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Levine: With Chris Bosio Out, Cubs Could Turn To Familiar Faces In Pitching Coach Search

By Bruce Levine– CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio was informed during an exit meeting Friday that he won’t be retained by the organization, multiple sources confirmed. Bosio had been the team’s pitching coach since 2012. His contract had run out, and the Cubs didn’t offer a new deal. USA Today first reported the news Saturday. The Cubs’ pitching staff had thrived under Bosio’s guidance in recent seasons, including during a dominant 2016 championship season in which left-hander Jon Lester and right-hander Kyle Hendricks each finished in the top three of the Cy Young voting. Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta won the Cy Young award in 2015. In 2017, the Cubs had a team 3.95 ERA, which ranked seventh in baseball. But their penchant for walking batters, notably among those in the bullpen, hurt the team greatly in the playoffs, where the Cubs exited at the hands of the Dodgers in five games in the National League Championship Series. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein recently acknowledged the wildness was a “systemic” issue for the team that needed addressed in the form of “personnel” and “approach.” Bosio should have a great opportunity to latch on to a new team. The Nationals, Giants and Rays have all parted ways with their pitching coaches in recent days. Bosio was instrumental in the development of Arrieta and Hendricks. Arrieta was a reclamation project acquired from the Orioles in a trade in July 2013. Since then, he’s gone 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA under Bosio’s tutelage. In Tampa Bay, it was Jim Hickey who left the position. He had been the Rays’ pitching coach since 2007, working the first eight years of that tenure with Cubs manager Joe Maddon while he was in Tampa Bay. A Chicago native, Hickey is drawing interest from the Cardinals already for their vacant pitching coach position. Another name to consider for the Cubs’ pitching coach job is John Farrell, who was recently fired as Red Sox manager. Farrell was on the Red Sox’s coaching staff from 2007-’10, when Epstein was in charge in Boston. Farrell’s son Luke was picked up off waivers by the Cubs in early October. Another son of his, Shane, is a scout for the Cubs. Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Cubs Fire Pitching Coach Chris Bosio

(CBS) The Cubs have fired pitching coach Chris Bosio, a source tells 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine. Bosio spent six years as the Cubs’ pitching coach, joining the organization with then-manager Dale Sveum. He was brought onto Joe Maddon’s coaching staff in 2015. During a press conference on Friday that followed the end of the season, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said that decisions to the coaching staff would be left to Maddon, whose call to fire Bosio came down Saturday. Maddon and the Cubs could move to hire Jim Hickey, who was replaced by the Rays after this season. Hickey was hired as Maddon’s pitching coach in 2006 in Tampa. The decision to fire Bosio comes two days after the Cubs were eliminated in their third consecutive National League Championship Series, where they lost in five games to the Dodgers. In 2017, the Cubs had a team 3.95 ERA, which ranked seventh in baseball. Their starters boasted a 4.05 ERA, which also ranked seventh. The Cubs have yet to officially confirm the dismissal of Bosio, nor have they made any other staff changes.

Levine: Theo Epstein, Cubs Eyeing Trade Market This Offseason

By Bruce Levine– CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs fell short of their goal of winning a second consecutive World Series in 2017, being humbled and thoroughly outplayed by the newly crowned National League champion Dodgers in five games. The manner in which the ending played out seems to have given both the players and management a new resolve headed into next season. Judging by his season-ending press conference Friday afternoon, it appears president of baseball operations Theo Epstein won’t be content with the three straight NLCS appearances the organization has registered. Epstein made clear in his marathon media session that standing pat this offseason won’t be an option for the Cubs, who rallied with a strong second half to finish with 92 wins and win the NL Central. Epstein expressed a desire to retain right-hander Jake Arrieta and closer Wade Davis but added, “Wanting doesn’t mean having.” At the forefront of business in the next four months for the Cubs front office will be addressing the rotation and closer role. To help on those fronts — notably in obtaining another starting pitcher — Epstein acknowledged that it might be time to deal from some of the team’s depth among position players. “I certainly think we have major league talent to move if we are able to find the right deals,” Epstein said without hesitation. “I believe we have plenty of good prospects to move as well. They may not be headline guys, but there are certain trades to be made without touching our big league team if we want to.” Watching many Cubs players have poor approaches at the plate amid postseason struggles reminded the front office of the importance of having different types of batters in the lineup. Epstein spoke of a need to “grind out” at-bats that are more “professional,” which would complement the slugging component the Cubs boast.. “We look into free agency as well as approach all avenues to get better,” Epstein said. “We want the organization and big league team to be better. That is contemplating trades at the big league level and with prospects. Also, trades for buy-low guys who are not household names, who maybe can become so in the future. We need to be honest about things we can do better in.” The Cubs’ positional duplications appear to be at shortstop and the outfielder. The Cubs have two young talents in Addison Russell and Javier Baez at shortstop. Neither is likely to be traded unless another team is willing to dramatically overpay for one of them. Young outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ will be targets for foes looking for big power and lower-priced, controllable contracts. Epstein loves all his players but understands the Cubs may have to part with a player or two they really like to address the missing elements on their team. “To win the World Series, you have to be able to do a lot of things well,” Epstein said. “That was proved by us last year and underscored this season. You must play at a real high level, and many things must come together. Watching the Dodgers perform at a really high level is a nice reminder to us as to how high the bar is.” The Cubs notably need starting pitching and bullpen help. They also could use a go-to lead-off hitter and more team speed. “To go into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them, keeping an open mind to anything is appropriate,” Epstein said. “Under these circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable. We really benefited from having two or three extra starting players available on the roster. That helped us win the last few years. Sooner or later, you have to consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club.” Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

Watch: Pedro Strop Takes Anthony Rizzo Deep

(CBS) The Cubs’ season came to an end with an 11-1 loss to the Dodgers on Thursday night. Their fun-loving attitude sure didn’t. On Friday at Wrigley Field, reliever Pedro Strop stepped into the batter’s box to take cuts off first baseman Anthony Rizzo as the two switched roles. Strop got the last laugh.

Joniak: Keys To Bears-Panthers

By Jeff Joniak– (CBS) The Bears (2-4) host the Panthers (4-2) at Soldier Field on Sunday at noon. Here are my keys to the game. Offense: Keep grinding on the ground Running it 50-plus times every game isn’t my suggestion for the Bears, but it wouldn’t bother me at the same time. If it helps the Bears beat the Carolina Panthers, so be it. Is it going to be difficult to run the ball? Yes. The Panthers haven’t permitted a running back to reach 100 yards rushing this season, nor for that matter a 100-yard receiver. Carolina owns a talented defensive up front but is missing leading tackler Luke Kuechly. The Bears have to get movement on the Panthers’ outstanding defensive tackles, Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, to open some holes for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. When rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky needs to throw, they have to block Julius Peppers, both inside and outside. Defense: Quieting Cam After making life miserable for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco last week in Baltimore, the Bears have to be careful Panthers quartebrack Cam Newton doesn’t make life miserable for them. Limiting the damage Newton does in the run game is critical. Designed runs or scrambles against defenses sprouting leaks and leading to big plays are his specialty. Newton’s accuracy is sometimes off in the passing game, but with size at receiver to clean up his passes, the Bears will have plenty to handle. The improving Bears secondary has a big job dealing with Kelvin Benjamin, Christian McCaffrey and emerging weapon Ed Dickson at tight end. Special teams: Clean it up Giving up two return touchdowns in one game, as the Bears did last week, leaves a mark. The Bears are likely going to be without special teams captain and coverage star Sherrick McManis, so someone must pick up the baton on kick and punt coverage. Breakdowns and decision-making led to trouble last week, and the Bears can’t afford that kind of problem again given their thin margin for error. Intangibles: Winning streak? Forming a winning streak has proved to be difficult for the Bears over the years for a variety of reasons. It’s often repeated in the NFL that winning and losing are learned behaviors. That’s why last week’s win in Baltimore was huge for this team with young players like Howard, Cohen, Trubiksy, Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos and veterans like Kyle Fuller, Akiem Hicks and others making big plays. That can become habit forming when it matters most. Right now, the Bears are in the learning stage. Numbers: Howard tough after contact Howard carried the offense in Baltimore, and he’s more than content with that responsibility. He wants it, and he embraces it. For the time being, the Bears have to keep using him to get first downs and rush them out of trouble. He already has 17 stuffed runs this season after 24 all of last season, but he’s also starting to build up yards after contact that wear down a defense. Howard trails only Kansas City rookie running back Kareem Hunt with 245 yards after contact. He’s getting 2.1 yards per carry after he makes contact with a defender. That’s crucial. Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.

Eddie Olczyk Offers Inspiration During Battle With Colon Cancer

(CBS) Prior to first pitch of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on Thursday night, the Cubs played an inspirational message from Eddie Olczyk, the venerable hockey commentator currently fighting colon cancer. Olczyk reminded that one can be defined by responding to adversity, as he has during his battle, and the sellout crowd offered a standing ovation. Olczyk wasn’t at Wrigley Field on Thursday. Instead, he was working the Blackhawks telecast for their game against the Oilers, and he received another standing ovation at the United Center, the same as he did at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Wednesday night in his first broadcast since the diagnosis. While facing quite the fight, Olczyk has returned to work as he’s able. There, he has inspired others and received plenty of support. He spoke of the battle Friday on the Spiegel & Parkins Show on 670 The Score. “I feel pretty good this week,” Olczyk said. “It’s been a battle. These last three months have just been a stop-me-in-my-tracks moment. Sadly, there’s millions and millions and millions of people that are fighting this disease and families that are going through it with loved ones. I’m just so lucky to have the incredible support of my family. My wife of 30 years has just been the pillar of power and strength and support. My kids, my folks, my brothers and my extended family with the Blackhawks, I don’t have enough time in my life to thank them. “I have my good days and my bad days. Anybody that’s seen cancer and seen chemo therapy, I think that they can relate. There are a lot of times I’m horizontal for five, six days at a time, which is pretty tough. But when I have my good days, I want to take advantage of it. “It’s been the best medicine I’ve taken in the last little while.” Olczyk was able to work this week because of a healthy response to a bi-weekly chemotherapy cycle. He will begin the fourth of 12 rounds of chemo Monday. The diagnosis of Olczyk’s cancer went public in early August, just a week after he had the tumor removed from his colon. He would’ve preferred to keep the news private if not for a busy schedule of public appearances, including his work broadcasting hockey and horse racing for NBC and NBC Sports Chicago. Ever since word spread of the diagnosis, Olczyk has found that he has great support in his fight. “I’ve been scared, am scared, will be scared, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” he said. “I’ve had enough quiet time these last three months and moving forward to last me a lifetime, and I’ve been to places I don’t want to go. But that’s just human nature. “It’s OK to cry. It’s just the reality. To me, I felt initially that I had let everybody down. I let my family down, I let the Blackhawks down, I let the NHL down, I let the horse racing community down. And after getting slapped a couple times by my close friends, people saying, ‘Look, you absorb this. It happens.’ So you do draw yourself into areas where you don’t want to go. The positive and the attitude is so important. I know, it just happens I happen to be a public figure. I would’ve loved to have gone under a rock with this. “The mental part of it is what really makes it tough. That’s the way I look at it. I’ve been to places that I don’t want to go, and sometimes I drift there. But that’s where I rely on my support team. I’m not going to stop until it’s out of me, and I can win and beat this thing.”

Preparation Drives Bears LB Nick Kwiatkoski To Keep Getting Better

By Chris Emma— CHICAGO (CBS) – Early on in his rookie season, Nick Kwiatkoski learned the importance of mental reps. Kwiatkoski entered last season as the next man up behind veterans Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, but prepared as if he was going to be the starter – or at the very least, play a key role in that Sunday’s game. He would study intently in the film room and watch opposing offenses as if he would be the man asked to make the play. That work paid off for Kwiatkoski, who started seven games and played a key role in 14 contests while Trevathan and Freeman missed time. So when Kwiatkoski was sidelined with a pectoral injury, he stayed sharp by preparing as if he would play. “The biggest thing is not losing that rhythm,” Kwiatkoski said Friday at Halas Hall. “Even though I wasn’t on the field, preparing for games like I was, staying in the film room, staying in shape, doing what you can do. It starts there and then when you get into practice, don’t skip a beat, do what you did before. “I didn’t change what I did before. I was still in all the meetings, still watching film with the other linebackers, things like that. So that part didn’t really change.” Kwiatkoski suffered his pectoral injury during the season’s second game as he reached an arm out and it got caught. Initial fears were that he had suffered a complete tear to the pectoral as Freeman had one week earlier. But after several days, the pain significantly reduced, he said. From there, the Bears ruled out a serious injury. Kwiatkoski feared the worst initially, as did his team. He would have happily accepted the three-week absence given that it could have been a long, grueling road back. The Bears have listed Kwiatkoski as questionable for Sunday’s game with the Panthers, though he practiced in full on Friday for the first time since suffering the injury. The hope is that he can rejoin Trevathan at inside linebacker and help a defense that has played well in recent weeks. Kwiatkoski was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft with the Bears hoping they could develop his talents into something more. General manager Ryan Pace did well in scouting the work ethic behind the player. Coach John Fox has taken notice to how Kwiatkoski prepares. Once Kwiatkoski returns to the field, the Bears are hoping he can continue a promising development track. “This game’s fast and it takes experience and it takes time,” Fox said. “He’s a smart guy who has been willing to work. And I’ve seen that improvement from last year to this year.” Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

Nationals Won’t Retain Dusty Baker As Manager

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Nationals say manager Dusty Baker won’t be back next season. The team announced the move Friday. Baker led the Nationals to the NL East title in each of his two years with the club. But Washington lost its NL Division Series both times. His contract expired at the end of this season. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

Baffoe: The Cubs Are Dead, But Long Live The Cubs

By Tim Baffoe– (CBS) To be honest with oneself as a Chicago Cubs fan is no small task. I mean, it was a lifetime of next years to suddenly being the mule with the spinning wheel, which feels so closer than a year ago and so suddenly very much past. The 2017 Cubs never fit quite right. Like a genuine imitation World Series champion cap from a guy who knows a guy, it looked real and did the job fine enough, but it never felt totally comfortable. Pitchers pitched well enough most of the time. Hitters produced the second-most runs in the National League, yet they always felt like the streakiest and droughtiest offense going. Manager Joe Maddon made questionable decisions but remained a valuable presence. The Cubs won the NL Central with a little more sweat than was expected, which made wearing them sort of itchy but doable. Anything can happen in the playoffs, but this version of the team didn’t give you the anything feel. The National League Divisional Series win over the Nationals took years off of viewers’ lives and pitchers’ arms, and neither ever seemed to recover. And still there was lying to oneself about the Los Angeles Dodgers being beatable because of (mumbling, squinting at Fangraphs). Losing the first two games in Los Angeles really strained the excuses for reclaiming the series at Wrigley Field, and when the Cubs lost Game 3,  there was a resignation of hospice. The Game 4 win was cute but not even close to convincing anyone but the worst denialists that anything had shifted. “This is going to sound really crazy, but I think all the pressure is on the Dodgers,” Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. said then. “You look at the 2004 Boston team. The pressure was on the Yankees to finish the job. By the looks in the eyes of the media and fans, the season is over for us. I know there is nobody in this clubhouse that believes that. The pressure is still on them to finish us off. But each day, we are going to come with our best to keep this series going.” Kids say the darnedest things. Honestly, winning one game — that took your closer 48 pitches to finish — didn’t negate this series still needing to die sooner than later. No more twitchy bullpen and measly solo homers. Fun and hope and the ability to deal with the stress of it were all desiccated with the leaves. The Dodgers, a villain with humanity, obliged and did one quick to the back of the head in Game 5, ending all feeling before anyone had a chance to appreciate the mercy. They should be thanked for not waiting until the later innings or dragging the Cubs back West for no good reason. And for allowing a bit of dignity in a gentleman’s sweep. We can proclaim these Cubs dead finally. It sucks, despite the inevitability. Relieving, too. Now the eulogies, the remember whens. “Hey, it ended on the seven-year anniversary of the hiring of Mike Quade, lol.” The pain soon subsides. But long shall the Cubs live. Not the 2017 version, so much, but what 2015 was to a 2016 World Series so may 2017 be to the beyond. The “sustained success” that Theo Epstein mentioned the day he was introduced as the new team president of baseball operations is here still and will be for the foreseeable future. We know this. This is truth. It’s honesty. Now you take inventory and fix holes. You maybe swap a Jake Arrieta for fond memories and a Yu Darvish. You find next year’s Wade Davis and Jon Jay, which could be Wade Davis or Jon Jay. You keep paying Ben Zobrist and his walkup music, but you continue to invest in the gold that is Willson Contreras. You maybe ship off a younger player who takes everyone by surprise. You name John Lackey official team ambassador to Chicagoland’s railyards. You keep being a successful organization that neither rests nor pouts. Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are the best hands to be in. Everything is still pretty damn good in Cubdom. Then you return in 2018 as the favorite to win the division again while knowing that the Milwaukee Brewers will be a bigger pain next year and that the St. Louis Satans are always there. You make a pretty good case for a fourth consecutive NLCS. You’re still immensely talented and have the benefit of a healthy wallet. It will be sunny and warm again at Wrigley Field soon enough, though the wait between now and next spring training will dwarf the blip that it was between last November and February. Another postseason awaits 11 long months from now. The Cubs live on. Honest. Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.