Cubs

Up in the air: Coleman, Samardzija make a pitch

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Up in the air: Coleman, Samardzija make a pitch

Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010
6:52 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE When the Cubs selected Casey Coleman in the 15th round of the 2008 draft, it was difficult for him to picture where he would be in two years, but he certainly didnt see this.

That June Carlos Zambrano was in the first season of a five-year deal. Ryan Dempster was coming off a season in which he saved 28 games. Both would be named All-Stars, as would Ted Lilly the following year. The next month the Cubs traded for Rich Harden, hoping that would be the move to put them over the top in October.

It hasnt worked out the way anyone envisioned, but it has cleared a path for Coleman to become the games first third-generation major-league pitcher. But the 23-year-old doesnt want to become just an answer to a trivia question.

Colemans father Joe is an instructor in the Detroit Tigers system, so he understands that young pitchers typically get a chance out of the bullpen to showcase their arms, maybe one start to make an impression.

Coleman added to his body of work during Sundays 2-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in front of 37,317 fans at Miller Park. Hes pitched at least six innings in each of his last four starts. Hes developing a routine and competing for a job. The nerves are gone.

Im looking at it as a great opportunity, said Coleman, who allowed one run Sunday across six innings. Hopefully whoever is here next year as manager will get to see how Ive done.

The 62-81 Cubs have shifted to player-development mode, and next they will evaluate Jeff Samardzija, to see how far hes come since April 24.

During his last trip to Miller Park, Samardzija learned that he was being sent down to Triple-A Iowa, a stay that lasted almost five months. On Sunday he was told that hell be starting the next night against a St. Louis Cardinals team fading from the National League Central race.

Sometimes you get pulled into the office for bad things, Samardzija said, and sometimes for good things. (Im) ready to go.

The Cubs expected to take a look at their 10 million investment later this week, but those plans changed on Sunday when Carlos Silva reported discomfort with whats being described as a right elbow strain.

Silva isnt traveling with the team to St. Louis and will visit Dr. Stephen Gryzlo on Monday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Presumably the staff will decide whether or not it makes sense to shut down Silva for the final three weeks of the season.

That creates an opportunity for Samardzija, who went 11-3 with a 4.37 ERA at Iowa, but was repeatedly bypassed as the Cubs held auditions throughout the summer.

(Well) get out there and just really attack, Samardzija said. I dont think theres really anything else to change or anything else to look at just go out and pitch. (Its) definitely something thats been on my mind for a long time.

The television sets in the Cubs clubhouse and the Miller Park press box have been tuned into college football and NFL games all weekend. Samardzija, once a star wide receiver at the University of Notre Dame, dismissed a reporter wondering if he still thinks about his career choice.

Coleman never had those conflicts of interest. He was seemingly born to pitch, and though he doesnt have blow-away stuff, the staffs streak of 25 consecutive scoreless innings was snapped only after Ryan Braun muscled a broken-bat double that landed near the line in shallow right field.

The Brewers (66-76) lit up Coleman for six runs in 2 13 innings during his big-league debut on Aug. 2. Hes been living out of a hotel ever since, because he didnt know how long hed remain in Chicago. He went back and studied the film from that game, hoping to find any edge that will help him stick at this level.

This is a game of adjustments, he said. It gives you a lot of confidence as a pitcher knowing that these guys dont own you and you can get them out and compete. That will be something I build on for the future, because I hope to face them again.

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

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

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USA Today

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said that he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted that the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.” 

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

While the Cubs’ decline has been talked about over and over again, it’s always been framed in relatively vague terms. Perhaps in the interest of protecting a former manager who is still well-liked within the clubhouse, specifics were always avoided. It was just a change that was needed.

That is, until Javy Baez spoke on Sunday morning. In no unclear terms, Baez took a stab at explaining why such a talented team has fallen short of expectations in back-to-back seasons. 

“It wasn’t something bad, but we had a lot of options – not mandatory,” Baez said from his locker at Sloan Park. “Everybody kind of sat back, including me, because I wasn’t really going out there and preparing for the game. I was getting ready during the game, which is not good. But this year, I think before the games we’ve all got to be out there, everybody out there, as a team. Stretch as a team, be together as a team so we can play together.”

Related: What to love, and hate, about the Cubs heading into 2020

The star shortstop's comments certainly track. Maddon is widely considered one of the better managers in baseball, but discipline and structure have never been key pillars of his leadership style. He intrinsically trusts players to get their own work done – something that's clearly an appreciated aspect of his personality... until it isn't. World Series hangovers don’t exist four years after the fact but given Maddon’s immediate success in Chicago, it’s easy to understand how players let off the gas pedal. 

“I mean I would just get to the field and instead of going outside and hit BP, I would do everything inside, which is not the same,” he said. “Once I’d go out to the game, I’d feel like l wasn’t ready. I felt like I was getting loose during the first 4 innings, and I should be ready and excited to get out before the first pitch.” 

“You can lose the game in the first inning. Sometimes when you’re not ready, and the other team scores by something simple, I feel like it was because of that. It was because we weren’t ready, we weren’t ready to throw the first pitch because nobody was loose.” 

Baez also promised that this year would be far more organized and rigid. They will stretch as a team, warm up outside as a team and hopefully rediscover that early-game focus that may have slipped away during the extended victory lap. That may mean less giant hacks, too. 

“Sometimes we’re up by a lot or down by a lot and we wanted to hit homers,” he said. “That’s really not going to work for the team. It’s about getting on base and giving the at-bat to the next guy, and sometimes we forget about that because of the situation of the game. I think that’s the way you get back to the game – going pitch by pitch and at-bat by at-bat.” 

Baez was less specific when it came to his contractual discussions with the team, only saying that negotiations were “up and down.” He’d like to play his whole career here and would be grateful if an extension was reached before Opening Day – he’s just not counting on it. The focus right now is on recapturing some of that 2016 drive and the rest, according to him, will take care of itself.

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