Cubs

Stewart will have to grind it out

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Stewart will have to grind it out

MESA, Ariz. Ian Stewart felt something last summer while taking batting practice at Dodger Stadium. He tried to play through it, but it got to the point where he couldnt really swing anymore. He went on the disabled list with what was termed a left wrist contusion.

Almost eight months later, Stewart walks around the clubhouse at HoHoKam Stadium with a wrap around his arm thats so big it almost looks like a cast. The new Cubs third baseman says this is just a precaution (and not a huge red flag).

It stinks to say, but Ive kind of got to the point where Ive got some nagging stuff thats probably going to linger for awhile, Stewart said. Thats why I always have heat or ice on my wrist. Thats just a thing thats going to be there. You guys will probably see it a lot. Its just going to be one of those it is what it is-type-things (where youre) just trying to maintain it. But it feels good.

Stewart who hadnt played in a Cactus League game for almost a week because of a quad injury returned to action on Tuesday in Phoenix during a split-squad game against the Oakland As.

To be clear, the Cubs did extensive background work on Stewart before making him the centerpiece of a four-player trade with the Colorado Rockies last December. Manager Dale Sveum downplayed the issue, saying its something you monitor, but dont notice because every batting practice he takes he swings at 100 percent.

But the admission seemed curious for a two-way player the Cubs believe has the power to hit 20-plus homers and play defense at a Gold Glove level. Stewart understands that hes going to have to manage the wrist. The nature of the game and the injury means that you cant expect it to just disappear.

Its a thing thats probably not going to heal during the season, but its not like its broke or anything, Stewart said. Its more like inflammation, just some general soreness. The best chance is in the offseason and even then (we) start working out right when the seasons over.

If I had probably whole year off, then it would be better, but (thats not an option). The wrist hasnt effected my play or being in the lineup at all in spring training, which Im very happy about.

The Cubs have shown a lot of faith in Stewart, believing that he can still be the player Baseball America fell in love with years ago. He will turn 27 on Opening Day and has been given the everyday job.

Stewart has shown flashes of the potential the Rockies saw when they made him the 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft. Combined he generated 43 homers and 131 RBI for Colorado in 2009 and 2010.

But knee, hamstring and wrist injuries conspired against Stewart last season. He hit .156 with zero home runs in 48 games with the Rockies and spent a significant amount of time at Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Stewart rejected the change of scenery narrative presented by the Cubs front office. The laid-back guy who grew up in Southern California has enough confidence to think that all he needs is an opportunity.

Stewarts not nearly as accomplished as ex-Cub Aramis Ramirez the Opening Day third baseman the past eight seasons but he uses the same calculus: If Im healthy, Ill put up numbers.

I dont think breakout year. I dont think I have to replace anybody, Stewart said. Im just focused on getting healthy. Thats all Im looking forward to just being as productive as I can (once) the season (starts) and maintaining that preparation throughout the year and getting 400 or 500 at-bats.

When I get those at-bats, the numbers have been there in the big leagues.

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.