Cubs

Arms race: Silva loses in return, Samardzija waits

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Arms race: Silva loses in return, Samardzija waits

Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010
Updated 11:03 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

The last time Carlos Silva pitched in a major-league game he left the stadium in an ambulance and was rushed to a hospital. He had trouble breathing, and would undergo a procedure to fix his abnormally high heart rate.

That was 37 days ago in Denver, and so much around the Cubs has changed since then, except this: They are still looking at their pitching staff for answers.

Jeff Samardzija was among five players promoted from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday, though he is the only one working on a 10 million contract. He figures to get a look as a starter at some point this month.

That night Silva labored through a 7-3 loss to the Houston Astros in front of 31,596 fans at Wrigley Field, though he has given the Cubs more than they ever could have imagined when he was acquired in the Milton Bradley deal.

Silva lasted through five innings and 87 pitches, giving up six runs on nine hits. He doesnt quite look like an All-Star anymore, the way he did during the first half of the season. But remember that the Seattle Mariners got only 30 13 innings out of him last year, and that he went 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA in 2008.

Silva (10-6, 4.22) felt good Tuesday night the results just werent there. Hes not concerned about another episode, and felt comfortable against the Astros (65-73). After two minor-league rehab appearances, hes trying to build up arm strength and put together a good September.

Thats what Im looking for, Silva said, (to) try to finish very strong and come (in) next year ready to go. That means a lot for any player the way you finish.

The Cubs (60-79) demoted Samardzija on April 24, and the 25-year-old watched as the organization ran a shuttle for young pitchers between Des Moines and Chicago. It was hard at first, seeing so many of his teammates called up. Stuck at Triple-A, he went 11-3 with a 4.37 ERA in 35 games (15 starts).

I was going (to) get right and get some appearances. I went down and I pitched my ass off for awhile, Samardzija said. (But) its not in my hands. Im in no position to make those decisions or try (to) change their minds.

You get knocked down a little bit and then you kind of realize whats going on. And I was fine (with that).

Right now manager Mike Quade doesnt expect Tom Gorzelanny (bruised left hand) to be available to start this week. For the moment only Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster are scheduled to throw this weekend in Milwaukee.

Maybe Casey Coleman starts Sunday against the Brewers. Quade said he wasnt aware of any organizational discussions about shutting Silva down for the season after his health scare.

We think we have a surplus of arms, Quade said. But (Silva) felt so good about his heart no worries there and if you can put that out of your mind, his arms always been fine. So lets go ahead and see if he can come back and help us some.

After that, where does Samardzija factor into the equation?

Jeffs still going to be a good major-league pitcher, general manager Jim Hendry said. What role he ends up in is not really something that we stress over now.

On Saturday Samardzija once an All-American wide receiver at the University of Notre Dame watched Brian Kellys debut as the Fighting Irish head coach. One 23-12 win over Purdue later, expectations seem to have changed.

Theyre already talking about a national championship, right? Samardzija said. Then well lose a game and theyll talk about firing him, right? Thats how it goes.

Same with the Cubs. Until they went all in on player development during the second half of this season, their games were covered as if there were only 12 on the schedule.

In the same way, it will be easy to make snap judgments after every Silva start or Samardzija appearance. But this winter the front office will take a look at the bigger picture to see how all the pieces fit.

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

Cubs' Twitter trolls Brewers, Christian Yelich after Yu Darvish's stellar start

Cubs' Twitter trolls Brewers, Christian Yelich after Yu Darvish's stellar start

The Cubs' Twitter account has been saving this one for nine months.

First, let us present you with this doozy of a tweet from the Cubs after Thursday's 4-2 win over Milwaukee.

If you recall, Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich went at Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish on Twitter last November. A since-deleted tweet from Yelich's account to Darvish read "nobody needs help facing you."

A video circulated in November that showed Darvish step off the rubber while Yelich was in the batter's box during a 2019 Cubs-Brewers game. Some suggested Darvish stepped off because Yelich's eyes moved, also suggesting Yelich was looking for signs stolen via technology.

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In response to the video, Darvish explained his actions from that game, clarifying he wasn't accusing Milwaukee of stealing signs.

Here we are nearly a year later, the Cubs' Twitter playing off Yelich's tweet after Darvish dominated Milwaukee. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, allowing a hit (a solo homer) and two walks while striking out 11.

If you're wondering, Yelich went 0-for-2 with a hit by pitch against Darvish on Thursday.

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Cubs rotation weathers surprise break, shakeup to be as dominant as ever

Cubs rotation weathers surprise break, shakeup to be as dominant as ever

Hair flowing out from under his cap, Yu Darvish held his right leg up at a right angle and watched Brewers’ Omar Narvaez swing late on a high fastball.

If Darvish stuck an arm out, his body would be in the shape of a K, fitting for yet another strike out.

In the Cubs’ 4-2 win against the Brewers on Thursday, Darvish allowed just one hit and one run in seven innings. In fact, in the Cubs’ past three games no starter has given up more than a run, and all pitched at least six innings.

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“It makes my job really easy,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “It’s fun to sit back and not have to worry about too much until the sixth or seventh inning.

The Cubs rotation has been a strength all season. Entering play Thursday, the Cubs starters had the third-best ERA in Major League Baseball (2.65). But this recent string of especially dominant performances came under unusual circumstances: right after a surprise four-day break.

Starting pitchers enjoy a consistent schedule through most of the season. They generally pitch every fifth or sixth day, with a bullpen in between starts.

But the postponement of the St. Louis series, due to more positive tests in the Cardinals organization, threw off that routine for the Cubs starters. The Cubs left St. Louis last Friday without having played a game.

The Cubs coaching staff had a decision to make: skip the pitchers scheduled to start in those un-played games, or shuffle the rotation? They did a little bit of both.

Jon Lester, who was originally scheduled to start last Friday, threw his regular in-between-starts bullpen on Saturday and drew the first start of the Cleveland series.

Then, the rotation picked up at the beginning. The Cubs’ first three games back had Lester, Kyle Hendricks and then Darvish taking the mound. All had dominant outings, despite the extra days rest.

"There have been so many things going on this whole year,” Hendricks said, “I think that nothing's going to faze us now.”

Having Mills and Lester swap places also split up the two most similar pitchers in the Cubs rotation. Hendricks and Mills are both soft-throwing, crafty right-handers. With Mills pitching fifth and Hendricks first, they threw on consecutive days as the rotation turned over.

Now, left-handed Lester will pitch in between the two, giving hitters a different look.

“We talked about it a little bit,” Hendricks said after his start Wednesday. “I think it's a little overblown, the effect of it. I think the last two games that I've pitched behind (Mills) I just haven't made a lot of good pitches, I was kind of off a little bit. Today I just made better pitches. ... And honestly, seeing how he attacks guys helps.”

Even so, Lester set the bar high out of the break and then Hendricks matched his one-run six innings.

“We’re not talking about it, but we’re putting pressure on each other,” Darvish said. “That’s a good pressure for us.”

On Thursday, Darvish said he stuck to mixing in his knuckle curve ball early in counts, as he’d begun to do against Pittsburgh two weeks before. He had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning Thursday but gave up a solo home run to Justin Smoak. Darvish recorded a season-high 11 strikeouts.

“I thought he had really good command of his off-speed stuff tonight,” Ross said after the game. “… Really kept them off balance. You really didn’t see a whole lot of good swings until that homer form Smoak.”

Next, the streak will be in the hands of Tyler Chatwood and Mills. Chatwood had a dud of an outing the last time he pitched, allowing eight runs on 11 hits at Kansas City. But he averaged over nine strikeouts in each of his first two outings.  And Alec Mills has a 1.38 ERA, the second best on the team, behind Lester (1.06).

Both have been integral parts of the rotation overperforming, after the Cubs front office was up front about its starting-pitching depth concerns ahead of the season.

After Thursday’s game, the Cubs rotation has improved to a 2.55 ERA, with a 12-3 record.

 

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