Cubs

Why Cubs made the move now with Jen-Ho Tseng

Why Cubs made the move now with Jen-Ho Tseng

Trying to stabilize their bullpen, hoping for a spark and showing faith in their most advanced pitching prospect, the Cubs will drop Jen-Ho Tseng into the middle of a pennant race and start the Taiwanese right-hander on Thursday night against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field.

Tseng put himself in position to make his big-league debut with a breakthrough season, going 13-4 with a 2.54 ERA in 24 starts between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. The Theo Epstein regime – which is still waiting to fully develop a homegrown starter – sees Tseng as someone who can throw four pitches for strikes, keep hitters off-balance without overpowering stuff and follow a scouting report. Think Kyle Hendricks as an absolute best-case scenario.

But the Cubs also couldn’t ignore how far lefty swingman Mike Montgomery has already been pushed (116.1 innings) and how much lefty reliever Justin Wilson has struggled (6.39 ERA in 16 appearances) since getting traded from the Detroit Tigers at the July 31 deadline.

The Cubs made the surprise announcement around 5 p.m. Wednesday, or roughly two hours after naming Tseng as their minor league pitcher of the year for the second time since 2014, his first professional season after getting a $1.625 million bonus as an international free agent.

“I just sat down with him in my office,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I said: ‘I guess you’re here in town to accept an award.’ He just looked at me and I said: ‘How about you start tomorrow night’s game instead?’ He didn’t even blanch. Actually, his interpreter was more taken by the whole situation than Jen-Ho was. But I heard nothing but good things about this kid.

“We think right now – in order to get us all set up pitching-wise – it was the right thing to do.”

Bumping Montgomery from the rotation should help keep him fresh after getting the final out in last year’s World Series Game 7 and give Maddon another trusted option in a bullpen with too many question marks. Koji Uehara has been struggling and dealing with an infection in his right knee and may have reached his limit after making 49 appearances during his age-42 season.

By the time the Cubs finalized the Tseng decision, they hadn’t yet scheduled a next-step bullpen session for Jake Arrieta, who strained his right hamstring on Labor Day, the same day Iowa’s season ended. The Cubs sent Tseng to their Arizona complex to stay sharp and continue his throwing program. It’s unclear when Arrieta will be able to rejoin the rotation or if this will be a one-and-done situation for Tseng.

But Maddon recalled how the Tampa Bay Rays unleashed young pitchers in the playoffs, from using David Price as a reliever while winning the 2008 American League pennant and giving Matt Moore his second big-league start in a 2011 first-round win over the Texas Rangers.

“You just never know,” Maddon said. “On a different level, I went through that with Matt Moore with the Rays, also. I remember the meetings for that in Texas in the manager’s office, bringing in minor-league guys that had seen him more. They were absolutely adamant that this guy can do this – and he did.

“Lightning in a bottle happens, and you never know what happens after that with some young players. And even if it’s not a start that happens afterwards, maybe he’s going to help us in another way.

“David Price did it with the Rays out of the bullpen, also, in a pretty good run, so keep an open mind. I’m keeping a very open mind. I’m actually excited about seeing it.”

NBC Sports Chicago to deliver a Chicago baseball Thanksgiving Day marathon

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NBC Sports Chicago to deliver a Chicago baseball Thanksgiving Day marathon

15-straight hours of “Classic” Cubs and White Sox full game replays from the 2017 season gets underway at 9:00 AM CT

NBC Sports Chicago live stream available 24/7 on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive  or via the NBC Sports app

Chicago, IL (November 21, 2017) -- NBC Sports Chicago, the multi-platform home for the most games and most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox, will provide its viewers with a special 15-hour Thanksgiving Day marathon featuring four, thrilling “Classic” games from this past Cubs & White Sox season beginning this Thursday, November 23 at 9:00 AM CT. 

NBC Sports Chicago will also live stream this Classic games marathon to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app.  NOTE: MLB game replays will only be made available to those viewers within NBC Sports Chicago’s regular MLB viewing territory.

Note NBC Sports Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day Cubs & White Sox “Classics” game marathon line-up below (all times Central Time):

THANKSGIVING DAY - THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23

9:00 AM“White Sox Classics: White Sox vs. Houston (from August 10) – The future most certainly looked bright on the southside in this match-up as the White Sox defeated the eventual World Series champs, thanks in part to some 9th/extra-inning heroics from team’s highly-touted future cornerstone, Yoan Moncada.

12:30 PM“Cubs Classics: Cubs at Milwaukee (from September 21) – In one of their most exciting victories of the season, the Cubs were down 3-2 in the top of the ninth (not to mention being down to their last strike), but second baseman Javy Baez came through with a clutch RBI single to force extra innings, which was then followed by reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant crushing the Brew Crew’s hopes for division contention with a two-run blast in the 10th.

4:30 PM“White Sox Classics: White Sox at Detroit (from September 14) – The bats were indeed alive as the White Sox belted out 25 hits (a White Sox personal best total since 1981) featuring some impressive firepower courtesy of its top three stars: Avisail Garcia (5-5, HR, 7 RBI), Yoan Moncada (4-5, HR), and Jose Abreu (4-5, 2 RBI).

8:00 PM“Cubs Classics: Cubs at St. Louis (from September 27) – The Cubs clinched their second-straight NL Central Division title with all five of their runs coming in the 7th inning, which included shortstop Addison Russell’s GW three-run shot.  NOTE: Immediately following this “Cubs Classics” game (approx. 10:55 PM), fans can look forward to a replay of “Cubs Postgame Live” that featured the team’s NL Central Division-clinching locker room celebration.

REMINDER: NBC Sports Chicago/NBCSportsChicago.com/NBC Sports app will carry live coverage of all eight Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Football State Championship games this weekend (all in HD) beginning with the Class 1A title game Friday morning (Nov. 24) at 10:00 AM and all the way through to the Class 8A battle between area preps powerhouses Lincoln-Way East (13-0) vs. Loyola Academy (12-1) on Saturday night (Nov. 25) at 7:00 PM on NBC Sports Chicago+.  Fans are urged to visit NBCSportsChicago.com/preps for full coverage and precise channel location/live streaming details.    

Cubs officially hire Jim Hickey as pitching coach, fill other coaching vacancies

Cubs officially hire Jim Hickey as pitching coach, fill other coaching vacancies

Joe Maddon's 2018 coaching staff came into focus Tuesday, with the Cubs officially announcing three moves.

The Cubs made Jim Hickey the team's pitching coach, making official what has been assumed for a while, that Maddon's former pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays would take over for Chris Bosio on the North Side.

Additionally, Brandon Hyde was moved from his role as the team's first base coach to become Maddon's bench coach, taking over for Dave Martinez, who is the new manager of the Washington Nationals.

And the Cubs announced that Will Venable will be the new first base coach after he was recently named a special assistant to president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

Hickey, a Chicago native, spent the past 11 seasons as the Rays' pitching coach, presiding over a litany of young arms during and after Maddon's tenure as the manager there, including James Shields, Matt Garza, David Price, Chris Archer and Alex Cobb. Hickey was the pitching coach for a pair of World Series teams: the 2005 Houston Astros and the 2008 Rays.

Hickey's relationship with Cobb could be of particular interest this offseason, as the free-agent pitcher could be a target for the Cubs' front office.

Hyde has served as the Cubs' bench coach before, filling the role on Rick Renteria's staff in 2014. He spent the past three seasons as Maddon's first base coach, part of a staff that appeared in three straight National League Championship Series and won the 2016 World Series.

Venable spent nine seasons in the major leagues, wrapping up his playing career in 2016 after playing for the San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers.

In addition to these moves to lock in Maddon's coaching staff, the Cubs also announced the addition of Jim Benedict as a special assistant. Benedict was most recently the vice president of pitching development for the Miami Marlins and has also worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees.