Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Even Up - Moving On
2005-06-27 08:00
by Derek Smart

I was blissfully unaware of Friday's happenings as I was trekking to retrieve my auto from the body shop during much of the game (note to you drivers out there - apartment buildings and cars don't mix).

However, the rest of the weekend brought time and opportunity for observation, and for the most part, I was pleasantly pleased and surprised by what I saw. I'd never be one to say that there's no such thing as momentum between games in baseball, but there's certainly a diminished relationship compared to other sports, and thank goodness, really.

There's something wonderful about these little capsules of self-contained competition. That's why we keep watching even when our favorite team is painfully bad - there's always the chance that they could break through, at least for one day.

Hey, that's starting to look like philosophy, cowboy. Knock off the blabbin' and start shootin'!

  • I was afraid for Greg Maddux right from the first inning on Saturday. His pitches were floating high in the zone with the words, "Hit Me!" etched deep into the leather, begging the man with the bat to give them one more tattoo.

    Thankfully, only two White Sox saw fit to lend a hand, and when Joe Crede tried to oblige his spherical buddies, Todd Hollandsworth had the gall to get in the way and steal the dream of a poor hunk of rubber, twine, and cowhide. "No tattoo for you!"

    Luckily for the Cubs, once Hollandsworth made his grab The Professor managed to find his changeup, started keeping everything else down, and promptly began making the White Sox look silly for the rest of his time in the game. Hopefully he retains the feel of the pitch for a while, because that slowball is the difference maker for Mad Dog.

  • I was sad to hear of Todd Wellemeyer's demotion, but it was the sensible move. Not only had he been woefully ineffective of late, but after throwing 2.1 innings of 56 pitch sacrificial lamb-ball on Friday, he wasn't likely to be available for the rest of the series - one in which six innings was all one could reasonably expect from the next two starters on tap.

    The call went to Roberto Novoa, both to come from Iowa and enter the game on Saturday, and it was refreshing to see him throw two innings of dominant ball. He was locating his stuff precisely, and besides getting plenty of heat on his fastball, his breaking pitches were sharp and deceptive.

    It was the sort of outing that helps you understand why he keeps getting opportunities despite fairly frequent failures. The promise of harnessing that type of nastiness on a regular basis is simply too tempting to pass on lightly. I only hope he can deliver on that promise in a way that his trade-mate, Kyle Farnsworth, never did during his time in Chicago.

  • I'm not normally put at ease by single outings - my motto being, "Anything can happen in one game" - but let me tell you, the way Mark Prior threw yesterday was enough to make me rethink that credo.

    It was the sort of performance that Cub fans were dreaming of, and that it came a month or two earlier than most of us would have expected a few short weeks ago made it all the sweeter. I don't know what The Franchise is feeling on the mound or in the training room, but I was unable to detect anything that looked remotely like deleterious effects.

    What I hope Prior takes from this turn, more than anything else, is how effective he can be while being efficient. Sure, he only struck out three, and but for some seemingly fortuitous weather conditions, might have coughed up a couple of dingers, but he still only let one man reach base and got through six innings on 71 pitches.

    For those of you who don't like math, that would put him on pace for about 107 pitches over nine frames, which I think any of us would take from him in a heartbeat. Mark Prior back and healthy is a force to be reckoned with. Mark Prior back, healthy, and efficient is a plague o'er the National League.

  • There was a decent amount of kvetching and uh-ohing from the Cubs' broadcast booth when Dusty Baker made Will Carroll's idea of a modified tandem start a reality by bringing Jerome Williams out of the bullpen in the seventh on Sunday.

    I understand why they were concerned, after all, Williams has done very little bullpen work and there's a danger that he might not be able to get his rhythm in what could be an altered warm-up routine. Besides, you'd hate to see such a beautifully pitched game by Prior lost because of some *gasp* unconventional usage.

    Still, the move made all kinds of sense. The regular bullpen options were unappealing, but that wasn't the most compelling reason to do what was done. That comes, not necessarily from the circumstances of Sunday's game, but from the way the schedule maps out over the coming days.

    Sunday was Williams' day to start if he was to pitch on normal rest. Another option would be to throw Williams during the following game, but that doesn't come until Tuesday, and that's a day that Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to pitch, already on an extra day's rest.

    Besides, you don't want to bump Zambrano to Wednesday because that's Kerry Wood's day to pitch on his normal rest, and with his return fresh from the DL, you ideally want him to be getting into a rhythm and getting his strength and stamina back.

    That would mean that if Zambrano got bumped, he'd go all the way to Thursday - three extra day's rest now - which would mean that Maddux gets bumped to Friday, which is actually Prior's day to pitch on normal rest, and you'd ideally like to keep him on his normal schedule, so that moves Maddux to Saturday with two extra days off, which we all know he doesn't like.

    That's a ginormous mess, but if the Cubs keep everyone but Williams on their regular schedule, that leaves poor Jerome going ten days between game action, and that's not very fair either.

    Therefore, since the pen's been shaky of late, and Williams was in need of a couple innings of work to remain on a semblance of his normal schedule (he'll be going with an extra day of rest on Saturday), he was used in relief, and thankfully, to good effect. It was a move with risks, but it was the right move, and Baker should be applauded for making it.

It's a good day to have an off day, with the weather in Chicago as sticky and disgusting as a hot vat of Caro syrup, and the taste of sweet, sweet victory still on our lips. Now that this Interleague silliness is behind us, the season can really begin, but until then, relax and enjoy!

2005-06-27 08:08:22
1.   graciebarn
Great. The season has "really begun", and we're 8.5 games out. What a way to start.
2005-06-27 09:31:23
2.   chicagoburke
I like the move of Williams on sunday although I did the requisite OH MY GOD! With a Healthy Prior & Wood, How does the BP shape up?
1. Prior
2. Zambrano
3. Wood
4. Williams?
5. Maddux

6. Dempster (Critics, can we finally say CLOSER)
7. Rusch (pitching chamelion)
8. Wuertz (providing he can find the plate)
9. Ohman (despite the fact he stinks)
10. Mitre (deserves to stay)
11. Novoa (play sat = stay)

Sweaty Joe & Rem...see ya later...
If you stick with 12, which I think is ridiculous based on the porousness of the bench, give me Todd W. or Hill back...

2005-06-27 10:38:45
3.   rynox
Once the starters get into their groove and Dusty gets some solid 7 & 8 inning outings, then I think they'll drop the pitching staff to 12 and add 1 to the bench.

The thing is, even if with 13 guys pitching that they have now, they could still improve the bench now by cutting Wilson loose and bringing up somebody, anybody, from the Iowa bench. Doesn't matter who.

In fact, the Cubs would be better off to use Mitre off the bench than Enrique Wilson. Let Mitre bat or play SS... who cares.

2005-06-27 10:40:43
4.   rynox
Reliever Joe Borowski is likely to be dropped from the Cubs roster when Kerry Wood returns from the DL, says the Chicago Sun-Times.

2005-06-27 10:45:11
5.   rynox
When Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella expressed his displeasure at the situation in Tampa Bay recently, the assumption he was trying to get out of his contract, a move some thought could eventually land him with the Yankees. Now, Newsday says if Piniella does leave, he'll more likely end up either with the Cubs or back in Seattle with the Mariners.


2005-06-27 12:18:10
6.   TheBigLowitzki
I think they'll drop the pitching staff to 12 and add 1 to the bench

It already is 12. What most of us have been wanting is for it to move down to 11.

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