Bears

Garza, Cubs pitchers wont back down inside

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Garza, Cubs pitchers wont back down inside

GLENDALE, Ariz. Matt Garza likes to view this as a heavyweight prize fight. He says hell be ready when the ball rings, and promises to come out swinging.

The Cubs pitcher shrugged off Sundays 5-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Working on fastballs and changeups, he got four outs and gave up four runs. He walked two batters and hit another.

One year later, the curiosity factor is gone how Garza would adjust to a new team, a bigger market and the weight of expectations after a blockbuster trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Garzas idea of a comfort level is everyone else getting used to him.

Whats coming into view is that Garza seems to be a match with Dale Sveum, a manager who rides motorcycles and has tattoos, and Chris Bosio, a self-described old-school pitching coach who played for and worked with Lou Piniella. The Cubs are going to throw inside and make the opponent uncomfortable.

Thats how I made my living, Garza said. I dont shy away from the inside part of the plate. Hitters dont like it a lot of them will try to take it away. (Chase) Utleys notorious for leaning over. Theyre going to try to take advantage, so why not get my 17 inches back?

If you got to knock a couple guys down, do what you got to do, then so be it. But Im entitled to 17 inches. Thats part of the game. If you cant pitch inside, then youre going to get a hitter dead red (sitting fastball) the entire game, and its kind of an unfair advantage, huh?

This was roughly 24 hours after Ryan Dempster threw his first pitch over the head of ex-teammate Aramis Ramirez. Dempster and Sveum both said it was an accident, not a message sent to the Milwaukee Brewers. Ramirez got a friendly, respectful tap from catcher Geovany Soto before he stepped into the box.

That one got away, Sveum said, but Dempsters very good at pitching up and in and down and away. Thats his forte. Hes kind of old-school.That was probably a little higher and tighter than we wanted, but thats just the way he pitches.

If he throws 10 pitches, two of them are going to be up and in (and) not too many people can pitch with elevation like he does. (He) understands (getting) foul balls and pop-ups (that way). Its a vital part of pitching now.

You pitch good hitters in, bad hitters away. Thats just the way the games been for a hundred years.

Sveum likes to say that The Cubs Way is not reinventing the wheel. Its drilling fundamentals into the players. Sveum is blunt and to the point and expects his team to take on his personality. If hitters are getting in the way, they could be ducking out of the box.

Thats one of the key things we want (to) control the tempo, Garza said. Thats controlling the pitching game, controlling the running game, controlling the offense, controlling things we can control. Ive been pitching inside ever since I can remember, so thats kind of my style.

First and Final Thoughts: A chance to seal it at Soldier

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USA Today

First and Final Thoughts: A chance to seal it at Soldier

Welcome into First and Final Thoughts, one of our weekly columns with a title that's a little too on the nose. Here we'll have Insider J.J Stankevitz and Producers Cam Ellis and Paul Aspan give some insight into what's on their minds between games.

Final Thought on Week 14

J.J. Stankevitz: Can we give some love to Sherrick McManis for the work he put in on Sunday night? A guy who’s been labeled as a special teams ace, and not much else, stepped in for an injured Bryce Callahan and played well for 36 snaps against one of the best offenses in the NFL during the second half. The Rams targeted McManis four times, per Pro Football Focus, and he allowed three catches for 18 yards – and, notably, only one yard after the catch. McManis was sent on a blitz five times by Vic Fangio and pressured Jared Goff on three of those plays.

This isn’t the first time McManis has made an impact on defense this year – he had a tremendous game against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3 – but consider this: The 36 defensive snaps McManis played on Sunday were more than he played during the entire 2017 season (31). If the Bears are without Callahan for any period of time – Matt Nagy said the Bears should know more about his foot injury by Wednesday – McManis will have to take on an increased role the likes of which he hasn’t had since 2015, when he played 29 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps. But after seeing what he did against the Rams on Sunday night, perhaps he’ll be up for the task.

Paul Aspan: Akiem Hicks is the absolute MVP of this team. He made the biggest play of the game, helping to force the INT to Kyle Fuller right after the offense committed a pretty brutal turnover of its own. Nothing new that Hicks is making key plays on a weekly basis but he might be the most unheralded DT in the league. With all due respect to Aaron Donald and the likely defensive player of the year season he’s having but what Hicks is doing in a mostly 3 technique & 1 technique this season is some of the most disruptive of a DT playing that far inside the line and me thinking shades of Warren Sapp.

Cam Ellis: We place some sort of arbitrary value on 100 rushing yards, as if it's *that* more impressive than 99 or 98 or 97. It's dumb. With that said, it's nice to see Jordan Howard get over 100 yards -- and against a stout Rams defense, no less. This year surely hasn't played out like Howard envisioned it would, and just because he didn't get moved at the deadline doesn't mean his future in Chicago is set in stone. If the Bears are going to roll into the playoffs with this defense-first mentality, they'll need a run game along side it. Watching Howard rumble between the tackles was enjoyable to watch. 

First Thought on Week 15

Stankevitz: The Bears know as well as anyone that if you give Aaron Rodgers an inch, he’ll take it a mile. Even after losing to the woebegone Arizona Cardinals and firing Mike McCarthy, the Packers still have that inch in the NFC playoff race – at 5-7-1, they’re only one game behind the current six-seeded Minnesota Vikings, who fired offensive coordinator (and former candidate for the Bears’ coaching job) John DeFilippo on Tuesday. While the Vikings have the tiebreaker over the Packers, it’s not inconceivable to see Minnesota’s season flame out along with the sagging playoff hopes of the Eagles (6-7), Panthers (6-7) and Washington (6-7). And you know who shouldn’t be counted out? Aaron Rodgers.

If the Packers are able to beat the Bears this week, their final two games are eminently winnable: At the Jets, and home against the Lions. Winning out means an 8-7-1 record and, potentially, a trip to Chicago for the wild card round of the playoffs. The Bears would do well to drive a stake into the Packers’ heart this weekend and remove the specter of Rodgers from playoff contention once and for all.

Aspan: No letdown. Sounds ridiculous after that performance but it’s still Aaron Rodgers in a place he apparently feels pretty comfortable in at soldier field. The Bears should drive a stake into the heart of the Packers for their own well being, especially considering what happened week 1. Factor in the Seahawks win over the Vikings you can start making your plans for a Chicago playoff game in January. The only question is how many. 

Ellis: Rogue Aaron Rodgers is the most dangerous Aaron Rodgers. Just ask the Falcons. 

Rick Renteria isn't going to change his 'don't quit' ways for anyone, 'Johnny Hustle' included

Rick Renteria isn't going to change his 'don't quit' ways for anyone, 'Johnny Hustle' included

LAS VEGAS — Manny Machado isn’t going to be Johnny Hustle, he told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal during the postseason. But if he gets $300 million to play baseball on the South Side of Chicago, will he reevaluate that stance on busting it down the line?

Because if he doesn’t, his new manager might do it for him.

One of the mighty interesting side stories to the White Sox aggressiveness this winter and their reported interest in Machado and Bryce Harper, the two biggest names on the free-agent market, is how Machado and his comments about distaste for hustling would mesh with Rick Renteria’s “don’t quit” culture on the South Side.

It’s all speculative, of course, because Machado does not, as of this writing, play for the White Sox. But as they potentially rev up to hand out one of the biggest contracts in baseball history, it’s worth wondering what would happen if Machado does what he did during the NLCS, when he failed to run out a ground ball against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Renteria made a habit of benching anyone and everyone who committed that cardinal sin during the 2018 season, be they a young player still learning how to be a big leaguer like Tim Anderson or an established veteran like Welington Castillo, a free-agent import in his own right. Heck, Renteria even benched Avisail Garcia, the team’s lone All Star from the 2017 season, during a spring training game.

Well, refusing to beat around the bush during his Tuesday media session at the Winter Meetings, Renteria said he’s going to keep being him and that any player signing up with the White Sox rebuilding effort will know what to expect.

“We've been ingraining this now for two years. And we've taken some steps where we'll pull a guy,” Renteria said. “But it has nothing to do with trying to embarrass them. It has everything to do with trying to set a particular standard of play or effort level.

“And there are going to be situations in which I might have to have conversations with guys that are coming from the outside. But I will venture to say this, I've said it enough publicly, they know how we want to play the game here. I think anybody who is thinking or contemplating becoming a White Sox, that we go about it a certain way.”

As much attention as Machado’s comments about hustling not being his “cup of tea” have received, they weren’t expected to impact his free agency in some super dramatic way. Meaning, he’s such a good baseball player, that the excerpt from a public-relations professional’s nightmare probably was going to pale in comparison to the numbers he just posted during a career year: a .297/.367/.538 slash line with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs. He’s a four-time All Star and a two-time Gold Glover, and he’s finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting three times.

Machado has an incredible track record of production. But he also has a track record of not looking like the model baseball player. In addition to these comments about effort, he got called dirty by the Brewers for dragging his foot across the leg of first baseman Jesus Aguilar during the NLCS, he's thrown a bat and a helmet on the field in separate incidents of anger, and he injured Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia with a spikes-up slide.

And so Renteria admitted he would have a managing job ahead of him. Machado isn't a wide-eyed youngster who came up through the White Sox farm system. He's a major league veteran with an entire different background in the game.

"I think that it's a learned attitude, so to speak," he said. "When players get to the big leagues, in my humble opinion and in my experience, you take care of all of those issues in the minor leagues, period. It's a philosophy that you have as an organization. Every organization is different. So when they get to us, what they do has already been taught. So I don't have to deal with any of that.

"It's a little more difficult at the major league level to change an attitude of an individual if they've been doing that their whole life, if they're not giving you the effort all the time, absolutely. But it requires conversation. That person is that person. My job is to get the most out of that individual to the best of my ability.

"Will I be able to do that 100 percent? Probably not. But I'm going to give it a shot. But I've got to be creative and find ways to communicate with the players."

Machado's comments might have created a postseason and offseason firestorm — there are a lot of Twitter-using White Sox fans who went from all aboard the Machado train to wanting no part of him — but it's also not difficult to see him putting this behind him with excellent play no matter where he ends up. Adam Jones, who played with Machado in Baltimore, told our Chuck Garfien on Tuesday that Machado "plays the game hard and the right way." Machado attempted his own mea culpa earlier this winter, but those comments from a former teammate mean a little bit more.

It's very possible that if the White Sox are the ones to give Machado his big contract that he runs every batted ball out for the next decade.

But in the hypothetical situation that he doesn't, Renteria doesn't plan to shy away from doing what he does because Machado is a $300 million man. As long as he has the backing of his bosses — and he believes he will — he's going to keep sitting guys if they don't play the way he believes the White Sox should play.

"Everybody has to be comfortable with me making and taking an action like that," he said. "And when I do, I think we'll be backed."

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