Cubs

Like it or not, Silvas got competition

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Like it or not, Silvas got competition

Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011Posted: 8:20 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Carlos Silva is a proud man, emotional and sometimes defensive. He doesnt understand why reporters keep asking him about this competition at the back end of the Cubs rotation.

Silva will turn 32 in April and he overlooks the way last season ended. He doesnt need to take anything for the heart procedure he underwent, and says his elbow is fine. Those health issues limited the 6-foot-4-inch, 280-pound right-hander to 5.1 innings combined last August and September.

I dont think its a reason to take me out of the rotation, but theyre the boss, Silva said Tuesday. Theyre the ones that make the decision. If I have to win my spot, Ill do it. I have no problem with that. (But) for me, theres only maybe one spot open, because I am one of the starters.

In Silvas mind, he is the pitcher who reached the 2010 All-Star break at 9-3 with a 3.45 ERA in 17 starts. He dismisses any concerns about his physical conditioning.

The only thing you need to do is put zeroes on the board and everybodys going to be happy, Silva said. Youre going to have perfect weight, the best-looking face. Youre the perfect guy. (It) was two-months-and-a-half like that.

Everybody cheered for Carlos. Something bad happened: Boom, you need to lose weight, you need to do this (and that).
Only in Chicago

Silva instantly grew close with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who helped him clear his mind on the mound. Rothschild eventually left to take the same job with the New York Yankees, and a new pitching coach (Mark Riggins) is one X-factor in this search process.

Riggins was the St. Louis Cardinals minor-league pitching coordinator when they made Braden Looper the third overall pick in the 1996 draft. Looper is 36 now with graying hair. He disappeared last year when he didnt receive an offer he liked after making 34 starts and winning 14 games with a 5.22 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Looper lives in Chicagos south suburbs with his wife and three kids and eased toward retirement. He coached his son in Little League, and didnt watch much baseball, except for the two field trips his team took to White Sox games. His kids are in school, and in pitching for the Cubs he wouldnt have to completely uproot his family.

This was the one situation that worked out perfect, he said.

Looper, who has saved 103 games in his career, isnt inclined to return to the bullpen, nor is he looking to showcase himself for another team if it doesnt happen with the Cubs.

I prefer starting without a doubt, he said, but the best way I can put it is this is the one team (where) I would consider anything. Well just cross those bridges when we come to it.

Somebodys going to be disappointed

Mike Quades right in saying that. Heres what else we know: Andrew Cashner and James Russell will be stretched out, but could slide back into their bullpen roles if they dont stick as starters. Jeff Samardzija, who is out of minor-league options, is being ticketed for the bullpen. The rotation will most likely be five right-handers.

And the manager will place a premium on experience when evaluating the fourth and fifth starters.

So you shouldnt discount what Randy Wells has done the past two years, or the more than 1,200 innings Silva has thrown in his career. Not to mention the 6 million of Silvas 11.5 million salary the Cubs will have to pay this season. (The Seattle Mariners are picking up the rest of the tab as part of the Milton Bradley deal.)

Its realistic to take different pieces of a guys career, including his current health and status and performance in spring training, Quade said. But the balance probably is based more on what a guy has done at the major-league level in the past.

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

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

The Cubs lost an entirely forgettable game on Tuesday night, dropping the second of their four games against the NL East-leading Braves by a score of 3-2. They left four men on base, only managed four hits, ran into two outs, and made one error in a game that was over well in time for a Clark Street nightcap, or three. 

What was memorable about Tuesday night was the performance of Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect who was making his first major league start. The final line: 4.2 innings pitched, one hit, one run, four walks and four strikeouts. It’s certainly not the prettiest line you’ll see in tomorrow’s box scores, but the 24 year old passed the eye test with flying colors. 

“Everything was good - he was outstanding,” Joe Maddon said after the game. “I just think he hit a well there at the end. We just have to get him more used to that. Listen, he’s been injured in the past, he’s coming back - you’ve got to be real sensitive to the number of pitches and workload you put on him, because you can see how good he’s going to be.”

Things got off to an inauspicious start for Alzolay, whose first pitch of the game was crushed 413 feet into the left field bleachers for a leadoff homer, courtesy of Braves’ outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. It would prove to be the only hit and run that Alzolay allowed on the night. 

“It’s just one pitch,” he said. “You have to keep working - the game continues. I was just starting the game, so if you lose your mind in that situation than you’re not going to last a lot of innings.

“Even after the home run, he came right back and said, ‘I’m fine’,” Maddon added. “Then he went up and got three really good hitters out. I liked the mound demeanor, we’ve just got to get him a little further along in regards to being stretched out.”

After coming out flat with his secondary pitches during his 4-inning relief appearance on June 20th, Alzolay flashed better command and execution of both his curveball and changeup. Half of his strikeouts came on the curveball - one to get left fielder Austin Riley in the 2nd and one to get Acuña in the 3rd. After throwing 13 changeups in his debut, Alzolay double that number on Tuesday (27). 

“I’m feeling really confident throwing the pitch in any count,” Alzolay said of his changeup. “Tonight I threw it a couple times when I was behind in the count and I got a good result after that, so I’ll just keep on throwing it.

“For us to get confident at something, you have to practice, you have to execute it, and you have to use it in the game,” said catcher Willson Contreras, who plated both of the Cubs’ two runs with a double in the 4th. “For him to be able to throw the changeup for a strike, and strikeout people, it’s really good - especially at his age.”

Maddon couldn’t answer when Alzolay would make his next start. With Kyle Hendricks eyeing a return around the All-Star break, there would seemingly be a few more opportunities ahead of the rookie. Given what he showed on Tuesday night, it’d be hard to argue against it.

"He can be really good in the big leagues," Contreras said. "He still needs to make adjustments like all of us, but with the confidence he has, the ability he has, and the way he prepares before the games, it's going to take him a long way."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg: Part 1

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg: Part 1

Luke Stuckmeyer sits down with Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg for a wide-ranging conversation centered around the infamous "Sandberg Game."

Ryne gives insight into his feelings upon being traded to the Cubs (2:00), and discusses the reason he ended up with the No. 23 (5:00). Plus, how the 1984 season changed everything and raised his personal expectations sky-high (9:00) and the "Daily Double" dynamic between him and Bob Dernier (16:00).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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