Cubs’ potential shake-up wouldn’t be first Arrieta has endured
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter September 19, 2013 10:00PM
BRAVES AT CUBS
The facts: 1:20 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
The pitchers: Paul Maholm
(10-10, 4.35) vs. Scott Baker (0-0, 0.82 ERA).
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Saturday: 3:05 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM. Kris Medlen (14-12, 3.32) vs. Travis Wood (9-11, 3.05).
Sunday: 1:20 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM. Julio Teheran (12-8, 3.14) vs. Edwin Jackson (8-16, 4.75).
Updated: September 19, 2013 11:37PM
MILWAUKEE — The Cubs and Chicago are new to Jake Arrieta, but the scene is familiar in the final weeks of the season — right down to the possible managerial and coaching shake-up that team president Theo Epstein implied could be coming.
“Some guys are partial to certain staff members, but at the end of the day, if you don’t know it yet, guys will soon realize that this is a business,” said the former Baltimore Orioles pitcher who helped the Cubs avoid a four-game sweep by beating the Milwaukee Brewers 5-1 on Thursday.
Since Epstein’s carefully worded refusal Tuesday to say whether manager Dale Sveum will return next year for the final season of his contract, team sources indicated that was no idle message being sent by the brass, which has real concerns about his performance.
Sveum’s status appears to hinge on management’s diagnoses of the seasonlong struggles of several young hitters, the cause of pitcher Jeff Samardzija’s inconsistency since his shutout in May against the White Sox and a handful of other puzzling developments down the stretch, including back-to-back nights of dugout altercations between players and staff this week.
“The front office is going to do what they feel is necessary to continue to move this ballclub in the right direction,” said Arrieta, who was a rookie in 2010 when the rebuilding Orioles shook things up in the middle of their going-nowhere process.
After two full seasons of 90-plus losses and questionable progress, manager Dave Trembley was fired 54 games into the ’10 season by former Cubs boss Andy MacPhail, who eventually settled on Buck Showalter with two months left in the season.
By spring training of 2011, a new coaching staff had joined Showalter, and a clubhouse full of young players who had never seen a winning season in Baltimore suddenly faced a new program, new expectations and new relationships to build with coaches.
“If there are hard feelings, that’s just something that we will have to deal with and kind of move forward,” Arrieta said.
After one losing season under Showalter, the Orioles were the biggest surprise success story of a 2012 season in which Arrieta was their Opening Day starter.
It’s still not clear that a shake-up that significant is coming. But at least a shuffle of staff seems likely.
And if the last four days in Milwaukee are any indication, it isn’t going to look any prettier for Sveum and his staff when the Cubs finish the season against the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates, who have the top two pitching staffs in baseball, and the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals.
All three have a chance to celebrate division- or playoff-clinching victories against the Cubs, while the Cubs likely clinch their first last-place finish in seven years during that stretch.
“Since being here, I’ve seen a lot of good baseball,” said Arrieta (3-2), who was acquired in the Scott Feldman trade July 2. “I’ve seen some sloppy baseball. It’s just a matter of how do we minimize the mental mistakes and the costly errors that lead to lost ballgames.
“We know we’re obviously out of it, but there’s a lot of good things that can still happen this year. Guys can show that they’re hungry for a winning team.”
Whether any of it will have a bearing on Sveum’s status is another matter.
“I respect the guy, respect what he’s done,” closer Kevin Gregg said. “I like the way he handles himself. I like the way he takes care of business. Every manager has their own style, and you’ve got to get to know him and got to give him a chance.
“And you’ve got to look at the hand he’s dealt and what he’s doing with it.”