Cubs

Listen up: Zambrano tries to motivate Silva

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Listen up: Zambrano tries to motivate Silva

Monday, March 7, 2011
8:40 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. With all kinds of thoughts swirling around his head, Carlos Silva reached out to Carlos Zambrano, another Cubs pitcher who has had trouble channeling his emotions.

The Angels had just torched Silva for an eight-run inning on Monday in front of 6,804 fans at HoHoKam Park. The two have known each other since they were prospects playing winter ball in Venezuela and are represented by the same agent.

But for the most part, theyve avoided talking about the parallels between Zambrano confronting Derrek Lee and Silva getting into it with Aramis Ramirez. Heres how Silva recalled the text message from Zambrano reading:

You just need to forget everything. Go out there and pitch and do your thing. You know how to do it. You did it before. Why cant you do it again?

Mike Quade is being patient with Silva, who is owed 11.5 million this season, plus a 2 million buyout of his 2012 option. The manager knows that 3.1 innings isnt much of a sample size and will give Silva some space.

I dont care whoever your friends are, when you have a tough day, (you) call on them for support, Quade said. Who else? A stranger? Who else is going to comfort him other than a good friend?

Z has gone about his business the right way and has been pitching well. I just believe Silva will be OK. I really do.

The Cubs are trying to protect Silva and get him to block out all his doubts and anxieties. Greg Maddux the front-office assistant and future Hall of Famer watched Silvas last side session and encouraged him after Mondays start, saying that the ball looked good coming out of his hand.

Teammates arent nearly as fascinated by the Silva-Ramirez feud as the rest of us.

Good teams have had scuffles in the clubhouse, pitcher Randy Wells said. You just dont read about it. The fact that it happened in the dugout is the only reason you guys know about it. Its not an uncommon thing when youre with somebody for 200 days out of the year. Youre going to have some differences.

Stuff happens behind closed doors and you take care of it in-house. Im sure people wanted to kick my butt before.

Wells laughed at that last line, and really the Cubs have moved on from the incident. They view this as a media-driven story.

Its spring training we have nothing to worry about, Alfonso Soriano said. Were grown men. I think everybody knows what they have to do.

Satans Corner

Quade had more pointed words for third-base coach Ivan DeJesus, who waved in Marlon Byrd when Aramis Ramirez doubled into the left-field corner in the fourth inning. The Cubs were trailing the Angels 9-0 at the time and Byrd was thrown out at home plate.

Its spring training for everyone, Quade said after a 14-13 win. Zeus probably pulled the trigger a little bit soon. Ive done that many times myself and in a different scoring situation maybe you take a shot, but we were down.

DeJesus took Quades old job when the Cubs reshuffled their coaching staff after Lou Piniellas retirement late last season.

Ivan hasnt done a lot of this, Quade said. Well sit down and talk and see what he was thinking. (I) can tell him firsthand when I see something. I know the difficult situations. I dont know if he knows our terminology, but thats Satans Corner.

Ivans got a lot of work to do as far as just getting comfortable over there.

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

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Ricky Gutiérrez played in the Majors from 1993-2004. He played shortstop for the Cubs from 2000-01 and later signed with them again in June 2004. 

However, Gutiérrez never got back to the Majors with the Cubs, who sent him to the Red Sox the following month. His final Major League game was with the Red Sox on Oct. 3, 2004, the final game of the 2004 regular season; he didn’t play in the 2004 postseason. Gutiérrez was subsequently signed and released by a few other teams, including the White Sox in 2005.

Gutiérrez holds the distinction of being the first Cubs player to hit a regular season grand slam against the White Sox (July 12, 2001). In his two seasons with the Cubs, he tied for the Major League lead in sacrifice bunts both years (16 in 2000, 17 in 2001) which was odd since he had a grand total of 18 sacrifice bunts in his 847 career games NOT in a Cubs uniform. He also had uncharacteristic power with the Cubs:  21 home runs for Chicago in 272 games, 17 home runs with everyone else (847 games).

What Cubs fans probably remember most is what Gutiérrez did against them. On May 6, 1998 he had the lone hit (many dispute it should have been ruled an error) for the Astros off Kerry Wood in Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece at Wrigley Field (Gutiérrez was responsible for two of the strikeouts). 

Later that season, on June 26, the number 20 and Gutiérrez were again connected when he had a 20-pitch battle against Bartolo Colón, which ended in a strikeout. It remained the last plate appearance in the Majors of at least 20 pitches until Brandon Belt flew out on the 21st pitch of an at-bat against the Angels' Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018.

Gutiérrez’s nephew, James Jones, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Heat and Cavaliers.

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

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USA TODAY

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

On July 15, Brandon Morrow recorded his 22nd save of the season with a scoreless inning in San Diego. It wound up being the last time he pitched in a game for the Cubs in 2018. 

Four days later, during the All-Star break, the Cubs made a move to bolster their bullpen, acquiring Jesse Chavez from the Rangers in exchange for minor league hurler Tyler Thomas. It wasn’t even the biggest trade they’d make with the Rangers that month – a little over a week later they dealt for Cole Hamels. 

Despite pitching nearly half the innings, Chavez was almost as valuable as Hamels.

2018 with Cubs IP fWAR
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.1
Cole Hamels 76.1 1.5

Chavez made his Cubs debut on July 21; from July 21 through the end of the season, 187 pitchers tossed at least 30 innings. 185 of them had a higher ERA than Chavez, while 184 of them allowed more baserunners per 9 innings.

Best ERA, July 21-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP ERA
Blake Treinen 32.1 0.56
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.15
Blake Snell 61.2 1.17
Trevor Bauer 35.0 1.29
Trevor Williams 71.2 1.38
Robert Stock 36.0 1.50

Fewest baserunners per 9 innings, July 32-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP BR/9 IP
Blake Treinen 32.1 5.85
Blake Snell 61.2 7.15
Jesse Chavez 39.0 7.15
Jacob deGrom 93.2 7.49
Scott Oberg 30.2 7.63
Josh Hader 33.1 7.83

But how did Chavez transform into one of Joe Maddon’s best bullpen arms down the stretch?  According to Chavez, his own transformation started on Mother’s Day.

Chavez entered a game in Houston with a 5.48 ERA in a dozen appearances, but pitched three innings with no hits, no walks and four strikeouts. From that point through the end of the season, he posted a 1.70 ERA and 0.892 WHIP. 

Chavez points to a change in arm slot which resulted in better consistency and a slight jump in velocity. A glance at his release point charts show that consistency, and he added roughly one mile an hour to his fastball.

"It's kept me more consistent in the zone," Chavez said. "Things have been sharper, velocity has been a lot sharper. I was huffing and puffing trying to get a 92 (mph fastball) out there and it wasn't coming.

"Next thing you know, I dropped it and it's right there, and I'm like, 'something's wrong here.' But I just took it and ran with it."

Jesse Chavez 2018 four-seam fastball velocity

  Average Max
Prior to May 13 92.6 mph 94.6 mph
May 13 on 93.6 mph 95.7 mph

Can Chavez be valuable in 2019?  The 35-year old reliever posted the best ERA (2.55), WHIP (1.059) and walk rate (4.5% - nearly two percent better than his previous best) in 2018, and he continued to get better as the season went on. 

He’s a former starter who can pitch multiple innings if needed, and that’s a valuable thing - especially for a manager like Joe Maddon, who uses his pitchers in a variety of ways. It’s unlikely he’ll have a second consecutive career year.

But he’ll likely be well worth the price tag; he only made $1 million in 2018, and even with a slight raise he should be very affordable. There’s definitely room in Maddon’s bullpen for a pitcher like Chavez.