Cubs

Kaplan: Are Cubs finally catching some 'breaks'?

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Kaplan: Are Cubs finally catching some 'breaks'?

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
11:35 a.m.

By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com

With the news that the Cardinals may have lost star pitcher Adam Wainwright for the season comes a thought that maybe this years Cubs could be starting to experience some of the breaks going their way.

Lets examine some of the evidence. In December, amid a very sad time in the Cubs' world, at the funeral of legendary Cubs player and broadcaster Ron Santo came word that Kerry Wood was interested in returning to the team. During a team sponsored reception at Harry Carays restaurant Wood reconnected with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Later that evening at an event for the Ryan Dempster Family Foundation, Wood let Hendry know that money would not stand in the way of his signing to pitch for the team he had starred for during most of his career.

Hendry set up a meeting for Wood with team chairman Tom Ricketts three days later and by the end of that next week Wood was back in Cubbie blue. He had spurned much larger offers to play for the one team that was in his heart. He signed a one-year deal for 1.5 million, an unheard of gesture in todays times and appears destined to finish his career as a Chicago Cub.

READ: Reasons for optimism from Cubs camp

The Cubs' chief rivals are the St. Louis Cardinals who are dealing with the fallout of losing their best starter it appears for the entire 2011 season. However, the much larger story is what will happen with Albert Pujols who becomes a free agent at the end of the 2011 season.

While I fully expect the Cardinals to re-sign Pujols there is no denying the fact that the whole Pujols sideshow will most definitely weigh on the Cardinals as a team and especially on their rabid fan base. That is another break that is going the Cubs way. Add in the fact that the Cubs were able to add Carlos Pena, Wood and Matt Garza for the total cost of 17 million and you see another example of things working in the Cubs favor.

At the end of this season the Cubs will be clearing significant salary off of the books as Aramis Ramirez (14 million), Carlos Silva (12.5 million), Kosuke Fukudome (14.5 million) John Grabow (5.5 million), and Jeff Samardizija (3.5 million) all will be at the end of their contracts. Add in the fact that Pena is a free agent and after factoring in deferred money the Cubs should have in excess of 40 million coming off of their payroll.

It takes a great team to win a World Series and for far too long the Cubs havent been a great team. However, it also takes a ton of breaks for a team to make a run at a championship and early in 2011 several of them seem to be trending the Cubs way. The big question is will it continue?

David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.

2019 MLB Power Rankings: It's almost time to get mad about All-Star snubs!

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USA Today

2019 MLB Power Rankings: It's almost time to get mad about All-Star snubs!

It's almost exactly halfway through the season, and if you've been following these rankings, you'll know the tiers have been set for some time now. As the All-Star break gets closer, it's the middle of the pack that has a big couple of weeks coming up. Looking at you, Pittsburgh or St. Louis or Cleveland or Texas or Oakland or Philly. Make something happen, or suffer the ultimate fate: falling an arbitrary number of spots in a MLB Power Ranking slideshow you're certainly not clicking through. There is no worse punishment. 

Want to see where your very good or very bad or maybe in the middle team ended up this week? To the rankings!

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2019 MLB POWER RANKINGS, PLEASE

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."