Cubs

Coleman looks to end season on a high note

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Coleman looks to end season on a high note

Monday, Sept 26, 2011
Posted: 10:59 a.m.

Associated Press

After a tremendous 2010, much was expected out of the San Diego Padres' Mat Latos heading into this season.

He finally seems to be living up to his potential.

Latos looks to continue his impressive second half when he takes the mound against the visiting Chicago Cubs in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.

Latos (8-14, 3.60 ERA) finished 10th in the NL with a 2.92 ERA last year and held teams to a .217 average - the fifth-best mark in the league. A strained right shoulder was largely to blame for his slow start this season, but he's impressed since the All-Star break, yielding three runs or fewer in all but one of his 13 outings.

The hard-throwing right-hander was at his best during Tuesday's 2-1 victory at Colorado, striking out a season-high nine while coming within an out of his second career shutout.

"I wanted him to have it," manager Bud Black told the Padres' official website. "He's getting to the point where those things mean a lot. He's pitched good in the second half. He's done his job. He had the fastball, slider and curveball working. The breaking balls were good."

Latos, 1-2 with a 4.96 ERA in three career starts in this series, won't have to worry about facing Aramis Ramirez, who is 4 for 8 with two doubles against him. Ramirez has missed the previous four games with a strained right quad and isn't expected back until Tuesday at the earliest.

The Cubs, 2-2 during Ramirez's absence, wasted a solid effort from Randy Wells in Sunday's 3-2 defeat. Wells went all eight innings while Chicago (70-89) scored fewer than three runs for the seventh time in 12 games.

Starlin Castro went 1 for 4, extending his streak of reaching base to a career-high 37 consecutive games. The 21-year-old shortstop is essentially a lock to become the youngest player ever to lead the NL in hits - his 203 are 12 more than the Dodgers' Matt Kemp.

The Padres (69-90), meanwhile, failed to get much going against NL Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, falling 6-2. The top six hitters in the lineup mustered only three singles in 22 at-bats.

San Diego could have an easier time at the plate against Casey Coleman (3-8, 6.64), who takes the mound for Chicago. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 7.91 ERA over his last four road outings, during which opponents are batting .353 against him.

Coleman, though, is coming off his first win in nine starts, yielding one run and two hits over six innings of last Monday's 5-2 victory over Milwaukee.

"It's been a learning year for me, have a good outing and I would get too comfortable sometimes and the next outing three innings and you're out of the game," Coleman said. "So I was taking it inning by inning, out by out, and they played good defense behind me and that's the way it's got to be."

In his only career appearance in this series, Coleman gave up three runs and six hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-1 loss Aug. 18, 2010.

The Cubs, who took two of three from San Diego when the teams met in April, have won four of five at Petco while outscoring the Padres 14-6.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Kyle Ryan's emergence is coming at exactly the right time for Cubs

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AP

Kyle Ryan's emergence is coming at exactly the right time for Cubs

With the MLB trade deadline two weeks away, bullpen help figures to be on the Cubs' wish list.

But thanks in part to Kyle Ryan's emergence, the Cubs don't absolutely need that reliever to be left-handed (though it would probably be ideal).

The Cubs began the week with three southpaws in their bullpen, but at some point this weekend, Ryan may be the lone lefty remaining. Mike Montgomery was traded to the Royals late Monday night and with Carl Edwards Jr. progressing in his rehab (he threw again Tuesday), he might take Randy Rosario's spot in a couple days. 

The Cubs like Edwards against lefties and they also feel confident in Pedro Strop against either handed hitter when he's on. But Ryan has worked his way into Joe Maddon's Circle of Trust and is currently the only lefty residing there.

That's not to say the Cubs don't need another reliable southpaw in the 'pen, but Ryan looks like he's going to get some big outs for this team down the stretch.

"He's done a great job for us since he's been here," Jon Lester said of Ryan last month. "I don't think he gets enough credit for what he's been able to do."

Ryan impressed the Cubs with his work as a multi-inning reliever in Triple-A last season and turned heads again in camp this spring. Still, Rosario made the Opening Day roster over him, though Ryan got called up on the team's season-opening road trip and made his first appearance on April 6.

Since then, he's been a mainstay while Montgomery battled injury and ineffectiveness, Rosario and Tim Collins have bounced between Triple-A Iowa and Chicago and veteran Xavier Cedeno's time off the injured list was short-lived.

Ryan looked to be finding his way throughout his first month in the bullpen, but after his infamous "freeze" moment against the Marlins, he endured some struggles (7 runs allowed on 12 hits in 7 innings from May 8 through June 1).

He's righted the ship since then, permitting only 1 run over his last 17 appearances (14 innings) and lowering his season ERA to 3.21 to go along with a 1.31 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 33.2 innings.

A big part of that recent success can be tied to Ryan's increased improvement against left-handed hitters. 

Lefties hit .344 with a .405 on-base percentage off Ryan through June 5. But since then, Ryan has surrendered only 3 hits — all singles — and zero walks to the 19 left-handed hitters he's faced (.158 AVG).

He credits part of that turnaround to working on a changeup, which he thinks has helped lock in the "feel" of all his other pitches as well as his mechanics. 

As he works to add a new pitch to his repertoire, Ryan has leaned on Cubs bullpen coach Lester Strode and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy for assistance, while also picking the brains of veterans like Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Brad Brach who have all thrown changeups for quite a while.

But even with all that work, he still hasn't resorted to using the changeup much in games. The pitch is so foreign that it's still being picked up as a sinker, including on the Wrigley Field video board Sunday when he threw one in his inning of work.

"Eventually, I'm gonna find the changeup and it's gonna be a comfortable, confident pitch," Ryan said. "But I do think it's gotten me behind all the rest of my pitches and it's maybe a little bit better feel for everything. It's gonna stay where it is for a while. I'm gonna keep trying."

Ryan said one of the things he likes about the changeup is that it can eventually be a nice weapon because it "goes in the opposite direction" of all his other pitches.

We'll see if the new pitch can ever become a factor for the 27-year-old. But if it's helped lock in his other pitches, that's great news for the Cubs, especially as they look to fortify their bullpen this month.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Yu Darvish 1st Wrigley win and post-ASG hot start podcast

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Yu Darvish 1st Wrigley win and post-ASG hot start podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki discuss Yu Darvish's 1st win at Wrigley, Cole Hamel's status, and Kris Bryant playing better than he did in his MVP season.

01:00     Darvish picking up 1st win at Wrigley

03:30     Cole Hamels injury update

05:00     Starting rotation after the All-Star break

06:00     Cubs defense looking sharp

07:30     How the Cubs will approach the weekend and the expected heat

09:30     Kris Bryant playing above his MVP level

12:00     How the NL Central stacks up

14:00     Upcoming road trip to San Francisco, Milwaukee and Saint Louis

16:00     Addition to Martin Maldonado

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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