Cubs

Cubs complete 2020 stretch with capital sweep

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Cubs complete 2020 stretch with capital sweep

Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010
10:22 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

WASHINGTON Sometime after the teams United Airlines charter left BaltimoreWashington International Airport on Wednesday nightThursday morning, Mike Quade hoped that he could take a deep breath and reflect on everything that had happened.

On Saturday night the Mount Prospect native stared out his window after being told he would become the 51st manager in Cubs franchise history.

The 53-year-old had never played in a major-league game, much less managed one, and he would be replacing Lou Piniella, who has a strong argument that he belongs in Cooperstown, N.Y. As Monday night bled into Tuesday morning, Quade couldnt fall asleep after the first big-league victory of his career.

You want to take a moment just to reflect on things, he said. Not just about last night, but how long the roads been, blah, blah, blah. So you do that and then Im looking at the clock its 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30 (a.m.).

The fast-talking Quade managed 2,378 games at the minor-league level, but none of those decisions would be dissected the next day on Chicagos sports-radio stations.

Well play our tails off for him the rest of the way, Ryan Dempster said. Hes probably been waiting his whole life to do (this).

On Wednesday night at Nationals Park, Quade told Dempster that he was finished after seven innings. Dempster felt like he had total command of his fastball, and he had thrown only 79 pitches in a scoreless game he clearly didnt want to leave.

If that was a risk, it paid off when pinch-hitter Tyler Colvin drew a walk on four pitches and stole second. Colvin scored when Starlin Castro lined a double into left field and the Cubs finished off a sweep of the Washington Nationals with a 4-0 victory.

You can do what you want decision-wise, but the guys have to execute and pick you up and win (it), and thats what they did, Quade said. I couldnt live with myself if were tied in the eighth and I dont try to do something to win the game.

After Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano hit their 20th and 21st home runs of the season respectively, Dempster (12-8) had earned the victory. The right-hander had thrown at least 89 pitches in each of his previous 26 starts this season, and this one was shaping up to perhaps be his best two hits, eight strikeouts, one walk in seven innings.

Thats his decision as a manager and I stand by that as a player, Dempster said. Ill do whatever the manager tells me to do. So do I want to come out of the game? Of course I dont. He knows that. Everybody knows that. (But) way too many positive things came out of today to worry about that.

Dempster was asked about the differences with Quade running the show and gave a deadpan answer: We won three in a row. Hes undefeated.

That might have something to do with the 53-74 Nationals. The Cubs (54-74) won seven of their 20 games in 20 days, a brutal stretch that finally ended Wednesday night in Washington.

During that time, they played for three managers and against five legitimate pennant contenders Cincinnati, San Francisco, St. Louis, San Diego and Atlanta. Carlos Silva underwent heart surgery and Derrek Lee and Mike Fontenot were traded. Piniella took a leave of absence, came back and fought back the tears after his final game in a uniform.

Never before has Quade looked forward to a day off in Cincinnati this much. He wont need to request a wake-up call for Thursday morning. But the surprise has worn off, and hes focused on the job.

Im past that, Quade said. Look, I like managing. I loved it in A-ball and I loved it in Double-A. (The) guys have made it a lot of fun for me by playing well, but the game will humble you.

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

Cubs reportedly ‘exceptionally impressed’ by Joe Espada in managerial search

Cubs reportedly ‘exceptionally impressed’ by Joe Espada in managerial search

As the Cubs peruse over their list of managerial candidates, one name reportedly made a strong impression following his interview with the team.

According to NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan, Astros bench coach Joe Espada left the Cubs front office “exceptionally impressed” following his interview on Monday.

Espada, 44, has spent the last two seasons as Astros bench coach following three seasons as Yankees third base coach. He is one of MLB’s more sought after managerial candidates this winter and one of three known external candidates for the Cubs’ opening, along with Joe Girardi and Gabe Kapler.

Former Cubs catcher and current front office assistant David Ross has been the presumed front runner for the Cubs' opening. But based on Kaplan’s report, Espada clearly has given Epstein and Co. something to think about, which makes sense, considering Espada is coming from an innovative Astros organization.

Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference that there’s no timeline for the Cubs’ managerial search. However, MLB prefers teams to not make big announcements during the World Series, which kicks off on Oct. 22. Thus, the Cubs may not make an announcement for little while longer, though this is purely speculation.

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The curious case of Brad Wieck and his unique opportunity with the Cubs

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AP

The curious case of Brad Wieck and his unique opportunity with the Cubs

If anybody thought the Cubs' 2019 season was a roller coaster, it was nothing compared to what Brad Wieck has gone through this year.

Wieck — the 6-foot-9 left-handed reliever — went from a cancer diagnosis to a Padres cast-off and wound up finishing the year carving through the heart of the Cardinals order in the eighth inning of a must-win game in late-September for the Cubs.

Wieck began 2019 with a testicular cancer diagnosis in January and underwent surgery shortly after. That left him playing catch-up all spring training, unable to lift, run or throw off a mound for a month after the surgery. He only ended up facing live hitters twice before the regular season started and was never able to recover with the Padres, putting up a 5.71 ERA in 34.2 MLB innings. 

Then the Cubs came calling.

While the rest of Cubdom was understandably occupied on Trade Deadline Day celebrating the Nick Castellanos move, Theo Epstein's front office made a smaller move with the San Diego Padres. And Wieck wasn't even the central focus of that trade, as more of the emphasis was on the departure of Carl Edwards Jr. — a polarizing figure in the Cubs bullpen the last few seasons, including throughout the 2016 World Series run.

Yet Epstein's front office didn't treat Wieck like a throw-in. From Day 1 with the organization, the Cubs handled the southpaw more like a first-round draft pick.

Right after the trade, Wieck was immediately assigned to Triple-A Iowa, where he made a pair of appearances against the Tacoma Rainiers. From there, he was invited to Chicago to meet with the Cubs front office and throw a bullpen off the Wrigley Field mound.

"So I got here and they had a whole presentation of what my current curveball looked like and what they would like the shape of it to look like and so we just started messing around with grip," Wieck said. "I went to a spike curveball grip and we got in the lab and we started throwing it more and we came up with consistent break of what we thought was gonna be a better break than the curveball that I had.

"Just trial and error, honestly. We just looked at Rapsodo stuff and saw what spin efficiency is doing and spin rate and trying to get my curveball spin to replicate the exact opposite of my fastball. That's what our goal was."

That led to a trip to the "Pitch Lab" in Arizona where Wieck worked with Josh Zeid, the Cubs' pitching analyst, to continue to mess around with the new curveball grip and add a new, consistent weapon to his arsenal. 

If the term "spike curveball" sounds familiar, it should. It's become the unofficial pitch of the Cubs (you know, if organizations defined themselves by just one pitch). Rowan Wick — Wieck's former roommate in the Padres system — broke out as a trusted big-league reliever in large part because of the emergence of his spike curve. Craig Kimbrel throws one and also taught the pitch to Yu Darvish, who added it to the plethora of options already at his disposal. 

Wieck's time in Arizona was about getting comfortable with the new pitch and not worrying about facing hitters or pitching in a game. After a couple weeks in the desert, the Cubs threw him back out on the mound in Iowa, where he made four appearances before getting the call to the big leagues when rosters expanded in September. 

Right off the bat, we got a look at that spike curve and there is no doubt it can play at Wrigley Field, especially when the shadows roll in:

Just like that, a new weapon was born and Wieck developed more confidence in that reshaped curveball.

"I like that they're forcing me to throw it more because I've been a fastball-heavy pitcher my whole life," Wieck said. "I trust my fastball with my life. To have a catcher get back there and make you throw it, that's really good."

The Cubs' confidence in Wieck also grew as the month went on. He emerged alongside his buddy Wick as vital pieces of the late-season bullpen while Kimbrel and Brandon Kintzler dealt with injuries. It got to the point where Joe Maddon kept Wieck in to face the Cardinals' big boppers (Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna — both right-handed hitters) with a 1-run lead in the eighth inning on that final homestand. We all know how that game ended (Kimbrel served up homers on back-to-back pitches for another gut-wrenching Cubs loss), but Wieck did his job and proved he's far more than just a lefty specialist.

This fall was the first time Wieck had been a part of a playoff push and that outing against the Cardinals was only the 46th MLB appearance of his young career. Moving into 2020, the 28-year-old southpaw looks to be one of only a few arms penciled into the Cubs bullpen. 

The Cubs had their eyes on Wieck for a while before they were able to trade for him and they don't plan on rolling out a big presentation for each acquisition or ask every new arm to start throwing a brand new pitch or completely remake one of their existing pitches. This was a unique situation, but it's one that already paid dividends in a short period of time and could help set up the bullpen for the future. 

It's also another indicator that the "Pitch Lab" can work, as Wieck joins Wick and Kyle Ryan as products of the Cubs' new model they hope to fine-tune and grow. Epstein will hire a director of pitching for the organization this winter and the Cubs are hoping to change the narrative surrounding their shocking lack of pitching development under this front office. 

In Wieck's case, it was a group effort from the Cubs — the front office, research and development department, big-league coaching staff (led by pitching coach Tommy Hottovy), the pitching analytics unit based in Arizona and minor league pitching coordinator Brendan Sagara all teamed up to make it happen for the tall lefty in only a month's time.

It's a model the organization will attempt to duplicate moving forward, beginning this winter.