Cubs

Soriano wonders what Manny was thinking

Soriano wonders what Manny was thinking

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 9:01 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Alfonso Soriano once had a tryout with the Indians, at a time when Manny Ramirez was just starting to build his legacy in Cleveland. The young Soriano looked at Ramirez and thought: Man, I want to be like him one day.

It all came to an end Friday, when Major League Baseball announced that Ramirez has decided to retire, instead of dealing with a reported 100-game suspension for a second positive test for a banned substance.

What he did surprised me, Soriano said. There are a lot of players (using that) I never think would. Its very sad (when) an All-Star guy maybe future Hall of Famer does that. Its sad for the game, its sad for the player.

The 38-year-old Ramirez can forget about his place in Cooperstown, even with 555 career home runs and MVP votes in 11 different seasons. The questions are why such a gifted hitter would need extra help, and how a player who has made more than 200 million in his career could risk his reputation again after the first positive test.

Everybody has their talent to play this game, Soriano said. I dont know why people want to use something (else). Its what you got thats it. Just play (as) who you are, what God gave to you.

The Cubs havent forgotten that Ramirez crushed them in the 2008 playoffs, leading the Dodgers to a three-game sweep. Ramirez went 5-for-10 with two homers and four walks during that series and became a star in Hollywood.

But that player has faded away. Ramirez was reduced to a singles hitter late last season for the White Sox, and opened this season at 1-for-17 with Tampa Bay.

Soriano knows Ramirez mostly through chatting before games when they were part of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, and doesnt hang out with him during the offseason in the Dominican Republic. Like everyone else, hes left guessing.

I dont understand why he did it, Soriano said. Hes got so much talent I dont think he needs it.

Reinforcements

The Cubs had eight arms ready in the bullpen on Friday night and theyll need all the help they can get now that Andrew Cashner (rotator cuff strain) and Randy Wells (forearm strain) are officially on the disabled list.

The Cubs recalled right-handed reliever Jeff Stevens from Triple-A Iowa on Friday and manager Mike Quade confirmed that Casey Coleman will start Sunday against the Brewers. Theyll have to piece it together on Tuesday in Houston.

It starts with James Russell, who will throw somewhere in the range of three innings and 45 pitches before turning the game over to whoevers available out of the bullpen. Someone else will have to build the bridge to Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol.

The manager isnt going to ask for more from Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano, or worry about the front of the rotation trying to do too much.

Theyve been down this road before, Quade said. Every rotation in the history of baseball (has) gotten into some trouble at some point. (Despite losing) two starters, they know whos behind them bullpen-wise. Its got to be pretty comforting to be a starter here and knowing what kind of bullpen we have.

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

Sports Talk Live Podcast: What's up with Jon Lester?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: What's up with Jon Lester?

David Haugh, Hub Arkush and Ben Finfer join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The Cubs had chances but fall to the Phillies after Jon Lester gets roughed up again. Is anybody worried?

4:00 - It's Kap's daily call for the Cubs management to sign Craig Kimbrel.

8:00 - The White Sox look for a split. Do they need to try to compete in the division or just focus on developing their future stars?

13:00 - The Bears' Top 100 players list is out. The guys debate if Brian Urlacher is too low and if "The Fridge" should have cracked the list.

20:00 - Drake's shoulder rub is dominating the Eastern Conference Finals. The guys weigh in on the touchy subject.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

How close is Ian Happ to rejoining the Cubs?

How close is Ian Happ to rejoining the Cubs?

Is Ian Happ nearing a return to Chicago?

In a surprise move at the end of spring training, the Cubs sent the 24-year-old switch-hitter down to the minor leagues to work on his swing and try to cut down on strikeouts.

Happ's numbers in Iowa don't jump off the page at you (.240/.362/.422), but it looks like he may be turning a corner of late. He homered Monday night then went 4-for-4 with another homer, 2 doubles and 5 RBI in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday.

That's obviously a very small sample size, however, and even including that, Happ is still struggling to make consistent contact. He has struck out 14 times in 25 at-bats over his last 8 games. 

His overall strikeout percentage on the season is 25.9 percent — a major improvement on the 36.1 percent mark he struggled through in the big leagues last year. But Happ had never struck out more than 23.6 percent of the time in a season coming up through the minor leagues, so that number is still higher than the Cubs would like to see.

"If [the mini hot streak] were sustained, you'd have to really start listening," Joe Maddon said. "I'm following him via video, watching the at-bats. I'm doing that almost daily with him. I know prior to that, he had still had some problems with strikeouts. 

"And then hit a home run the other day and that seems like that's led to this other home run. That would be primarily a call on the front office and the minor-league part [on when to call him up], but I will watch the video. The home run I saw, I liked. I thought he had much better balance on the entire swing."

Obviously the Cubs aren't going to overreact to a couple games and deem Happ ready to return to the big leagues based off a handful of at-bats.

But there's also a solid case to be made that he could help the club in Chicago right now.

Despite a hot start to the season, the Cubs' role players have really fallen off the last few weeks and much of the offensive damage has come from the big boppers (Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Willson Contreras) recently.

There's no indication Ben Zobrist is coming back anytime soon, as Maddon said Thursday morning he hasn't spoken to the veteran in a couple days. 

David Bote and Jason Heyward have looked better this week, but they were struggling for the first couple weeks of May. 

Daniel Descalso has really been scuffling, hitting .097 with only 1 extra-base hit in May and his defense at second base has been below average.

Then there's Mark Zagunis, who isn't doing much of anything for the Cubs — literally. He hasn't started a game since April 26 and hasn't seen even one inning in the outfield since then, either, serving exclusively as a pinch-hitter for the last month.

So if the Cubs decide soon that Happ is ready to return to the big leagues, they have a simple decision on the roster spot and right now, there might be an avenue to a decent amount of playing time either at second base or the outfield.

Happ may not be the best or most experienced defender at second base, but he's seen some time there in the minors this season (59.2 innings) and he can also play either of the corner infield spots and all three outfield positions.

But would it be prudent for the Cubs to call up Happ if they don't even have room for him to play every day? That could throw a wrench in his development, which is clearly something the organization has been committed to.

Albert Almora Jr. is still easily the best centerfielder on the roster and has been great offensively for the last month, so it's not like he's done anything to deserve falling back into a platoon with Happ in center like they shared for much of 2018.

"It's hard. You would want to [call him up only if there's ample time to play him]," Maddon said. "But if you could morph him in and there's a platoon that's worthwhile, you could do that, also.

"But part of him being [in the minors] right now on a consistent basis is to get these kind of at-bats to get this all worked out and you would not want to lose that, either. But when he were to come back, being that he could hit left-handed obviously permits us to do other things."

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