Results tagged ‘ James Russell ’

8/23 Happy anniversary

Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of when Mike Quade took over as manager of the Cubs. The team finished the 2010 season 24-13 under Quade, but stumbled this season, and are 56-72 and 20 games back in the NL Central following Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Braves. It was a game that summed up the season — decent pitching (Ryan Dempster picked up his team-leading 16th quality start), three 1-2-3 innings by relievers James Russell, Jeff Samardzija and Kerry Wood, and inconsistent offense (15 base runners stranded).

There have been a lot of distractions this season, from injuries to Carlos Zambrano’s criticism and retirement, to Jim Hendry’s dismissal. Quade’s status for next year is uncertain. He is signed through 2012 but whether he stays will be a decision left to the new GM.

“When the team is not doing good, they always blame somebody,” Alfonso Soriano said. “Sometimes they blame the manager and sometimes they blame the GM but they never blame the players. That’s the game. If we’re doing good, everyone feels that [Quade] is doing a very good job.”

— Carrie Muskat

7/30 Rebuild? Retool? Reboot?

Are the Cubs in rebuilding mode? Yes and no.

“There are certain people who won’t be back and there are a whole lot of people we should be happy with — young players, two kids in the middle,” GM Jim Hendry said Friday. “We’re hoping [Tyler] Colvin gets back to where he was. Marlon [Byrd’s] been a fine player here and he has another year on his contract.

“You have a bullpen of a lot of guys coming back who are very good,” he said. “Everybody should be encouraged by the year Jeff Samardzija has had and where he’s going and the year James Russell has had since moving back into the bullpen. Sean Marshall will be here, [Carlos] Marmol will be here.

“You always need some kind of rebuilding when you’re in fifth place but you certainly don’t look at it like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to compete.’ When somebody says, ‘Blow the place up and start over and do it right,’ well, OK, does that mean we should get rid of the people who are really young and real good? I’ve said this a hundred times, wasn’t Pittsburgh 20 games under a year ago, and Cleveland? All you need is for your young people to get better and make the right moves, and why couldn’t we be right back in it?”

The Cubs did fall to 22 games under .500 after Friday’s 9-2 loss to the Cardinals.

“We’re having a bad year, and there’s no way around it, no excuses for it,” Hendry said. “Nobody picked us to be in the first three this year but we felt by now, we’d be at .500. [If we were .500] a week ago, it would’ve got you two or three back. We didn’t do our part. Excuses or no excuses, injuries or not injuries, we haven’t played to the level we should have.”

At the start of this road trip vs. NL Central teams, Mike Quade said he felt the Cubs still had a chance to get back in the race.

“I respect his optimism,” Hendry said. “There are a lot of teams above you. You don’t want Mike hanging his head and saying, ‘We can’t do something, we can’t do this.’ I’m sure in his heart he believes we can have a good couple months like he had last year at the end and hopefully we will. You’ve got a lot of people in front of you [in the standings] and you’re a lot of games behind. I wouldn’t want him to say, ‘Hey, we’re all done and let’s get the guys ready for next year.'”

— Carrie Muskat

4/26 Cubs lineup

Jeff Baker is starting at first and Reed Johnson in right field Tuesday night for the Cubs in Game 2 of their three-game series against the Rockies, who are starting lefty Jorge De La Rosa. Baker is batting .400 overall and .455 against lefties. And Starlin Castro is back in the leadoff spot. He’s 2-for-17 in the No. 3 hole, and 23-for-46 (.500) in the leadoff spot. Here’s the lineup:

SS Castro

2B Barney

CF Byrd

3B Ramirez

1B Baker

C Soto

LF Soriano

RF Johnson

P Russell

— Carrie Muskat

3/23 Cubs roster moves

The Cubs trimmed four from the spring camp roster, including lefty Scott Maine and right-hander Justin Berg. Maine and Berg were optioned to Triple-A Iowa, while Todd Wellemeyer and Angel Guzman were both assigned to the Minor League camp. Guzman is rehabbing from right shoulder surgery and scheduled to throw in a game next week. Wellemeyer was a non-roster invitee. Trimming Maine most likely means the Cubs will have three lefties in the bullpen in John Grabow, James Russell and Sean Marshall. The moves bring the roster to 36 now.

* Also, catcher Max Ramirez was to get an MRI on his left wrist on Wednesday.

— Carrie Muskat

3/21 Cubs lineup & more

Aramis Ramirez was scratched from Monday’s lineup. He went home Saturday with a 102-degree fever. Jeff Baker was scheduled to start at third against the Angels.

* Kerry Wood and James Russell were to throw in a Minor League game at Fitch Park on Monday.

* Angel Guzman shifted his rehab to the Minor League camp. He was scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday and could get into a game there in one week. He’s coming off right shoulder surgery, which forced him to miss all of 2010. “He’s certain he’s coming back,” Mike Quade said of Guzman.

* Infielder Augie Ojeda was scheduled to have a cortisone shot on Monday. He’s been limited because of back spasms.

Winds are gusting up to 35 mph in the Valley today. Here’s Monday’s lineup:

RF Fukudome
SS Castro
CF Byrd
1B Pena
C Soto
LF Soriano
3B Baker
2B Barney
P Cashner

— Carrie Muskat

3/8 Vegas, baby

James Russell will make his first spring start Saturday in Las Vegas when the Cubs split squad faces the Reds. Carlos Zambrano will start on Sunday in Vegas against the Dodgers. Russell went three innings in his last outing Monday against the Angels.

“I felt really good,” Russell said of his outing Monday. “I’m closer. There were just a couple mistakes that came back to bite me in the butt but overall, I felt really good.”

What helps is being stretched out. He was used strictly in relief last season. Doesn’t he get antsy between outings?

“A little bit,” Russell said, smiling. “I feel left out, not throwing every other day.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Cashner – UPDATED

Andrew Cashner pitched two innings in relief on Monday for the Cubs. The team wants to see if he’s could make the transition to the rotation. Expect him to get a start later this spring.

“We’re going to find out,” Quade said Monday. “I was thrilled to death to see him in the bullpen [last year]. From the standpoint of the future of this organization, if he can be a high end starter, if he can be a top line starter, and we don’t find that out, it would probably be a mistake. Maybe he could be a top end closer but we just signed a top end closer [Carlos Marmol] for three years and, knock on wood, that’s going to be a great three years.

“The time seems right,” Quade said. “[Cashner] got his feet wet last year and he had some success on the role we asked. Let’s see if he can expand on that. There’s no guarantees but we think he has the stuff, the makeup and the willingness.”

Cashner did start in the Minor Leagues before his call-up last season. Both he and James Russell have said they want to start, and are working with pitching coach Mark Riggins on developing command of their pitches. The Cubs do have four days of split squad games coming up and Cashner and Russell could get starts then.

On Monday, Cashner gave up two runs on three hits in two innings against the Brewers. Kerry Wood has been impressed.

“He’s a young strong kid and more than anything, he has the desire to learn,” Wood said. “He wants to learn how to pitch and wants to ask questions and he’s asking the right questions. He’s got to be patient with himself. He’s got all this power and he’s such a strong kid that he has to be patient with this stuff. He wants it to happen right away. He’s got the desire to be great.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Bob Howry retires

When reliever Andrew Cashner was first called up to the Cubs on May 31 in Pittsburgh, his locker was next to veteran Bob Howry.

“I was real quiet when I first came up,” Cashner said Sunday, “and [Howry] was talking to me and the first thing he said was that he liked my boots and it kind of went from there.”

On Saturday night, Cashner was among several players who went to a surprise party for Howry, 37, who has retired after 13 seasons in the big leagues. The right-hander started in 1998 with the White Sox, and pitched for the Red Sox, Indians, Cubs, Giants, and Diamondbacks.

“He worked hard and I just tried to listen and watch and see what he does,” Cashner said. “He’s been in the game long enough to stay in it. He had a lot of advice and a lot of wise words and he was a good friend.”

Howry’s last game was July 28 at Houston with the Cubs. He finishes with a career 3.84 ERA, 66 saves and 787 2/3 innings over 769 games. Cashner and Cubs reliever James Russell bought a pair of boots as a present for Howry.

“He was nothing but nice to all of us,” Cashner said.

— Carrie Muskat

2/20 Cubs notebook

Most of the Cubs pitchers got their work in on the fields Sunday despite a cold rain. Reed Johnson realized too late he should’ve been wearing his elbow pad during live BP. Cubs closer Carlos Marmol clipped Johnson with a pitch on the left elbow. Johnson’s elbow guard was in his locker after the session.

“It’s a couple hours too late,” Johnson said. “I have to callous that elbow for the season. Marmol was doing me a favor.”

* The first Cactus League game is Feb. 27, and Quade and pitching coach Mark Riggins were finalizing the spring rotation. Expect an announcement Monday or Tuesday on who will start against the Athletics in one week.

* Sunday was significant for John Grabow because it was the first time the left-hander faced hitters since June 28. That was his last game of 2010 before being sidelined with a torn MCL in his left knee. He will wear a knee brace for the entire season.

“Now, I’m used to it and I don’t even know it’s there any more,” he said. “Can I pitch without it? I’m not going to take that chance.”

* James Russell will get stretched out this spring as the Cubs try to decide if the left-hander can fill a slot in the rotation. If not, the next decision will be whether he’s better off starting in the Minor Leagues or in the bullpen with the big league team. That decision won’t be made until late March.

* Quade carries a fungo bat with him nearly everywhere he goes. “It’s like my security blanket,” he said. “It used to be a tool. Now, you get kicked upstairs and now it just helps me get around.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/15 Lone lefty Russell ready

It’s a different spring for lefty James Russell. Last year, he was competing for a spot in the bullpen, and joined other lefties, Sean Marshall and John Grabow. Now, he’s being looked at for the Cubs rotation and could be the only left-hander there. As far as Russell can tell, the only difference this spring is that he will probably throw more innings.

“I’m going to have to make the best of all of my pitches,” he said Tuesday. “If I’m going to last, I have to get my pitch count down and make quality pitches all the time. You have to do the same thing if you’re in the bullpen. You’ve got to make quality pitches and go out and hit your spots.”

He has four to chose from — a slider, changeup, fastball, and curve. Did he show all of those last year?

“Last year, I didn’t get to throw my changeup a whole lot because I was coming in and facing lefties,” he said. “I like throwing lefty-lefty changeups, but I didn’t make it too big of a habit.”

Russell and Andrew Cashner are close. They drove to Arizona together from Texas, making what has become an annual stop at a store in El Paso to purchase new boots. (On a personal note, Cashner has some pretty sweet looking boots).

Back to baseball.

“We’re going to push each other,” Russell said of he and Cashner. “He’ll get the best out of me and I’ll get the best out of him and if not, we’ll slap each other around.”

If starting doesn’t work, Russell will likely be back in the bullpen.

“We’re dumb enough to where it doesn’t even bother us,” he said. “We don’t get fazed by too much. I don’t know if it’s our age or what. We’re young and dumb and ready to go throw strikes.”

— Carrie Muskat