Cubs

Cubs think Ian Stewart can put it all together

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Cubs think Ian Stewart can put it all together

MESA, Ariz. Three words have followed Ian Stewart from the Colorado Rockies. The Cubs used them to sell the trade to the media. Their new third baseman has other ideas. It wont really matter if he finally puts it all together.

I dont look at it as a change of scenery, Stewart said. In the early parts of the offseason, when my name was being thrown around, it was kind of upsetting to me, because I had grown up with them and I had been there for almost 10 years. I didnt go out of Colorado the way that I would have liked to or pictured it.

But when you hear a team like the Cubs, (a) storied franchise, and Theo Epstein (is) interested in you and they feel like you can do well, that just speaks volumes. It boosts your confidence and makes you feel good about the person (and) the type of player that you are.

The Cubs are betting that Stewart can approximate the player the experts thought he would become when he was coming out of high school in Orange County, California. The 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft will turn 27 on Opening Day. The clock is ticking.

At the winter meetings in Dallas, where everyone seemed to be chasing Albert Pujols rumors, the Cubs quietly worked on this deal.

One of the first moves of the Epstein administration was trading Tyler Colvin (another change-of-scenery candidate) and DJ LeMahieu for Stewart and pitcher Casey Weathers.

Stewart generated 25 homers and 70 RBI for the Rockies in 2009, before dropping to 18 and 61 the next season. He spent parts of last year at Triple-A Colorado Springs and on the disabled list (right hamstring, left wrist) and didnt hit a single homer at the major-league level.

You just got to give him the at-bats and let him feel comfortable, manager Dale Sveum said. Just give him the job (and) let him know hes going to be out there every single day. Hes got incredible power and athleticism. He catches the ball. Hes a two-way player from the left side of the plate with power, which just doesnt come along every day, especially at third base.

If Jim Hendry were still general manager, the Cubs almost certainly would have brought back Aramis Ramirez, who never really connected with the fans and turned off some media members with his body language. But they were still talking about a Silver Slugger winner.

In Stewart, Epstein saw a player who should be in his prime and will be under club control for the next three seasons. If this works out, and Starlin Castro continues to develop, the Cubs wont have to worry about the left side of their infield.

He pretty much told me: Youre our third baseman. We want you (to) play every day, get all your at-bats, have a great year, go out and have fun, Stewart said. Just to hear that from a guy of his stature and his position with the team is very comforting. It just builds a lot of confidence.

To get a jump on the season, Stewart came to Arizona over the winter for a minicamp run by hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. No need to mention change of scenery. There is opportunity here. Everything is in place for Stewart to show that he belongs and that the Rockies were wrong.

I dont feel like now I can just sit back, Stewart said. Its definitely not a thing where I feel like I can just relax now. It gives me even a little more drive.

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is one step closer to joining the Cubs bullpen.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Kimbrel will join Triple-A Iowa and make his first appearance on Tuesday, against the Sacramento River Cats.

While the Cubs officially signed him on June 7, Kimbrel has yet to pitch in actual games. The 31-year-old has been in a condensed spring training program at the Cubs' Arizona complex, throwing live batting practice on both Thursday and Saturday.

The Cubs haven't revealed an official timeline for Kimbrel to join the 25-man roster, as they are basing things off of how he feels. The expectation is he will pitch in about five games with Iowa before joining the Cubs. However, both Theo Epstein and Kimbrel acknowledged how the goal isn't to rush the closer back into MLB action.

"We're not gonna rush it," Epstein said. "It's gonna be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we're trying to plan this thing the right way so that he could be in a position to succeed not just immediately but in October. That's gonna be our guiding principle as we go."

"We sat down and put a gameplan together — something to work off of," Kimbrel said. "But at the end of the day, it's based off how I recover, how I get ready. This isn't about getting back on the field as fast as I can. This is about being the best that I can be in October and down the stretch and doing what I came here to do for this team."

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Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”

Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.

However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.

Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.

All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.

Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.

Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending  upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.

Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.

Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.

Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.