Cubs

Cubs can stay out of PujolsFielder sweepstakes

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Cubs can stay out of PujolsFielder sweepstakes

DALLAS A pack of reporters trailed the Miami Marlins executives trying to get Albert Pujols to take his talents to South Beach.

Ozzie Guillen was just standing in the lobby on Tuesday when the bosses owner Jeffrey Loria and team presidents Larry Beinfest and David Samson moved through the Hilton Anatole.

Guillen wasnt sure what was going on and looked over both shoulders. Suddenly he was swept up in the group and on his way to a meeting. The doors to elevator No. 5 closed in the medias face.

At that moment, it seemed at least possible that the St. Louis Cardinals could lose their iconic player. At a reported cost of more than 200 million, Pujols could leave the National League Central.

That would be nice, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. I had to witness it over the last six years what he could do and its pretty impressive. Hes definitely the best hitter in baseball right now. What he did in the playoffs speaks for itself. If hes not with us, you hope that hes in another division, no doubt about it.

That logic is seen as a compelling reason for why the Cubs spoke with Dan Lozano, the agent for Pujols (and Rodrigo Lopez), and could see what it would take to sign Prince Fielder (or at least make sure he doesnt return to the Milwaukee Brewers).

This could shift the balance of power in the division, but there is an industry perception that Cubs executives know how much work they have to do before signing a superstar like that.

Sveum is tight with Fielder after their time together in Milwaukee, but he hasnt been involved in a recruiting process yet.

You know there (are) rumors out there and all that, Sveum said, but I dont really see that weve started any talks or anything like that.

If the Cubs do jump in on Fielder, Sveum said, Id probably have a big phone bill to Florida. You got to think if it all came about, (youd) have to find yourself in a pretty decent role (because were very close).

Fielder will turn 28 next season, but hes considered a throwback player who hustles down the line and never wants to be left out of the lineup. Hes the left-handed bat the Cubs crave, and would be a unifying force in the clubhouse.

He should have played in the 1950s and 60s and 70s, Sveum said. They played as hard as they possibly could every single day. They cared about winning. They cared about their teammates and Prince is all of those things. Hes just one of those special guys that come around once in a lifetime.

The problem is matching up the sweet spot of Fielders prime years with a Cubs team that isnt ready to win right now. Even though hes averaged 37 homers and 106 RBI for every 162 games in his career, there would be concerns about how his body type might project.

You want to make sure youre paying for future (performance) and not for past, general manager Jed Hoyer said. Its pretty simple, but if youre going to talk about a long deal, it better be a great player, an elite talent. Otherwise, those are recipes for disaster.

The Cubs president of baseball operations certainly enjoys the perception that the Cubs could be in on everything. Hes content to sit up in his suite and keep everyone guessing.

I dont mind when that stuffs out there, Theo Epstein said, because maybe it hides the ball a little bit from what we really are doing. (I) encourage that type of circus atmosphere in the lobby. Its good to be a little unpredictable.

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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