Grote’s Cubs Observations: Joe Maddon Prefers Feet-First Slides

By Mark Grote–

(CBS) The Pete Rose “high-dive” slide was a spectacular baseball sight and is still featured prominently in classic highlight reels. Rose made “Charlie Hustle”  a name for himself by getting the front part of his uniform filthy due to his preferred method of sliding.

As aesthetically pleasing as it may be, Cubs manager Joe Maddon would prefer that his players ditched the dive.

This came into play recently when rookie third baseman Kris Bryant was dizzied after a dive into second base and subsequent head-hammer tag from the glove of Brewers shortstop Jean Segura in Milwaukee. Bryant later left the game.

“I didn’t have a problem with it,” Maddon said. “It’s a crazy game, and things happen, but I always prefer feet first sliding. A lot of guys are not really good at it or don’t like it. But, I’ll tell you one thing, infielders don’t like it because it’s a much more intimidating way to have to apply a tag.”

The idea is that if an infielder has spikes coming at his face, he’s less inclined to block the bag.

Maddon praises Schwarber’s defense

As menacing as Kyle Schwarber can be the plate, the 22-year old rookie catcher remains in the midst of a crash course behind the plate, according to Maddon.

“His setup has gotten a lot smoother and more compact,” Maddon said. “His maneuverability has gotten better.”

Schwarber’s often locked up in intense one-on-one tutorials at a buffet table of computers in the Cubs clubhouse. Fellow catcher David Ross has taken Schwarber under his wing, and catching coach Mike Borzello has been a big part of his development. It also doesn’t hurt have former Cubs catcher Henry Blanco around, and Maddon himself was a catcher.

“He really spends a lot of time studying,” Maddon said of Schwarber. “He’s a different cat when it comes to young players. He gets the nuance of what’s going on out there.”

Strop, Hunter reunited

When reliever Pedro Strop rolled into the Cubs clubhouse recently on reliever Tommy Hunter’s first day with Chicago since being traded from Baltimore, both players suddenly had overgrown smiles as they embraced and exchanged playful barbs. The two were teammates in previous stops in Texas and Baltimore, and Hunter was warned that Strop may have been talking about him prior to arriving.

“I was a crazy (son of a gun) in my early days in Texas, but I got it all out of my system,” Hunter admitted. “Pedey (Pedro) probably said I was crazy as (heck).”

Providing a bailout for Hunter was another former Baltimore teammate, Jake Arrieta, who referred to Hunter as a “teddy bear.”

Haren keeps perpspective

Nobody needs to chide Dan Haren about his decreased velocity. The new Cubs starter, acquired in a deadline-day deal from the Marlins, is a fan of self-deprecation, as evidenced by a recent quote from his Twitter account.

“Aroldis Chapman’s fastball is about 15 MPH harder than mine,” Haren tweeted. “That’s the same difference between me and Mo’ne Davis.”

This being Haren’s 13th eason in Major League Baseball, it’s clear that he’s comfortable in his own skin.

“I know I’m not the flamethrower I once was, but I’ve gotten a lot smarter as a pitcher,” said Haren, who will make his Cubs debut Wednesday when he takes the hill against the Pirates. “I’m also a lot better at studying scouting reports, and sticking to them.”

Broadcasting snafu

Somewhere near the top of the list of radio broadcaster nightmares is when the recorder goes dead or blank during an interview. It happened to me recently with Cincinnati Reds third-base coach Jim Riggleman, who managed the Cubs from 1995-’99.

When he realized what had happened, he looked at me and asked playfully, “What? Are you Ron Santo?”

Santo was one of most beloved players and broadcasters in Cubs history, and Riggleman said he cherished his time working with Santo.

Mark Grote is the Cubs pregame and postgame host on WBBM. Follow him on Twitter @markgrotesports.

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