Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

March 2011 Archives

Cubs fire back at Silva

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MESA, Ariz. - A day after Carlos Silva fired on the Cubs, the Cubs fired back - and fired him.

Silva, who ripped the Cubs' front office and pitching coach Saturday when he didn't make the opening roster, was unconditionally released Sunday morning as the Cubs ate the $11.5 million left on his contract rather than keep him around the team while trying to trade him.

``Obviously, we're dealing with a man that at this particular point in his career is not willing to face the facts,'' general manager Jim Hendry said, ``that what he's done the last few years, except for a two-month period, is well below major league standards and who seems to have the continual problem of blaming everybody but himself.''

Silva, who was one of the worst performers in camp until his most recent start Wednesday, said the club misled him about his status and criticized new pitching coach Mark Riggins in particular for that, saying, ``He has to learn he's in the big leagues now.''

Cubs officials, who say Silva was respectful in conversations with them, were livid with the hefty right-hander's public comments.

``First of all, he's dead f---ing wrong about my pitching coach. And I got no f---ing time for that,'' said manager Mike Quade. ``And second, respect is a two-way street, period. If you're not willing to give it, you're not getting it.

``And the third thing, that everybody needs to know, this was my call. If you want to be irritated with somebody, this is on me.''

Riggins, one of Silva's supporters this spring, took the high road.

``Carlos has his opinion, and I'll leave it at that,'' Riggins said. ``I try to stay positive with everything. It's water under the bridge. ... It happens. I understand the emotions that go with things.''

Asked if Silva had apologized, Riggins said, ``I'll make no comment on that. ... This game gives people a lot of character. Most people in baseball are very successful once they leave the game. And so I wish him the best, and if I can help him in any way, the door's always open.''

Silva, who showed up to spring training out of shape after being assigned an off-season conditioning plan, was uncompetitive out of the gate this spring - even causing a dugout dustup with teammate Aramis Ramirez after just his first inning pitched.

This after a second half last year in which he won just one game and pitched just 11 1/3 innings.

``Basically, he wasn't good enough to make the team,'' Hendry said. ``You factor in not only spring training, but you try to go back and factor in the second half last year, and you're looking at a guy that had a 14-something ERA from July 11 on and that came to camp with the notion that he already had a spot in the rotation.''

The Cubs planned to take the next several days to try to trade Silva, obviously prepared to absorb the lion's share of the $11.5-million remaining on his contract. Silva also was scheduled to pitch Monday.

All of that went by the wayside after the comments Saturday.

``I won't tolerate it,'' Hendry said.

MESA, Ariz. - So much for that rabbit's foot Carlos Silva was looking for. The Cubs took rookie Marcos Mateo over the $11.5-million Silva for the final spot on the pitching staff and plan to step up efforts to trade Silva by Opening Day.

Mateo, a rookie who missed about a week early in camp because of the death of his father, earned the final spot in the bullpen after rebounding to produce a 1.29 ERA this spring, including especially dominant recent outings.

``We told Carlos Silva there will not be a spot for him unless there was an injury between now and opening day,'' general manager Jim Hendry said. ``oe will try to explore trade possibilties for him with other clubs that might have some interest in taking him right to the big leagues.''

The Cubs have received very little trade interest in Silva since the off-season but obviously are willing to eat more of the $11.5 million remaining on his contract than they were a few months - or even weeks - ago.

``He pitched really well the last outing,'' Hendry said of Silva's six-inning start against Oakland, in which he allowed a first-inning run and retired 17 of the final 18 he faced. ``He struggled early. We just felt like we wanted Cashner to get the starts and feel good about his future. We need to find out where he's at in the rotation plans moving forward.''

If the Cubs get no traction in efforts to trade Silva, and no unforeseen injuries open a spot for him on the opening roster, the Cubs are expected to ask Silva to continue to work at AAA Iowa and be ready as insurance for the big-league rotation.

Silva was not immediately available to comment.

The Cubs optioned well regarded Casey Coleman to AAA, where he joins the Iowa rotation, and also optioned reliever Jeff Stevens to AAA, setting the pitching staff.

Cubs expected to pass on Castillo

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Despite their uncertainty at second base and the fact they had some interest in Luis Castillo a couple of winters ago, the Cubs don't appear likely to go after the former Mets second baseman even if he clears waivers Sunday.

``I haven't seen enough of him to know what he's got left,'' manager Mike Quade said. ``I've been thrilled to death with [Darwin] Barney and [Jeff Baker], and I believe that [Blake DeWitt's] work ethic will get him through what's been a tough string for him and that he still is going to be a valuable guy.''

The Cubs had not discussed the possibility as of this afternoon, suggesting team evaluators don't consider him an upgrade over in-house personnel.

``I don't even know how well he runs now,'' Quade said. ``When you're slapping it around like he does, it's good to have some legs to go with it. And his arm was never fantastic, so I don' t know. ...''

Japan quake, tsunami get Cubs' attention

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MESA, Ariz. - The Cubs-Sox matchup this afternoon took a faraway back seat to coverage of the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan that blared from the TV in the Cubs' clubhouse this morning - with players eventually gathering to watch some of the most dramatic images.

At one point, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry checked on Japan native Kosuke Fukudome - who periodically used his bat handle to point and tap on the TV screen and speak in Japanese to his translator, Hiro Aoyama - to make sure Fukudome's family was OK back home.

Through Aoyama, Fukudome said he was able to reach his brother, who was fine. And although he couldn't reach his parents through busy phone lines, he presumed they, too, were fine because they live in the southern part of the country, far from the worst damage.

On the minds of several players was former teammate Micah Hoffpauir, who left the organization over the winter to play in Japan.

``That's the first thing I thought of, that he's over there,'' said pitcher Jeff Stevens, who learned through a mutual friend that Hoffpauir was 300 miles from the quake and out of harm's way.

Kerry Wood fought a Cubs teammate -- but who?

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Sammy Sosa's smashed boom box, the date of the Ferris Bueller game, the pictures Milton Bradley had on Jim Hendry ... Now add this to the list of big Cubs mysteries:

Talking about the Cubs' most recent public dustup between teammates, Kerry Wood revealed Friday that he, too, once fought with a Cub teammate.

Of course, that's about all he revealed.

``It happens every year,'' he said Friday after pitching a 1-2-3 inning against Kansas City. ``I've been involved in them before when [the media] didn't even know about it. It happens. You never like to see it happen where anybody else can see it but it is what it is.''

Wait a minute, Wood in a fight with a teammate? Which one?

``You should have been there,'' he said, smiling.

When? What managerial regime? What era?

``Back when I played the first time,'' he said, smiling again.

No kidding. That narrows it to maybe a couple hundred guys from 1998 through 2008.

One of his catchers? Another pitcher? Sammy?

Who, where, when?

``I don't remember.''

Cubs' Silva: Dugout fight ``all my fault''

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MESA, Ariz. - Cubs pitcher Carlos Silva broke a two-day public silence today and offered his side of the dugout scuffle between him and teammate Aramis Ramirez Wednesday - accepting blame and saying that the pressure of having to compete for a job was a factor.

How much more fence-mending needs to be done with Ramirez is unclear since Silva says he hasn't had an extended talk with Ramirez since they had to be separated by teammates in that game against Milwaukee. Ramirez has said more than once since the incident that he considers it over.

``If we need to talk we will,'' Silva said. ``I apologized to him [Wednesday] and told him we were going to talk later.''

Silva said it's the first time he's ever had a problem, much less a confrontation, with a teammate and seemed remorseful.

``It was a very hard inning,'' he said of the three-error, two-homer, six-run inning in his first start. ``Not only for my team and for my coaches, but for me. It's like I'm trying to do something here. I gave up those two homers. ... I came to the dugout and tried to take it easy and relax and let it go, but the only thing I said is, `We need to start making plays here.' And [Ramirez] takes it personal.

``I know it was my fault because you [aren't supposed to] say anything, but he took it personal and that's what happened. We argued a little while and everything stayed there.''

While manager Mike Quade at one point said he didn't have a problem with the fact that somebody finally spoke up about the sloppy play that plagued the team much of the first week of spring games, Silva said he hadn't watched enough of the other games to even know that had been a problem.

It was only his game - that lone inning, which included a Ramirez dropped popup - that set him off.

``For me it was a little bit harder,'' Silva said, ``because you know who's going to be the third baseman. It's him. And who's going to be the fifth starter? We don't know yet. ... I'm trying to fight for a spot.''

Silva, whose in the final year of a four-year contract that pays $11.5 million this year, said he still doesn't believe he did anything to lose his starting job after earning it last year and having a huge first half. And while he accepts the team's decision to put him back into a competition, he admits it's frustrating.

``No excuses,'' he said. ``That first game I pitched [Wednesday] was absolutely brutal. But like I told my wife, `It's like I don't feel like that was me that was pitching that day.' I was thinking about, `I've got to do good, I've got to show them I can pitch' - too much going on in my mind. And all that, and then what happened in that game, my comment, and it's like - boom - a big explosion.

``That's why I say it was all my fault, because I don't like to have problems with any of my teammates. I think that's the worst feeling you can have, and the worst thing that can happen to you. Because you spend more time with these guys than with your own family.

``That's the last thing I want. I don't want any problems with my teammates. And I've never had any problems with my teammates. ... The only problem that I've had before is arguing with umpires.''

Silva said he needed to cool down for a couple days before talking with media, saying that because of his straightforward nature he didn't know what he might say if he didn't.

Meanwhile, the silence seemed to feed the impression that he was the ``bad guy'' in the incident that was so surprising if only because it erupted in just the fourth game of spring training.

``I don't feel like I'm the bad guy. I don't think I'm the bad guy,'' he said. ``My team, I'm pretty sure they know me already, they know the way I act. One think I always say is everybody deserves respect and everybody should get respect. It doesn't matter if you make an error or if you're on the mound. If you make an error, you have to feel you made an error.

``It's because, like I say, he's going to be the third baseman; I'm fighting for my spot, I'm dying there to have a good outing. I know I gave up those two homers and everything went bad that day. But it's like, you respect me and I respect you and everything's going to be fine, because everybody's got a job here and everybody has to fight for a job.''

Silva remains on his regular schedule to start again Monday, and he said he doesn't feel this incident will put any added pressure on him or affect his status with the team - either in terms of the rotation battle or his place on the roster.

``I hope not,'' he said.

Quade said he's glad Silva decided to finally give his side of the situation and that Silva took whatever time he needed to cool off first - even as Quade considered the issue resolved long before.

``I thought it was over the day after it happened,'' said the manager, who called a team meeting Thursday morning to address it (and the sloppy play), just ahead of a players meeting to emphasize clubhouse unity that has sometimes been lacking in recent seasons.

``Look, nothing just goes away in the blink of an eye because Q says it goes away. But everybody takes a day. ...If nothing else, by the end of that next morning, after we all had a discussion and left to go to work, that was enough for me.''

Cubs' Quade: ``Sometimes a little revolt's not bad''

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MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Mike Quade isn't getting much sleep these days, but he says he hopes that might change after holding a team meeting this morning to address the Carlos Silva-Aramis Ramirez dugout fight as well as the play in the field which has looked just as ugly through four games.

``We want to make damn sure that people are committed to the work that they're doing,'' said Quade - who admittedly faced his first major test as a first-year big-league manager with the Silva-Ramirez blowup.

``You look it right in the eye,'' said Quade, who was the only one who did any talking in the meeting. ``Sometimes a little revolt's not bad. I'm glad people were pissed off. But we need to channel that anger at the opposition and within ourselves. And that's all.

``I think we put it to bet - as far as I'm concerned we did - and we move on.''

Wednesday's trouble erupted when a frustrated Silva bitched about the fielding behind him as he came off the field following a three-error, two-homer, six-run first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Ramirez, who dropped a pop fly in the inning, got in Silva's face, and the two had to be separated by teammates and coaches.

Ramirez later called it a ``misunderstanding'' and said he'd moved on. Silva refused media interview requests Wednesday and then again this morning.

Quade said he didn't talk to the pair separately from the team because he trusted them to resolve their own issues.

``I don't need to see a handshake,'' he said. ``They need to go about their business. They need to get along as teammates the best they can, and put this behind them. Whether it's an acknowledgment, whether it's a conversation, whether it's a handshake, I count on them to get that done.''

Silva faces no team discipline and his pitching schedule and status won't change, Quade said.

``Look, if we were going to have everybody fighting that has made mistakes this spring, we'd have the cage match of all time,'' Quade said. ``I mean, it hasn't been good, and it just surprised me, because I've been happy with the work and everything else.''

That's why much of the meeting was about trying to solve the issues in the field and lapses on the bases that have led to much of the early frustration.

The team has committed 14 errors - and at least five or six more mental errors by Quade's count - in just the first four exhibition games.

``That little blowup notwithstanding, it was time for me - Day 4 or not - to say something about sloppiness and not just the physical errors but the mental errors, too,'' Quade said. ``These are things we all know we need to overcome. And I don't think you waltz through spring and then expect to magically turn it on and be a sharp club when the season starts.''

The Cubs have four weeks left to work on it - which, depending what you make of the first four days of games - is either a good thing or a not-so-good thing.

``Crazy things can happen early in camp,'' Quade said. ``This is a little bit more than I bargained for, but it's OK.''

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