Results tagged ‘ Dale Sveum ’
Carlos Marmol most likely will keep it interesting in the ninth inning the rest of the season. At least, he listened to his pitching coach. The Pirates had two on and one out in the ninth Thursday, and had closed to within two runs against Marmol, who had been pulled from Monday’s game after failing to convert a save. Chicago pitching coach Chris Bosio then went to the mound. The message?
“Strike him out and get a ground ball,” Marmol said, “and that’s exactly what happened.”
Well, not exactly. Marmol gave up a RBI single to Gaby Sanchez, then struck out Pedro Alvarez and finally got Neil Walker to ground into a game-ending double play as the Cubs held on for a 3-2 victory Thursday, taking the first series of the season.
Said Dale Sveum on Marmol: “He was OK. It didn’t seem that way, but it wasn’t too bad.”
The Cubs didn’t exactly solve their offensive struggles Thursday, but were more efficient. Nate Schierholtz hit a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth and Starlin Castro delivered a two-out RBI single in the third to back Travis Wood, who tossed six scoreless innings.
The Cubs entered the game 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position in their first two games. Castro ended the skid in the third. With two outs and Wood at second after a single and groundout, Castro delivered a RBI single to center off James McDonald (0-1). Schierholtz homered in the ninth off Jared Hughes, and drove in Anthony Rizzo, who had walked and stole second. It was Schierholtz’s first home run since Aug. 1, when he connected off current teammate Edwin Jackson, who was pitching for the Nationals at the time.
With the win, the Cubs claimed their first season-opening series victory since the start of the 2009 season, when they took two of three against the Astros.
“Our goal is to win every game, and win every series,” Schiernholtz said. “It’s a good start.”
– Carrie Muskat
* The Cubs headed into Thursday’s game 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
“We haven’t had real bad at-bats, but we obviously haven’t had the results,” Dale Sveum said. “Your approach is to get elevation with men in scoring position, whether it’s third or whatever, you get something in the air and don’t ground out to the corners. Pitchers are always trying to get you to ground out to the corners. You want to get the ball up, out over the plate.”
* After Thursday, the Cubs begin a stretch of 19 consecutive games against teams that finished above .500 last season.
“We don’t look at it as tough, but a way to show what we’ve got from the beginning,” Chicago pitcher Carlos Villanueva said. “I think it’s better we face those teams and we face good competition early on to test ourselves and see how well we are this year.
“It’s such a long season and we’re not going to think about winning one series or two series — we have to focus on winning ballgames one at a time,” he said. “It’s so cliche, it’s so boring, but it is how it is. For us to be playing tough teams now, the Braves, the Giants, the Brewers, the Reds, it’s good. We get a chance to show what we’ve got early on.”
* Scott Feldman will make his Cubs debut Friday night when the team opens a three-game series against the Braves.
“I’m kind of anxious,” Feldman said Thursday. “Sitting here, watching these games, I want to get that first one under my belt and get off to a good start.”
It’s not only a new team for Feldman, but he’s going to be pitching in ballparks and cities he’s never been in. Atlanta is on that list. The good news is that Feldman has seen the Cubs play some good defense in the first two games.
“You can get some momentum on your side with a good play,” he said. “We had it happen a couple times on Opening Day. Guys back there are pretty solid on ‘D’ so hopefully they’ll keep it going.”
* As far as Sveum is concerned, he’d like to keep the designated hitter in the American League. This year, adding the DH to the National League will likely be discussed as teams play Interleague games every day of the season.
“I enjoy the National League game, and I enjoy managing the National League game,” said Sveum, sticking to tradition.
The Cubs will need a DH May 27-28 against the White Sox, June 4-5 versus the Angels, June 28-29 when they face the Mariners, and July 2-4 versus the Athletics. They have some candidates, including switch-hitter Dioner Navarro, Steve Clevenger and Alfonso Soriano.
Some have said American League teams are at a disadvantage in National League parks because their pitchers haven’t batted as much.
“I think it works both ways,” Sveum said. “We go to an American League park and have to use a DH but we didn’t build our team with a DH. They pay people a lot of money to DH. That’s part of their game. We’re fortunate because our pitchers can swing the bat pretty good and that’s an advantage to us.”
* Matt Garza will join the Cubs Friday in Atlanta and was to begin throwing off the mound. Second baseman Darwin Barney, rehabbing from a laceration in his left knee, is able to swing in the batting cage, but still needs to keep his leg extended.
– Carrie Muskat
Carlos Marmol is still the Cubs closer, and pitching coach Chris Bosio would like to see the right-hander get back in a game as soon as possible. Marmol was pulled in the ninth inning of the season opener Monday against the Pirates. He struck out the first batter, then hit a batter, gave up a RBI single, and walked another before he was lifted.
“He’s the closer,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Wednesday. “We’ve talked, and he knows he’s got to throw strikes. … When the starter goes eight [innings], you’re going to do whatever you can to save that lead.”
Jeff Samardzija threw eight scoreless innings, and Kyuji Fujikawa got the final out for the save in his first U.S. appearance.
“It’s just one game,” Sveum said, trying to downplay any closer controversy. “We had the opportunity to get matchups in there when Marmol didn’t have his fastball or slider, but it isn’t going to affect anything right now. You just play nine innings.”
* The Cubs signed outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who was released by the Red Sox, and infielder Donnie Murphy, who was let go by the Brewers, to Minor League deals, and both were to report to Triple-A Iowa. Murphy batted .239 in 24 games this spring with Milwaukee, and has a career .205 average in 244 big league games with the Marlins. Sweeney has a career .280 average in the big leagues.
* Cubs pitcher Matt Garza, on the disabled list with a strained left lat, was expected to join the team in Atlanta on Friday and start throwing off the mound. Garza has been limited to playing catch on flat ground since he first felt the discomfort in his side Feb. 17 in a live batting practice session. The good news is Garza has had no problems with his right elbow, which limited him to 18 games last season.
* Carlos Villanueva, who will make his Cubs debut on Saturday, starting against the Braves, threw a simulated game on Tuesday, an off day for the team.
– Carrie Muskat
Jeff Samardzija looked like an Opening Day veteran, not first-timer. Anthony Rizzo, who didn’t hit a home run in any Cactus League games, launched the first pitch he saw in the regular season out of PNC Park for a two-run blast. And Carlos Marmol was pulled in the ninth and Japanese right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa got the save. The end result: The Cubs held on for a 3-1 win Monday over the Pirates in the season opener and manager Dale Sveum did his best to downplay any closer controversy.
Marmol struck out the first batter he faced in the ninth. But then he hit Andrew McCutchen, who stole second and scored on Pedro Alvarez’s single to center. After Marmol walked Gaby Sanchez, Sveum turned to James Russell, who induced Neil Walker to pop up to to right field. Fujikawa, making his Major League debut, came on to get Russell Martin to fly out to center to earn the save.
“That’s part of the ninth inning,” Sveum said. “Those last three outs are hard to get no matter who’s on the mound. Marmol didn’t really have it today so I went to a couple other guys to get those last two outs.”
Sveum isn’t abandoning Marmol.
“He’s still the closer,” Sveum said. “I’m not making any changes or anything like that, he just didn’t have it today.”
Fujikawa, who was a closer for 12 seasons with Hanshin, is not trying to take Marmol’s job.
“That’s nothing I can control,” he said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. “My job is to get the three outs I’m asked for — three outs, four outs.”
Sometimes, one out.
“Lucky man,” Fujikawa said, in English.
Marmol, who threw 19 pitches, nine for strikes, got a visit from pitching coach Chris Bosio after Alvarez’s single. The closer said he was a little surprised to see Sveum after he walked Sanchez.
“That’s why you need teammates, that’s why you need a team, to pick me up,” Marmol said. “That’s what a team does.”
Did he have problems with his command?
“A little bit,” Marmol said. “I felt fine, though. My slider command was good. … It’s one bad day. It happened on the first day.”
– Carrie Muskat
When the season starts, some of the Cubs players will have new uniform numbers, including manager Dale Sveum. Dioner Navarro wanted No. 30, which Travis Wood has worn since joining the team, but Wood will wear No. 37. Sveum is giving up No. 33 to pitcher Carlos Villanueva, and the Cubs manager will wear No. 4. Sveum had noticed that Villanueva had “33″ on his cleats, and found out that was the pitcher’s preferred number.
No. 30 is very special to Navarro.
“It’s because my wife had a brain aneurysm on Sept. 27, and she had her surgery on Sept. 30, and they gave her a four percent chance of being alive,” Navarro said. “Ever since then, I’ve been wearing No. 30.”
When Navarro explained why No. 30 was special to Wood, the pitcher gave it up.
“He understood,” Navarro said.
By the way, Navarro’s wife is doing well and has no problems.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs may not finalize their bench until Sunday, the day before the regular season begins, but it appears Steve Clevenger has the edge for that last spot.
Clevenger, who made the Opening Day roster last year as the backup catcher, was batting .395 overall this spring, and .526 (10-for-19) in his last 11 games. A left-handed hitter, he’s also 7-for-13 off southpaws this spring.
“He had a rough time the last three months of last season, and struggled at a little bit of everything, and came into Spring Training in the best shape he’s ever been in and worked extremely hard at the infield,” Dale Sveum said of Clevenger, who can sub at first or third if needed.
“You can’t take away that the guy has swung the bat better than anybody in camp,” Sveum said. “The guy’s always hit. [On Sunday], he took a [96 mph fastball] and hit it off the center field wall. The other day, he gets 0-2, and lines a ball through the six hole. The guy’s a big league hitter.”
Clevenger scuffled in the second half last season with the Cubs, and was unable to make adjustments at the plate. He’s wiped the slate clean this year.
The Cubs are looking at the waiver wire for other options but Sveum has made it clear he wants a left-handed bat for the bench. The other position player in camp still in contention is infielder Alberto Gonzalez, a right-handed hitter.
Sveum does like the makeup of the reserves, which includes versatile Brent Lillibridge, Scott Hairston, Dave Sappelt and Dioner Navarro.
“We have guys who don’t strike out on the bench, we’ve got guys who put the ball in play, guys who hit the ball out of the ballpark, they’re two-way players,” Sveum said. “If Clevenger makes the team, you can pinch hit for Navarro, pinch hit for [Welington] Castillo. If Castillo is playing, you can use Navarro and Clevenger as pinch hitters. It’s a very versatile bench and for a National League team, it’s nice for me to have all that kind of versatility.”
The truck leaves Wednesday for Chicago.
“Hopefully, we get it done soon, but it could be Sunday,” Sveum said.
– Carrie Muskat
Ian Stewart is running out of time to get ready for the regular season. The Cubs third baseman will undergo another MRI on his left quad because there’s been some lingering soreness, which has kept him from running the bases and out of games. Stewart injured his leg Feb. 21 during an intrasquad game, and did not play again until March 14 in a Minor League game. He has been unable to get into another game since.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Stewart told the athletic trainers that the latest problem isn’t a setback. However, the reality is the Cubs have two weeks remaining before Opening Day, April 1.
“I don’t know if he’s got enough time,” Sveum said Sunday. “It’ll be interesting.”
Stewart was limited to 55 games last season before of a sore wrist, which needed surgery. That hasn’t been a problem this spring. Whether Stewart is ready for April 1 will affect how the Cubs put together their bench. Brent Lillibridge and Luis Valbuena can play third, as well as Edwin Maysonet and Alberto Gonzalez.
“It just comes down to what do you want in that spot,” Sveum said. “[Steve] Clevenger’s obviously a guy who could be interesting, [and we're watching] all the waiver wires.”
Clevenger made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster last year as the backup catcher but on Saturday played first and third. He could be an emergency third baseman, plus give Sveum more options with double switches.
Others in the mix for the bench spots include non-roster invitees Darnell McDonald, Brian Bogusevic, and Dave Sappelt, all outfielders.
“It all depends when we sit down and really hard core look at it, what is our need, how does the pitching set up with the other team, who’s their closer, set-up guys, left-handed guys,” Sveum said.
– Carrie Muskat
The legend of Javier Baez grew after he hit a dramatic two-run walkoff home run Friday in the ninth to lift the split-squad Cubs over Team Japan. Baez told teammate Welington Castillo, who was on deck, that he wouldn’t need to hit.
Cubs fans who haven’t seen Baez need to watch this weekend. On Monday, the shortstop was expected to be among the players sent to the Minor League camp, joining highly touted outfielder Jorge Soler and third baseman Christian Villanueva.
Baez headed into Saturday’s game with 31 at-bats — and that doesn’t include his four at-bats on Friday in the exhibition — which was fourth on the team behind Darwin Barney, Brad Nelson, and Nate Schierholtz. That’s a lot for a player projected for Class A.
“The last week, it seemed like he turned into a different kid, the way he went about things, his at-bats,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “I think that inner cockiness will always be something that’s a huge asset for any good player. People who play in the big leagues, there’s always an edge to them, one way or the other. He’s got that edge. He wants to be that guy. I think he got comfortable as big league camp went on in the environment and with the guys. We all know it’s there.”
The Cubs’ No. 1 pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Baez isn’t shy. He has a MLB logo tattooed on the back of his neck. Some teammates razzed him by adding a “Rookie of the Year” decal on the back of his car.
What Sveum’s been happy with is watching Baez develop. His work habits have improved as camp has progressed.
What about that cockiness?
“As long as you back it up, it’s OK,” Sveum said. “That’s what good players do.”
– Carrie Muskat
It’s just another Cactus League game Thursday for Cubs manager Dale Sveum, but not for Chicago fans, it’s round one of Cubs vs. White Sox. The two teams square off at HoHoKam Stadium.
“I’ve got to be honest, they just run into each other,” Sveum said of the Cactus League games. “It’s just another game where everybody gets their work in. That’s what it is. It’s just another Cactus League game where guys are just getting their work in, getting their at-bats, getting their innings in. It’s a little tough to think you’re going to be super serious when you don’t have your [regular] lineup out there, they won’t have their lineup out there. It still in the preliminary stages of Spring Training where obviously, two weeks from now, if we had five or six games left, you’d have your team out there and start playing matchups and doing the things you’d do during the season.”
This season, the Cubs-White Sox series has been condensed into a four-game stretch May 27-30 with two games at each ballpark. Major League teams will have Interleague games every day during the season.
“We’re all going to play the same amount of games against Interleague play,” Sveum said. “It’ll be sporadic from day one. It’s not something you have to deal with. It’s just going to be earlier than normal.”
There will be a slight difference. In the past, the Cubs usually had all of their games vs. AL teams in one stretch, and would add a player to be the designated hitter. This year, the games are spread out and that may not be an option. The Cubs play the Rangers April 16-18, for example, then have to deal with NL Central rivals for the next six games.
The Cubs also will play the Angels June 4-5 in Anaheim; and travel to Seattle June 28-30 and to Oakland July 2-4. The Angels come to Wrigley Field July 9-10.
– Carrie Muskat
Shortstop Starlin Castro, who has not played since Wednesday because of a tight left hamstring, now was not expected to play in a Cactus League game until the weekend, or possibly next Monday. Dale Sveum said they are being cautious and that if this were the regular season, Castro could play.
“He’s fine,” Sveum said. “He did everything [Sunday] and there’s nothing going on. He took full [batting practice]. Today, he’ll be out here on the field taking a round of [batting practice], same as yesterday. We can’t even simulate any kind of discomfort or feeling in the hamstring.”
So, why give Castro another week?
“Because we have plenty of time,” Sveum said. “A week from now, you’re talking the 10th or 11th [of March], and we have 20 plus games after that. That’s plenty of time for him to get in Opening Day shape.”
Added Sveum: “If it was the regular season, he’d probably be playing.”
The Cubs are already thin in the infield with injuries to third basemen Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters, both sidelined since Feb. 22 with strained left quads.
– Carrie Muskat