Cubs

Soriano wonders what Manny was thinking

Soriano wonders what Manny was thinking

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 9:01 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Alfonso Soriano once had a tryout with the Indians, at a time when Manny Ramirez was just starting to build his legacy in Cleveland. The young Soriano looked at Ramirez and thought: Man, I want to be like him one day.

It all came to an end Friday, when Major League Baseball announced that Ramirez has decided to retire, instead of dealing with a reported 100-game suspension for a second positive test for a banned substance.

What he did surprised me, Soriano said. There are a lot of players (using that) I never think would. Its very sad (when) an All-Star guy maybe future Hall of Famer does that. Its sad for the game, its sad for the player.

The 38-year-old Ramirez can forget about his place in Cooperstown, even with 555 career home runs and MVP votes in 11 different seasons. The questions are why such a gifted hitter would need extra help, and how a player who has made more than 200 million in his career could risk his reputation again after the first positive test.

Everybody has their talent to play this game, Soriano said. I dont know why people want to use something (else). Its what you got thats it. Just play (as) who you are, what God gave to you.

The Cubs havent forgotten that Ramirez crushed them in the 2008 playoffs, leading the Dodgers to a three-game sweep. Ramirez went 5-for-10 with two homers and four walks during that series and became a star in Hollywood.

But that player has faded away. Ramirez was reduced to a singles hitter late last season for the White Sox, and opened this season at 1-for-17 with Tampa Bay.

Soriano knows Ramirez mostly through chatting before games when they were part of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, and doesnt hang out with him during the offseason in the Dominican Republic. Like everyone else, hes left guessing.

I dont understand why he did it, Soriano said. Hes got so much talent I dont think he needs it.

Reinforcements

The Cubs had eight arms ready in the bullpen on Friday night and theyll need all the help they can get now that Andrew Cashner (rotator cuff strain) and Randy Wells (forearm strain) are officially on the disabled list.

The Cubs recalled right-handed reliever Jeff Stevens from Triple-A Iowa on Friday and manager Mike Quade confirmed that Casey Coleman will start Sunday against the Brewers. Theyll have to piece it together on Tuesday in Houston.

It starts with James Russell, who will throw somewhere in the range of three innings and 45 pitches before turning the game over to whoevers available out of the bullpen. Someone else will have to build the bridge to Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol.

The manager isnt going to ask for more from Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano, or worry about the front of the rotation trying to do too much.

Theyve been down this road before, Quade said. Every rotation in the history of baseball (has) gotten into some trouble at some point. (Despite losing) two starters, they know whos behind them bullpen-wise. Its got to be pretty comforting to be a starter here and knowing what kind of bullpen we have.

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

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

andre_dawson.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.