Cubs

So far, so good for Zambrano and Quade

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So far, so good for Zambrano and Quade

Friday, March 18, 2011Posted: 8:05 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Carlos Zambrano walked back to the mound ahead of Mike Quade. It looked like he pretended to not notice his manager. They had an animated discussion as the infielders gathered around.

There were two outs in the fifth inning and Zambrano had already given up homers to Scott Rolen and Joey Votto. Quade had seen enough. The 13,182 fans at HoHoKam Park on Friday didnt witness a meltdown.

I was just playing with him, Zambrano said. I just told him: What if I dont want to leave? Hes like: Then were going to fight here. (He) told me: Get out of here.

Zambrano went on to say that while the Cubs work hard, its also about having fun. And a 14-13 loss to the Cincinnati Reds didnt change his mood during what has been a very strong spring.

Zambrano who gave up six runs in 4.2 innings likes playing for Quade. Thats not insignificant as the Cubs try to relocate the pitcher who finished last season by going 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his last 11 starts. It might take all of Quades excellent communication skills.

Hes a great guy, Zambrano said. Hes always in a good mood. Ive known him for the last seven, eight years and hes straight (with you). Whatever he thinks, he comes to you or he calls you to his office and he says whatever he (needs to) in a good way. (Its all) how you say it.

People that show respect (get) respect. Thats why we get along.

Zambrano has been nursing a sore left wrist after getting jammed on a swing during batting practice. He listed himself as doubtful to compete in Mondays softball home run derby to benefit his foundation.

Ozzie Guillen who went to dinner with Zambrano hours after he had to be separated from Derrek Lee and was sent home from U.S. Cellular Field last year is among those scheduled to participate in the charity event. This exchange showed that Zambrano already has another manager he can relate to.

Its all good, Quade said. For him to be in that frame of mind even in a spring training game (is) a good thing.

A national reporter asked Zambrano if he was indeed having more fun this spring.

The answer to that question summed up an organization with its fingers crossed. The Cubs hope that the anger-management counseling had made a difference, and that their 91.5 million man again performs at a high level.

So far, so good, Zambrano said.

The Silva Watch

Its unclear what the Cubs are going to do with Carlos Silva, who is owed 13.5 million and now has a 15.88 ERA this spring. Its getting more and more difficult to see him in the rotation, given how well Randy Wells has pitched, and how high the organization is on Andrew Cashner.

Silva labored through three innings on Friday and his defense did him no favors by committing two more errors. But in total he allowed eight runs five earned on 11 hits. Publicly, the Cubs are committed to looking at him as a starter.

Quade gave Silva another vote of confidence and said the idea of moving him to the bullpen (isnt) even worth addressing right now. The Cubs wont be rushed into a decision in case of injuries and perhaps another team could become desperate for pitching by months end.

(Maybe) Silva comes out next time and dazzles like he did last year, Quade said. You just dont know. Im not going to sit here and speculate whats going to happen. Im sure hes disappointed in his outing, but hes been down this road before.

Ojeda vs. Barney

Back spasms continue to sideline Augie Ojeda, who hasnt appeared in a game since March 11 and was supposed to be in the mix as a utility infielderbackup shortstop.

Darwin Barney is hitting .382 this spring and appears to be on the verge of winning that job on his own merits. But the 36-year-old Ojeda who once played for Quade at Triple-A Iowa so far hasnt been able to live up to his excellent defensive reputation.

Im concerned about Augie, Quade said. This has been a little longer than we thought, so Im hoping that he can get healthy and this doesnt morph into something that lasts for weeks and weeks. Hes a valuable guy, whether he goes with us (to Chicago or not). Its getting late in camp and I dont think hes real close yet.

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

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below:

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess, as we discussed on the latest CubsTalk Podcast.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.