Cubs: Joe Maddon preaching patience for Jorge Soler


Cubs: Joe Maddon preaching patience for Jorge Soler

In spring training, Joe Maddon labeled Jorge Soler as Vladimir Guerrero with plate discipline. That made it sound like the Cubs manager saw the young Cuban outfielder someday approaching something close to a Hall of Fame ceiling.

It’s not going to be that easy for any of the powerful young hitters the Cubs are building around now. Maddon can’t communicate that much with Soler in Spanish, but he wants his coaching staff to send a message and reinforce certain ideas.

[MORE CUBS: Joe Maddon hates the idea of the DH in National League]

This is all part of the learning curve for a guy who only played 54 career games above the A-ball level before his big-league promotion last summer: Soler broke an 0-for-15 streak with a first-inning double during Monday night’s 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed with him is frustration in other components of his game,” Maddon said. “That’s what I would really like for him to avoid. He has shown in the past to be a really patient hitter that doesn’t normally chase.

“He has been (chasing) more recently. For me, it’s the old scouting adage of: ‘If he’s shown it to you before, he’s going to show it to you again.’ So I know he’s going to go back to being that guy. I just think that with the great start that he has had, he’s probably just pressing a little bit more.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Jorge Soler jersey]

It can’t be easy hitting on a cold night when it’s 43 degrees at first pitch and you’re wearing a facemask. Soler – who had struck out 10 times in his previous four games – wowed Cubs officials with his methodical approach coming out of Cuba and those skills still leave him with a .762 OPS in April.

“All he needs to do is take his walks,” Maddon said. “Seriously, when you’re walking, you’re hitting, especially with guys that are that good. Meaning that you’re not expanding your strike zone. You’re not chasing that guy’s pitch. You’re making him come to you more.

“He doesn’t need to make any adjustments physically (with) his feet, arms, hands, head, whatever. His adjustment just has to come from the fact that I’m going to accept my walks. And once he comes to terms with that, he’ll take off again.”

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

USA Today

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

The Astros' sign-stealing scandal is personal for a lot of players, though it probably hits a little differently for Yu Darvish. 

Darvish was a member of the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers team that Houston beat in the World Series. Darvish didn't have his best performance in the series and when asked about the scandal, the Cubs' pitcher didn't hold back:

It's a weird feeling. Like, in the Olympics, when a player cheats, you can't have a Gold medal, right? But they still have as World Series title. That makes me feel weird. That's it. And one more thing. With [Carlos] Correra talking about [Cody] Bellinger. I saw that yesterday. So they cheat, and I think right now that they don't have to talk. They shouldn't talk like that right now.

You can watch the video of Darvish's comments, from ESPN's Jesse Rogers, it right here.

The comments took on a life of their own, as Astros' soundbytes have been known to do over the last few weeks or so. Darvish was ready for the clapback, though, and delivered a final blow to some poor 'Stros fan who thought he could compete with Darvish on twitter dot com. 

Sign a lifetime contract, Yu. Never leave us.

Related: Bryant crushes Astros for cheating scandal: 'What a disgrace that was' 

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Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career


Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys' roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.”