Rozner: While management worries, Cubs' Maddon just manages

  • Cubs management is always looking for the next answer, but manager Joe Maddon only worries about who's available today.

    Cubs management is always looking for the next answer, but manager Joe Maddon only worries about who's available today. Assocaited Press

 
 
Updated 6/23/2019 6:31 PM

Kyle Hendricks said he had never felt pain in his shoulder until he was playing catch before a recent start.

And then it became apparent when he faced the Dodgers in his last outing that he couldn't finish his pitches, thus hanging some change-ups that he would normally bury.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That is the nature of pitching, maybe the last guy you would expect to go down is injured and unavailable, his season not in doubt but at least on hold.

It's evidence of why major league clubs are always searching for the next answer and never satisfied with the amount of healthy pitching at any level of the organization.

"We certainly don't ever feel (comfortable), that's for sure," Cubs scouting director Jason McLeod said with a chuckle. "How can you with the attrition rate? You're always one pitch away from an injury."

Rare these days is a team like the 2016 Cubs, which came within a John Lackey outing of having five pitchers make 30 starts. The very next year, the Cubs had three pitchers with 30 starts and four others made at least 10 starts.

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"The endurance necessary to survive, the strain of a major league season and how many innings you have to ask out of your pitching staff, you need so much depth at Triple-A and you need depth underneath that," McLeod said. "You need to keep pushing so you can make trades or get guys to Triple-A to push on the door to come up here and help these guys."

As the manager of the club, however, Joe Maddon can't sit around and pine for the return of injured players. He also can't wait to see who gets called up or who might be acquired for the stretch run.

He just manages.

"I've often thought that having worked in the minor leagues as a manager matters a lot," Maddon said. "When you work in the minors, things change often and quickly and you have to make work what you have on that particular day.

"You don't lament who you don't have and you don't look forward to someone you may have. The approach is this is the group that's playing tonight."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So Maddon's comments at times of severe turbulence often sound like the calm captain of an airplane. To some, it is less than believable. Would you prefer screaming from the cockpit and fear in his voice?

It's not so much you he's managing as the emotions of his players, who have to be confident in the equipment regardless of swings in cabin pressure.

"You should approach every game as though you're going to win it somehow, even if you know you're at a great disadvantage," Maddon said. "I've had teams (in the minors) that had horrible pitching and a good offense.

"You go out there and you want to believe, even when you look at the mound and you know they have a tremendous advantage, which really used to bum me out.

"But you have to figure it out somehow."

These are lessons learned the hard way through 50 years in the game, in some places you've heard of but would never dream of visiting.

"Having worked in Idaho Falls, Salem, Midland and Peoria, and watching games in between, that's the training that matters in moments when things go a little bit off the rails, because you've been there," Maddon said. "You have to approach every day as though you're going to figure it out somehow."

The Cubs are hardly in dire straits at the moment, but all it takes is a pitch or two and suddenly you've got big problems. The club has plans in place for such events, and many above Maddon spend their days and nights guarding against catastrophe.

But the worry is for those in power. The manager, well, he just manages.

And always with a calm voice.

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