Slider command eludes Brothers

Maddon cautious with relievers during games

MESA, Ariz. -- Rex Brothers was charged with four wild pitches in one inning on Sunday. The good news for him is that it's early March.

"He was having a hard time with his command," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Monday. "I know that was part of his issue last year also. He's got great stuff. I don't know if the [radar] gun was right, but he hit 97 [mph] one time yesterday, a bunch of 93s. His slider, when he commands it, it's an outstanding Major League out pitch. It's early and you have to be patient with these things. I'm sure he'll regroup."

Brothers said even though his slider was just coming up short, he felt good. One of the things the Cubs are hoping is that Brothers can regain his form from 2013, when he totaled 19 saves and a 1.74 ERA for the Rockies.

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"I often think when a guy struggles, it's more about what he's thinking and a mental adjustment as opposed to a physical or mechanical adjustment," Maddon said. "He just needs to regroup a little bit and understand the pre-pitch preparation -- what am I trying to do with each pitch? Those are the kind of things that are more important to me than, is my foot in the right place? Is my tempo good? Is my arm up high enough?

"I'd rather at this time have him focus on the glove itself and execute and make pitches," Maddon said. "That's the kind of thinking that will get him through all of this."

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Worth noting

• In his first spring appearance, Cubs closer Hector Rondon retired the Royals in order in the fifth inning on Monday. Maddon wants to be careful on how many appearances Rondon, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm have this spring.

"The big thing would be to not abuse or over-use any of them, especially early," Maddon said. "Strop is the guy who has really carried the burden appearance-wise the last couple of years and I have to be cognizant of that. The other parts of the bullpen will be pretty effective, too."

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That would include lefty Clayton Richard, who struck out four of the six batters he faced in relief on Monday.

John Mallee sports a bandage after being hit by a foul ball.Getty Images

• Cubs hitting coach John Mallee had to leave Monday's game at Sloan Park after being struck by a foul ball off Eric Hosmer's bat in the first inning. Mallee was sitting with the other coaches on the field near the dugout when he was struck on the left forearm. He tried to stay where he was, but the club's athletic trainer insisted Mallee get examined.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.