Cubs

Mooney: Zambrano stays out of Silva's business

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Mooney: Zambrano stays out of Silva's business

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Posted: 7:33 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. In Venezuela Carlos Zambrano once played winter ball with Carlos Silva. Theyve grown close over the years and are represented by the same agent. But in this case Zambrano wants to stay out of Silvas business.

Everyone else linked Zambrano with Silva, but from a Cubs perspective all meltdowns are not created equal. At first Zambrano pretended to know nothing about Silvas dugout confrontation with Aramis Ramirez the day before.

What happened? Zambrano said Thursday when asked if he has sympathy for his friend. Yeah, what about it? I cant comment on that. I wasnt there, so next question.

When another reporter pointed out that manager Mike Quade had called a team meeting hours earlier to address it, Zambrano cut him off.

Next question, Zambrano said. Lets talk about today.

Zambrano submitted three scoreless innings during Thursdays 8-7 loss to the Texas Rangers in front of 6,229 fans at HoHoKam Park.

Afterward he mentioned feeling some fatigue with his right arm, but said thats normal in spring training, that its not a concern. Quade echoed those thoughts.

And Silva will be given the opportunity to rejoin Zambrano in the rotation.

While Im not interested in having donnybrooks in the dugout, Quade said, I do like the fact that some people were pissed off. But now lets see if we cant take some of that in the right direction."

During his first speech to the entire team last month, Quade told his players that they should look reporters in the eye and be accountable with the media. Silva refused to comment about the incident on Wednesday and was wheeled out of Maryvale Baseball Park on a golf cart.

On Thursday morning, Silva declined to speak with a group of reporters by his locker, saying hell talk about it later. After the team meeting, he walked out onto the field at HoHoKam Park with a bat and glove in his hands and went through his workout.

Silva was not available when the clubhouse opened back up to the media before the game. A fire alarm went off throughout the entire stadium during that access period. Several players smiled and laughed but no one budged.

The Cubs media-relations department has repeatedly encouraged Silva to tell his side of the story. Quade said Thursday that its up to Silva to figure out how he wants to publicly handle the situation. In the silence, others are left to guess Silvas motivations, and play psychologist.

You got to ask him that, but hes fighting for a spot right now, Ramirez said. It matters for him. It might not matter for somebody like (Matt) Garza or (Ryan) Dempster. They got their spots secured, but he has to good to be in the rotation and obviously he didnt do it (that day).

No one saw it coming, because the Seattle Mariners were just as anxious to get rid of Silva as the Cubs were to unload Milton Bradley. But Silva might have been the citys most effective pitcher last year through interleague play against the White Sox.

On June 26 the day after Zambrano provoked a similar confrontation in the dugout with Derrek Lee the Cubs had a team meeting and Silva pitched well in a tough-luck 3-2 loss at U.S. Cellular Field.

Afterward with his personal record at 8-2 with a 3.01 ERA he said he thought he saw a team coming together.

As a pitcher, we make a lot of mistakes, Silva said that night. When were there on the mound, we become a different person. Sometimes we say stuff that we dont even want to say, but (Zambrano) said it.

I dont know, man, Carlos is a very good friend of mine, but this is my team, too. If Im going to have success and have a good year, I need my team. I need to give the support to my team.

The injuries accumulated from that point. Silva would win only two more games, and none after July 26. He was rushed in an ambulance to a Denver hospital to monitor an abnormally high heart rate, and essentially shut down with elbow tendinitis.

That was around the time when Zambrano came off the restricted list and started pitching like a Cy Young candidate again. Last year two friends were on two different trajectories.

In one sense, Zambrano wants to keep it that way. He wasnt baited by a question about the defenders behind him.

I worry about what I have to do to be ready, Zambrano said. I dont worry about what the offense or the defense needs to do. I leave that to Quade and the coaching staff to teach (everyone) what they need to do to be ready for the season. So its not my concern.

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.