably a better method to not.

"To still be able to play with that kind of passion and enthusiasm, but when it comes to that moment, let the breathing part get away, walk away, turn your back. Those kinds of things are the kinds of things we're gonna have to get incorporated over the next several years. But, I love his passion. I love his emotion. I love all that stuff. Just with the maturation process, you'll see it come back a little bit."

Are Maddon and the Cubs coaches trying to corral Lackey's temper at all?

"That's impossible," Maddon said. "Willson's in his early 20s. Johnny's almost 40. He's a dad with kids. I would never tell him what to do."

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, a source confirming the team declined a club contract option for next year and made a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

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USA TODAY

Report: Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio after six seasons with team

In Theo Epstein's end of season press conference on Friday he said that any coach Joe Maddon wants back will return in 2018.

Evidently, there's one coach Maddon didn't want back.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Cubs have fired longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Bosio served as the Cubs pitching coach from 2012-17. He was the team's pitching coach under former managers' Dale Sveum (2012-13) and Rick Renteria (2014), and was retained when Maddon was hired as manager of the Cubs in 2015.

Bosio, who is one of the most respected pitching coaches in baseball, was instrumental in the career resurgence of Jake Arrieta who captured the Cy Young award in 2015, and the development of 27-year-old starter Kyle Hendricks (MLB's ERA leader in 2016).

One reason that could've led to Bosio's firing was the pitching staff's control issues during both the regular season and postseason, which Epstein mentioned during Friday's press conference. The Cubs issued the fifth-most walks (554) in the National League during the regular season and the highest total (53) during the postseason.

As the Cubs hit the market for a new pitching coach, Nightengale mentioned that one name that could be on the radar is former Tampa Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, who parted ways with the organization following the 2017 season.

Hickey served as Maddon's pitching coach in Tampa Bay from 2006-2014.