Cubs

Quade a 'non-stop ball of energy' at Cubs camp

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Quade a 'non-stop ball of energy' at Cubs camp

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011Posted: 1:06 p.m.

By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com

The latest from Cubs camp for Thursday, and Friday February 24, 25...

Thursday

Mesa, AZ: Today the entire team spent a considerable amount of time working on base running with first base coach Bobby Dernier teaching and instructing the entire team on what is expected of them.

Camp is run in stations and with no time wasted moving from field to field. Pitchers I saw on the mound today included Randy Wells and Jeff Samardizija who are both hoping to make the team after very disappointing 2010 campaigns. Samardizija is showing excellent velocity while Wells looks trim and very eager to put last season behind him.

Baseball Tonight has their Baseball 2011 bus here today with Tim Kurkjian and John Kruk and they interviewed Ryan Dempster, Mike Quade, and Marlon Byrd as they preview the Cubs. Dempster did a spot on impersonation of Chris Farleys Matt Foley character that was so good that it will probably go viral...

Aramis Ramirez looked great in a live BP session as he ripped line drive after line drive. Also, looking good was Tyler Colvin...

Manager Mike Quade was right in the middle of a base running drill and was nearly smoked by a line drive that came right back through the box. Quade was on the pitchers mound teaching and deftly snagged the shot with his glove, drawing a large cheer from the fans in attendance at Fitch Park...

Quade also announced the scheduled pitchers for the first four exhibition games:

Sunday: Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza

Mon: Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner

Tuesday: Ryan Dempster, Todd Wellemeyer, and Casey Coleman

Wednesday: Carlos Silva, James Russell

Friday

Today is moving day for the Cubs as they officially end the Fitch Park portion of camp and move over to Ho Ho Kam Stadium with Cactus League play opening on Sunday when the Cubs play the Oakland As. The locker rooms are filled with boxes as the clubhouse staff led by the incomparable Tom Otis Hellman and Gary Stark are packing up the stuff they just unpacked a few weeks ago and moving it just a mile away to the stadium where the Cubs play their spring training home games. Having to move in the middle of camp just further demonstrates the need for a new spring training facility. The people who run the current facilities are extremely dedicated and very nice but the Cubs have extremely outdated facilities compared to the rest of the teams in the Cactus League.

Lots of work in the batting cages again today as all of the players seem to really be buying into Rudy Jaramillo and his philosophy. In fact, one player said to me that upon his arrival in camp last week, Aramis Ramirez went to Jaramillo and asked to work with him to make sure he gets off to a great start. Thats a far cry from a year ago when he and Derrek Lee went about their work themselves despite being mired in terrible slumps.

Just watched a GREAT teaching moment this morning as Mike Quade stopped a contact drill (where the Cubs have men on first and third and have the runner on third going home on contact) to instruct top prospect Brett Jackson who was the base runner on third. Jackson tried to score when he clearly had no chance on a ball hit right back to the pitcher. Quade stopped the drill to instruct Jackson and told me this after he finished his teaching moment.

I had to tell him that the base runner on third has the responsibility on a hard hit ball that he cannot score on to get caught in a rundown long enough to allow the man on first to get to second. That makes the best out of a bad situation because the man on third will be tagged out. He was hustling on the play but I have to make sure he understands the correct way to run that play. We saw great energy from Quade and it is great to see him stressing fundamentals to this degree.

Again, I cannot stress to you enough the energy that is evident in camp. Long time baseball writer Tim Kurkjian told me yesterday that he has visited all of the camps in Arizona and the energy at Cubs camp was something he hadnt seen in a long time. That is all a tribute to Mike Quade who is a non-stop ball of energy from the moment he arrives at camp, which is around 6 a.m. until well into the evening.

Tune in for a live report from Cubs spring training today on CTL at 5:30 and on SportsNet Central at 6:30, 10:00 and midnight

David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.

Cubs not yet considering ways to get Victor Caratini and Willson Contreras in lineup together

Cubs not yet considering ways to get Victor Caratini and Willson Contreras in lineup together

Offensive production is very much judged in a "what have you done for me lately" manner.

And by that measure, the Cubs offense is just fine and there's no need to tinker.

However, overall, this lineup has weaknesses, including second base (Cubs rank 21st in MLB with .675 OPS from their second basemen) and center field (19th in MLB with .698 OPS). Before the trade deadline hits, it seems apparent Theo Epstein's front office will add another hitter of some sort to augment this offense. 

But what if the Cubs had an in-house solution?

Victor Caratini had another big game Sunday — going 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly RBI and his only out was a 109.1 mph liner to left field — and is now hitting .301 on the season with a .383 on-base percentage and .505 slugging percentage.

Caratini wasn't initially scheduled to be in the Cubs lineup Sunday, but with Willson Contreras nursing a sore foot, he got the call and continued to do what he's done all year — play very solid defense behind the plate with quality production at the dish. 

Between Caratini's emergence this season and Contreras' huge bounceback year, Cubs catchers are pacing baseball in OPS, average, OBP, SLG, runs and RBI and rank second in homers and hits.

So with Contreras' ability to play the outfield, will the Cubs try to find ways to get both Caratini and Contreras in the starting lineup at the same time in search of more consistent offense?

"We haven't talked about that," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after Sunday's game. "We have a lot of guys who have to be in the lineup when things are rolling properly. I haven't looked at that right now, honestly."

Maddon conceded that as a switch-hitter, Caratini is still utilized almost exclusively as a left-handed hitter. The second-year player is hitting .556 with a homer and a double from the right side this season, but that's come in only 10 plate appearances.

Maddon also admitted the best way to get both catchers in the lineup at the same time is if there's an injury or a natural day off for a regular player. For example, Contreras played a game in right field in Pittsburgh before the All-Star Break while Caratini started behind the plate with both Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward nursing minor injuries.

Caratini has also drawn some starts at first base over the last couple years when Anthony Rizzo is either ailing or getting a day off. 

But beyond that, it doesn't appear as if we're gonna see Contreras and Caratini as cohorts in the starting lineup on even a semi-regular basis.

"Maybe part of the reason they're both playing so well or Victor's hitting as well as he is or playing as well as he is is based on the amount of usage," Maddon said. "Everybody sees a guy do well and all of a sudden, that immediately indicates he should play more often. Maybe just playing the right amount."

Jose Quintana delivers as Cubs sweep Pirates: 'He doesn't get enough credit'

Jose Quintana delivers as Cubs sweep Pirates: 'He doesn't get enough credit'

The Cubs have made a trademark out of having a strong second half, and after beating the Pirates 8-3 Sunday, they completed the sweep in their first series since the all-star break and look on their way to putting more space in the NL Central between themselves and the other four teams.

But through the first three innings, the Cubs and starter Jose Quintana looked more like they were going to let the third game of this series get away.

Quintana held the Pirates scoreless in the first two innings, but then in the third he gave up three consecutive singles, threw a wild pitch, allowed a sacrifice fly, and gave up a double, undoing the 1-0 lead the Cubs had established in the second inning on Robel Garcia's double.

But the difference in Sunday's game was how Quintana pitched after that. He tossed three more scoreless innings, completing a 90-pitch quality start and even contributed an RBI single in the fourth.

"He always goes out there and he competes. He’s so focused," Kris Bryant said of Quintana after the game. "He doesn’t get enough credit for what he does."

Leading up to Quintana's single, Garcia hit a two-out double and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle opted to walk David Bote to get Quintana to the plate for what seemed like a sure out. Instead, Quintana poked Trevor Williams' four-seam fastball to right field, allowing Garcia to score from second and trim Pittsburgh's lead to 3-2.

Quintana had already thrown a scoreless top of the fourth inning, but he gave two more after his RBI single. The hit was a timely confidence boost.

"Felt great, finally to get the base hit," Quintana said. "So excited."

This was Quintana's fifth career RBI and first since 2017, and it may have helped catapult the rest of the offense. The Cubs would score three more runs in the fifth inning to take the lead, and then added some cushion with another three in the sixth.

"Literally, when Q got that hit, Tony goes, 'homer right here,'" Jason Heyward joked after the game.

It wasn't Quintana who got the home run, but Heyward was the one to give the Cubs the lead with his own two-run homer in the fifth after Victor Caratini's sacrifice fly had scored Bryant to tie the game earlier that inning.

"We have fun with that," Heyward said of Rizzo's joking. "But we pull for them obviously because they’re out there pitching their ass off. They want to keep the game close, and sometimes they need to pick themselves up too."

Quintana's last three innings on the mound kept his team in the game. He started the fourth with a walk to Elias Diaz and then did not allow another baserunner until Corey Dickerson's one-out single in the sixth.

"I kept throwing my pitches and believing in my stuff and waiting for our offense to come back in the game, and they did really well," Quintana said. "Always in my mind was they can take more runs, so I wanted to keep it there and wait for our hitters to get back in the game. They did great work. It’s a really good feeling around us right now."

One of the keys to a strong second half for the Cubs is getting more wins like Sunday's. Bryant said after the game that it's important to get a few wins that you shouldn't, like one when the team is down 3-1 halfway through the game. And especially in the last game of a three-game set where the Cubs had already won the first two. With the series win safely secured, it would be easy to let up and drop the final game, but Quintana's timely hit and good pitching in the second half of his outing helped make the difference.

"As soon as he hits his knock, he pitched really well after that," Joe Maddon said. "He got better after the knock."

Quintana might struggle to live up to the expectations of coming from across town in a trade two years ago that cost two darling prospects, but it's worth noting that the average ERA in the National League is 4.39, and after Sunday's win, Quintana's is down to 4.21. If he's the team's back-of-the-rotation starter, that'll do just fine.

He's very capable of stringing together quality starts and pitching like the team's ace, like he has over his last three outings with three straight quality starts, but there are also stretches like his run from May 26 to June 22 where he lost six starts in a row and his ERA climbed from 3.73 to 4.50.

Either way, if Quintana makes more of his starts like Sunday's, the Cubs are in very good position to continue their yearly trend of winning in the second half of the season.

 

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