Cubs

Hoax rips Hendry, Zambrano quiets trade talk

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Hoax rips Hendry, Zambrano quiets trade talk

Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010
Updated 12:22 AM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Combined the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers began Friday 32.5 games out of first place. They are evaluating players for 2011, and weighing whether or not to bring their managers back next season.

If by the middle of September you are looking for a new angle to this I-94 rivalry, there it was at the back of the Miller Park press box. On a table filled with game notes and statistics packets, you saw a press release with this headline: A NEW BOOK CERTAIN TO BE A BEST SELLER!

It hyped a book by Cubs general manager Jim Hendry entitled: How to Finish Near Last Place with the Highest Payroll in the League. It outlined chapters like: Why I signed Milton Bradley! and Why I signed players to long-term contracts with limited trade options!

It was a juvenile hoax that ripped Hendry who did not travel with the team to Milwaukee and came across as more bizarre than funny. As in, how does something like this happen in a media workroom where three guards are stationed at the main entrance?

Hendry is tied to Carlos Zambrano, who has a no-trade clause in his 91.5 million contract and knows that he is paid to perform like one of the best pitchers in the National League.

Dominant again he almost threw a complete-game shutout on Friday night Zambrano doesnt want to hear about where he could be dealt this winter.

Im happy here, he said after a 4-0 victory over the Brewers. I love this team and I want to stay here the rest of my contract. No more trade talk.

Thats a far less nuanced answer than Zambrano gave when he came off the restricted list and said he would have to listen if the Cubs no longer wanted him around. Since rejoining the rotation on Aug. 9, the 29-year-old right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA in seven starts.

Mike Quade has been given no details on the anger-management sessions Hendry negotiated for his volatile pitcher after he got in Derrek Lees face in the U.S. Cellular Field dugout. But the manager sees a much calmer Zambrano, who allowed only three hits and struck nine in 8 23 innings against the Brewers (65-75).

I know winning is good therapy, Quade said. Not only are you allowed to get better, but youre allowed to mature. Thats none of my business to be perfectly honest (but) whatever hes doing, I really hope he keeps doing it.

A Cubs spokesman declined to comment on the stack of false Hendry documents that was removed from the press box. Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes said his department issues hundreds of credentials to individuals across the country.

Its impossible to know where this came from, Barnes said. Its an unfortunate incident. Its a lousy attempt at a practical joke, and were certainly sorry.

While speaking on or off the record, Hendry has a phrase he likes to use: Thats the world we live in. That goes for all the trade rumors and speculation that inevitably surround his job. You can safely file fake press release under that category.

Hendry has been up-front this 61-80 season hasnt lived up to anyones expectations. But he is the first general manager in franchise history to see the Cubs reach the postseason three times during his tenure (2003, 2007 and 2008).

And Hendry has earned the confidence of new ownership chairman Tom Ricketts is waiting on his short list of manager candidates and thats the only perception that matters.

Zambrano feels like hes done everything his bosses have asked. He didnt get upset when Starlin Castro committed an error with two outs in the ninth inning and Quade summoned closer Carlos Marmol for the final out. He thinks he can repair relationships with the rest of the organization.

People make mistakes, not only players, but people in the front office, Zambrano said. Were human. The most important thing here is that we learn the lesson and keep calm. You cant put your head down and think about what happened (on June 25).

You have to keep your head up and work like a winner. Theres nothing you can do about it just keep pitching, just keep doing your job and everybody will (say good things) about you.

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

Cubs' Craig Kimbrel rises to the moment in 'sharp' outing against Brewers

Cubs' Craig Kimbrel rises to the moment in 'sharp' outing against Brewers

Cubs reliever Craig Kimbrel stuck with what was working. He pounded the strike zone with one high fastball after another against Manny Pina. Kimbrel was rewarded with a strikeout to end the inning.

In the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Brewers on Friday, Kimbrel pitched a shutout ninth inning to give his team the chance to rally. Instead, the Cubs’ bats went cold. But the stadium lights illuminated Kimbrel’s progress.

“He looked really good,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I’ve been trying to find a spot for him, and the feedback has been great every time I talk to the pitching guys, and his bullpens and the work he’s put in. I think you saw that tonight. The ball was exploding out of his hand really well. Some bad swings. Looked sharp.”

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It should be noted that the spot Ross found for him was in a one-run game. Kimbrel, who entered the season as the Cubs closer, at least temporarily lost that job after a string of rough outings. The Cubs blamed mechanical issues.

On Friday, Kimbrel didn’t allow a hit with the game on the line.

One of the biggest developments for Kimbrel is that he’s now throwing his curve ball for a strike, therefore not allowing opposing hitters to simply gear up for a fastball.

The third pitch he threw on Friday was a curve ball. Avisail Garcia already had two strikes on him, and then he fouled off a curve at the bottom of the strikezone.  Kimbrel sat him down with a high fastball clocking in at almost 98 mph.

“I don’t think he was far off (all year),” Cubs starting pitcher Alec Mills said, “and I think tonight he started putting a few more things together, fastball up in the zone and some good curve balls. It was good to see, for sure.”

As Kimbrel’s teammate, Mills may not be speaking from a position of objectivity. But he knows pitching, and he said he’s been excited about Kimbrel’s fastball all year.

“Even that first inning in Cincinnati,” Mills said. “The ball was coming out really good. It was electric. It was more like the Craig that I remember from past years.”

The Kimbrel from past years was a seven-time All-Star from 2011 to 2018, the year he won the World Series with the Red Sox.

But from 2017 to 2019, the average speed of Kimbrel’s fastball dropped from 98 mph to 96mph. It has remained right around 96 mph this year. On Friday, Kimbrel was locating it more effectively, while his curve ball helped put batters off balance.

Kimbrel still walked a batter – he stopped short of overpowering. But even against the one batter he walked, Justin Smoak, Kimbrel got ahead in the count early. He threw two curve balls for strikes. The first Smoak watched. The second he whiffed.

One outing isn’t a guarantee that Kimbrel will win back his role as closer. But it does show that the positive feedback Ross is getting translates into games. And that Ross is ready to trust him in close games. 

“I'm still going out there trying to compete,” Kimbrel said earlier this month.

On Saturday, he sure did.

 

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Why Cubs might not lose again and other musings in strange, short season

Why Cubs might not lose again and other musings in strange, short season

As if things weren’t already going well enough for the Cubs during this strange, short season of baseball in a pandemic, now the baseball gods are dropping gifts into their laps.

The Cardinals’ lengthy shutdown because of a coronavirus outbreak has the Cubs’ arch rivals restarting their season Saturday in Chicago with a patched-up roster and eight games over the next five days, including five games against the Cubs.

And although that means the relative hardship of two doubleheaders for the Cubs in three days, all five of those games Monday through Wednesday are against a decimated Cards roster that won’t have the front end of its rotation for any of the games.

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They catch the Cardinals at their weakest point of the early season a week after catching an otherwise formidable Cleveland team at a moment of clubhouse crisis involving protocol perps Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger.

That one resulted in a two-game sweep by a combined score of 14-3.

This one already has resulted in all 10 games against the Cardinals now being scheduled for Wrigley Field.

Combine that with the three road games against the White Sox next month, and it means that the team with baseball’s best record on the field, the perfect record in player COVID-19 testing and no significant injuries to key players so far will play 60 percent of its games within its Chicago bubble if the Cubs and MLB pull off the full 60-game season.

If the Cubs were positioned any better to make the playoffs, they’d already be there.

“You can look at it that way if you want,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We’re just doing our thing.”

No other way to look at it from here. Have you seen the rest of the schedule?

The Cubs have 43 games left, including 29 within a National League Central Division that doesn’t include another .500 team three weeks into a nine-week season. Nine more games are against the Tigers and White Sox.

The best team on the schedule is the Twins, and all three of those games are at home and not until the second-to-last weekend of the season.

With all due respect to Ross and his fear of “bad juju,” the Cubs can’t lose.

“It’s still early on,” the manager said.

Nothing’s early in a 60-game season. And the Cubs already have matched the hot starts of their 2016 and 1908 World Series champions.

“We’ve still got a long ways to go in the season,” Ross said.

The Cubs did have to scratch Tyler Chatwood from his scheduled start Friday night because of back tightness. And Kris Bryant has missed the last two games because of a sore finger after rolling his wrist trying to make a diving catch in left field in Cleveland Wednesday.

But Alec Mills looked good in short-notice replacement duty Friday until a rough four-pitch (and three-run) sequence in the sixth. And Chatwood might be ready for one of Monday’s games — or possibly one of Wednesday’s.

“Things falling in our favor?” Ross said. “We’re playing good baseball, and that should be the focus for me and not the other stuff.”

Granted, they still have to play the games. Granted, Bryant wasn’t available off the bench with the bases loaded in the eighth Friday, and Josh Phegley struck out instead.

And, yes, they actually lost a game to the Brewers Friday night.

But if you still don’t believe the baseball gods are stirring the Cubs’ pot so far this season, you weren’t paying attention in the ninth inning when Craig Kimbrel struck out Avisail Garcia swinging at a 98-mph fastball to start the scoreless inning and Manny Piña swinging at a 96-mph fastball to end it.

What closer problem? Bring on the Cardinals, right?

These guys might not lose another game.

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