Cubs

Mooney: The fundamental nature of Mike Quade

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Mooney: The fundamental nature of Mike Quade

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011
Posted 9:12 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. There will be times where Alfonso Soriano stands at home plate and admires the flight of his double off the wall, or a ball skips past Aramis Ramirez at third base. And you will want to see the manager flip out.

READ: Will older core stay strong?

As a younger man, in places like Rockford and Scranton, Pa., Mike Quade might have given you the satisfaction. But after managing 2,378 games in the minors and seven more seasons as a major-league coach he has a sense of perspective.

Of course Quade wont treat Soriano the same as Blake DeWitt. They are different people. Its not like hes managing 25 robots.

And just because Quade doesnt jam his finger in a players chest while the dugout camera is rolling doesnt mean the issue wont be addressed behind closed doors.

WATCH: Can Cubs win NL Central in 2011?

The moments that will test Quade are coming, but there was a relaxed vibe around Fitch Park on Sunday as pitchers and catchers reported. Quade learned so much from Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella, but knows that he will have to shape the Cubs in his own image.

Anybody that thinks Mike Quade can go about managing a ballclub like Dusty or Lou is missing the whole point, he said. From a personality standpoint, from a respect standpoint, all the things that I think I need to do those guys had built in with all the success they had.

Everybody wants to go hit in the cage. Quade will stress the details: bunt defense, relay throws, going first to third, what he calls the jobs that nobody else wants. As assistant general manager Randy Bush said: Hes going to drive home fundamental play.

Quade, who will turn 54 next month, will be involved, but most of the Cubs already knew that. A team that looked dead in August won 24 of its final 37 games and Quades life would never be the same.

Hes the man in charge now, pitcher Ryan Dempster said. But his personality (or) his relationship with us as players didnt change. What you see is what you get. And what he says is what you get.

A few weeks ago, Dempster and about 25 teammates woke up before dawn and piled into a few vans, like they were high-school kids. They went out in sub-freezing temperatures and climbed Camelback Mountain in Phoenix.

It was a team-building exercise for a group that isnt generating much hype. There was no national media present at the Cubs complex on Sunday, and only a small group of Chicago reporters.

What people write or what people perceive thats their own opinion, Dempster said. Having no expectations is a good thing. I think we put enough pressure on ourselves as it is.

This may or may not work 37 games only gets you to the second week of May but its doubtful that Quade will find the pressure suffocating. He is passionate about but not consumed by the game.

Quade has outside interests, from cooking to fishing to politics. Once the cameras were turned off and the news conference ended, the Prospect High School graduate asked beat writers about Jay Cutler and Derrick Rose. He even answered a question about Carlos Zambrano by quoting a Rush song: Freeze that moment.
Mike Quade is a far different manager than Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella, but that could be good. One thing is for certain, he already has the respect of his players and even the most basic fundamentals won't be overlooked on his watch. (AP)
Hes easy to talk to, outfielder Marlon Byrd said. You can walk into his office anytime.

More and more people want a piece of Quade. When he returned home to Florida at the end of last season, a neighbor brought over some chicken soup and a dozen baseballs to be signed.

For someone who occasionally slips into the third person, Quade is remarkably grounded. It will be fascinating to see if he remains that way, and how he gives in to the demands of fans, media and players in this very public job.

I understand the magnitude, believe me, but it doesnt do Mike Quade any good to get wrapped up in (it), he said. Im more of a grinding, day-in, day-out guy. If were going to be successful here with me in charge, I have to stay in charge of myself and do what I need to do.

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

Yu Darvish finally has his first win at Wrigley

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USA TODAY

Yu Darvish finally has his first win at Wrigley

Yu Darvish blew a 98 mph fastball by Yasiel Puig, pumped his fist emphatically twice and let out a primal yell as he walked off the mound while 37,260 fans at Wrigley Field backed him up with maybe the loudest "YUUUU!!!" chant of the season.

It was the final pitch he threw on the afternoon as he completely dismantled the Reds lineup in a 4-2 Cubs victory.

Since the All-Star Break, Darvish leads Major League Baseball in ERA — he hasn't allowed a run in 12 innings while striking out 15 and giving up only 4 hits and a walk. 

Oh yeah, and he finally picked up his first Wrigley Field win in a Cubs uniform...in his 28th start.

In both outings to start the second half, he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and they're also the only two scoreless starts he has as a member of the Cubs (he gave up 0 earned run April 27 last year against the Brewers, but was charged with an unearned run).

The Cubs are now 5-1 since the All-Star Break and will carry a 2.5-game lead in the division into action Friday when the San Diego Padres come into town.

Cole Hamels, Alec Mills and the Cubs' short-term rotation picture

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USA TODAY

Cole Hamels, Alec Mills and the Cubs' short-term rotation picture

Just a few weeks after utilizing a six-man rotaiton, the Cubs are considering dropping back to a four-man starting staff for a bit.

Cole Hamels threw a bullpen Wednesday morning at Wrigley Field and reportedly felt great, but he's still at least a week or so away from returning to the Cubs rotation.

Couple that with the four days off for the All-Star Break last week and regular off-days coming up (three more still in July), the Cubs don't have an actual *need* for a fifth starter more than once between now and Aug. 3, as their four mainstays will be able to go on regular rest.

"We're gonna discuss that internally — things we want to do," pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. "We have the ability to go with a four-man [rotation] for an extended period of time with those off-days."

Hottovy acknowledged a four-man rotation is the Cubs' preference rather than keep Alec Mills in the rotation long-term, but there are many factors to consider.

"Our guys are feeling good, so we don't want to push the envelope with all these off-days and [tell the pitchers], 'you're still gonna be on a five-day rotation,'" Hottovy said. "So we gotta all talk and communicate about how guys are feeling and make that decision."

The Cubs have been cautious with their pitchers coming out of the break, too, given they've all been thrown off their normal rhythms and routines. It's also worth noting that Kyle Hendricks is still working his way back up to full strength after a shoulder injury cost him much of June.

When the Cubs opted to go with a six-man rotation last month, the whole idea was to rest these guys and make sure they're feeling fresh for the second half and down the stretch. The team had a pretty brutal stretch — 52 games in 54 days — before the All-Star Break.

But if everything continues to progress with Hamels and his oblique injury, the Cubs may not need a four-man rotation for long, even if they opt to go that route. 

After Wednesday's bullpen, the Cubs are going to give Hamels a couple days to recover and will plan another bullpen for this weekend (likely Saturday). Just like with Hendricks' recovery, the first bullpen is more for a gauge to see where the guy is at physically and then the second one will be more of a normal routine and getting back into rhythm mechanically, etc.

Following that weekend bullpen, the Cubs don't know yet whether they're going to have Hamels throw a simulated game or go on a rehab assignment as the next step. They'll evaluate all that this weekend and thanks to the regular time off coming up, they know they don't have to push it.

"If he feels good, we also don't want to slow-play Cole Hamels," Hottovy said. "He's a guy we want in the rotation."

The Cubs are off Thursday but then play six straight games and they will need a fifth starter for that stretch (next Tuesday in San Francisco).

As of right now, it sure looks like that guy could be Mills, who rebounded nicely after a rough first inning during Tuesday night's victory. 

Mills — a 27-year-old right-hander — has only pitched 11 career games in the big leagues, but he's been a nice depth option for the Cubs the last couple years. Including Tuesday night, he has a 4.13 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 24 big-league innings for the Cubs the last two seasons.

"I have a lot of confidence [in him]," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's definitely a big-league caliber pitcher. I don't think he's a 4-A guy; I think he's more than that. He just needs opportunity."

Both Maddon and Hottovy mentioned Mills' last start with the Cubs last August when he gave up a first-inning grand slam to the Mets before settling in to throw 4+ innings of solid ball from there.

Tuesday night, Mills got two quick outs (thanks in large part to Albert Almora Jr.'s defense) and then served up a solo homer to Eugenio Suarez, who absolutely kills the Cubs. From there, it was back-to-back hit batters and then a groundball basehit that went right to where third baseman Kris Bryant would've been standing had he not broke for the bag to cover on a steal attempt.

Mills was inches away from getting out of the first inning with only 1 run allowed, but he also only eventually escaped the jam when Almora threw a runner out at home plate on a double off the wall — or else there could've been even more damage.

After that, Mills held the Reds scoreless for the next five innings to notch the first quality start of his career.

"He regrouped well," Hottovy said. "Millsy's a pro. The guy's been mostly a minor-league guy, but I still consider him kind of one of those veteran guys. He's smart, he's poised. He comes in after that inning and he's like, 'Yeah, I thought I did this well, I didn't do this well.' And then we talked through it and he's able to wipe it clean and then reset. 

"It was such a good job by him to be able to do that with a good hitting team — to come back and set the tone. It's easy to have that inning and then kinda let things keep escalating. He was able to go right back down the next inning and shut 'em down and that really set the tone."