Cubs

Mooney: Byrd-Conte connection bothers Selig

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Mooney: Byrd-Conte connection bothers Selig

Saturday, March 5, 2011
Posted: 6:51 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Marlon Byrd has been upfront about his relationship with Victor Conte, the man behind Barry Bonds and BALCO.

Byrd recently sat down with HBOs Real Sports to explain how he trains with and takes supplements from Conte. The Cubs outfielder also addressed it at length at the beginning of spring training.

The connection bothers Bud Selig, whose legacy as baseballs commissioner is shaped in part by the steroid era.

Weve talked to him, Selig said Saturday at HoHoKam Park. He knows how we feel and its not a situation that makes me very happy.

For Byrd the only player believed to still work with Conte its a non-issue. He trusts Conte and thinks hes the best in the business.

We talked about it in 2009, Byrd said. Its 2011.

Labor peace

In reality, with a collective bargaining agreement set to expire at years end, Selig has bigger problems to worry about. While the NFL works to avoid a lockout, Selig has already met with union leadership and has another session scheduled for next week in Arizona.

Were starting to work quietly and peacefully, Selig said. There used to be a lot of public statements and people banging on each other. While negotiations will be tough and well have difference of opinion, well do it in a constructive manner.

Selig said that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has met extensively with Major League Baseball about renovating Wrigley Field, but he wouldnt reveal any details about those plans.

The Cubs are also preparing to build a new facility in Mesa that could leave HoHoKam and Fitch parks empty by 2014. Selig does not foresee a team moving from Florida to Arizona for spring training.

While there has been speculation that troubled franchises like Tampa Bay and Oakland could be contracted, Selig said the idea hasnt been discussed yet. Hes optimistic about this round of negotiations.

There was so much anger and so much hostility, Selig said, but those days are gone. Other sports now, in some cases, are feeling what we felt in the 1990s. Its painful.
Cease-fire

The pressure that overwhelmed Carlos Silva hasnt touched Randy Wells, who threw three innings during Saturdays 9-4 win over the San Diego Padres. Wells hasnt allowed an earned run in his first five innings this spring.

You cant really control it, Wells said. Either youre going to make the team, or Ill be at Triple-A I got options left. The way Im looking at it is: Yeah, it would suck to go to Triple-A, but there are worse things. I still got a job.

Seriouslyafter a down year and having to fight for a rotation spot, it puts things in perspective.

The Cubs are trying to do the same with Wednesdays dugout dispute between Silva and Aramis Ramirez.

Thats in the past, Alfonso Soriano said. Nobody talks about it anymore. They are grown men. They talked and they know (they) made mistakes. They go from there. The most important (thing) for everybody here is to start playing better and get ready for the season.

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

Kyle Ryan's emergence is coming at exactly the right time for Cubs

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AP

Kyle Ryan's emergence is coming at exactly the right time for Cubs

With the MLB trade deadline two weeks away, bullpen help figures to be on the Cubs' wish list.

But thanks in part to Kyle Ryan's emergence, the Cubs don't absolutely need that reliever to be left-handed (though it would probably be ideal).

The Cubs began the week with three southpaws in their bullpen, but at some point this weekend, Ryan may be the lone lefty remaining. Mike Montgomery was traded to the Royals late Monday night and with Carl Edwards Jr. progressing in his rehab (he threw again Tuesday), he might take Randy Rosario's spot in a couple days. 

The Cubs like Edwards against lefties and they also feel confident in Pedro Strop against either handed hitter when he's on. But Ryan has worked his way into Joe Maddon's Circle of Trust and is currently the only lefty residing there.

That's not to say the Cubs don't need another reliable southpaw in the 'pen, but Ryan looks like he's going to get some big outs for this team down the stretch.

"He's done a great job for us since he's been here," Jon Lester said of Ryan last month. "I don't think he gets enough credit for what he's been able to do."

Ryan impressed the Cubs with his work as a multi-inning reliever in Triple-A last season and turned heads again in camp this spring. Still, Rosario made the Opening Day roster over him, though Ryan got called up on the team's season-opening road trip and made his first appearance on April 6.

Since then, he's been a mainstay while Montgomery battled injury and ineffectiveness, Rosario and Tim Collins have bounced between Triple-A Iowa and Chicago and veteran Xavier Cedeno's time off the injured list was short-lived.

Ryan looked to be finding his way throughout his first month in the bullpen, but after his infamous "freeze" moment against the Marlins, he endured some struggles (7 runs allowed on 12 hits in 7 innings from May 8 through June 1).

He's righted the ship since then, permitting only 1 run over his last 17 appearances (14 innings) and lowering his season ERA to 3.21 to go along with a 1.31 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 33.2 innings.

A big part of that recent success can be tied to Ryan's increased improvement against left-handed hitters. 

Lefties hit .344 with a .405 on-base percentage off Ryan through June 5. But since then, Ryan has surrendered only 3 hits — all singles — and zero walks to the 19 left-handed hitters he's faced (.158 AVG).

He credits part of that turnaround to working on a changeup, which he thinks has helped lock in the "feel" of all his other pitches as well as his mechanics. 

As he works to add a new pitch to his repertoire, Ryan has leaned on Cubs bullpen coach Lester Strode and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy for assistance, while also picking the brains of veterans like Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Brad Brach who have all thrown changeups for quite a while.

But even with all that work, he still hasn't resorted to using the changeup much in games. The pitch is so foreign that it's still being picked up as a sinker, including on the Wrigley Field video board Sunday when he threw one in his inning of work.

"Eventually, I'm gonna find the changeup and it's gonna be a comfortable, confident pitch," Ryan said. "But I do think it's gotten me behind all the rest of my pitches and it's maybe a little bit better feel for everything. It's gonna stay where it is for a while. I'm gonna keep trying."

Ryan said one of the things he likes about the changeup is that it can eventually be a nice weapon because it "goes in the opposite direction" of all his other pitches.

We'll see if the new pitch can ever become a factor for the 27-year-old. But if it's helped lock in his other pitches, that's great news for the Cubs, especially as they look to fortify their bullpen this month.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Yu Darvish 1st Wrigley win and post-ASG hot start podcast

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Yu Darvish 1st Wrigley win and post-ASG hot start podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki discuss Yu Darvish's 1st win at Wrigley, Cole Hamel's status, and Kris Bryant playing better than he did in his MVP season.

01:00     Darvish picking up 1st win at Wrigley

03:30     Cole Hamels injury update

05:00     Starting rotation after the All-Star break

06:00     Cubs defense looking sharp

07:30     How the Cubs will approach the weekend and the expected heat

09:30     Kris Bryant playing above his MVP level

12:00     How the NL Central stacks up

14:00     Upcoming road trip to San Francisco, Milwaukee and Saint Louis

16:00     Addition to Martin Maldonado

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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