Cubs

Out of nowhere, Silva stays in the picture

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Out of nowhere, Silva stays in the picture

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 7:48 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Carlos Silva viewed this as a last chance. He had no idea what was going to happen and still doesnt but he needed it for his state of mind.

Silva pulled his blue socks up to his knees on Wednesday, a different look for a pitcher who desperately hoped to change his luck. He normally wears his pants baggy, long around the cleats, which causes rips. He says hes not superstitious the only other available pair ran short.

A month from his 32nd birthday, Silva can be insecure, sensitive and emotional. The pressure to compete for a spot in the rotation has weighed on him heavily. And as the Cubs finished off a 3-1 victory over the Oakland As, a religious man stood in front of his locker and said: Thank God for this game. I know I can pitch.

The 9,061 fans at HoHoKam Park saw Silva make his case for the rotation. He stretched out to six innings and allowed only one run on three hits. He retired the final 10 batters he faced, and 17 of the final 18.

When I cross that line with high confidence, Silva said, when I feel strong, powerful in my mind, its like (a) whole different pitcher out there.

All of a sudden Silva looked nothing like the guy who allowed 26 runs 20 earned on 29 hits through his first 11.1 innings. After Wednesdays game, Silva had lowered his ERA from 15.88 to 10.90.

At times Silva blamed his defenders, which led to a dugout altercation with Aramis Ramirez, and rationalized it as balls just finding holes. But really opponents made it look like batting practice this spring.

On a sunny, 67-degree afternoon, Silva did what manager Mike Quade dared him to do: Make it tough on me.

Quade said a decision on the fifth starter wasnt set in stone. He mentioned that ideally it would be finalized before Saturday, when Andrew Cashner starts again and tries to extend beyond four innings for the first time this spring.

But if it took watching another Cashner audition, Quade said he was good with that. Two data points released Wednesday indirectly showed you where the Cubs are at with Silva and Cashner.

Forbes assessed the Cubs as baseballs fourth-most valuable franchise at 773 million, which represents a six percent increase from the year before. They are a big-market team with resources that must figure out what to do with the 13.5 million Silvas guaranteed.

Baseball America also unveiled its minor-league system rankings and slotted the Cubs at No. 16, a drop from the top tier because of the prospects it took to import Matt Garza from Tampa Bay. They are invested in the idea of the homegrown Cashner, a 2008 first-round pick and a billboard for how the organization wants to run.

Even Silva knew his time could be running out with the Cubs.

This is a business, Silva said. If Ive been pitching good and got traded, Im going to be ok, but I dont want to walk out the door the way I was pitching.

(If they said) we need to trade you because were not going to use you, we dont need you here (thats) tough. One of the greatest places to pitch is Chicago and I would love to be there.

Silva said hed be fine if the Cubs asked him to come out of the bullpen. But hes too proud to ignore the chance to make the rotation.

When you say something to me like: Youre in the competition for the fifth-starter (spot) Im going to kill people for (it).

Quade is not an old-school manager like Lou Piniella or Yogi Berra. But he sounded like one before Wednesdays game, when a reporter asked if Braden Looper was still in the mix.

Looper will relieve Garza on Thursday against the White Sox, his second straight appearance out of the bullpen, which shows the Cubs could be looking at him as a long man. It could be either Looper or Silva for a final bullpen spot.

Until youre gone, youre here, Quade said.

Everyone assumed Silva was a goner. But after this performance the manager had to admit: The plot thickens.

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

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

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NBC Sports Chicago

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

Ozzie Guillen explains why he thinks Manny Machado is a better fit for the Cubs than the White Sox. Plus, Guillen and Marlon Byrd react to 19-year-old Juan Soto hitting a homer in his first at-bat with the Nationals.

Later in the show the guys debate who had the better rants in front of the media: Guillen or Byrd?

Finally, Byrd opens up about his PED suspensions, relates to the guys caught using PEDs now and Guillen offers up a solution to rid baseball of PEDs entirely.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: