Cubs

Quade shows faith in Castro, Pena

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Quade shows faith in Castro, Pena

Tuesday, April 26, 2011Posted: 8:35 PM
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mike Quade sat in the United Center watching the Blackhawks on Sunday night and wondered about the decision to bench Roberto Luongo.

The Cubs manager thought about the goalies history, what he means to the franchise and how the Vancouver Canucks would respond in a Game 7. Quade gets second-guessed all the time, and welcomes the arguments, so hes earned the right.

The next night, Quade trudged into the interview room at Wrigley Field after his 59th game as Cubs manager. The consensus was that he had never been that angry or frustrated during a postgame media session.

Quade didnt even bother to try to put a positive spin on that 5-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies and went straight to adjectives like awful and bad.

By Tuesday afternoon, Quade was back to being upbeat, admitting that its only one game, less than one percent of the entire season. He is going to take the same long view with Starlin Castro and Carlos Pena.

Its like being the closer, Quade said. You better have a short memory.

On a cold, wet Monday night, Castro became the first Cub in almost 15 years to commit three errors in one inning. Quade didnt say much to his 21-year-old shortstop, other than offer a few words of encouragement.

The message will be the same as it ever was since Castro made his big-league debut 11-plus months ago: Slow the game down for a moment. Dont rush everything.

Im not an excuse-maker, but it wasnt the greatest of nights to play, Quade said. Every throw I watched from everybody on the field (was) made with caution (and) thats the one thing I hope he learned you might have to take a little extra time in those circumstances.

We may not be able to turn the double play. We may not be able to play this thing like its a dry day in June."

Castro doesnt lack for confidence. He doesnt care if he bats leadoff (23-for-46 entering Tuesday) or third (2-for-17). Quade says he hasnt noticed a change in approach, and thats all that matters.

I have no concerns about his psyche, no matter where he hits, Quade said. If he showed up here tomorrow and was hitting fourth, I dont think hed blink.

You just dont wake up one day and go: Hmmmlets try him third. Thats not what I do. Hes talented, hes capable and going through the first month of the season hes our best hitter. Thats whos supposed to be your third guy. Well see how it plays out.

So Quade will continue to mix-and-match, figuring that Kosuke Fukudome (.571 on-base percentage) is the best leadoff option against right-handers and believing that Marlon Byrd will start producing in the clutch (.185 average with runners in scoring position).

Quade also recognizes that Jeff Baker (.990 OPS) deserves more playing time. But the managers not prepared to automatically sit Pena against left-handed pitchers.

Pena woke up Tuesday with zero homers, one extra-base hit, a .169 average and 22 strikeouts in his first 59 at-bats. The first baseman who averaged 36 homers and 102 RBI across the past four seasons has also been dealing with a thumb injury. He got the vote of confidence.

We need to get Carlos going. Period, Quade said. It cant be a platoon system for me because I still would like the left-handed power in the middle of that lineup that I know Carlos has and Im not willing to bail on that three weeks into the season in April in Chicago.

Hopefully thats a conversation for never. Its not for now.

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

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.

Cubs Talk Podcast: 2017 season obituary and previewing an interesting winter for Cubs

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: 2017 season obituary and previewing an interesting winter for Cubs

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Patrick Mooney and Tony Andracki close the book on the 2017 season following Theo Epstein’s press conference, looking back at what will go down as the craziest calendar year in Cubs history from last November through the team’s loss in the NLCS this October.

Moving forward, where do guys like Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Justin Wilson and Mike Montgomery fit? Will the Cubs re-sign Wade Davis or go after another proven closer? And how worried should fans be about the offense that completely disappeared in the postseason?

Take a listen below: