Cubs

The next Cubs-Red Sox showdown could be over Sveum

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The next Cubs-Red Sox showdown could be over Sveum

MILWAUKEE Dale Sveum believes you should never let the players see how youre feeling inside. He thinks thats a clear sign of weakness for a manager.

Sveum will need a good poker face when he arrives at the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Because the Brewers hitting coach was scheduled to meet again with Cubs executives, perhaps as early as Tuesday night, before sitting down on Wednesday with the Red Sox at the meetings for owners and general managers.

So while Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington continue negotiating over compensation Bostons general manager is still optimistic commissioner Bud Selig wont have to arbitrate the next showdown between the Cubs and Red Sox could be over Sveum.

Sveum is viewed as the heavy favorite in Boston, where he worked as the third-base coach on the forever team that ended an 86-year championship drought and made Epstein a legend throughout New England.

The Cubs followed-up again with Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, who declined to interview in Boston because it would have created too much distance between his wife and two college-age daughters in Texas.

It sounded like the family still hasnt given a final answer as to whether they could make it work in Chicago.

Its still something that hes weighing. Those considerations havent gone away, general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. Its certainly a big factor. I think its a factor for everyone, (but) in this case, it probably weighs a little more heavily.

Hoyer does not see another candidate being added to the mix. Beyond Maddux and Sveum, the Cubs have interviewed bench coaches Sandy Alomar Jr. (Indians) and Pete Mackanin (Phillies) in person and DeMarlo Hale (Red Sox) by phone.

Sources insist that Terry Francona is not a serious candidate, and hasnt been eliminated from consideration publicly out of respect for the two World Series rings he helped Epstein win in Boston. Epstein has been in contact with Francona, who hasnt spoken with Hoyer during this entire process.

The Cubs and Red Sox wont admit it publicly, but they soon may have to pull the trigger.

The right person to be manager for the Red Sox in 2012 is not necessarily the right person to be manager for the Cubs, Cherington said. They are different jobs, different challenges.

Theyre doing what they need to do and were doing what we need to do. The decisions too important to react to what somebody else is doing. (We) got to take our time and get the right person.

Even with that, theres no silver bullet. (You) got to surround that person with the right people.

That supporting cast will be important because the next managers at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park will almost certainly have little-to-no experience managing at the highest level.

The list of guys that have managed and are available is fairly short, Cherington said. Most successful major-league managers are still successful major-league managers. So we wanted to find the right fit. We feel like we have to at least consider taking a chance on someone who hasnt done it (before).

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin promoted Sveum after Ned Yost was fired late in the 2008 season and watched his team clinch the wild card.

Melvin passed over Sveum because he wanted a new face in the dugout and didnt believe thered necessarily be a carryover effect to the next year with an interim manager. The Cubs certainly found that out with Mike Quade.

Sveum also lost out to Ron Roenicke last year, but it speaks to his knowledge and personality that he survived so many regime changes in Milwaukee.

The word out of Boston and Milwaukee is that Sveum isnt particularly polished in front of the cameras, and wont charm the media with stories. But he absolutely commands respect in the clubhouse. It could be his time now.

Every player that plays in the big leagues was a rookie once, Melvin said, and every guy that manages in the big leagues had to get his start somewhere.

Epstein and Hoyer feel like theyre nearing the decision-making phase where they can put their choice in front of the Ricketts family. They probably would have done this with Sveum over the phone, but he was coming to Milwaukee anyway to see the Red Sox, in whats become a great off-the-field rivalry.

Were not focusing on the Red Sox and what theyre doing, Hoyer said. Were trying to make sure we make the right decision for the Cubs.

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

The Cubs didn't wait long to make Joe Maddon's words come true.

Roughly 5 hours after Maddon said the Cubs are definitely in the market for more pitching, the front office went out and acquired Jesse Chavez, a journeyman jack-of-all-trades type.

It's a minor move, not in the realm of Zach Britton or any of the other top relievers on the market.

But the Cubs only had to part with pitcher Class-A pitcher Tyler Thomas, their 7th-round draft pick from last summer who was pitching out of the South Bend rotation as a 22-year-old.

Chavez — who turns 35 in a month — brings over a vast array of big-league experience, with 799 innings under his belt. He's made 70 starts, 313 appearances as a reliever and even has 3 saves, including one this season for the Texas Rangers.

Chavez is currently 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He has a career 4.61 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while pitching for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers before coming to Chicago.

Of his 30 appearances this season, Chavez has worked multiple innings 18 times and can serve as a perfect right-handed swingman in the Cubs bullpen, filling the role previously occupied by Luke Farrell and Eddie Butler earlier in the season.

Chavez had a pretty solid run as a swingman in Oakland from 2013-15, making 47 starts and 50 appearances as a reliever, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 360.1 innings.

"Good arm, versatile, could start and relieve," Joe Maddon said Thursday after the trade. "I've watched him. I know he had some great runs with different teams. 

"The word that comes to mind is verstaility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen and he's very good in both arenas."

It's not a flasy move, but a valuable piece to give the Cubs depth down the stretch.

There's no way the Cubs are done after this one trade with nearly two weeks left until the deadline. There are more moves coming from this front office, right?

"Oh yeah," Maddon said. "I don't think that's gonna be the end of it. They enjoy it too much."

Jason Heyward has become an offensive catalyst

Jason Heyward has become an offensive catalyst

Expecting Jason Heyward to carry a team offensively would be thought as foolish just a few short months ago. But here in the middle of July, Heyward has turned into the offensive firestarter the Cubs have been seemingly missing since Dexter Fowler left. 

Heyward walked away from Thursday night's 9-6 win over the Cardinals tallying three hits, two RBI, two runs scored and his first stolen base of the year, as the 28-year-old outfielder continued to poke holes in the Cardinals defense. 

Twice Heyward was able to slip a ball between the 1st and 2nd basemen that off the bat looked like neither had a chance to make it through the right field side. Later, Heyward would battle through a lengthy at-bat, finally being rewarded with an opposite-field hit that drove in the game-tying run. 

"It just happened," Heyward explained. " [Carlos Martinez] is not going to give you a whole lot to do damage on throughout the game. I was able to get one pitch there and get a guy home." 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon mentioned Heyward and his ability to move the ball around the field and how it's helped him become an effective piece to this Cubs offense. So effective Heyward's batting average crept up to .290 after today's three-hit performance. 

Heyward credits his quick hands as the major tool he's utilized to create so many successful at-bats lately, which has allowed him to take advantage of certain pitches and punch them through for hits.

He's certainly not driving the ball for consistent power, but the approach has put Heyward on pace to match the 160 hit total he amassed with the Cardinals in 2015. 

"I feel like Joe's mindset on moving the ball is putting the ball in play when you got guys on base," said Heyward. "It keeps the line moving, regardless of the result." 

It might be crazy to think that Heyward's incredible turnaround this season might simply be attributed to putting the ball in play. But even just taking a look at Heyward's contact rates shows he's increased his contact on pitches outside the zone by roughly three percent.

Not a massive difference, but if Heyward's hands are truly giving him an edge at the plate, making contact with pitches that may not be a strike but are hittable pitches could explain the increased offense we are seeing now. 

"That's kinda the biggest thing," said Heyward. "The more good swings you take, the more hits you have a chance to get." 

Shooters shoot, and Heyward continues to shoot his shot and keep the Cubs offense chugging along.