Cubs

Cubs arent hitting the panic button

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Cubs arent hitting the panic button

Dude, its only two games.

That pretty much sums up the mood inside the Cubs clubhouse. Outside those walls, people are free to overreact and have fun with small sample sizes.

First-year manager Dale Sveum projected a strong sense of calm after Saturdays 7-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. The 40,102 fans at Wrigley Field booed Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol and another late collapse. Just like Opening Day, the Cubs were four outs away from victory.

Its not a panic situation, Sveum said. Theyve done this before. They know its part of the gig when you have small leads like that. Anything can happen with one swing of the bat. A couple inches here, a couple inches there, can change the whole thing.

But its hard to ignore the trend line, trading away Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner during the offseason and plugging Jeff Samardzija into the rotation. Theo Epsteins front office knew that would create a huge void.

The bullpen already has two meltdowns, and everyone knows how damaging it can be psychologically when youre blowing games late.

This time, Wood couldnt protect a two-run lead with two outs in the eighth inning. Danny Espinosa finished off a 10-pitch at-bat by launching a 96 mph fastball into the left-field bleachers. Wood then gave up back-to-back singles, setting the stage for Marmol.

The Cubs closer walked Jayson Werth on five pitches one fastball buzzed his head and dropped him to the dirt to load the bases.

Pinch-hitter Chad Tracy played the hero again, sneaking a ball past diving second baseman Darwin Barney for a two-run single, making it 5-4. Roger Bernadina then lined an RBI double into right field, and Marmol had to answer the same questions.

I made a couple mistakes I paid for it, Marmol said. I cant grip my slider right now.

This was more hard luck for Matt Garza, who wanted back the 95 mph fastball Adam LaRoche hammered off the right-field foul pole for a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Garza stormed off the mound, screaming and flexing his muscles, but thats all the offense the Nationals could generate.

Its my job to finish what I start, so all the blame its on me, Garza said. My job is (to) go as long as I can. Six innings isnt something that I like bragging about.

Between Garza and Ryan Dempster, the top of the Cubs rotation has allowed three runs in 13 23 innings, and gotten two no-decisions. Those losses were charged to Marmol and Wood. But, really, theres nowhere else to turn late in the game.

You stay to the plan, even when it gets a little rocky or gets a little rough, utility man Jeff Baker said. We still put our faith and our confidence in those guys. Theyve done it for a long time and hopefully this is just two games and well get in that situation tomorrow and get them the ball. They can right the ship and then this will be a memory.

Two-game losing streaks dont stand out in July. But for all the optimism sparked by Epsteins new way of doing business, its easy to be cynical about this team after an 0-2 start. People have wondered just how patient this city will be for a rebuild.

We understand whats going on, Baker said. Were not oblivious to it. Its a new gig here and everyones trying to see the changes. Youve seen the changes off the field (and) everyone wants to see the changes on the field. Sometimes, it just doesnt work that way. Its baseball. The games hard and some days you go out there and you get beat.

The guy who has to talk to the media before and after every game didnt get defensive or dismissive and wasnt planning any major shakeups. The manager will be pointing toward Wood and Marmol, not listening to the noise.

The thing that quiets all that is a win and coming back and showing what youre made out of, Sveum said. (Its) character (and) doing it right again the next day. Because theyre going to get the opportunity to do it tomorrow.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

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 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 Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

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USA TODAY

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.

One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:

Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.