After Kyle Ryan 'froze,' Cubs have his back

After Kyle Ryan 'froze,' Cubs have his back

Even before the ninth inning Monday, it was a strange night at Wrigley Field.

The temperature at first pitch was 33 degrees colder than it was the night before and early on, it looked like the Cubs were going to cruise to a victory as the hottest team in baseball jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the team with the worst record in baseball.

But it wound up being a night of missed opportunities — the Cubs couldn't build a bigger lead on the 10 walks they drew on the evening and then watched as the bullpen melted down in the top of the ninth.

Closer Pedro Strop allowed all four batters he faced to reach base, including walking in the tying run. Kyle Ryan — who has emerged as a go-to guy in the Cubs bullpen — was brought in to escape the jam and promptly gave up a hard grounder that drove in another run (though a David Bote diving stop prevented further damage).

The next play was the head-scratcher, as Ryan made a nice leaping snare of Martin Prado's ground ball, saw Neil Walker breaking for home from third base, stared at him, looked like he was going to make a throw to catcher Willson Contreras and then inexplicably went to first base, allowing the Marlins to plate an insurance run. 

The Cubs got out of the inning on that play after Anthony Rizzo fired over to third to get the other runner, but the damage was done. When Kris Bryant homered with one out in the bottom of the ninth, that only underscored the mental error.

"I froze," Ryan said bluntly as he stood at his locker and faced the music after the game. "I knew the whole situation and I just froze. Checked [the runner], saw him, ran through my mind and froze. 

"It was a double play, but still — run scored, KB hit a homer, could've been a tie game. So yeah, I was a little upset. Actually, I was very upset."

Give Ryan credit for how he owned the difficult moment, but the result was still the same: the Cubs' seven-game winning streak had come to an end and on a night where the Cardinals won, meaning St. Louis regains control of first place — a position the Cubs had for all of about 25 hours.

"As a competitor, of course you're gonna be pretty ticked off when you're not making the play you think you should make," Rizzo said. "We all have his back. He's been really good for us since he's been here and he's been a great teammate and a great guy in the clubhouse. I'm sure Joe [Maddon] will put him right back in there tomorrow and we have all the confidence in the world in him."

Look, you can't just sit there and say everything would've played out exactly like it did if Ryan had simply gone home. There's no guarantee the Cubs turn a double play, which means the run could've still scored somehow. There's also no guarantee Bryant comes up and hits a ball onto Waveland. 

But all of that obviously could've happened and anytime you give up a run on a mental mistake, it's understandably tough to swallow. 

That being said, this happened on May 6 and against the Miami Marlins. It's not like it cost the Cubs the season, even in a year where so much emphasis has been put on cashing in on every opportunity. 

"I think I've made my fair share of not getting outs where I think you can get the outs," said Cole Hamels, who started Monday night's game. "Sometimes the game can speed up on you a few times. We all do it. And I think this is great because this is a big lesson to sort of learn early in a season. 

"He's gonna be a big part of this team as we go forward and especially when it gets to September and obviously into October-type baseball, he's probably going to go back to that and revert and know that this was a good lesson for him. 

"I think he's going to be in a situation where he's going to be able to come through and that's what you do — you take the lessons that baseball gives you and you have to make the best of it."

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Cubs' Adbert Alzolay complains about South Bend conditions but comments misleading


Cubs' Adbert Alzolay complains about South Bend conditions but comments misleading

Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay made waves on Thursday tweeting (now deleted) about the conditions for players at the club’s alternate training site, hosted at the South Bend Cubs facility.

Alzolay and the 10 other players in South Bend are eligible for this season but will remain inactive unless need arises on the big league roster. He tweeted the players make $18 a day — or $10, when accounting for “dues” the players owe, while possibly tipping clubhouse attendants.

Whether it was a miscommunication by someone with Alzolay, the actual amount the players get is $25 and no dues are deducted from that. The option to tip clubhouse attendants is up to players individually. Through Summer Camp, the 11 Cubs in South Bend will also receive two packaged meals a day at the complex.

Once the regular season starts (July 23, per MLB’s arrangement for the 60-game campaign), the alternate site Cubs will receive $50 a day in meal money, instead of what was originally proposed because the Cubs proposed higher daily meal money.

Players will receive full salaries beginning July 23, per MLB’s agreement, and minor leaguers are being paid in the meantime. Six of the 11 Cubs in South Bend are not on the 40-man roster, and they will continue receiving $400 a week. Those on the 40-man (including Alzolay) received advanced salaries, per MLB’s agreement with the MLBPA in March.

Alzolay received $30,000 from that agreement.

Additional important context is the South Bend facility is one of the best in minor league baseball — with housing for the players nearby. The players are residing at new apartments that opened in December right outside the ballpark. They aren’t being charged for those apartments through Summer Camp, and the Cubs will subsidize many of the players in South Bend once the regular season starts. 

MORE: Where Cubs could find position of strength in 2020: South Bend

Alzolay later tweeted an update on the matter.

In wake of José Quintana’s thumb injury, general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday the Cubs haven’t decided if Alzolay will join the Wrigley Field training group.


Why it matters that the Cubs bullpen is 'deeper' than David Ross expected

Why it matters that the Cubs bullpen is 'deeper' than David Ross expected

The Cubs pitching staff is staring at a block of 17 straight games to start the season. After just three weeks of Summer Camp.  

“There’s a reason why Spring Training’s so long,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Because we want to stretch it out, make sure everybody’s healthy. So, outside of the virus factor, there’s a risk-factor of injury as well.”

Expecting starting pitchers to consistently throw seven innings at the beginning of the season isn’t realistic, so pitching coach Tommy Hottovy has built in a cushion. While most Cubs starters are upping their workloads to three-plus innings this week, some middle relievers are stretching to multiple innings as well.

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Late this week, Hottovy said he expects Rex Brothers, Dan Winkler, Casey Sadler, Duane Underwood Jr. and James Norwood to throw two innings in simulated games.

“As much as it is important to get these guys going multiple innings,” Hottovy said. “It’s also important to get them the volume they need, that you would see during a regular season. So throwing a two or three inning stint and having three or four days off, it may help us in one game, but over the course of the season … we’re going to need guys to be able to bounce back.”

Those who aren’t expected to throw multiple innings will, for the most part, still work up to a batter or two over one inning.

Kyle Ryan, who was delayed by what Ross called “protocol technicalities,” is in that category. He arrived in Chicago Wednesday night, according to Ross. Ryan was scheduled to be tested for COVID-19 along with the rest of the team Thursday. He will be quarantined until the Cubs receive his tests results, as long as they come back negative.

But Hottovy still believes there’s a chance Ryan could be ready to pitch in time for opening day in two weeks.

“We still have to get our eyes on him,” Hottovy said. “I feel like there is because of the work that he’s done and what he’s had access to back home.”

Either way, the Cubs hope to avoid having him pitch in back to back games early in the season.

“I don’t think anybody,” Hottovy said, “no matter what work you’ve done, is going to be ready to go back-to-backs at least consistently and definitely not those three days in a row.”

Not even closer Craig Kimbrel. Hottovy anticipates several of those pitchers will need to fill late-inning roles due to the compact 60-game schedule.

The Cubs starting rotation may be lacking in depth, even more than the Cubs originally expected after southpaw Jose Quintana lacerated his left thumb while washing dishes. But even with swingman Alec Mills expected to join the starting rotation, Ross has been pleasantly surprised with the overhauled Cubs bullpen.

“It’s definitely deeper than I had in my mind going into it,” Ross said. “These guys have really taken it upon themselves to be in tip-top shape.”