Regardless of how things go in the season finale, Mike Quade has already made a strong case to be the manager of the Chicago Cubs next season.
The interim skipper looks to guide the surging Cubs to a fourth consecutive victory and series sweep of the Houston Astros on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
While there is plenty of disappointment over Chicago’s first losing season in four years, the Cubs (75-86) have shown some life while going 24-12 since the former third base coach took over after Lou Piniella abruptly retired Aug. 22.
Even before the Cubs’ recent success, general manager Jim Hendry said Quade would be a candidate for the 2011 managerial job. Though Hall-of-Famer and current Cubs Triple-A manager Ryne Sandberg might be considered the frontrunner, Quade’s resume has received a boost with the club’s recent play.
However, he’s not going to worry about the future right now.
“My job, for now, will be done (Sunday), and I’m going to leave for awhile and take a rest and we’ll see what happens,” Quade told the Cubs’ official website.
Quade has the support of some of his players.
Aramis Ramirez(notes) hit a grand slam and Marlon Byrd(notes) had three RBIs as Chicago improved to 17-4 on the road under Quade after an 8-3 win over Houston on Saturday. The Cubs have not swept a series of at least three games in Houston since Aug. 14-16, 2006.
Next year’s manager should expect a big season from shortstop Starlin Castro(notes). A possible NL rookie of the year candidate, Castro raised his average to .300 after he went 2 for 3 Saturday, and is batting .419 in his last seven games versus Houston.
After yielding a season-high nine runs in 1 2-3 innings against San Francisco on Sept. 23, Dempster (15-11, 3.83 ERA) gave up two and struck out nine in seven innings of a 5-2 win at San Diego on Tuesday.
The right-hander is 1-0 with a 3.79 ERA in three starts versus Houston this season. He allowed seven runs and walked four in five innings, but did not factor in a 14-7 win over the Astros on July 20.
Johnson drove in a run Saturday and is hitting .309 in 93 games this season. He’s batted .340 with 10 RBIs in 13 games against the Cubs.
Next season’s potential fifth starter, Figueroa allowed six hits over 6 2-3 innings of a 2-0 win at Cincinnati on Wednesday.
“Nelson Figueroa has stepped up in a big way, when (Felipe) Paulino and (Brian) Moehler went down, and has kept us in just about every one of his games,” general manager Ed Wade told the Astros’ official website.
The right-hander is 2-4 with a 4.79 ERA in seven starts against the Cubs. He allowed three runs in five innings of a 7-3 win at Chicago on Sept. 7.