Cubs

Jake Arrieta’s message for Cubs: ‘We can beat anybody’

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Jake Arrieta’s message for Cubs: ‘We can beat anybody’

NEW YORK – Either the Cubs are that much closer to building a pitching staff for October, or the New York Mets are that far away from putting together a playoff-caliber lineup.   

Whatever big-picture theories you attached to these two rebuilding teams made for MLB Trade Rumors, the Cubs left Citi Field after Thursday afternoon’s 6-1 victory feeling pretty, pretty good about themselves.

New York’s young guns get all the hype, but Cubs pitchers shut down the Mets during this three-game sweep, allowing only one run across 29 innings. With Jake Arrieta firing 97 mph fastballs – and breaking stuff that manager Joe Maddon said “almost looks like a Wiffle Ball” – the Cubs finished off a 7-0 season sweep of the now .500 Mets.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

“We can pitch with anybody,” said Arrieta, who gave up one run in eight innings, finishing with seven strikeouts and zero walks. “We can swing the bats. And our defense can play lights-out. We just have to bring that night in, night out.

“The only thing we needed to do is use this series for positive reinforcement, letting everybody in here know that we can beat anybody.”

The Cubs now return to Wrigley Field for what should be a rocking 10-game homestand that leads into the All-Star break, facing the Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals and crosstown White Sox.

The Cubs (42-35) are a third-place team with major issues when it comes to the Cardinals, but they bounced back after getting swept last weekend at Busch Stadium (with some help from Simon the Magician).    

“I never doubt the resolve of our guys,” Maddon said. “We just had a tough time in St. Louis.”

[MORE: The power dynamic between Epstein and Maddon]

Maddon blasted Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” in his office after the game, a tribute to Jonathan Herrera. The utility guy filled in for third baseman Kris Bryant and drove in three runs with a sacrifice bunt and a homer off Jacob deGrom, the National League’s Rookie of the Year last season.

Arrieta (8-5, 2.80 ERA) had been a talented-but-inconsistent pitcher until that change-of-scenery trade with the Baltimore Orioles, which happened exactly two years ago (July 2, 2013), flipping rental starter Scott Feldman and also adding Pedro Strop to the bullpen mix.

The Cubs have transformed from definite sellers to potential buyers, while Arrieta has moved from the Triple-A bubble toward the top of this rotation. The differences are impossible to miss.

“It’s night and day,” Arrieta said, “both individually and as a team. We’ve grown. Our young players are taking that next step forward. We have added some young players who are extremely dynamic and can do a lot of great things on the field.

“It’s just my job to anchor things and be a guy every five days that our team knows can get us a ‘W.’ That’s what I plan to do.”    

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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