Cubs

Done for season, Colvin remains in stable condition

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Done for season, Colvin remains in stable condition

Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010
Updated 5:41 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MIAMI -- This was a drowsy Sunday afternoon, 88 degrees at first pitch and a sea of empty orange seats at a football stadium just off the Florida Turnpike.

And then the jagged edge of a broken maple bat impaled Tyler Colvin just above his heart, a freak accident that left the Cubs outfielder in stable condition, and could have been much worse if not for a matter of inches.

Colvin was transported to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he will remain for the next few days to undergo a battery of tests for pneumothorax. He was hooked up to a chest tube to help keep his lung from collapsing.

The 25-year-old will not leave the hospital until he receives a normal chest X-ray. His rookie season is now over. There was minimal external bleeding, and the depth of the wound was not immediately clear, according to a Cubs spokesman.

"It was scary," Marlins catcher Mike Rivera said. "It looked like when a person gets stabbed."

Colvin was running down the third-base line during the second inning of a 13-3 victory over the Florida Marlins as Welington Castillo's double sailed toward Sun Life Stadium's left-field wall.

The bat splintered and punctured Colvin's chest cavity, which allowed air into his chest wall and potentially into his lungs. He didn't labor to breathe -- it just looked that way to at least one teammate who immediately knew something was wrong.

Jeff Samardzija saw a dazed Colvin sort of smile on his way back to the dugout.

"It was wild," Samardzija said. "I thought he was fine. I thought we were just kind of joking around, but I just saw a little something on his shirt. I said, 'Hey, you should probably get inside.'"

Castillo, who played with Colvin in the minors, didn't know what happened and only saw him grab his chest.

"I feel really bad about it and I hope he's getting better," Castillo said. "It wasn't my fault. I didn't hit him on purpose. That's baseball."

Increasingly maple bats are a part of baseball and there's strong anecdotal evidence to suggest how easily they break apart, and how dangerous they can be. Two years ago with the Colorado Rockies, Jeff Baker watched one slice home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora and vowed to only use ash bats.

"That's the danger of a maple bat and thank goodness that (Colvin's) ok," Baker said. "I saw an umpire get slashed on the neck in Kansas City and it's just not worth it to me. I don't want that on my conscience if something happens."

It came as a shock on a getaway day that began with the Cubs in a very good mood. Mike Quade (16-7) was informed that he was off to the best start by a Cubs manager through 23 games since Charlie Grimm (18-5) in 1932.

The veterans knew they were getting the day off and were able to enjoy South Florida's nightlife and sleep in the next morning. Sunday's lineup featured seven players who spent most of this season at Triple-A Iowa with Ryne Sandberg, one of several candidates trying to angle for Quade's job.

"The hell with the 'B' team every one of these guys has earned the right," Quade said before the game. "These are opportunities to be part of the 'A' team next year or whatever the hell you want to call it."

Auditioning for the 2011 rotation, Samardzija threw six innings to earn the win. Castillo hit the first home run of his big-league career. Brad Snyder notched his first hit in the majors, a two-run single up the middle. The Cubs (68-81) got the three-game sweep they were looking for -- and completed the first 8-1 road trip in club history -- but it came at a price.

"It really puts things in perspective -- things are flying around 90-plus mph," Samardzija said. "It's just the nature of the beast. (You) get used to it after awhile and things like this kind of open your eyes back up."

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

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.

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

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USA TODAY

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

On July 15, Brandon Morrow recorded his 22nd save of the season with a scoreless inning in San Diego. It wound up being the last time he pitched in a game for the Cubs in 2018. 

Four days later, during the All-Star break, the Cubs made a move to bolster their bullpen, acquiring Jesse Chavez from the Rangers in exchange for minor league hurler Tyler Thomas. It wasn’t even the biggest trade they’d make with the Rangers that month – a little over a week later they dealt for Cole Hamels. 

Despite pitching nearly half the innings, Chavez was almost as valuable as Hamels.

2018 with Cubs IP fWAR
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.1
Cole Hamels 76.1 1.5

Chavez made his Cubs debut on July 21; from July 21 through the end of the season, 187 pitchers tossed at least 30 innings. 185 of them had a higher ERA than Chavez, while 184 of them allowed more baserunners per 9 innings.

Best ERA, July 21-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP ERA
Blake Treinen 32.1 0.56
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.15
Blake Snell 61.2 1.17
Trevor Bauer 35.0 1.29
Trevor Williams 71.2 1.38
Robert Stock 36.0 1.50

Fewest baserunners per 9 innings, July 32-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP BR/9 IP
Blake Treinen 32.1 5.85
Blake Snell 61.2 7.15
Jesse Chavez 39.0 7.15
Jacob deGrom 93.2 7.49
Scott Oberg 30.2 7.63
Josh Hader 33.1 7.83

But how did Chavez transform into one of Joe Maddon’s best bullpen arms down the stretch?  According to Chavez, his own transformation started on Mother’s Day.

Chavez entered a game in Houston with a 5.48 ERA in a dozen appearances, but pitched three innings with no hits, no walks and four strikeouts. From that point through the end of the season, he posted a 1.70 ERA and 0.892 WHIP. 

Chavez points to a change in arm slot which resulted in better consistency and a slight jump in velocity. A glance at his release point charts show that consistency, and he added roughly one mile an hour to his fastball.

"It's kept me more consistent in the zone," Chavez said. "Things have been sharper, velocity has been a lot sharper. I was huffing and puffing trying to get a 92 (mph fastball) out there and it wasn't coming.

"Next thing you know, I dropped it and it's right there, and I'm like, 'something's wrong here.' But I just took it and ran with it."

Jesse Chavez 2018 four-seam fastball velocity

  Average Max
Prior to May 13 92.6 mph 94.6 mph
May 13 on 93.6 mph 95.7 mph

Can Chavez be valuable in 2019?  The 35-year old reliever posted the best ERA (2.55), WHIP (1.059) and walk rate (4.5% - nearly two percent better than his previous best) in 2018, and he continued to get better as the season went on. 

He’s a former starter who can pitch multiple innings if needed, and that’s a valuable thing - especially for a manager like Joe Maddon, who uses his pitchers in a variety of ways. It’s unlikely he’ll have a second consecutive career year.

But he’ll likely be well worth the price tag; he only made $1 million in 2018, and even with a slight raise he should be very affordable. There’s definitely room in Maddon’s bullpen for a pitcher like Chavez.