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Gregg's meltdown costs Cubs in loss to Braves

Published: Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 9:13 p.m. CST
Caption
(AP photo)
The Atlanta Braves' Brian McCann pumps his fist after hitting an RBI-single off Cubs relief pitcher Kevin Gregg during the ninth inning Friday at Wrigley Field. The Cubs lost, 9-5.

CHICAGO – First Kevin Gregg lost it on the mound. Then he vented his frustrations to the media. That may have earned him his walking papers.

Gregg (2-5) took the loss after allowing four runs in the ninth as the Atlanta Braves defeated the Cubs, 9-5, Friday.

After the game, Gregg unloaded to the media about his dissatisfaction over apparently losing his closer's role to reliever Pedro Strop.

"With what I've done this year and the things I've accomplished, for an organization to come out and say, 'Hey, we're going to go in another direction,'" an unusually heated Gregg said. "A little professional courtesy would've been nice."

After Cubs President Theo Epstein was made aware of Gregg's comments, he talked to Gregg and then the media to clarify what turned out to be a bit of a miscommunication between Gregg and manager Dale Sveum.

"Apparently Kevin misunderstood Dale and thought he'd had his job permanently taken away from him," Epstein said. "Despite getting the ball in the closer's role the past couple days, he apparently had some choice words. Upon hearing that I called him up to Dale's office to tell him how disappointed I was in him."

After getting some clarity from Epstein, a calmer Gregg spoke to the media again.

"They want to get a look at Pedro, but they're not going to take anything from me either," Gregg said. "They wanted to kind of work together to know what the future holds for this organization with him and myself. Which I'm OK with, I like that idea."

Gregg said he understood Epstein being angry about the situation, because at first, he was angry as well. Epstein's dissatisfaction could have consequences.

"I think it took him a couple minutes to understand that he'd misunderstood Dale and he ultimately apologized to me and Dale," Epstein said. "I told him that I'd sleep on it and decide if we had any disciplinary action."

Asked to clarify what he meant by disciplinary action, Epstein didn't mince his words.

"I told him that I'd sleep on it and let him know if he was released in the morning," Epstein said.

Gregg was aware of the possibility that he may have prematurely ended his Cubs career, but was hopeful that they'd work out a positive resolution Saturday.

"Theo's a smart man," Gregg said. "He's not going to have a knee-jerk reaction to something. Unfortunately, I did. We'll talk again. I'm sure I'll sit down with him again and talk tomorrow."

Gregg entered spring training with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but was released as one of the final cuts for the eventual NL West champions. The Cubs picked him up in mid-April and soon enough he took over as closer on a team that was desperately looking for some consistentcy in the bullpen.

Gregg provided it, and even with his rough outing on Friday, has posted a 3.45 ERA and saved 32 of 37 games with the Cubs. But with Gregg heading into free agency, it makes sense that the organization can't rely on the 35-year old returning and being effective in 2014.

Strop, who was acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in July, has posted a 2.78 ERA in 32 1-3 innings with the Cubs and appears to have the stuff to hold down the closer's role.

"The whole point was that Kevin has been a success story this year," Epstein said. "He's pitched at a high level and he's proven himself. We were doing the right thing for the organization and for Pedro to give him an opportunity. I told Kevin that I believe he'd had a selfish reaction to it. It was disappointing because he's been such a good teammate all year."

Friday's loss gave the Cubs their third consecutive 90-loss season. Frustrations are sure to boil over every once in a while with so much losing. However, in nearly two seasons under Sveum, the Cubs had been nearly incident free.

Then, in the past five days, the losses seemed to finally be getting to the club with three public incidents. Sveum and Edwin Jackson had words in the dugout over Jackson being pulled after four innings on Monday. On Tuesday, Jeff Samardzija and third base coach David Bell seemed to have a disagreement about defensive positioning, once again in front of cameras in the dugout. Then on Friday, Gregg had his unfiltered moment.

But Gregg didn't feel these outpourings of emotion are necessarily a bad thing.

"I see a bunch of guys that care," Gregg said. "I've been on bad teams that didn't care. There's an emotion involved and you should be excited that there's emotion. Nobody wants to lose, everybody wants to win, everybody wants to compete. That's what causes these flare-ups at this point, when you're physically exhausted, you're mentally exhausted."

NOTES: The Braves activated OF Jason Heyward before the game. He wore a facemask attached to the right side of his batting helmet to protect the right jaw he fractured Aug. 21 when he was struck by a pitch from the Mets' Jon Niese. "I'm just really excited and happy to be back," he said. "I'm not going to be as good today as I will be in five days, but you have to start the process sometime." As planned, Heyward played just five innings, going 0 for 2 with a walk. ... The Cubs announced before the game that C Welington Castillo has partially torn meniscus in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season. He will have arthroscopic surgery, and the expected recovery time is 4 to 6 weeks. ... The series continues Saturday with Cubs LHP Travis Wood (9-11) going against RHP Kris Medlen (14-12).

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