Quade putting his own stamp on Cubs
New skipper enters Spring Training with support from players
MESA, Ariz. -- Mike Quade still plans on taking the bus in Chicago. He will continue to walk to work since he only lives two blocks from Wrigley Field.
But that doesn't mean being named the Cubs manager hasn't changed things. When Quade returned to his offseason home in Florida, a neighbor brought over some homemade chicken soup. She also had a dozen baseballs for Quade to sign.
"There's a [White Sox] fan in that household, so I don't know how that all came about," he said.
People still have a tough time pronouncing his name -- it's KWAH-dee -- and some in the Cubs organization can't spell it -- he received an envelope from the clubhouse staff addressed to "Qaude." What matters is the players believe in the Q factor.
"Everyone wanted to play for him [last year] and everyone will continue to play for him," Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija said.
Quade became the Cubs' 51st manager on Aug. 23, taking over -- with an interim tag -- for Lou Piniella, who needed to go home to Tampa, Fla., to tend to his ailing mother. After 17 seasons as a Minor League manager and another seven as a big league coach, Quade inherited a team that was 51-74 and 21 1/2 games back. The Cubs finished 24-13 in the final six weeks, the second-best record in the Major Leagues in that stretch, trailing only the Phillies (27-12).
He asserted himself, benching rookie shortstop Starlin Castro after some defensive lapses. He had a few one-on-one closed-door chats with the veterans. In the final weeks of the season, Cubs players lobbied for Quade to continue as skipper.
"The one thing about Quade, obviously, is that he's changed a little bit because he's the man in charge now but his personality didn't change and his relationship with his players didn't change," Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster said. "What you see is what you get and what he says is what you get."
Newly acquired Matt Garza likes what he's heard so far about his new manager.
"[I've heard] that the players love him," Garza said on Monday. "If there's anything said about a manager, that's the best thing to be said is that the players love you. When players love you, they love playing for you and they'll give it their all. I'm coming in excited -- the players are saying, 'This guy is a great guy.' That's all you need to know."
Quade is used to being in Minor League camp with 170 players, not 58. He's had to deal with last-minute roster changes, which are the norm in the Minors. As a third-base coach, a job he held with the Cubs from 2007 until taking over for Piniella, he's had to make quick decisions.
But when it comes to deciding on the final five pitchers for the rotation, he's going to delegate a little. He'll rely on new pitching coach Mark Riggins, who was the Cubs' Minor League pitching coordinator and has worked in the Cardinals system. He trusts his coaches.
"I'd like to think that at the end of the day, contract not withstanding, it's my call," he said, somewhat playfully.
While Riggins handles pitching mechanics and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo can disappear into the cages knowing Quade won't be peering over his shoulder, the Cubs manager will take a hands-on approach on some matters. For example, when it comes to doing drills on fundamentals, expect Quade in the middle of the workouts.
"For these guys to understand what I'm about, these are the areas I have to be involved with," he said.
He wants the Cubs to be prepared for cold weather in April and do the little things necessary to win ballgames. The record in the last six weeks may have been solid, but the offense scuffled.
"I have no doubt with the fellow sitting next to me that we'll be leaving camp ready to play good, hard-nosed baseball for 162 games," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said.
A Chicago-area native, Quade is well-versed in Cubs history. He also knows managing in the National League is a lot different than the Double-A Eastern League.
"I understand the magnitude [of the job], believe me," Quade said. "It doesn't do Mike Quade any good to get wrapped up in the magnitude. I'm more a grinding, day-in, day-out guy. If we're going to be successful here with me in charge, I have to stay in charge of myself and do what I need to do. I'm available to [the media] and the fans, and I love it. I like that part of it. I can't get wrapped up in all the rest of it and don't know what to do if I did."
Pressure? Quade, who turns 54 on March 12, said he puts more pressure on himself than anyone else can. He describes his job as "one heck of a challenge."
Pitchers and catchers had their first workout Monday at Fitch Park. Right now, it's a time for optimism. It won't really hit Quade as to how far he's come until Friday when the full squad practices. But he won't show it.
"I downplay stuff," he said. "Somewhere deep in my heart, it's a big day to start this thing. I don't approach it that way."
He's a bit of a foodie, and enjoyed a trip to Italy in January despite the cold weather. It was for a baseball clinic, but Quade found time to see the sights in Venice, Florence and Rome as well as consume more than his share of pasta and wine.
He got the Cubs' job because he earned it in the final six weeks of the 2010 season. Hendry could have tabbed Hall of Famer and fan favorite Ryne Sandberg, but instead picked a baseball guy who has paid his dues.
"We all really enjoyed playing for him," Dempster said of Quade. "I think everybody is looking forward to having the whole year with him and going out there and playing hard. We've all been big advocates for him and pushing for him. I think that's our job, to go out and show him how much it means and go out and play hard for him every day."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.