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Mike Quade takes train to pain as Cubs drop season opener

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Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



So much for those ‘‘incognito’’ rides on the L.

One game into his first full season as Cubs manager, Mike Quade might have to reach a little deeper into his bag of disguises to remain unrecognized by fans sure to start looking for him — if not looking for answers.

Why was Ryan Dempster still in the game long enough to give up that second home run on his 115th pitch? Why is the new first baseman already missing 3-0 take signs after all that emphasis on the little things in spring training? And why can’t the Cubs figure out the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates, who spoiled Friday’s rainy opener by beating them 6-3 at Wrigley Field?

In fact, his own mom might be first in line with the second-guessing. Well, maybe not exactly second-guessing.

''She just wonders,’’ said Quade, whose parents traveled from Florida to be here for his first Opening Day as a big-league manager. ''She just asks questions. . . . It’s amazing to me. She’s always liked baseball. But her and my dad, they’re glued to it every day now, and they watch. They’ll come up with all sorts of stuff when I talk to them.’’

That’s nothing compared to the quick-trigger ‘‘wondering’’ he should expect from fellow riders on the Red Line now that the season’s under way.

Granted, Friday’s loss was just the first game of a six-month grind and might well be forgotten by mid-afternoon today if Carlos Zambrano does his job against the Pirates.

And easily overlooked in the disappointment on a cold, wet day at Wrigley was an errorless game by the Cubs that included an especially sparkling day in the field by second-year shortstop Starlin Castro.

If Friday’s outcome meant anything, it might have simply been about serving up a reminder of the job that lies ahead for the new guy in charge.

‘‘No storybook ending, but I don’t believe in those things anyway,’’ Quade said. ‘‘You’re going to earn what you get. And we didn’t earn it today.’’

For the record, Quade — who went to the mound in Dempster’s five-batter, two-walk sixth to talk about being careful with power hitter Garrett Jones — gave Dempster a strong voice in the decision to stay in the game after 104 pitches through six.

‘‘He’s earned the right to do that,’’ Quade said. ‘‘The score was 4-2. He said he felt fine. I thought he was fine, and I thought, given where they were in the order and the score and everything else, we’d give him the opportunity. . . . If I’ve got him out there at 125 pitches, I’ll put a gun to my head.’’

Said Dempster: ‘‘I felt good. Two quality outs [to end] the sixth. I still felt good.’’

Even after he watched his 2-0 lead disappear over the right-field wall with Neil Walker’s two-out, full-count grand slam in the fifth.

‘‘But I’m more mad about the other one,’’ he said of Andrew McCutchen’s shot that followed Walker’s two-out double in the seventh. ‘‘The grand slam hurts, but it’s 4-2, and you’re right in it. Those add-ons hurt you every time.’’

But this game probably doesn’t mean much at all, certainly not as much as the next 161.

‘‘It’s the beginning of a long journey,’’ first baseman Carlos Pena said.

But that journey won’t come with much of a honeymoon, even off that 24-13 audition for the job last year.

''People want to win here,’’ Quade said. ‘‘People want effort. They want a club that goes out and plays hard and earns their money. And I think they’re going to get that right out of the chute, and let’s hope that results in winning baseball.’’

A lot of the right people seem to think they have the right man in the manager’s seat.

‘‘Quade’s a special cat,’’ chairman Tom Ricketts said. ‘‘He communicates well; he’s engaged; he’s energetic. And I think he has what it takes to get this team winning and keep us there until the end of the season.’’

Either way, his days of anonymity on public transportation might be numbered — unless he at least has more than just the old jacket-and-hat trick in his bag of disguises.

‘‘Yeah, I do,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve got Pittsburgh gear.’’



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