Cubs

Wells is locking up his spot in Cubs rotation

Wells is locking up his spot in Cubs rotation

Sunday, March 20, 2011
Posted: 8:23 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The new Randy Wells did not give an acceptance speech. He was not dressed in a tuxedo, thanking all the people that helped him get here. But at this point you have to declare him a winner in this competition.

Its almost impossible to see Wells not being in the Cubs rotation come April. And that remained true even before he dominated the San Francisco Giants in Sundays 3-2 win.

In front of 13,465 fans a record for HoHoKam Park Wells gave up two hits to start the game and then retired the final 18 batters he faced. He gave up one run across six innings and didnt even reach his pitch limit.

Not bad for someone who recently joked about going to Triple-A Iowa, saying it could be worse, that he was glad to just have a job.

Its not up to me, Wells said. Until the decisions made, I cant really say anything. Ive been goofing around and making stupid comments. (But) its just because I dont know what to say. I think Ive done enough.

Publicly, the Cubs arent going to go so far as to anoint Wells as their fourth starter just yet. The front office and the coaching staff will meet this week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, to make some decisions.

But the 28-year-old right-hander now has a 1.35 ERA through his first five games, a 20-inning stretch. Manager Mike Quade called it an unbelievable spring, and it comes at a time when the Cubs seem to be looking for an exit strategy with Carlos Silva.

As Quade said, I cant tell you anything other than I have been super-impressed with Mr. Wells.

Wells has rolled his eyes at all the sophomore jinx talk. Hes sick and tired of talking about last year, when he let outside influences affect him, and people unfairly started to question his work habits and how much he enjoys the nightlife.

Unfortunate things were said, and stuff I couldnt control (got) to me, Wells said. Im really working hard on not giving a (expletive) what people think.

That goes for the way Wells has pitched he didnt let Sundays start mushroom into a big first inning and the way he has carried himself, with a quiet confidence.

Hes matured quite a bit, catcher Geovany Soto said. His pitching and his mechanics hes taking this stuff a little bit more seriously and it shows. Whenever he pitches, hes got a quick tempo. You can see in his eyes that he knows what he needs to do.

The Cubs would love to see the Wells from last April (3-0, 3.45), July (2-2, 1.83) and September (2-2, 3.15) who looked like a No. 3 starter.

Wells cant forget what he did last May (0-3, 5.40), June (0-3, 6.14) and August (1-4, 5.91). But he thinks hes better for the experience and takes great pride in being able to make 32 starts and contribute almost 200 innings.

Sometimes you start talking about (Wells) like hes a 10-year guy, Quade said. Not only am I excited to see what hes doing now, but there are still plenty of possibilities for this guy down the road because, to me, hes still very young after converting from catcher.

His ceiling could be a lot higher than any of us might think.

Wells looks at it exactly the same way. For him, this is all a confidence game.

You just got to be confident in your ability, Wells said. As long as you believe what youve done is right and youve done the work and prepared yourself to go out there and pitch, (thats all that matters).

When people get defensive or when people take offense to whats said or worry about whats said, its probably because theyre guilty. For me, I know that I took care of what I (needed to).

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

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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.