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Cubs Talk Podcast: The Tyler Chatwood/Yu Darvish podcast

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The Tyler Chatwood/Yu Darvish podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer talks with Tyler Chatwood, Kelly Crull catches up with Yu Darvish, and David Kaplan and David DeJesus weigh in on the starting rotation.

01:00 - Tyler Chatwood on his outing on Sunday

02:25 - Chatwood on difference from last year

6:00 - Yu Darvish talks about his season so far

7:15 - Joe Maddon thinks Darvish has another gear

8:00 - Why the starters have been so good lately

9:30 - What adjustments has Tyler Chatwood made on the mound this season?

11:20 - Could Chatwood be effective out of the Cubs bullpen?

12:00 - Is Darvish making progress?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Nico Hoerner leaving great impression on Cubs: 'We believe in him'

Nico Hoerner leaving great impression on Cubs: 'We believe in him'

A little more than two weeks ago, Nico Hoerner was sitting on his couch back in his hometown of Oakland. With Double-A Tennessee’s season over, the 22-year-old was preparing to head down to the Arizona Fall League for the second-straight year.

Now, Hoerner is the Cubs starting shortstop, starting for a Cubs team that’s pushing for a fifth-straight postseason berth while Javier Báez rehabs his fractured left thumb.

Talk about a heck of a month.

“It’s been special to be a part of a team that’s trying to win right now and being around a lot of guys that have played at this level really successfully for a long time,” Hoerner said Sunday. [I’ve] learned a lot.”

When the Cubs called Hoerner up, no one expected him to produce on a Báez-like level. This is meant more as a compliment to Báez than anything, as he brings game-changing elements to the Cubs at the plate, on the bases and defensively.

And yet, considering that Hoerner only has 89 career minor league games to his name, what he’s done in the big leagues is more than impressive. Including his three plate appearances on Sunday, Hoerner holds a .286/.322/.482 slash line, recording hits in 11 of his first 14 games and making plenty of hard contact.

“As a hitter, there’s always things you can work on to be more consistent,” he said. “But overall, I’ve been pretty happy with my ability to be present, compete as best as I can, and I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent with my preparation.”

Hoerner has also started at shortstop in every one of those contests, showing off impressive range and hands while making no errors. It might just be two weeks, but his play has impressed both Joe Maddon and Báez already.

“You cannot have possibly asked for more than you’ve got out of Nico,” Maddon said on Sunday. “And the thing is, he’s gonna keep getting better. This guy is a gym rat when it comes to baseball.

“He loves doing this and he does it really, really well. He’s a solid, really good baseball player and he’s gonna keep getting better. I really believe that.”

“Unbelievable,” Báez said Saturday about Hoerner’s performance thus far. “It’s not easy to just come up and play, even if it’s in September. We believe in him and he’s done a great job for the team and for our pitchers.”

Although Báez’s injury is certainly played a factor, the Cubs called up Hoerner because Addison Russell took a pitch off the face on Sept. 8, going into concussion protocol as a result.

With no true shortstops on their roster, Hoerner was the Cubs’ best bet to man the position in the meantime. But while Báez is limited to pinch-hitting and running right now, Russell has been cleared to play.

Even with Russell – a former All-Star shortstop – back in the fold, though, Maddon is having a hard time going away from Hoerner as his everyday shortstop.

“With Addy, we did not know when Addy would be available, and he is right now,” Maddon said. “Addy is available, but I just really can’t walk away from what Nico is doing.”

Báez is attempting to return to the Cubs starting lineup during their upcoming series against the Pirates. This would move Hoerner off of shortstop, though he and the Cubs are confident in his ability to play other positions.

Of the 75 games he played in Double-A this season Hoerner made 17 appearances at second base and 11 in center field.

“I can help in a wide range of ways,” he said. “The need right now has been at shortstop, but when it comes to the future, who knows what will happen. [I’m] down to go anywhere on the field.”

“It could be second, it could be to give somebody a day off in another position,” Maddon said. “He’s adept at a lot of different spots, and that was the original conversation I had when he got here with the front office guys. They said, ‘Listen, he can play everywhere.’”

2020 is still far away, and the Cubs are still in contention for a postseason spot this season. It’s hard not to look ahead, though, especially considering how (in a small sample size) Hoerner is proving he could be a fixture on the Cubs for years to come.

No matter what, though, Hoerner’s career is looking like a bright one.

“His bat to ball skills are so good and he’s always had that,” Maddon said. “I don’t see that as dissipating, I don’t. And the way he processes the day, that shouldn’t be altered either. With good health, he should be fine.”

“I know I can help this team and I can do that in a wide range of ways,” Hoerner said. [I’m going to] continue to develop and give myself the best chance I can.”

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How Joe Maddon, Ben Zobrist approached what could be their final game at Wrigley Field

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AP

How Joe Maddon, Ben Zobrist approached what could be their final game at Wrigley Field

There was an odd vibe around Wrigley Field Sunday morning, even before it started raining and well before Kris Bryant slipped on first base and rolled his ankle.

For the first time in Joe Maddon's tenure as Cubs manager and Ben Zobrist's career as a Cubs player, they showed up to "The Friendly Confines" knowing there would likely be no postseason appearance for this team. 

The Cubs are not mathematically eliminated, but they woke up Sunday morning with just an 8.6 percent chance at making the playoffs, according to FanGraphs. They're 3 games behind the Brewers for the second Wild-Card spot with only seven games remaining.

Both Maddon and Zobrist are not under contract after this season and there is a lot of speculation that this could be it for the manager that guided this franchise to its first World Series championship in 108 years and the player who took home the MVP Award in that Fall Classic.

Sunday might be the end of an era.

So how did both men approach the day at Wrigley Field?

Zobrist said he was simply focused on the game and the task at hand, though he's been taking little mental snapshots from time to time over his last month here at the corner of Clark and Addison. 

The Eureka, Ill., native allow himself to think about all this stuff once the season is officially over, but he's never taken it for granted to be able to call Wrigley Field home for the last four seasons. This is the same guy who wears stirrups as a callback to the days of yore and has commuted to the ballpark on a bicycle while wearing his full uniform.

"It's the big leagues of the big leagues," Zobrist said. "That's the way the fans make you feel. The front office, the organization, the way everything's run — it's the top of the top. It's hard to beat the experience of being a Chicago Cubs player, especially when you walk out on that field."

The 38-year-old Zobrist admitted he doesn't know what's next for his career after a season in which he missed four months while tending to his family situation. But the last month has answered the question for himself that he still has what it takes physically to play this game.

As for Maddon, he was maybe a bit more introspective than normal in his Sunday morning press availability, but he's always thoughtful and mindful.

He insisted he did not show up to work Sunday with a mindset to "take it all in" or enjoy the moment any more than normal, which makes sense for a guy who routinely preaches the need to stay in the present tense.

"Honestly, I do that every day," he said. "I don't anticipate that. I haven't really thought about that this whole time through. I always expect a good result."

Maddon's job status is up in the air after Theo Epstein's front office took any talks of an extension off the table last winter and wanted to see how the season went before making a decision one way or the other. 

Since Maddon took over the helm ahead of the 2015 season, only the Dodgers and Astros have more regular season wins than the Cubs (469) and his teams made it to three National League Championship Series from 2015-17. 

As for Sunday, Maddon was focused on the weather and how the impending storms could affect his pitching staff with a thin bullpen and the threat of a delay knocking starter Yu Darvish out early. 

"I mean this sincerely — I will be focusing on the game like I always have," Maddon said Sunday morning. "But when I walk to Wrigley — I've talked about this since I've been here — you always are enthralled and impressed with the fact that you get to work here. So that's kind of a daily occurrence for me."