Cubs

Petricka Learning On The Job At Kannapolis

Petricka Learning On The Job At Kannapolis

Thursday April 28, 2011
Posted: 1:00 p.m.
By Kevin T. Czerwinski
CSNChicago.com

That Jacob Petricka spent a few weeks in Kannapolis at the end of last summer proved to be beneficial to the big right-hander.

Sure, spending the first half of the summer at Bristol in the Appalachian League was important. But Petricka, whom the White Sox grabbed out of Indiana State with the 63rd overall pick in last years draft, learned some valuable lessons in the 9 23 innings he pitched for the Intimidators, lessons that he has clearly applied this season in the South Atlantic League.

Petricka was 14-7 in his final two seasons at Indiana State with 28 of his 33 appearances coming as a starter. He then made eight starts at Bristol and posted a 2.86 ERA before the White Sox bumped him up to Kannapolis, where he immediately went to the bullpen. Aside from keeping Petrickas pitch count down, the move to the pen also allowed him to learn a thing or two about himself.

Relieving is definitely a different approach, said Petricka, who had a 3.72 ERA in 9 23 relief innings. I tried to overthrow way too much because I was only pitching one or two innings. When you throw too hard like that you lose control and effectiveness.

As a starter I can just relax and pitch and throw. As starter, I can pace myself and I know that now if I go back to the pen. I enjoy starting a lot but Ill do whatever they the front office ask me to do. Whatever will get me up higher quicker, thats the question.

Petricka has been pitching well as a starter through the first month of the season with Kannapolis. Hes 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA in four starts with his latest effort coming on Tuesday at Lexington. He picked up his second win in that game in what was his worst effort of the year.

He went five innings and allowed four runs on eight hits while walking a pair. Again, there were some lessons learned.

They the Legend are a team that could and I showed them some pitches and they hit them, said Petricka, who is second in the Sally League with 29 strikeouts heading into Thursdays action. I actually enjoy having a bad game here and there. It gives you the drive to work on other pitches. Hitters are catching up with your fastball so now you have to work on the off-speed pitches.

So in between starts Ill focus on keeping the ball down and throwing my off-speed pitches for strikes. Right now, Ive been throwing a changeup because its been effective. But I want to work on my slider, which is a hard, sharp pitch that will make my fastball more effective.

Dont misunderstand. Petrickas fastball has worked just fine. He opened the season with six no-hit innings at Lakewood in which he fanned nine and walked only one. He didnt factor in the decision, though.

Obviously I wanted to keep going, he said. But I hadnt gone more than four or five innings in spring training and I had already gone six. I was pretty realistic about it.

I do think pitching until you lose your effectiveness or until you get tired is the way to go. But you never train pitchers to go more than 100 pitches anymore. With the bullpens as good as they are, there is never any reason to go past 100 pitches.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

kipnis-1030.jpg
USA Today

Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said that he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted that the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.” 

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

According to Javy Baez, the Cubs need to improve their pregame focus

While the Cubs’ decline has been talked about over and over again, it’s always been framed in relatively vague terms. Perhaps in the interest of protecting a former manager who is still well-liked within the clubhouse, specifics were always avoided. It was just a change that was needed.

That is, until Javy Baez spoke on Sunday morning. In no unclear terms, Baez took a stab at explaining why such a talented team has fallen short of expectations in back-to-back seasons. 

“It wasn’t something bad, but we had a lot of options – not mandatory,” Baez said from his locker at Sloan Park. “Everybody kind of sat back, including me, because I wasn’t really going out there and preparing for the game. I was getting ready during the game, which is not good. But this year, I think before the games we’ve all got to be out there, everybody out there, as a team. Stretch as a team, be together as a team so we can play together.”

Related: What to love, and hate, about the Cubs heading into 2020

The star shortstop's comments certainly track. Maddon is widely considered one of the better managers in baseball, but discipline and structure have never been key pillars of his leadership style. He intrinsically trusts players to get their own work done – something that's clearly an appreciated aspect of his personality... until it isn't. World Series hangovers don’t exist four years after the fact but given Maddon’s immediate success in Chicago, it’s easy to understand how players let off the gas pedal. 

“I mean I would just get to the field and instead of going outside and hit BP, I would do everything inside, which is not the same,” he said. “Once I’d go out to the game, I’d feel like l wasn’t ready. I felt like I was getting loose during the first 4 innings, and I should be ready and excited to get out before the first pitch.” 

“You can lose the game in the first inning. Sometimes when you’re not ready, and the other team scores by something simple, I feel like it was because of that. It was because we weren’t ready, we weren’t ready to throw the first pitch because nobody was loose.” 

Baez also promised that this year would be far more organized and rigid. They will stretch as a team, warm up outside as a team and hopefully rediscover that early-game focus that may have slipped away during the extended victory lap. That may mean less giant hacks, too. 

“Sometimes we’re up by a lot or down by a lot and we wanted to hit homers,” he said. “That’s really not going to work for the team. It’s about getting on base and giving the at-bat to the next guy, and sometimes we forget about that because of the situation of the game. I think that’s the way you get back to the game – going pitch by pitch and at-bat by at-bat.” 

Baez was less specific when it came to his contractual discussions with the team, only saying that negotiations were “up and down.” He’d like to play his whole career here and would be grateful if an extension was reached before Opening Day – he’s just not counting on it. The focus right now is on recapturing some of that 2016 drive and the rest, according to him, will take care of itself.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.