Cubs

Stuck between Iowa and Wrigley Field

Stuck between Iowa and Wrigley Field

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
8:56 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Once the Cubs promoted Bobby Scales from Triple-A Iowa on Sept. 7, general manager Jim Hendry mentioned a running joke that he has with Oneri Fleita, the vice president of player personnel: Whenever Scales is done playing, lets try to make him an employee.

Scales, who will be 33 next month, attended the University of Michigan. Hes bright, articulate and doesnt want this to be taken the wrong way. But hes not interested at least not yet in being an asset to the front office.

The main reason I havent really thought about it is because I still feel like I can play, Scales said.

As Hendry interviews Ryne Sandberg this week in Arizona and Mike Quade continues with his 37-game audition as manager the Cubs are focusing on their in-house options. Whoever gets the job will need a strong background in player development, because this figures to be a younger roster in the years ahead.

Brad Snyder, another September call-up, hit 25 homers and drove in 106 runs this season for Sandberg in Des Moines, and described his style as subtle.

He didnt blow you up, Snyder said. As long as everythings fine (in) the clubhouse, (then) he wont say much. But if something needs to be addressed, hell nip it in the bud right away. We had a great team he didnt have to say much.

Managing Triple-A players is different because theyre not all kids. Quade said the constant roster changes help you adapt quickly and learn to deal with different personalities. The experience has surely helped Sandberg, wherever he manages next.

The Cleveland Indians chose Snyder in the first round of the 2003 draft out of Ball State University. There were injuries that slowed his development a broken thumb in 2007 and a sprained wrist two years later and he found himself listening to too many voices.

It seemed everyone in the Indians system had an opinion on what he should do with his swing. This marked his fourth consecutive season at the Triple-A level and he posted a .949 OPS. At the age of 28, he made his big-league debut on Sept. 7.

Its like, (Expletive), if I dont start doing something, Im going to be out of this game sooner than I want to be, Snyder said. I dont want to say I turned the switch on. But I basically focused a lot more on what I was doing and how I went out about preparing myself.

It took Scales more than 1,000 games and 11 seasons in the minors before he made it to the majors last year. He appeared in 51 games with the Cubs and then signed another minor-league contract, because he didnt want to bounce around to a fifth organization at this stage of his career.

Im not on a long-term deal and Im not a prospect, Scales said, so thats kind of the life that we lead, (the) guys who are kind of in the middle. (Its) a lot of uncertainty and its a lot tougher on our families.

You just roll with it. Sure, I would have liked to have been here all year. Who wouldnt have? But I was in the minor leagues and my job was to go there and play hard.

Beyond the thrill of putting on the uniform and running onto Wrigley Field, there are more tangible benefits. A September call-up can make a prorated portion of the major-league minimum approximately 60,000 and earn service time.

It can be addictive, which makes Sandbergs apprenticeship even more impressive. It makes you wonder how much longer hell want to do it and realize how difficult it would be for Quade to give it all up now.

Its even cooler than I thought, man, all the way around, Snyder said. The lifestyle, everything about the game its like I got a little taste of it now and I dont want to ever go back.

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

Even with an entire spring schedule to go, guessing the Cubs' 25-man roster is pretty easy

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USA TODAY

Even with an entire spring schedule to go, guessing the Cubs' 25-man roster is pretty easy

MESA, Ariz. — The frequent mission of spring training is to iron out a 25-man roster.

But at Cubs camp, that mission seems to already be completed.

With an entire Cactus League schedule still to play, the Cubs’ 25-man group that will leave Arizona for the season-opener in Miami seems pretty well set.

The starting rotation: Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.

The position-player group: Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist.

The bullpen: Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Brian Duensing, Justin Wilson and Justin Grimm.

Boom. There’s your 25.

Joe Maddon, do you agree?

“You guys and ladies could probably write down what you’re seeing and be pretty accurate,” Maddon said Thursday. “I can’t deny that, it’s true. Oftentimes, when you’re a pretty good ball club, that is the case. When you’re not so good, you always get auditions during spring training.

“I think what the boys have done is they’ve built up a nice cache in case things were to happen. The depth is outstanding. So you could probably narrow it down, who you think’s going to be the 25, and I won’t argue that.”

It’s the latest example in a camp that to this point has been full of them that the Cubs are one of baseball’s best teams and that only a World Series championship will fulfill expectations. Had the front office stuck with a starting rotation of Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood and Montgomery, then there would’ve been a spot open in the bullpen. But the statement-making signing of Darvish jolted the Cubs into “best rotation in the game” status, sent Montgomery back to the bullpen and further locked the roster into place.

Guys like Grimm and La Stella have been forced off the 25-man roster at points in recent seasons, though even their spots seem safe. Maddon even said that a huge spring from someone else wouldn’t mean as much at what guys have done at the major league level in recent memory.

“Spring training performance, for me, it’s not very defining,” Maddon said. “You’re going to be playing against a lot of guys that aren’t going to be here, more Triple-A guys, even some Double-A guys. Some guys come in better shape, they normally look better early. The vibe’s different. You play a couple innings, you don’t get many at-bats, the pitcher doesn’t see hitters three times and vice versa. So I don’t worry about that as much.

“It’s more about, guys that might be fighting for a moment, what do they look like, does it look right, does it look good, how do they fit in? Is there somebody there that you scouted? Because what matters a lot is last year and what you did last year and the last couple months of last year.

“So of course guys that have been here probably have a bit of an upper hand, but we’re very open-minded about stuff. And I think when you look at the guys, you’re right, it’s probably pretty close to being set. But stuff happens.”

Could the recently signed Shae Simmons give Grimm an unexpected challenge for the final relief spot? Maddon said guys who have been with the Cubs in the recent past have a leg up. Could Chris Gimenez turn his experience with Darvish into a win over Caratini for the backup catcher spot? Maddon threw cold water on the "personal catcher" narrative last week.

Of course, Maddon left the door open the possibility of an injury that could open up a roster spot and even shake up the depth chart. But barring the unforeseen, this 25-man group looks locked into place.

That gives the Cubs an edge, perhaps, in that they can specifically find ways to tune up those guys rather than focus on getting enough at-bats for players who are fighting for roster spots. But most of that edge came during the winter, and in winters and summers past, when the front office built this team into a championship contender.

There have been plenty of years when the fans coming to Mesa to watch the Cubs play in spring training saw the blossoming of a big league player thanks to a monster spring or a surprise tear during March. That’s going to be unlikely this spring, a reflection of just how far this team has come.

“It’s easy for me to reflect on this because when I started out with the Rays, wow,” Maddon said. “That was a casting call trying to figure it out. You had very few settled positions when you walked in the door. And then as we got better, it became what we’re talking about. As we moved further along, you were pretty much set by the time (you got to spring training) except for one or two spots.

“So I think the better teams are like that.”

The Cubs are most definitely one of those better teams.

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.