Cubs

ARod-Cubs drama adds another chapter as he and Joe Maddon have 'candid' conversation at Wrigley Field

ARod-Cubs drama adds another chapter as he and Joe Maddon have 'candid' conversation at Wrigley Field

Alex Rodriguez doesn't regret what he said about Yu Darvish last month in St. Louis, but he may soon.

This story will not die, but the good news is — Sunday is the Cubs' final Sunday Night Baseball game for the 2018 season. 

Rodriguez and Joe Maddon had a conversation in the Cubs manager's office before Sunday's tilt against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field and both parties came away feeling "good" and "positive."

"It was very good," Maddon said. "Alex and I had a very nice discussion. I felt good about it. Hopefully he felt equally the same. We talked openly about it.

"Under those circumstances for me, normally it's one of those things that you speak in a candid manner to one another and then you move on from there. I really believe through that conversation, we have a chance to become pretty good friends."

This all started on the Cubs' last ESPN broadcast July 29, when Rodriguez started discussing Yu Darvish's absence due to injury and how it may be perceived negatively in the Cubs clubhouse.

Maddon responded that night and then again later in the week as he called Rodriguez "irresponsible."

Yu Darvish responded to the whole ordeal last week, making a joke that if ARod texted him, he would screenshot it, print it out and frame it as bulletin-board material.

Rodriguez met with Chicago media in the press box at Wrigley Field Sunday, but spent less than a minute on the matter before scurrying off to a "rehearsal" for the game broadcast.

Here are his comments in their entirety:

"Yeah, we had a brief, very positive conversation," Rodriguez said. "Look, what's great about this is we all have the same interests — to grow the game, to highlight stories as objectively as we can. 

"Obviously you guys are in the [media] business, so you know that better than anyone. And yeah, I thought it was a very positive conversation.

Would he change anything he did or said?

"No, my job is to say it fairly and objectively and I have over 25 years in the game and I'm gonna call it as I see it," Rodriguez said. "We don't always have to agree on everything, but I do have a lot of respect for Joe and obviously the Cubs organization and I have for a long time and that hasn't changed.

"As a matter of fact, before I go to rehearsal, Joe and I have plans to have drinks together. So that's planned! That's in the books!"

As he said those last lines, Rodriguez was already starting to move away from the throng of Chicago media and when he finished, he broke for the door like he was trying to steal second base.

Maddon thought it was a good meeting. ARod felt the same way, apparently, but it's hard to glean any real context from his side of the story when he spent less than a minute addressing the issue.

Either way, both parties seem genuinely interested in leaving this little bit of drama in the past. 

This is an issue that would not have even been possible 10 or 20 years ago, in the days of sports consumption without social media. 

But Rodriguez's comments went viral immediately after he uttered them in St. Louis and the end result was a fiery Cubs response starting immediately after that game.

"For me, it's just about taking care of my group — our group — first," Maddon said. "I've often talked about circling our wagons. It's about what we think first and foremost that matters. Whether it's among the coaches, the clubhouse itself, the ownership, the front office — that's the circle you have to satisfy. 

"And that's to understand and believe that everything is well and right. For me, it's only about that. And anytime you get any kind of an outside noise coming in, it normally is just outside noise. And you gotta be able to parcel it out and understand it and make sense of it and still keep the integrity of the group together. 

"My job, I believe, is to protect my brood, quite frankly. It's no different than being a parent. So if you're gonna attack the group from the outside looking in — [the people that] raised me would have it no other way. So when you speak badly of my group — our group — it brings out the Hazleton in me, pretty much.

"So I responded, very open and candid about my comments, so we had a great conversation about that and that's pretty much where I come from. I think it's hard to argue against that. I would respect anybody having the same opinion about protecting their brood and why. So that's in a nutshell how I feel about it."

Brandon Morrow ruled out for the year as Cubs dealt another big blow to bullpen

Brandon Morrow ruled out for the year as Cubs dealt another big blow to bullpen

Brandon Morrow won't be riding in to save the day for the Cubs bullpen this October.

Theo Epstein ruled the closer out for the year Tuesday evening, saying Morrow just couldn't make it all the way back from a bone bruise.

"Every time he pitched, it got worse," Epstein said, according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat.

Morrow hasn't pitched since before the All-Star break while battling the bone bruise in his forearm.

The Cubs gave him as much time as possible to recover and then he tried to ramp up his rehab over the last couple weeks in an effort to make it back for the postseason. 

He threw off a mound twice last week and then faced live hitters in a sim game Saturday that supposedly went well with the hope of being activated either sometime this week in Arizona or over the weekend on the South Side for the Cubs-White Sox series.

This leaves the Cubs in a serious hole in the bullpen for October, a time when relievers become some of the most important players on the roster.

With Pedro Strop's hamstring injury he suffered last Thursday in Washington D.C., the Cubs are down their top two relief pitchers for the final two weeks of the regular season and will be down at least Morrow in the playoffs. 

Strop said Monday he hoped to be able to return to the Cubs over the final weekend of the regular season (Sept. 28-30), but there is still a lot up in the air with his timeline. 

The Cubs are now left with a bullpen that includes Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, Carl Edwards Jr. and Jesse Chavez plus a bunch of question marks.

[RELATED — Jesse Chavez has emerged as the most important pitcher in Cubs bullpen]

Will Dillon Maples be able to carve out a role in the October bullpen? What about Jorge De La Rosa or Jaime Garcia? 

The next 13 days will be telling.

Morrow has a long history of injuries over his career - making only 91 appearances (21 starts) and pitching 180.1 innings over the last five seasons entering 2018. He emerged as a dynamic piece of the Dodgers bullpen last October and appeared in each game of the World Series against the Astros.

This is the second pitcher the Cubs have ruled out for the season with a bone bruise, as Yu Darvish also had to be shut down due to a bone bruise in his elbow. Darvish had a debridement procedure on his elbow last week and is supposed to be ready to go for spring training 2019.

Theo Epstein gets a little sassy in response to doubt about Cubs bullpen

Theo Epstein gets a little sassy in response to doubt about Cubs bullpen

Theo Epstein made it known to everyone that he believes in the Cubs bullpen and even shared some statistics with reports yesterday when asked about his club's lack of a true closer. 

The rest of Epstein's comments can be found here, but the Cubs President of Baseball Operations clearly has heard enough about the Cubs bullpen being doomed without Pedro Strop and Brandon Morrow, but that hasn't been the case. Since Strop injured his hamstring, the bullpen has thrown 9.2 scoreless innings and seen three different pitchers collect saves in Randy Rosario, Steve Cishek, and Jorge De La Rosa. 

And Epstein is right, the Cubs do own the best ERA among bullpens in the National League with a 3.30 ERA, Padres are in behind them at 3.52 ERA. However, if someone were to check Twitter about the state of the Cubs bullpen, it might seem like things are far worse than they really are. And while they may not have a true closer at the moment, and possibly longer with Brandon Morrow being shut down for the season, the Cubs are the best in baseball at keeping the ball in the park (0.79 HR/FB) and have the best opponent batting average in the National League. 

And when factoring in how many relievers in the bullpen have closing experience, the Cubs bullpen is in better shape than most despite suffering injuries in the second half to their two main closing options in Strop and Morrow. So, for Theo Epstein's sake, stop worrying about the bullpen because the Cubs certainly are not.