Cubs

Cubs trying to tap into that Rays magic again

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Cubs trying to tap into that Rays magic again

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs have a pitcher whos been tested in October and went to the World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays. They have to figure out what to do with him now. His name is not Matt Garza.

Andy Sonnanstine emerged as a key piece on that 2008 miracle team, which captured the American League pennant one year after losing 96 games. The Rays didnt care how much money the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox spent. They still found a way.

Theo Epsteins first offseason as Cubs baseball czar resembled the Rays more than any of the big-market splashes he used to make with the Red Sox. There were value signings hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, like this one-year deal.

Sonnanstine even mentioned how he was looking forward to a change of scenery, the buzzwords the front office used in trading for Ian Stewart from the Colorado Rockies.

Sonnanstine won 10 games before the All-Star break in 2008 and crossed the 200-inning mark during the playoffs. He won nine games combined for the Rays the next three seasons.

There was a combination of the scouting report getting out there, people getting a little more familiar, Sonnanstine said. In 2008, there were a lot of teams that had never seen me before and I was switching arm angles, changing tempos and first go-round it worked great. I won five games quicker than anybody else in that organizations history.

I think the hitters made a great adjustment to me the next year and I didnt make as good of an adjustment to counteract that. I still think Im the same guy. Im confident in my ability and I think coming to the National League should kind of help me. (People here) havent really seen me. I can use that to my advantage and exploit some weaknesses.

But Sonnanstine, who will turn 29 in two weeks, couldnt have been all gimmicks. The right-hander was Tampa Bays minor-league pitcher of the year in 2006. He finished the 2008 regular season with a 124 strikeouts against 37 walks and survived in that brutal division.

The Cubs tried to tap into that Rays magic last winter, when former general manager Jim Hendry signed Carlos Pena to a pillow contract and pulled off a blockbuster deal for Garza. They got what they expected from Pena and Garza, but it wasnt enough to save jobs.

Sonnanstine called Pena who liked to write Conquer the now! inspirational messages on the dry-erase board in the clubhouse and went back to Tampa on a one-year deal one of my favorite characters Ive ever met through baseball. The positivity that guy oozes is awesome.

Sonnanstine wondered if Garza still brings in Popeyes fried chicken on the days he pitches. (Yes.)

That, to me, is a great idea, Sonnanstine said. It gives your position guys, your whole team, something to look forward to the day that you need work. So thats an incredibly intelligent chess move.

Sonnanstine faces long odds to make the rotation here, but in 2010 he went 3-1 with a 4.44 ERA in 81 innings, either as a reliever or a spot starter, and the Cubs could use someone like that. His dry sense of humor also wouldnt hurt inside Wrigley Fields cramped clubhouse.

Surely, Epstein remembers that Sonnanstine won Game 4 of the 2008 ALCS at Fenway Park, which helped set the stage for Garza to collect his MVP award. Here Garza has ignored the expectations, looked at this Cubs team and referenced the Rays, saying Why not?

Youd be amazed how many games you can win just with the positive mindset, Sonnanstine said. It (would be) awesome, man, getting back to that World Series. Of course, right now, Im sitting on a 1.000 batting average in the World Series.

Sonnanstine laughed about his 1-for-1 night against the Philadelphia Phillies: But I would gladly take another at-bat in the World Series.

Addison Russell releases statement, calls abuse allegations 'completely false'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell releases statement, calls abuse allegations 'completely false'

Addison Russell responded to the allegations that he physically and psychologically abused his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy.

In a statement released Friday night, Russell called the allegations against him "completely false," stating that he is confident that an investigation will exonerate him.

"These allegations are completely false. I made that clear to Major League Baseball last year and reiterated it to the Cubs today," Russell said in a statement released by the Major League Baseball Player's Assocation. "I'm confident any full and fair investigation will fully exonerate me. The protection of my children is foremost in my mind so I will have no further comment."

Reidy released a blog post late Thursday night detailing years of physical, emotional and psychological abuse that she experienced while married to Russell. The Cubs released a statement early Friday, saying they would "cooperate with the League's investigation so the appropriate action can be taken."

Cubs president Theo Epstein and owner Tom Ricketts held a press conference before Friday's game against the White Sox, saying that while the timing of the situation is not ideal, it does not matter.

"Any time there are accusations of this nature, they have to be taken very seriously and timing or inconvenience doesn't play into it," Epstein said. "All parties have an obligation to get to a just and fair resolution and if that includes discipline if appropriate, then so be it. If it doesn't, then so be it.

"But the important thing here is that justice and fairness is ultimately found. Timing is not ideal, but it doesn't matter. What matters is getting to a just and fair resolution and we're supportive of the league's step."

Baseball comes second for Cubs in Addison Russell situation

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USA TODAY

Baseball comes second for Cubs in Addison Russell situation

Two years after Theo Epstein sat in the visiting dugout on the South Side addressing the Cubs' trade for Aroldis Chapman in the same season he was suspended by Major League Baseball for domestic violence, the president of baseball operations once again had to touch on a similar topic in the same ballpark.

Addison Russell was placed on administrative leave early Friday afternoon, hours after a blog post surfaced from his ex-wife detailing physical and psychological abuse throughout their relationship.

"Disturbing" is how Epstein described Melisa Reidy's account when he saw it late Thursday night and said he immediately reached out to MLB's investigative body to see if they could verify any of the details.

Epstein and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts had a phone call with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the league office Friday morning, during which it was revealed the league would be placing Russell on administrative leave.

Russell can remain on leave for up to seven days and that leave can be extended by the league if need be after that time.

Epstein and Ricketts then met with Russell to inform him of the league's decision and questioned the shortstop on the details in Reidy's post.

"He reaffirmed his stance that he did not do what he is accused of having done," Epstein said.

The Cubs have no idea if Russell will play again this season as the team is in the midst of a tight pennant race in the final 10 days of September. But they also acknowledge baseball comes second in a time like this.

"Any time there are accusations of this nature, they have to be taken very seriously and timing or inconvenience doesn't play into it," Epstein said. "All parties have an obligation to get to a just and fair resolution and if that includes discipline if appropriate, then so be it. If it doesn't, then so be it.

"But the important thing here is that justice and fairness is ultimately found. Timing is not ideal, but it doesn't matter. What matters is getting to a just and fair resolution and we're supportive of the league's step."

There's not much the Cubs can do over the next week, as the matter "is in the league's court to do the investigation," Ricketts said.

Joe Maddon addressed the team with Epstein and Ricketts before Friday's game and has shifted his focus toward trying to win ballgames with the rest of the roster, stepping back to let the league handle the matter.

Between Epstein, Ricketts and Maddon, the word "process" was brought up over and over again in more than 20 minutes of press conferences.

Step 1 in that process was Russell being placed on administrative leave. Step 2 is the fact-finding mission as the league attempts to verify the "disturbing" claims.

The league opened an investigation on Russell last June after a domestic violence allegation was brought to light in a comment by Reidy's friend on an Instagram post. The comment was later deleted and Reidy did not cooperate with the MLB investigation, though the investigation remained open and Epstein admitted he has checked in with the league from time to time about the matter.

Russell spent only a couple days away from the team last June and was not placed on any official leave.

There is no word yet on if Reidy will cooperate with MLB's investigation this time around.

"Last year, it was a third-party accusation on social media," Epstein said. "And now, this is a direct accusation from the accuser, from the potential victim. The situation has changed. He was not placed on administrative leave last year. He was away from the team briefly, but we think this step is appropriate in light of the post."

Despite the accusation last June, reading the comments from Reidy's blog post was jarring for everybody involved.

"It always is," Maddon said, "whether it's on the baseball team, in your own personal family, wherever you may work. That just seems to be the way things are today."

The Cubs distanced themselves from making any sort of statement on Russell's character away from how they know him in a professional setting - as a ballplayer at the ballpark.

The next few days will determine Russell's standing with the Cubs and in the league for the rest of this season and possibly beyond.

"That balancing act that comes with an accusation and validating the rights of the accuser and providing an appropriate forum is something that's really difficult," Epstein said. "We don't have the answer for that, except that we know we have to take it as seriously as we possibly can to follow the process, because the process is designed to defend everyone's rights and to lead to a fair and just outcome."