Cubs

Cubs stand by Coleman after rocky outing

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Cubs stand by Coleman after rocky outing

Friday, April 22, 2011
Posted: 6:04 p.m. Updated: 7:37 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Casey Coleman doesn't have to look over his shoulder yet. He's built up enough capital within the organization.

The Cubs know that Coleman doesn't have overpowering stuff. He got to this point because of his intelligence, his control and his ability to make the big pitches that minimize the damage.

It simply didn't happen in Friday's 12-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"People are allowed a mulligan or two," manager Mike Quade said.

It's easy to forget just how much the Cubs are asking of Coleman, who will turn 24 this summer and has only 70 innings on his major-league resume.

That's because of his pedigree - third-generation big-league pitcher - and the way he finished last season, going 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in eight starts.

On a cold, gray afternoon - 41 degrees at first pitch - the Cubs waited 74 minutes to start Friday's game and were soon probably wondering: Why did we bother?

There was an announced crowd of 36,595, but nowhere near that many showed up, and by the end it was mostly just the seagulls circling overhead.

Coleman got through the first two innings before unraveling in the third. He looked out of character by walking in one run and ultimately couldn't stop the bleeding.

A.J. Ellis sliced a two-out, two-run single into center to give the Dodgers a 5-0 lead. Even pitcher Chad Billingsley lined an RBI single into right. The Dodgers (11-10) generated six runs on six hits during that sequence.

"I didn't do a good job of slowing down the game," Coleman said. "I had it in my mind (that) I was going to make that one pitch to get out of the inning. (I) got myself in too much of a hurry.

"One after another - even if I got ahead of the guy - I let him right back in the count (and) they were able to get some singles."

Though Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner have made progress, they've still only just begun to play catch and have no idea when they'll be able to come off the disabled list.

Quade said he has "no idea" what the Cubs are going to do for a fifth starter on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies. James Russell hasn't been completely ruled out for another spot start yet, though the 25-year-old left-hander is best-suited as a situational reliever.

Quade will discuss the options with general manager Jim Hendry and assistant general manager Randy Bush this weekend. Quade will also make calls to the managers at Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee for their input.

"If we have somebody that's ready (in the system), I would like to explore that," Quade said. "Everything's still on the table until we take a closer look at it."

Having already survived a doubleheader this week, the Cubs will also consider bringing up a new reliever from Iowa.

Once Coleman was knocked out in the third, it fell to Jeff Stevens to eat up the next 3.1 innings. Stevens threw 89 pitches, allowed three runs and became the first Cubs reliever to walk six batters in a game since Joe Kraemer in 1990.

"If they asked me to throw 200 pitches, I would have," Stevens said. "I'll pitch in any situation. We needed to pick up Casey."

The Cubs (9-10) can look forward to Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza starting the next three days. But there's a drop-off after the "Big Three" that will make it hard to sustain momentum.

The Cubs became just the third team since 1900 to hit the .500 mark every step of the way to 9-9, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They will stick with Coleman, who also gave up six runs in his major-league debut last August before finding his rhythm.

"You got to move on," Coleman said. "Everyone has that one bad start. I had it last year, (which) was probably worse, but the guys in the locker room had confidence in me (and) played hard behind me. ... I'm not worried about this."

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

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

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USA TODAY

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Ricky Gutiérrez played in the Majors from 1993-2004. He played shortstop for the Cubs from 2000-01 and later signed with them again in June 2004. 

However, Gutiérrez never got back to the Majors with the Cubs, who sent him to the Red Sox the following month. His final Major League game was with the Red Sox on Oct. 3, 2004, the final game of the 2004 regular season; he didn’t play in the 2004 postseason. Gutiérrez was subsequently signed and released by a few other teams, including the White Sox in 2005.

Gutiérrez holds the distinction of being the first Cubs player to hit a regular season grand slam against the White Sox (July 12, 2001). In his two seasons with the Cubs, he tied for the Major League lead in sacrifice bunts both years (16 in 2000, 17 in 2001) which was odd since he had a grand total of 18 sacrifice bunts in his 847 career games NOT in a Cubs uniform. He also had uncharacteristic power with the Cubs:  21 home runs for Chicago in 272 games, 17 home runs with everyone else (847 games).

What Cubs fans probably remember most is what Gutiérrez did against them. On May 6, 1998 he had the lone hit (many dispute it should have been ruled an error) for the Astros off Kerry Wood in Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece at Wrigley Field (Gutiérrez was responsible for two of the strikeouts). 

Later that season, on June 26, the number 20 and Gutiérrez were again connected when he had a 20-pitch battle against Bartolo Colón, which ended in a strikeout. It remained the last plate appearance in the Majors of at least 20 pitches until Brandon Belt flew out on the 21st pitch of an at-bat against the Angels' Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018.

Gutiérrez’s nephew, James Jones, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Heat and Cavaliers.