Cubs

Kap: No LaMar for Cubs; Fleita contract heralded

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Kap: No LaMar for Cubs; Fleita contract heralded

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 5:38 p.m.

By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com Insider Follow @TheKapman
WATCH: Kap & Holly sing 7th inning stretch

Late Tuesday evening Twitter was ablaze with rumors that the Cubs had identified Chuck LaMar as perhaps their next general manager. That tweet from the Daily Heralds Barry Rozner started a chain of rumors that linked LaMar to Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken to Ryne Sandberg and had people believing a hiring was imminent.

As I started reading the tweets and texts that came my way I was stunned that people actually started to believe that LaMar was a viable candidate for the job. He was the GM in Tampa for eight seasons and had seven last place finishes. In addition, people that I spoke with Wednesday were not at all complimentary about his tenure or his ability to be a good fit in that job for the Cubs.

The truth of the matter is this: Chuck LaMar is not going to be the next general manager of the Chicago Cubs and his sudden resignation from the Philadelphia Phillies organization does not have any tie to the Cubs. LaMar could resurface in a job with the Atlanta Braves organization where he spent a good portion of his career, but he is not believed to be a GM candidate for any of the openings expected in baseball this winter. Wednesday afternoon he also confirmed to a Philadelphia broadcaster that we here at Comcast SportsNet know that he is not talking with the Cubs about any position.

In addition, while Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts is taking heat for signing Oneri Fleita to a new four year contract as farm director, the people within baseball that I spoke with have praised Ricketts for hanging on to a very valued employee.

I have known Oneri for 20-plus years and he is as good as it gets. He is bilingual, which is a huge plus in his role, he put the entire Latin American operation together and that includes a network of scouts that will go with him wherever he goes," one GM candidate told me. "In addition, the Cubs new 50-acre facility in the Dominican Republic is being put together under his direction. So to lose him would be a major blow to the entire organization.

The other aspect of the Fleita extension that no one seems to be talking about is why people are so convinced that he will stay in his current role. He has a ton on his plate, so what is to say that his job description wont change once a new GM is hired? Couldnt a new GM tailor the revamped front office the way that he wants it and still have Fleita in a very important role with a different title?

Whatever his role is, it is obvious that he is a valued and trusted member of the front office and had he hit the open market he would have had a number of great offers. Instead, the Cubs were proactive and hung onto someone who is good. What a novel concept--hanging onto a good employee--and for that people are critical? That is ridiculous.

In addition, people in other organizations, and whose opinions I trust, are all telling me that they are chuckling at the perception that Ricketts hasn't taken his ownership duties seriously.

One NL West executive told me this: I wish I had an owner as committed as Tom Ricketts is. He spent 20 million on amateur signings and he is spending an unbelievable amount of money to build a state of the art academy in the Dominican Republic. We are all a little jealous of the commitment the Cubs have made to rebuild their organization.

Ricketts has traveled to every minor league affiliate, traveled to the draft and he has made it clear to every scout and coach in the organization that if they need anything to get the job done that he will see to it that they have everything they need to compete with anyone in the game.

Now, if you want to criticize the Cubs here is something worth criticizing them for: In another lost season they continue to play veteran players at the expense of youngsters who may or may not be a part of their future.

With Carlos Pena hitting .226, how can Mike Quade defend playing him regularly over Bryan LaHair, who may or may not be a prospect?

LaHair just put up ridiculous numbers in Triple-A, hitting .331 with 38 home runs and 109 RBIs. His 1.070 OPS was the highest of any player in baseball. I know he is 28 and he is not considered an elite prospect, but stranger things have happened than a 28-year-old finally making it big. How do you know if you dont give him a chance?

The same goes for Tyler Colvin and Tony Campana. Are they considered elite prospects? Probably not, but unless you play them regularly, how are you ever going to know?

David Kaplanpublishes his thoughts at The Kapman on CSNChicago.com every Monday,Wednesday, and Friday and whenever major news breaks. Follow him onTwitter @thekapman.

Brandon Morrow lands on DL after hurting back while taking his pants off

Brandon Morrow lands on DL after hurting back while taking his pants off

Remember that one time Sammy Sosa threw out his back while sneezing? Well, Brandon Morrow may have topped that on the Cubs all-time list of wacky injuries.

The 33-year-old closer was placed on the 10-day disabled list prior to Wednesday's game after hurting his back while taking his pants off upon returning from the team's road trip to St. Louis. It's being labeled as "lower back tightness."

"It's frustrating any time you can't get out there, and especially when you can't go because of something stupid like taking your pants off," Morrow told reporters on Tuesday.

And that's put the Cubs pitching staff in a tough spot for the rest of the week, given Wednesday's series finale against the Dodgers is the third game in a little more than 24 hours for the Cubs.

"I don't want to downplay anything," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Obviously he had back spams, he had the same thing in spring training. We'll start treating it the same way we did in spring training; I think he was out about a week to 10 days. If things go as we hope, I think it'd be the kind of thing where he'd probably be able to be throwing before the 10 days is up.

"But we felt like it wasn't going to be something where he was ready this weekend and if he's not going to be ready all weekend, we can already backdate it three days so it made sense to put him on the DL."

Morrow is tied for fifth in the National League with 16 saves and owns a 1.59 ERA is 26 relief appearances this season. Justin Hancock, who served as the 26th man during Tuesday's doubleheader, stayed with the team as a result.

Pants, seat of the pants and sim games: The current state of Cubs pitching

Pants, seat of the pants and sim games: The current state of Cubs pitching

Dominating.

That's how a smiling Theo Epstein described Yu Darvish's simulated game at Wrigley Field Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, in the bowels of the "Friendly Confines," the Cubs' clubhouse was getting used to the idea of closer Brandon Morrow on the disabled list.

Such is life for the current state of affairs for the Cubs pitching staff with their two biggest additions from the winter now on the shelf at the same time.

Darvish threw roughly 50 pitches in his sim game against hitters Ian Happ and Tommy La Stella. He worked in all his pitches and liked the way his fastball and slider felt, but needs to refine his curveball and splitter with more work.

"I feel good," Darvish said through a translator. "There was some anxiety beforehand, but I think it turned out to be better than I expected."

Darvish said the anxiety stemmed mostly from his past elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in 2014.

"Definitly the elbow aspect," Darvish said. "The anxiety came from whether I could throw at 100 percent condition."

This is the second time Darvish has mentioned his past elbow injury is in the back of his mind as he's worked through the current triceps issue. He said the same thing last week in Milwaukee after his first bullpen session.

Remember, too, Darvish was concerned about the possibility of cramps in his arm in his Cubs debut in Miami in late March.

It appears as if he has some mental hurdles to work through with his history of elbow problems, but he hasn't reported pain in weeks now and the MRI showed no structural damage in late May.

The Cubs do not yet have a set plan for Darvish after this sim game and will evaluate how he feels Thursday. If the reports are all good, he could head out on a rehab assignment shortly.

Darvish said he would only need one rehab start before he'd be ready to rejoin the Cubs rotation.

Meanwhile, Morrow's back tightened up on him in the wee hours of Monday morning after the Cubs made the trip back from the night game in St. Louis. He hurt his back taking off his pants, he said, and was unavailable Monday and Tuesday before the Cubs put him on the disabled list Wednesday morning.

"It's just one of those freakish things," Maddon said. "People bend over and hurt their backs all the time."

The Cubs have been uber cautious with Morrow all year with his injury history and now that they're in the midst of a stretch of 14 games in 13 days thanks to Tuesday's doubleheader, can't afford to not have a fresh arm in the bullpen.

"We thought it would be wise to give him a couple days," Joe Maddon said. "It's like a back spasm, back tightness. We just can't go with one less pitcher right now coming off the doubleheader. 

"...It's for him, too. I don't want him to go out there and pitch coming off that right now. There's really no reason to rush it back. Prefer him getting 100 percent well, getting him back out there when it's right and then moving on from there."

In Morrow's absence, Maddon will play matchups with the closing options as he did in Game 1 Tuesday. Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson and Pedro Strop all have experience closing.

The Cubs also don't have an update yet on Carl Edwards Jr. as he works his way back from a shoulder injury. He's been throwing from flat ground and looking "outstanding," Maddon said, but the team doesn't have a finish line yet. Edwards would probably need a short rehab stint before returning, too.

Then there's Brian Duensing, who is currently on the bereavement list due to the passing of his grandfather. The Cubs expect to have their left-handed veteran back by Friday.

All told, the Cubs are without Morrow, Edwards, Duensing, Mike Montgomery (rotation) and Eddie Butler (DL - groin) from their Opening Day bullpen. Only Cishek, Strop and Wilson remain from the group.

In their stead are Luke Farrell, Justin Hancock, Randy Rosario, Rob Zastryzny and Anthony Bass — all 5 of which have been pretty successful during their time in Chicago.

As if there wasn't already enough complications with the Cubs pitching staff, here are three more:

—The weather in Cincinnati this weekend
—Tyler Chatwood's wife is about to have the couple's first child
—Monday's rain/light-out at Wrigley Field pushed Chatwood back a day, so he cannot start Saturday's game

Let's start with the weather. As of Wednesday afternoon, there was a 100 percent chance of rain all day in Cincinnati on Thursday, where the Cubs begin a four-game series. The forecast doesn't look much better for Friday, either.

Even if the Cubs are able to play every game as scheduled, who will start Saturday? It can't be any of the current rotation members given none would be on regular rest. 

Chatwood would be in line to start Sunday's series finale in Cincinnati, but that's only if his wife isn't given birth at the time.

So right now, the Cubs don't know who's going to start either game this weekend. They could call somebody up from the minor leagues or give the ball to Farrell, who is still stretched out enough to give them 4-5 innings or so.

"It's totally by ear," Maddon said. "This is absolutely seat of the pants. We have Farrell, of course. By not using Farrell [Thursday or Friday], he would be a consideration, no question. 

"But other than that, we got a baby on the way, we got all kinds of stuff going on, so we're just gonna have to play that by ear."

With the pitching shortage, it makes what Jon Lester (7 shutout innings Wednesday) and Mike Montgomery (6 innings in Game 2 Tuesday) even more important to the overall health of the unit, eating up innings at a desperate time.

The Cubs' next off-day won't come until July 2, barring any weather delays. So this stretch will be huge for how Maddon and the Cubs coaching staff/front office handles the pitching staff.

But hey, at least it's only June and not October.