Cubs

Colvin has handled everything thrown his way

Colvin has handled everything thrown his way

Friday, Sept. 17, 2010
Updated 11:30 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MIAMI Tyler Colvin is left-handed, 6-foot-3 and 25 years old, three reasons why he continues to work out at first base. During batting practice late Friday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium, Starlin Castro threw a ball over his head.

The Cubs like Castros defensive range, but want him to concentrate hard on the territory six feet to his left and six feet to his right, so that he consistently makes the routine plays and cuts down on his errors (26).

It appears that Colvin would make a good target at first base, though he hasnt played there since early in his career at Clemson University, and even then it was in a backup role. The Cubs dont have an immediate long-term answer at the position Xavier Nady is approaching free agency.

If youre envisioning an infield anchored by Colvin and Castro, then youll have to wait.

Before becoming manager, Mike Quades responsibilities as third-base coach included working with the outfielders. Quades seen Colvins arm and athleticism in the outfield, which has allowed the rookie to play in right, center and left.

Quade doesnt plan to play Colvin at first base this weekend in Miami, and refuses to experiment against a contender. So the only window would be the seasons final series if we wanted to have fun some fun in Houston. (It) would almost be on a whim at this point.

Its not like hes taking balls at short, Quade said. This could be a valuable thing for him someday. I just dont know if its going to be a valuable thing for him in the next two weeks.

And so the education continues for Colvin, who woke up Friday with 20 home runs, tied for the lead among all major-league rookies with Florida Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton.

Colvin generated only 15 homers last year while splitting his time between Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. He still does not view himself as a home-run hitter. He accounted for 56 in 442 career minor-league games.

Until his promotion from Double-A Jacksonville on June 8, Stanton had hit 89 homers across 323 games in the minors. When asked what it would mean to finish the season with the rookie lead in home runs, Colvin replied, Not much.

That answer basically sums up Colvin, who is friendly and accommodating and makes sure not to say anything controversial in a big media market. He hasnt complained about playing time or a potential position switch. He managed to stay out of the Steve Stone controversy when the White Sox broadcaster criticized Lou Piniella for not giving him enough at-bats.

Hes an intelligent kid, Quade said. He listens, he learns, he tries to do the right thing. (This) kid also has a lot of the intangibles that should allow him to get the most out of his ability.

Hes been through a lot and Ill be damned hes handled everything really well.

Part of it is seeing how the National League attacks your swing, making adjustments and identifying pitches. Colvin was 2-for-10 this season against Chris Carpenter when he stepped in against the former Cy Young Award winner Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.

Colvin launched a 3-2 curveball 383 feet into the right-field seats for a three-run homer that was a finishing touch on a three-game sweep of the Cardinals that had analyst Jack Clark calling them quitters the next day on St. Louis radio.

Colvin had been stuck on 19 homers since Aug. 24. And his batting averageon-base percentage numbers have gone through the ups and downs: .289.365 in April; .333.367 in May; .250.280 in June; .253.330 in July; .215.271 in August; and .243.282 in September.

He processed another piece of firsthand information against Carpenter, which should help him wherever he plays in the future, and whenever he gets 500-plus plate appearances in a season.

You can go off what everybodys telling you, Colvin said, but until you get up there and experience it for yourself, thats what you got to go (with).

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

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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