Cubs have to find out about Jackson, Vitters


Cubs have to find out about Jackson, Vitters

LOS ANGELES Theo Epstein and Dale Sveum came out and said it during spring training: The goal of the 2012 Cubs is to win the World Series.

But this season has always been about the next decade for this franchise, or what the president of baseball operations has called the subtext.

If that wasnt obvious enough, it became crystal clear when the front office traded away 40 percent of the rotation (Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm) at the deadline and made it sound like Matt Garza probably would have been gone if he hadnt hurt his elbow.

So the auditions for 2013 are truly about to begin, with former first-round picks Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters waiting to be sprung from Triple-A Iowa. The sense is that the promotions will be in that order, not at the same time, and sooner rather than later.

The Cubs think Jeff Samardzija is straight out of central casting, a big, strong dude to put at the front of the rotation for years to come. But he didnt have that it factor on Friday night in Los Angeles.

We kind of need to get our feet back under us, Samardzija said after a 6-1 loss at Dodger Stadium left the Cubs with three straight losses since the deadline dealing. Thats a whirlwind of a few days there with all the stuff thats going on and then you lose a couple team leaders and veteran guys like Pauley and Demp. (But) we still need to come out and play every day.

You can sit and make all the excuses you want, but those guys arent coming back, so you got to work your way around it, figure out what you need to do to make it work.

One option being seriously considered is calling up Jackson, who has now played 153 games at Triple-A the past two years combined, nearing the full season Epstein believes most real prospects should spend at that level.

The evaluation phase saw general manager Jed Hoyer chatting with super-agent Scott Boras during batting practice. Not long after that, William Shatner threw out the first pitch and posed for pictures with the umpires on Star Trek Night.

Here was another Only in L.A. moment, more than four hours before game time: Two reporters looking down from the press box and thinking they saw Jackson, when it was actually Clayton Kershaw, the National Leagues reigning Cy Young Award winner.

At least that wrong ID didnt catch fire on Twitter after it was posted. But you almost cant blame people for seeing things.

The hype surrounding Cubs prospects at different stages from Anthony Rizzo to Jorge Soler to Albert Almora has been overwhelming. And team officials had spent the past few days discussing what to do with the roster before September call-ups.

In those 153 games at Iowa, Jackson has hit 25 homers and stolen 32 bases while playing solid defense in the outfield. Hes also struck out 220 times.

Sveum, a former hitting coach, sees the value in working directly with Jackson right now. Sveum also mentioned how Jackson turned it on earlier this season after a visit from James Rowson, the minor-league coordinator who took over as hitting coach once Rudy Jaramillo was fired.

Thats some of the things we talk about developing here, Sveum said. Hell have the benefit of me and J-Ro and the things we see. Those are things that definitely come into play, (as well as) us being able to see him against big-league pitching.

The Cubs (43-61) have begun trying to stockpile arms in the minors. For now, Chris Volstad the guy who hasnt won a big-league game in more than a calendar year will start on Saturday night and get two months to prove he belongs in the rotation.

Thats why its so important to see growth from Samardzija (7-9, 4.37), who gave up five runs in 5 13 innings to a Dodgers team (57-50) that is going for it now with Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino.

Im not here to make excuses, Samardzija said. Thats the way the business goes. We need to find out what we can do as a team now with the guys we have here to win ballgames and were going to do that.

The Cubs seem less likely to rush Vitters, who will turn 23 later this month and still has to improve defensively at third base. But the third overall pick from the 2007 draft is hitting .304 with 16 homers and an .866 OPS in his first season at Triple-A.

Hes made a strong case, Hoyer said. Theres no doubt hes had a really good year. I especially like the fact that hes trended upward every month.

Could Jackson and Vitters be counted on as key pieces as soon as the 2013 season?

Thats what youre hoping for, Sveum said. Thats the million-dollar question all the time: When are you going to start the development here? Because (only) a few people ever walk into the big leagues and have success.

It usually comes down to who can make the adjustments and who can handle the third deck of the stadium. You can go on and on about that. But you have to find out sometime.

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

USA Today Sports

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

Laurence Holmes is joined by Olin Kreutz, Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, and Alex Brown to break down the Bears' highly dispiriting 36-25 loss to the Saints at Soldier Field. The guys discuss why the loss was so disappointing and frustrating (2:00), the lack of progress for many players since last year (5:00), the possibility of somebody other than Nagy calling plays (10:00), whether the Bears can save their season and still make the playoffs (14:00), and the massive problems in the run game this season (22:00).

Listen here or via the embedded player below:


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Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Given Sunday’s parallels to the Bears’ 2018 clunker against the Rams, the spotlight on QB Mitch Trubisky may have been even brighter against the Saints than it usually is – which is saying something. 

Four quarters, 250 yards and one blowout loss later, the only thing that’s changed is that the Bears no longer have the luxury of hiding another subpar performance from their franchise quarterback behind a monstrous, game-changing defense. Trubisky’s numbers against New Orleans look better on paper, but the eye test told a much different – or similar, technically – story. 

“It's hard to pinpoint it,” he said after the 36-25 loss. “Just frustrating, ugly. Couldn't swing momentum in our way – couldn't really get going. Just sputtered out. We've just got to find ways to stay on the field, especially after 3rd down and move the chains and get going."

“I want to go back, watch and see like progression-wise [how he did],” Matt Nagy added. “I know there's one there early in the game where we missed a corner route on 3rd down, and Mitch knows -- he knows that he can connect on that. We've connected on it a lot in practice.” 

That specific miss sums up much of what’s plagued Trubisky through his time in Chicago. On 3rd-and-6, with Taylor Gabriel finding separation on a 20-yard corner route, the QB rushes through his throwing motion and misses an easy first down. 

“I'm going to go back and watch it because that's one of my favorite throws,” Trubisky said. “And I hit that every single time this week in practice, so why it didn't translate to the game is really frustrating for me. I felt like that's an easy throw that I make easily, and I just wasn't on the same page and didn't put it in the spot to give my guy a chance.” 

Another miss – this time overthrowing Anthony Miller on a seam route – provided a great example of the communication issues that have plagued the passing game. Miller had a step on two defenders, but according to Nagy and Trubisky, cut in on the route when the play directed that he cut out. 

“That's one of Anthony's really good routes that he runs,” Trubisky said. “And he separates and gets open, and I just felt like I had to get the ball out within that time because they created pressure up front. Someone slipped through, and from what I can remember, he just went inside, so I tried to throw a tight seam and give him a chance. But I was on the ground after that, so I'm going to have to go back on the film and watch it and correct it.” 

“Those are plays that you look at and you just -- you'd like to convert on those and connect.,” added Nagy.

The coach also conceded that Trubisky looked rusty on some throws, but was quick to credit the quarterback for making others (he didn’t specify which). Still, silver linings were little consolation to the Bears on Sunday night, and will continue to mean less and less as the season goes on. For being a team that supposedly has great weeks of practice, plenty of questions remain about where all that goes on Sundays. 

“Why it's not translating, I don't have a theory,” Trubisky added. “All I know is, go back to work and make sure that you put in all that work during the week to make sure it translates.”

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