Cubs

Mooney: Cubs, Looper feel Wainwright's pain

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Mooney: Cubs, Looper feel Wainwright's pain

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
Posted 4:45 p.m. Updated 8:32 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The St. Louis Cardinals still have Hall of Fame pieces. Albert Pujols will be in the lineup and Tony La Russa will be in the dugout, at least for one more season.

Chris Carpenter has a Cy Young Award and Matt Holliday has a 120 million contract. This is an organization that has finished under .500 just once in the past 11 years, making seven playoff appearances and winning the World Series during that time.

Self-pity is not part of the approach that were going to take, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told a St. Louis radio station.

The Cardinals will not crumble without Adam Wainwright, who had his right elbow examined Wednesday for whats being called a serious injury. He will seek a second opinion that may tell him to get Tommy John surgery. A baseball town should have the resources to do something.

Its a great franchise, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. They always have the ability to get better and add on. I fully expect them to be right in the thick of it no matter what.

The 29-year-old Wainwright has finished second and third in the Cy Young voting the past two seasons. Within that timeframe, hes won 39 games, made 67 starts and accounted for 463.1 innings.

Thats a damn shame, Cubs manager Mike Quade said. I dont know what else to say.

Braden Looper walled himself off from baseball last year. He went with his kids Little League team to two White Sox games, but otherwise didnt watch much of it as he eased toward retirement in Chicagos south suburbs.

Looper did make it a point to tune in when Wainwright pitched. Looper, whos trying to make the Cubs as a non-roster invitee, remains close with Wainwright from their time together as Cardinals teammates. Looper took the rookie out to lunch almost every day when he first came up.

You hate to hear that, Looper said. Hes such a great guy and has been pitching so well. You dont ever want anybody to get hurt. Its kind of sad, but hes young. Hell be all right. Hes strong.

Hendry, who once had so much invested in Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, knows what its like to receive those phone calls.

Its the nature of this business, Hendry said. The years you think you have it knocked and got great pitching, (one) or two devastating things happen and youre looking at a whole different ballgame.

The 36-year-old Looper has thrown 1,176 innings in 670 major-league games. Hes been on the disabled list just once in his career. He has no idea why hes remained so healthy.

The National League Central became a lot more interesting this winter when the Cubs traded for Matt Garza and the Milwaukee Brewers added Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Its still a wide-open division. The Cubs were in no way gloating over this misfortune.

The Wainwright news was a reminder that this is a fragile game and pitching is an unnatural action. The best offseason plans can be shredded instantly.

Any team youre ever on has to deal with adversity in some way, Looper said. Inevitably, theres something, (but) they got a good group of guys over there. Theyll be fine. Its going to be a good battle, with or without Adam. Its still a rivalry.

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

It looks like rough times are ahead for Brewers relief ace Josh Hader

It looks like rough times are ahead for Brewers relief ace Josh Hader

The Brewers' best pitcher is in some serious hot water before the second half of the MLB season gets underway.

As he was serving up a 3-run homer in the All-Star Game Tuesday night, Josh Hader's Tweets from 2011 were aired publicly and the result was...not good.

Hader's Tweets as a 17-year-old reflected racist and homophobic remarks, among other issues. (A summary of his Tweets can be found at Deadspin.)

After the All-Star Game, Hader was immediately put in front of reporters to respond to the Tweets and admitted he will accept any punishment that comes his way — including any possible suspension:

He won't be suspended by the league and will instead under go sensitivity training, but this absolutely could affect Hader mentally moving forward. 

Case in point:

He can ask teammate Ryan Braun how to deal when fans turn on you, but it's going to be a lot more difficult for a 24-year-old in his first full big-league season to deal with any hate that comes down. 

Hader has been the Brewers' most valuable pitcher all season, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and a ridiculous 16.7 K/9. 

But over the last month-plus, he's been...human.

Ever since Jason Heyward turned on a 98 mph Hader fastball to tie the game in Milwaukee on June 11, the Brewers' relief ace has a 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 13.5 K/9.

Still great numbers, to be sure, but not the Superman-esque line baseball fans came to expect from Hader after the first couple months of 2018. (Plus, the All-Star Game homer he served up to Jean Segura, but that obviously doesn't count for anything.)

With the Brewers already chasing the Cubs by 2.5 games in the division in the second half, they can't afford Hader's slump to worsen.

Though Cubs fans may be rooting for that...

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Willson Contreras’ third-inning home run might not have ended up standing out too much in an All-Star Game featuring a jaw-dropping and record-shattering 10 dingers.

But, obviously, it will always stand out to the guy who hit it.

“I enjoyed every single second that I spent out there.”

Remarkably, Contreras repeated his feat from two seasons ago, when he hit his first big league homer on the first big league pitch he ever saw. Ditto on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, when he launched the first pitch he saw as an All Star out over the wall in left field.

“When I hit the ball and thought it was gone, I went back to 2016, playing in Chicago. It was the same thing, first pitch for a homer,” Contreras, all smiles, said following the American League’s 8-6 victory. “I’m really blessed with these kinds of situations. Those moments, they’re going to be history and they’re going to be in my mind and my heart.”

Contreras’ long ball was the highlight of the evening for fans watching back home in Chicago. Javy Baez got a hit in his first All-Star at-bat but was outdone by his teammate. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was hitless in his two trips to the plate.

And while it will be a highlight on this night for Cubs fans, it will be a highlight forever for Contreras, who enjoyed the heck out of his first All-Star experience.

“‘I did it, I did it,’” he said when asked what was going through his head. “I knew it was something special. And I wasn’t trying to do too much because these guys are nasty, throwing 98 in the first inning. I just tried to get the hit out.”

The nasty guy he went deep against was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell, whose 2.27 ERA on the season made him a very worthy inclusion on the AL roster. But Contreras was more impressed with the guy who started the game for the National League, raving about Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer after the game.

“He was great, man. Great stuff, he gets so into the game,” Contreras said. “I would like to have him one day on my team or play with him for a few years. That guy is amazing.”

That’s not the current Nationals star Cubs fans are dreaming about, Willy, but point taken.

But it wasn’t Snell or Scherzer or even Baez or Jon Lester, also in the NL dugout, who Contreras was thinking about the most during his home run trot. Instead, Contreras was thinking about his grandfather, Ernesto, who passed away a few years ago.

“My grandpa, he died in 2015,” Contreras said. “I grew up with him.

“He didn’t play ball. But I feel like every time I go out there and step into the box, he’s at my back. It just feels amazing when you hit a homer or do something special, look at the sky and you know that he’s there smiling somewhere.”

It all made for a pretty incredible night for Contreras, who has officially and loudly taken his place among baseball’s best on the game’s biggest stage.

The only thing that was missing? The ball.

Yeah, Contreras didn’t get the ball, not that he really expected to. But if you’ve got it, he wants it.

“I don’t think they’re giving it back,” he said with a grin.

We’ll see. Social media’s a powerful tool. So reach out.