Cubs

Mooney: Looking out for Colvin's future

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Mooney: Looking out for Colvin's future

Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011
4:31 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Albert Pujols is baseballs biggest story. The Cubs are a big-market team that needs to fill seats and hundreds of hours of television programming. Inevitably the two will be caught in the crossfire of Internet rumors.

Already trying to shift the focus, Tony La Russa suggested Tuesday that the union will pressure Pujols to take the largest deal possible, a claim denied by the Major League Baseball Players Association. Wednesday looms as a self-imposed deadline to negotiate a contract extension.

Cubs fans can dream about stealing from the St. Louis Cardinals, but their team has more immediate issues at first base.

A serious injury to Carlos Pena would be devastating. And with Pena using Wrigley Field as a platform to launch himself back into the free-agent market, the Cubs dont have a long-term option either.

So Tyler Colvin is working out at a position that he hasnt really played since he was an undergraduate at Clemson University. Even that was in a backup role. Any hesitation manager Mike Quade may have had throwing Colvin out there near the end of last season is gone.

No backing off this year, Quade said. Youre going to see him at first base some this spring. We cant afford to get into a situation where, God forbid, something happens to Carlos. Well make sure that were protected.

Insurance policy

Quade meant to pull Colvin aside at Fitch Park on Sunday and tell him first about these plans, but couldnt locate him in time. The manager then accidentally let it slip during his media briefing, something he regretted immediately. It didnt matter.

I knew it was coming, Colvin said. Its a great idea.

The 25-year-old outfielder doesnt get caught up in any of the hype. Hed be the last person youd expect to lash out or publicly complain about a position switch. And this versatility could be good for his career, and the Cubs need to find out whether or not he can play there.

On Tuesday he patiently answered the same questions about the freak accident that ended his promising rookie season last September. Yes, Colvin will continue to use maple bats, the same kind that punctured his chest. No, he wont play scared.

Colvin is self-contained and typically keeps his comments serious and brief. But he did joke that the Cubs will put up a protective screen whenever he plays first base.

Im going to go about my business the same way I did last year and get ready, Colvin said. You cant ever be comfortable here. You always have to try to get better, but, yeah, I know the league a little better. (And) they know me, too.

Colvin 2.0

A first-round pedigree helped, but Colvin forced his way onto the team last spring by crushing Cactus League pitching. It became a billboard for everyone else in the organization. Brett Jackson, the 31st overall pick in the 2009 draft, certainly noticed.

He attacked (with) his work ethic and really made his strides getting to the big leagues and then making an impact, Jackson said. Colvin is a good example for us all. Thats the dream to come out to spring training and tear it up.

Jackson hit .297 with 12 homers, 66 RBI and 30 stolen bases during his first full professional season, 128 games split between Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. MLB.com has ranked the 22-year-old outfielder as the games No. 46 prospect overall.

Cubs ownership is clearly more inclined to invest in the player-development system, and its uncertain how eager the Ricketts family would be to put together the type of contract it will take to lure someone like Pujols to the North Side.

The front office has visions of Jackson and Colvin forming an outfield built on speed and athleticism. Given those expectations, Jackson was asked about nerves, and he sounded like the Cal-Berkeley kid he is, and nothing like Colvin.

You just got to get goofy and have a good time, Jackson said.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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KELLY CRULL

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”