Cubs

Russell, Cubs continue series vs. Rockies

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Russell, Cubs continue series vs. Rockies

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Posted: 10:47 a.m.

(AP) -- The Colorado Rockies haven't been hitting well recently, but if the Chicago Cubs are as sloppy defensively as they were in the last game, it might not matter.

The Rockies will try to win their third straight against the Cubs when the teams continue their series Tuesday night in Chicago.

Colorado (15-7) won seven straight April 9-15, but is 4-5 since, failing to win back-to-back games during that stretch.

The Rockies have a chance to do that after Monday's 5-3 victory over the Cubs (10-12). They scored four unearned runs off Matt Garza, taking advantage of three errors by Starlin Castro in the second inning and one by Garza in the fifth that allowed the go-ahead run to score.

READ: Game slips out of Castro's hands

"We lost tonight because I couldn't throw the ball to first base," Garza said.

Colorado was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and had only four hits, including three singles. The team is batting .139 during the first four games of its road trip while scoring 12 runs.

Carlos Gonzalez had another rough game, going 0 for 4. He's hitless in his last 21 at-bats, dropping his average to .217 after it was .333 on April 9.

Jorge De La Rosa (3-0, 3.00 ERA), who is looking to extend the best start of his career, will take the mound Tuesday for the Rockies as they try to win consecutive games at Wrigley Field for the first time since 2006.

De La Rosa, who had 16 victories in 2009 but just eight last year, had another strong outing Wednesday, giving up two runs and four hits in a season-high seven innings of a 10-2 victory against San Francisco. He struck out six as he recorded his first quality start of the year.

READ: Kaplan reveals the reason for Soriano's solid start

"Very good stuff today," he said. "We needed this. I hope we can stay playing like we did today."

De La Rosa is 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA in six appearances against the Cubs. He's made only two starts against them, including one last season in which he allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings of an 8-7 victory Aug. 1.

Chicago, which has seven errors in its last three contests, has lost four of five, stranding 20 baserunners the last two games - including 12 on Monday.

Kosuke Fukudome had five of his team's 11 hits in the defeat, but the Cubs went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Castro was 0 for 5 after going hitless in four at-bats Sunday.

FOLLOW: Cubs insider Patrick Mooney on Twitter

Before Monday's loss, the Cubs had won 11 of 12 at home against the Rockies, but they dropped two of three in Denver from April 15-17.

James Russell (1-2, 8.00) will make his third start for the Cubs on Tuesday due to injuries. He allowed four runs and seven hits - three of which were homers - in four-plus innings of a 5-4 loss to San Diego on Wednesday, falling to 0-2 with a 12.71 ERA in two starts.

The left-hander has made five career relief appearances against the Rockies, including 1 1-3 scoreless innings over two this season.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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

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.”