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."

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is one step closer to joining the Cubs bullpen.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Kimbrel will join Triple-A Iowa and make his first appearance on Tuesday, against the Sacramento River Cats.

While the Cubs officially signed him on June 7, Kimbrel has yet to pitch in actual games. The 31-year-old has been in a condensed spring training program at the Cubs' Arizona complex, throwing live batting practice on both Thursday and Saturday.

The Cubs haven't revealed an official timeline for Kimbrel to join the 25-man roster, as they are basing things off of how he feels. The expectation is he will pitch in about five games with Iowa before joining the Cubs. However, both Theo Epstein and Kimbrel acknowledged how the goal isn't to rush the closer back into MLB action.

"We're not gonna rush it," Epstein said. "It's gonna be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we're trying to plan this thing the right way so that he could be in a position to succeed not just immediately but in October. That's gonna be our guiding principle as we go."

"We sat down and put a gameplan together — something to work off of," Kimbrel said. "But at the end of the day, it's based off how I recover, how I get ready. This isn't about getting back on the field as fast as I can. This is about being the best that I can be in October and down the stretch and doing what I came here to do for this team."

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Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”

Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.

However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.

Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.

All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.

Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.

Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending  upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.

Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.

Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.

Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.