Cubs

Fight on: Cubs move past Silva-Ramirez dispute

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Fight on: Cubs move past Silva-Ramirez dispute

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Posted: 12:05 p.m. Updated: 6:37 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Alfonso Soriano walked into the clubhouse during Thursdays game with a big smile on his face.

Fight? Fight? he said. No? Ok!

Soriano is relentlessly upbeat, so you knew he wouldnt be shaken by any of this. But the Cubs have a first-year manager and are coming off a 75-87 season. Only four games into spring training, they already had what might be a defining moment.

The Cubs closed their clubhouse doors on Thursday morning to address the altercation between Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez and the mental lapses that have plagued the entire group.

Manager Mike Quade ran a team meeting that wasnt aimed exclusively at Silva and Ramirez. The day before, the two teammates had to be separated in the dugout after Silva complained about the defense behind him.

Sometimes a little revolts not bad, Quade said. Im glad people were pissed off. We need to channel that anger at the opposition and within ourselves. (You) handle it the way (youre supposed to). I think we put that to bed. As far as Im concerned, we did, and then we move on.

If we were going to have everybody fighting that has made mistakes this spring, wed have the cage match of all-time.

Quade said Silva does not have any physical issues and will continue on his normal throwing schedule. The pitcher is trying to make the rotation but was sabotaged on Wednesday by three errors, including one by Ramirez, which led to a six-run first inning during a 12-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in Phoenix.

Quade didnt want to go so far as to say that Ramirez was sticking up for his teammates, or that it showed flashes of leadership potential. But of all the crazy things that could happen to the Cubs this spring, Ramirez getting into a fight with a teammate would be one of the last things youd expect.

Its just the heat of the moment, Ramirez said Wednesday, sweeping it aside. I guarantee after you shower, you sit down and realize you made a mistake and that it shouldnt happen. Were going to be together for a long time in here, so we should be ok now.

It is part of a much wider problem. The Cubs had committed 14 errors through their first four Cactus League games. And it wasnt just anonymous players youll never see in Chicago. It was major pieces to the potential Opening Day lineup: Starlin Castro; Tyler Colvin; Carlos Pena; Blake DeWitt; and Jeff Baker.

Its not just about saying we need to clean up some of this stuff, Quade said. Its offering solutions and ideas that may help clean them up. And it doesnt mean it happens overnight, but we want to make damn sure people are committed to the work theyre doing.

Reinforcing the idea that the issues run deeper than just Silva and Ramirez, Quade did not meet with the players individually.

My sense was that things had settled down between the two of them, Quade said. I didnt feel it was that big an issue that I needed to have them both in the principals office. Theyre both veteran guys. They know whats going on. Im counting on them (to be) professionals. Theyll put it behind them. Lets go back to work.

Quade counted only one mistake during Thursdays 8-7 loss to the Texas Rangers in which the Cubs generated 14 hits, Carlos Zambrano threw three scoreless innings and Braden Looper pitched in a game for the first time since 2009.

Earlier Quade had stood on a hill beyond right field at HoHoKam Park and watched the practice fields. He noticed a more focused approach. He had seen too many missed cutoff throws and base-running mistakes to let it go.

That little blow-up notwithstanding, it was time for me (to) say something about the sloppiness, not just the physical errors, but some of the mental errors, Quade said. I dont you think you walk through spring and then magically expect to turn it on and be a sharp club in these areas when the season starts.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Yu Darvish makes history, but Cubs lose crucial game

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AP

Yu Darvish makes history, but Cubs lose crucial game

Things didn't get off to a great start for Yu Darvish Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, but he managed to right the ship quickly.

After allowing three of the first four batters of the game to score, Darvish struck out 10 of the next 12 Reds that strolled to the plate.

That included a stretch of eight Reds in a row, which set a new Cubs franchise record:

Darvish and Kyle Schwarber (3 hits, 2 RBI) were the only bright spots on the night for the Cubs as they dropped a crucial game 4-2. The Cardinals also lost, so the Cubs didn't lose any ground in the division, but Milwaukee won, meaning the Brewers are now tied with the Cubs for the final playoff spot in the National League.

Darvish finished with 13 strikeouts in 7 innings Tuesday night, but gave up all 4 Reds runs.

It makes back-to-back incredible performances from the veteran in the whiff department, as he has 27 strikeouts over his last two starts — second-best in Cubs history:

As the Cubs make their push toward October, Darvish has been right up there with Kyle Hendricks as the most reliable members of the rotation. 

Given the way last year went and his slow start to 2019, the Cubs could not have asked for more from Darvish in the second half of the season while also pitching through some forearm tightness. Since the All-Star Break, the 33-year-old right-hander has a 2.70 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 106 strikeouts against only 7 walks in 73.1 innings.

His performance has been especially huge since veterans Cole Hamels and Jon Lester have struggled to find consistency over the last couple months.

"We're seeing the real version of [Darvish] as a person, not just as a baseball player," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said before Tuesday's game. "I think the comfortability level of him with everybody — the media, the coaching staff, the city, every aspect of it has played into it. 

"When he's in a good place and he's mentally feeling good and physically feeling good and he's comfortable, the sky's the limit with him and what he can do. He's got the freedom here to be more of himself in that we don't put a lot of restrictions on him and what he wants to do. As long as we kinda have the same focus and same goals, we're all on the same team. 

"I feel like he's getting to the point now where he's himself. You see that every time out. He's an ultra competitor; he's an uber planner. His routines are outstanding. He's just ready to go out there and dominate every time he gets the ball."

Cubs hoping reinforcements coming soon in Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Kintzler

Cubs hoping reinforcements coming soon in Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Kintzler

With the biggest series of the season looming later this week, the Cubs still don't know if they'll have two of their top relievers available out of the bullpen.

The position player group is already without its two most important players (Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez) and the pitching staff has also taken a hit recently with Craig Kimbrel (right elbow) and Brandon Kintzler (left oblique) unavailable. 

Kimbrel hasn't pitched since serving up a 3-run homer to Christian Yelich on Sept. 1. He later went on the injured list with right elbow inflammation, but initially hoped to be back after the minimum 10-day stay. The best case scenario now would be Kimbrel returning a week beyond his original target date.

He threw a 16-pitch simulated game/live bullpen Tuesday afternoon at Wrigley Field and the Cubs will see how he feels Wednesday before determining the next step. He could either throw another live bullpen session or, if he feels good, return to the active roster and be available for Thursday's series opener with the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals.

"He looked really good, actually," Joe Maddon said. "Delivery was good. There was no hesitation with his arm. He wasn't guarding whatsoever. I thought the fastball was alive. Maybe the command of the curveball was off a bit, but the break was there. It was very encouraging."

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy also liked what he saw from Kimbrel, and felt the Cubs closer wasn't trying to overcompensate with his lower half and messing up his mechanics. 

As Hottovy stressed, the key will be in Wednesday's evaluation, when Kimbrel is able to come out to the field and play catch and see how his elbow recovers after the live action. 

This is already the second injury for Kimbrel, who didn't make his season debut until June 27 and then missed a couple weeks in early August with a knee issue. 

When he's been able to pitch, Kimbrel has 13 saves in 15 chances to go along with a 5.68 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. This is a guy who has never posted a season ERA over 3.40 or WHIP over 1.21 in his nine-year career.

The swing-and-miss stuff has been there (26 strikeouts in 19 innings), but he's also given up 6 homers so far. Between the free agent process that delayed his start to the season and the pair of injuries, Kimbrel really hasn't been able to settle into a groove in his first season with the Cubs.

"I think the best version of him is still in there," Hottovy said. "I think he'd be the first one to agree with that. But again, an 85-90 percent version of him is as good as anybody. [The key is] getting him to where he feels good, is comfortable and we're able to continue to work on things with him.

"This little stretch here gave us some time to clean up some mechanical things we wanted to do that you may not be able to do midseason when he's throwing three of four days or things like that. We were able to do a lot over this time and hopefully be back into it."

As for Kintzler, he hasn't pitched since last Tuesday in San Diego while dealing with his minor side injury. 

He played catch Tuesday and the Cubs will try to get him off the mound in a bullpen again over the next couple days. Once the symptoms subside and he feels like he can get back into his proper mechanics without pain, the team feels he should be able to pitch in game action.

The rest of the bullpen has been coming up huge for the Cubs — they have an NL-best 2.32 ERA in September — even without two of the top arms. That's thanks to the emergence of Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck and Kyle Ryan, plus veterans David Phelps, Tyler Chatwood and Steve Cishek.

But like Hottovy said, if getting Kimbrel or Kintzler back at only 85 percent would still help the team and with an expanded roster, the Cubs can get away with giving either veteran extra time off after outings.

With the Cubs squaring off against the Cardinals in seven of the final 10 games beginning Thursday, they would certainly like to have Kimbrel and Kintzler available for as many of those contests as they can.

"A lot of it is the communication with how are they feeling? If you rush them back and they pitch one game and then they're down for four days, is that better than them taking two or three extra days at the front end and then being able to regularly pitch like they normally could?" Hottovy said. "That's what we're trying to balance. 

"Right now, we have a little bit more flexibility. If we didn't want Kimbrel to throw another live BP, we can ease him into it because we have the Wi(e)cks, we have Phelps and Chatwood and those guys. We have more numbers down there. So you can pitch him one day and know he's gonna have a few days off potentially to have some coverage.

"We balance all that out and the biggest thing is getting the guys comfortable where they know if they go out on the mound, they can execute. That's the No. 1 thing. Once they can do that and they feel strong and they're recovering well, then I think we'll be ready to roll them out."