Cubs

Angel Guzman doesnt live with regrets

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Angel Guzman doesnt live with regrets

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
6:30 PM
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. As good as Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs say when they look back on what Angel Guzman used to be.

That seems like a lifetime ago, but coming up through the system, the Cubs were high on two pitchers from Venezuela. One now has a guaranteed 91.5 million contract, while the other is working on a minor-league deal.

At the age of 29, Guzman does not view that as unfair, or wonder about what might have been. Eleven months after arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, he is focused on throwing batting practice on Wednesday, for the first time all over again.

I never paid attention to that at all when I was younger, Guzman said. I wouldnt change anything. I would do it the same way (as Im) doing it right now. Just keep it simple (be) a humble guy and just live in the reality.

Guzman was a pitcher the Cubs could dream about. Perceptions started changing in 2003, when Dr. James Andrews operated on Guzmans shoulder to repair a small tear in the back of his labrum. That was right around the time he should have been playing in the All-Star Futures Game.

My first look at him was like: Oh my God, said Cubs manager Mike Quade, who watched Guzman in camp and had him at Triple-A Iowa. And there were a lot of moments in his career in between the injury issues where thats what you saw. He was an exciting young prospect, for sure: Stuff, stature, a tall (kid with) good life (on his pitches). There were a lot of things to like.

Andrews, one of the most famous names in sports medicine, would also perform Guzmans Tommy John surgery in 2007, as well as the procedure last March. By then, everything was closing in on Guzman. He was already recovering from knee surgery, and dealing with the loss of his brother, who was murdered last year in Venezuela.

Its one of the cruelties of the game, Quade said. Hes a guy you root for, a long shot, (but) Ive played a few of those and cashed.

All this has given Guzman remarkable perspective. He spent all last season in Arizona, fighting the loneliness by working out in the brutal desert heat. Hes feeling better, but through experience knows that this will be a slow process.

Guzmans shown that he can do the job he posted a 2.95 ERA in 55 games out of the Cubs bullpen in 2009 but the Cubs cant count on him because of those medical records. His goal is to leave Mesa by May if everything goes the right way and head to a minor-league affiliate.

They want me to come back and every single guy in this clubhouse is showing me support, Guzman said. Its something that you really have to appreciate. (The Cubs) have been waiting for me for so long. Its something that really motivates you to become a better person, a better player, a better teammate.

Guzman became a free agent this offseason, and could have signed elsewhere, but returned to the organization hes been a part of since the Clinton administration.

The Cubs will keep giving him chances until he finally breaks down and really cant pitch anymore. And then theyll want to hire him to work in their player-development department. Because hed be a strong voice to talk straight with the Latin kids and the pitchers who think they already have it all figured out.

For Guzman, this gets tiresome, because with each injury its the same answers to the same questions. And against the odds, he tries to maintain the same positive outlook.

If youre really into the sport, it gets you, Guzman said, but (it makes you) stronger.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Steven Souza's healthy and ready to prove himself to Cubs fans and baseball in general

Steven Souza's healthy and ready to prove himself to Cubs fans and baseball in general

MESA, Ariz. –  Two years ago, things were looking bright for Steven Souza. At 28, he was coming off the best season of his career, one where he slashed .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, good for a 121 wRC+. The Rays are certainly never prohibitive favorites in the AL East, but the team was talented and the idea of catching up with the division’s juggernauts was no longer unrealistic. 

Then came the shoulder injury, which delayed the start of his 2018 season until mid-May. After that there was a pec injury, and before he knew it, the year was over and the right fielder had only played in 72 games. Think that’s bad? The following season, now playing for Arizona, Souza slipped while crossing home plate during one of the last games of Spring Training. He tore his ACL, and his season ended before it began. 

“It’s been a grind,” said Souza, who signed a one-year deal with the Cubs in late January. “Coming off the year I had in ‘17, I was excited for the future held for me, and I just kind of ran into a couple injuries that really derailed my last couple seasons. It’s been frustrating, but all that’s behind me, and even though it’s been a grind, I’m excited to get back out here and look forward to the future.” 

Freak injuries derailed what looked to be a promising prime of Souza’s career, and you wouldn’t blame him for harboring his fair share of resentment. It’s impressive, then, to hear him talk about what lasting effect the run of injuries has had on his psyche. 

“Personally, I don’t believe in accidents,” he said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. I don’t know what that reason was, but I know that I’m stronger for it. Mentally, I think if there’s a silver lining, it’s that I got to spend a full year with my son and my newborn daughter. As we all know, in this game, we don’t get to spend a lot of time with our families. So it was a huge blessing and I’m looking forward to moving on from that.” 

Unlike the years he spent playing alongside All-Star center fielders like Kevin Kiermaier and A.J. Pollock, Souza’s outfield positioning will be less set in stone with the Cubs. He’ll get ABs from the corners, but with Schwarber and Heyward not losing their starting positions anytime soon, the quickest road to more at-bats may come in center field. 

"Like I said, wherever I need to fit on the field,” he said. “Whether it’s first base, catcher, shortstop – I mean I’m not very good at those, and there are some really, really good players that are way better than me at those – but I’m just looking to help this team any way I can.” 

Not unlike new teammate Jason Kipnis, the draw of Wrigley was also too much to turn down. He has some moderate success there, too. Over 23 career plate appearances in the Friendly Confines, Souza’s hit .333/.391/.429 with an .820 OPS. It’s a small sample size, but it’s one that has him optimistic that he can prove himself the the North Side’s faithful. 

“I’ll tell you what, that was one of the things that brought me here, the fans and the environment. I’m super pumped,” he said. “And no offense, but I’ve played in Tampa and Arizona and those aren’t the greatest markets in the league. I’ve always enjoyed going to Wrigley, and I’ve had some good success at Wrigley, and I know the Cubs fans bring it every day and I’m looking forward to that.” 

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Can Cubs keep Báez and Bryant? Tom Ricketts says that's 'on Theo and Jed'

Can Cubs keep Báez and Bryant? Tom Ricketts says that's 'on Theo and Jed'

It's a pretty simple question with a pretty simple answer. Can the Cubs, one of baseball's wealthiest organizations, afford to keep both Kris Bryand and Javy Baez? Is there room in the infamous budget to make both of the team's homegrown stars Cubs for life?

“There’s certainly money out there. It’s a very, very profitable game," Bryant said, in regards to keep the core together. "It’s just a matter of if they want to. I don’t know, I really don’t. But it would certainly be cool.”

“It’s up to them,” Báez added. “I hope we both stay here. Obviously, we want to keep everyone here because we pretty much have the team that we want." 

Then, on Monday, "they" – being Cubs' owner Tom Ricketts – finally talked. So, Tom? You sign their checks, what do you think?

"Well, where we place our resources is a baseball decision," Ricketts said. "That’s Jed and Theo. But I mean, ultimately, we have to look at it from a bigger perspective."

It's been a week since Theo Epstein, David Ross and Jed Hoyer (he was there too!) addressed the media for the first time this spring, and no one seems to be able to get a straight answer on the team's most-pressing long-term concern. It's almost certainly by design, as the Cubs are adamant that speaking on finances publicly creates some sort of competitive disadvantage when it comes to negotiating with players and agents. KB and Báez say it's up to ownership, ownership says it's up to the front office (?) and the front office isn't going to speculate. Terrific! If you're to believe the rumor mill, the team seems marginally closer to an extension with Báez than they are with Bryant, and are maybe – according to some – more focused on moving the latter.

Epstein said Bryant was given no assurances about what the time between now and Opening Day holds, and regardless of Bryant's wishes to be in the loop, Ricketts also doesn't feel that an explicit guarantee is totally necessary. 

"I imagine there’s communication between Theo and Kris at some point," Ricketts said. "I think they met yesterday. But a lot of the stuff, what – do you communicate to say that the stuff you saw is a rumor? I mean, I don’t know. Like I said, we love KB. I think he’s ready to go and a full season of a healthy Kris Bryant is something we could really use." 

Put aside for a moment the fact that, yeah, that's exactly what you'd communicate. Compare the apparent transparency of an owner who said that the CBT "won’t define the situation" and "won’t determine the actual player moves" vs. what he said when pressed about all of the offseason turbulence surrounding Bryant and the Cubs. 

"Well obviously we love KB, he’s a great player and he’s a great teammate," he said. "He’s just a great part of the team. Most of the things that are out there are just rumors and noise. A lot of it is just not true. But with respect to all player decisions, if anything was going down that path, it’d obviously be a baseball decision."

Most of the things out there are just rumors and noise. A lot of it is not true. Can the Cubs' afford to keep Bryant and Báez? Yes. Will the Cubs' make that choice? 

"Once again, that’s in Theo’s camp. That’s his decision," Ricketts said. "We’d have to take a look at what that means for us all financially." 

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