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Trammell has no regrets about time with Cubs

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Trammell has no regrets about time with Cubs

Monday, April 4, 2011
Posted: 3:06 p.m. Updated: 3:52 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Alan Trammell sat next to Lou Piniella for almost four seasons. The bench coach appeared to be next in line when the manager abruptly retired last August. Mike Quade got the 37-game audition and the rest is Cubs history.

Around the game, Trammell is known as a class act. The Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach was bypassed but holds no bitterness toward the Cubs, and he maintains a solid friendship with Quade.

Im certainly pulling for Q, Trammell said Monday. He was the right man for the job.

The Cubs ended last season on Oct. 3 and it took 16 days to complete the interview process and finalize an agreement with Quade. Trammell would have been welcomed back onto Quades staff, but took the offer from Kirk Gibson.

Everybody was upfront, Trammell said. If Q had been named before the season was over or maybe even just a few days (after) most likely I would have stayed. But the longer it went, (you) start getting some phone calls and it was tough to turn my old buddy down.

Trammell and Gibson will always be identified with the Detroit Tigers, where they won the 1984 World Series and later coached together. But the old shortstop is still appreciated on the North Side Starlin Castro approached him on Monday to thank him for all his help and guidance.

Trammell was the calm, soothing voice that balanced out Piniella. They teamed up in the Cubs dugout and clubhouse, a baseball version of good cop and bad cop, and won two division titles here.

Trammell has spoken with Piniella a few times and like most was surprised that he took a consulting job with the San Francisco Giants, and not the New York Yankees. Trammell doubts Piniella will manage again but

Ive been around long enough to say: Never say never, Trammell said. I dont think (he has any intention), but who knows if somebody comes calling. As long as hes in baseball in some capacity, I think thats really what he wants.

Fast-tracking Castro

If things had worked out differently, Trammell would have been breaking down Sundays ninth-inning play with Castro. Quade watched it several times and admitted that Castro probably should have held onto the ball after he charged a soft grounder. The throw was offline and two runs scored to help give the Pittsburgh Pirates a 5-4 win.

All I think you want to do (is) just make him aware of the importance of the decision in that situation, Quade said. Even though you might have a shot at the guy, maybe the bigger situation is the potential winning run at third. But man oh man, if thats the biggest lesson that we have to teach him this year, were going to be just fine.

Castro showcased his offensive potential by hitting .615 (8-for-13) over the weekend, which earned him the National Leagues player of the week award along with St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia.

Trammell worked daily with Castro last season and projects the 21-year-old shortstop as a perennial .300 hitter who just needs more experience defensively.

The skys the limit, Trammell said. Hell be somebody Im following for the rest of his career. Thats how much he means to me. Hes a solid kid, but theres going to be some growing pains.

Etc.

The Cubs have assigned pitcher Hayden Simpson (2010 first-round pick) and outfielder Matt Szczur (two-sport star at Villanova University) to Class-A Peoria.

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

Cubs' Craig Kimbrel rises to the moment in 'sharp' outing against Brewers

Cubs' Craig Kimbrel rises to the moment in 'sharp' outing against Brewers

Cubs reliever Craig Kimbrel stuck with what was working. He pounded the strike zone with one high fastball after another against Manny Pina. Kimbrel was rewarded with a strikeout to end the inning.

In the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Brewers on Friday, Kimbrel pitched a shutout ninth inning to give his team the chance to rally. Instead, the Cubs’ bats went cold. But the stadium lights illuminated Kimbrel’s progress.

“He looked really good,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “I’ve been trying to find a spot for him, and the feedback has been great every time I talk to the pitching guys, and his bullpens and the work he’s put in. I think you saw that tonight. The ball was exploding out of his hand really well. Some bad swings. Looked sharp.”

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It should be noted that the spot Ross found for him was in a one-run game. Kimbrel, who entered the season as the Cubs closer, at least temporarily lost that job after a string of rough outings. The Cubs blamed mechanical issues.

On Friday, Kimbrel didn’t allow a hit with the game on the line.

One of the biggest developments for Kimbrel is that he’s now throwing his curve ball for a strike, therefore not allowing opposing hitters to simply gear up for a fastball.

The third pitch he threw on Friday was a curve ball. Avisail Garcia already had two strikes on him, and then he fouled off a curve at the bottom of the strikezone.  Kimbrel sat him down with a high fastball clocking in at almost 98 mph.

“I don’t think he was far off (all year),” Cubs starting pitcher Alec Mills said, “and I think tonight he started putting a few more things together, fastball up in the zone and some good curve balls. It was good to see, for sure.”

As Kimbrel’s teammate, Mills may not be speaking from a position of objectivity. But he knows pitching, and he said he’s been excited about Kimbrel’s fastball all year.

“Even that first inning in Cincinnati,” Mills said. “The ball was coming out really good. It was electric. It was more like the Craig that I remember from past years.”

The Kimbrel from past years was a seven-time All-Star from 2011 to 2018, the year he won the World Series with the Red Sox.

But from 2017 to 2019, the average speed of Kimbrel’s fastball dropped from 98 mph to 96mph. It has remained right around 96 mph this year. On Friday, Kimbrel was locating it more effectively, while his curve ball helped put batters off balance.

Kimbrel still walked a batter – he stopped short of overpowering. But even against the one batter he walked, Justin Smoak, Kimbrel got ahead in the count early. He threw two curve balls for strikes. The first Smoak watched. The second he whiffed.

One outing isn’t a guarantee that Kimbrel will win back his role as closer. But it does show that the positive feedback Ross is getting translates into games. And that Ross is ready to trust him in close games. 

“I'm still going out there trying to compete,” Kimbrel said earlier this month.

On Saturday, he sure did.

 

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Why Cubs might not lose again and other musings in strange, short season

Why Cubs might not lose again and other musings in strange, short season

As if things weren’t already going well enough for the Cubs during this strange, short season of baseball in a pandemic, now the baseball gods are dropping gifts into their laps.

The Cardinals’ lengthy shutdown because of a coronavirus outbreak has the Cubs’ arch rivals restarting their season Saturday in Chicago with a patched-up roster and eight games over the next five days, including five games against the Cubs.

And although that means the relative hardship of two doubleheaders for the Cubs in three days, all five of those games Monday through Wednesday are against a decimated Cards roster that won’t have the front end of its rotation for any of the games.

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They catch the Cardinals at their weakest point of the early season a week after catching an otherwise formidable Cleveland team at a moment of clubhouse crisis involving protocol perps Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger.

That one resulted in a two-game sweep by a combined score of 14-3.

This one already has resulted in all 10 games against the Cardinals now being scheduled for Wrigley Field.

Combine that with the three road games against the White Sox next month, and it means that the team with baseball’s best record on the field, the perfect record in player COVID-19 testing and no significant injuries to key players so far will play 60 percent of its games within its Chicago bubble if the Cubs and MLB pull off the full 60-game season.

If the Cubs were positioned any better to make the playoffs, they’d already be there.

“You can look at it that way if you want,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We’re just doing our thing.”

No other way to look at it from here. Have you seen the rest of the schedule?

The Cubs have 43 games left, including 29 within a National League Central Division that doesn’t include another .500 team three weeks into a nine-week season. Nine more games are against the Tigers and White Sox.

The best team on the schedule is the Twins, and all three of those games are at home and not until the second-to-last weekend of the season.

With all due respect to Ross and his fear of “bad juju,” the Cubs can’t lose.

“It’s still early on,” the manager said.

Nothing’s early in a 60-game season. And the Cubs already have matched the hot starts of their 2016 and 1908 World Series champions.

“We’ve still got a long ways to go in the season,” Ross said.

The Cubs did have to scratch Tyler Chatwood from his scheduled start Friday night because of back tightness. And Kris Bryant has missed the last two games because of a sore finger after rolling his wrist trying to make a diving catch in left field in Cleveland Wednesday.

But Alec Mills looked good in short-notice replacement duty Friday until a rough four-pitch (and three-run) sequence in the sixth. And Chatwood might be ready for one of Monday’s games — or possibly one of Wednesday’s.

“Things falling in our favor?” Ross said. “We’re playing good baseball, and that should be the focus for me and not the other stuff.”

Granted, they still have to play the games. Granted, Bryant wasn’t available off the bench with the bases loaded in the eighth Friday, and Josh Phegley struck out instead.

And, yes, they actually lost a game to the Brewers Friday night.

But if you still don’t believe the baseball gods are stirring the Cubs’ pot so far this season, you weren’t paying attention in the ninth inning when Craig Kimbrel struck out Avisail Garcia swinging at a 98-mph fastball to start the scoreless inning and Manny Piña swinging at a 96-mph fastball to end it.

What closer problem? Bring on the Cardinals, right?

These guys might not lose another game.

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