Cubs searching for answers on pitching staff


Cubs searching for answers on pitching staff

Monday, April 18, 2011Posted: 8:50 PM

By Patrick Mooney

The Cubs havent felt the aftershocks yet. Theyve managed to get by with 40 percent of their rotation on the disabled list, but who knows how long that will last.

Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner are said to be making progress. They were scheduled to see Dr. Stephen Gryzlo, the teams orthopaedist, on Monday night for re-evaluations that could be the first step toward outlining throwing programs.

Wells (forearm strain) played catch on Monday and is viewed as likely to return to the rotation ahead of Cashner (rotator cuff strain).

The state of the pitching staff is such that Wells was the last Cub to submit a quality start on April 4 until Carlos Zambrano stepped up on Monday night. The Cubs began the day with a 5.26 ERA that ranked tied for 14th in the National League, and opponents were hitting .280 against them.

The most surprising development has been the struggles of Ryan Dempster (1-2, 6.84) and Matt Garza (0-2, 6.27), who were perceived to be the teams two most reliable starters.

We all believe we should have a few more wins, general manager Jim Hendry said. We all feel that Demp and Garza are going to throw better than they have. (You) get the other guys back and then all of a sudden youve got a pretty interesting club.

In the meantime, James Russell will make a second spot start on Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres. If the predicted rain and thunder doesnt wash out the game, Russell will stretch out to around 70 pitches.

The 25-year-old left-hander got five outs last week in his first career big-league start, which ended as an 11-2 loss to the Houston Astros.

You can only hope itll go better, Russell said. I feel great my bodys well enough to handle (it).

Russell does not project as a starter and will be moved back into the bullpen. The Cubs are monitoring things on all fronts.

Doug Davis, who agreed to a minor-league deal last week, is in Mesa, Ariz., for extended spring training and could be at an affiliate by months end.

Todd Wellemeyer has only really just begun throwing to live hitters after dealing with a nagging hip injury. The hope is that hes about a week away from a simulated game.

Brian Schlitter, the Maine South High School graduate, has been returned to the Cubs organization and added to the 40-man roster, which stands at 39. During the offseason, the Cubs outrighted Schlitter, who was claimed by the New York Yankees before the Philadelphia Phillies grabbed him off waivers in February. Major League Baseball ruled that Schlitters elbow issues were a preexisting condition, and the 25-year-old right-hander will report to Mesa later in the week.

Ramon Ortiz, another veteran recently added to the inventory, threw three innings Sunday for Triple-A Iowa and gave up three runs on seven hits. The 38-year-old right-hander has almost 1,400 innings on his resume.

Hes a guy thats got a lot of big-league time, Hendry said. Well just keep him working and see how it goes. But were not disappointed in the guys that are here.

No matter what happens, the Cubs will need more from their frontline starters. Dempster prides himself on giving his team a chance to win and by his count, hes only done that once in four starts. The frustration is mounting.

I know theyre professional hitters on the other side, Dempster said. You have to tip your cap to them sometimes. But when you throw the ball over the middle of the plate too much, you dont tip your cap to anybody. You look in the mirror and do a better job.

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

Cubs fill multiple needs with Daniel Descalso signing

Cubs fill multiple needs with Daniel Descalso signing

The Cubs have crossed multiple items off their winter checklist.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday morning the Cubs have a two-year, $5 million agreement in place with veteran Daniel Descalso:

Descalso fills a lot of needs for the Cubs this offseason as a veteran known as a quality leader in the clubhouse/dugout, middle infield depth and another left-handed bat.

The 32-year-old is coming off a career season with the Arizona Diamondbacks in which he set new highs in homers (13), RBI (57), walks (64), OPS (.789), OPS+ (106), on-base percentage (.353), slugging percentage (.436) and runs scored (54).

He also played all over the diamond, recording time at second base (52 games), third base (37 games), first base (11 games), DH (7 games) and left field (5 games). He even pitched in two games, so he could be an option for manager Joe Maddon if the Cubs need some position players for mop-up duty again in 2019. Descalso has played a lot of shortstop in his career, as well, but he's recorded just 2 innings at the position since the start of the 2017 season so it's more likely the Cubs are interested in him as primarily a second/third baseman with the ability to move around more in the Ben Zobrist utility role if the need arises.

Descalso began his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, coming up through their system as a third-round draft pick in 2007 and spending 5 seasons with the Cubs' divisional rivals. He then moved on to the Colorado Rockies for 2015-16 before the two-year stint with the D-Backs.

With his journey around the NL, Descalso has made the postseason five different times, notching 48 games on baseball's biggest stage in October and posting a .226/.286/.387 slash line (.671 OPS) in those contests.

Descalso is also an affordable option for the Cubs, netting just $2.5 million each year with a $3.5 million club option for 2021 (according to Rosenthal). The multi-year commitment can help Descalso grow and develop into a leadership role in the Cubs clubhouse with more stability and security than a one-year deal provides. 

Descalso effectively takes Tommy La Stella's place on the Cubs roster as a more versatile infield option and provides some more pop/leadership though with a lower batting average than La Stella. 

The Cubs needed some infield depth heading into 2019, especially with Addison Russell out for at least the first month of the season on suspension and his status unknown beyond that point. Descalso can split time at second base with Zobrist, allowing the Cubs to follow the same rest forumla that helped the 2016 World Series MVP have a resurgent season last year (.305 AVG, .817 OPS).

The signing allows Maddon plenty of quality options on a given day, letting him choose a lineup from Descalso, Zobrist, Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and David Bote.

The Cubs have an interest in a more stable lineup/playing time equation in 2019, but it's never a bad thing to have more versatiity and depth on the roster.

Descalso may also be a fit for the Cubs at leadoff when he plays given he has posted a healthy walk rate the last three years includng a sparkling 15.1 percent in 2018. The veteran had success in that role last year (.357.412/.857 slash line) but in only 17 plate appearances and over his career, Descalso is hitting just .168 with a .266 OBP and .584 OPS in 24 starts in the leadoff spot.

The Cubs still figure to add another bullpen arm or two this winter and should add more shortstop depth behind Javy Baez.

Don't count on David Ross as Cubs bench coach in 2019


Don't count on David Ross as Cubs bench coach in 2019

Here's the bad news for Cubs fans: David Ross almost assuredly won't be the Cubs bench coach in 2019.

Here's the good news for Cubs fans looking to get their Grandpa Rossy fix: They can still catch him on ESPN throughout the baseball season.

ESPN announced a multi-year extension with Ross Tuesday morning to retain the popular former catcher as an MLB analyst calling the weeknight games and showing up on Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter, among other shows.

The contract extension probably eliminates the Cubs' chances of luring Ross into a role as Joe Maddon's new bench coach in 2019. But the biggest factor for Ross has always been the time away from family, as jumping back into the dugout in a coaching capacity is extremely time-consuming and would take a huge committment from Ross to be away from his role as a dad and husband.

The Cubs still retain Ross as a special assistant in Theo Epstein's front office and Epstein admitted last month the team is pushing for Ross to be around the team more in 2019, as his presence has a profound effect on all the young players that still look up to him.

"I think his mere presence is helpful," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said last week. "Those guys trust him. The timing of David Ross being on this team was perfect in that those guys were 21 and 22, so he had such an influence on those guys. I still think they look up to him, so when he's around, they'll gravitate towards him and talk to him. We couldn't hire anyone from the outside that could have that kind of influence. I think it's more about that. 

"There's probably some natural reaction when he's around where it feels like it did in '15 and '16 a little bit. But yeah, having him around is really valuable and I think he will have a big impact."

Ross' extension with ESPN doesn't completely rule out any chance of him coaching — or managing — for the length of the deal (which was not released), as people jump from the TV booth to the field often for managerial/coaching gigs across all American sports. But the extension certainly creates another wrinkle in the situation.