Cubs

Cubs: Joe Maddon hates the idea of the DH in National League

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Cubs: Joe Maddon hates the idea of the DH in National League

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has zero interest in the designated hitter coming to the National League.

That chatter picked up again with the St. Louis Cardinals losing Adam Wainwright for the rest of the season. The St. Louis ace tore his left Achilles tendon while trying to run out a popup during Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers.  

“I am so not into knee-jerk stuff,” Maddon said Monday at Wrigley Field. “That’s just the expedient nature of reporting and the world we exist in today. It’s unfortunate what happened to (Wainwright). It really is. I would prefer that would not have happened to him. We all (feel that way). Because I want to beat our opposition with their best all the time.

“But that should have nothing to do with anything. He could have got hurt traveling to the ballpark in his car. And then he’s supposed to stop driving?

“I mean, really, come on. That’s just part of the game. That’s the way it works. It’s unfortunate. It stinks. But I like the National League game.”

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Maddon clearly loves the strategy as well as the debates that come with double switching and hitting the pitcher eighth, believing it helps sell the product and ultimately benefits the overall game.

As Maddon said: “Barrooms got to be deluged with some really good stuff on a nightly basis when they think I’m stupid.”

Maddon usually looks at the big picture, but he’s not working for the Tampa Bay Rays anymore. The Cubs now have arguably the industry’s best crop of young position players, and it’s unlikely they will all fit together on the North Side.

Just look at someone like Double-A Tennessee’s Dan Vogelbach, a potential trade chip who’s blocked by All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Vogelbach is 22 years old and listed at 6-foot, 250 pounds, a body type that suggests he would fit as a designated hitter in the American League.

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Vogelbach woke up on Monday leading the Southern League with a .444 batting average, showing the potential the Cubs saw when they made him a second-round pick in the 2011 draft. He’s put up 13 walks against five strikeouts, generating three homers, seven doubles and 13 RBI through 15 games.

“I come from ‘The Land of No DHs,’ where that’s a very expensive position,” Maddon said. “There are not many that are really, really good at it. That’s not an easy position to play – to hit and then sit around and then hit again and perform at a high level.

“I like this eight-plus-one thing. And if you could get something good out of your group of pitchers, it might give you an edge. And that’s also pretty interesting.

“From a kid’s perspective – if you’re trying to gain more fans and you’re looking for that intellectual component – give them the National League game to follow and have them try to understand.”

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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