Many Cubs lingered in front of their lockers after their latest dreadful defeat, an 11-2 stinker to the Cardinals.
Players usually clear out of the clubhouse quickly after losses, but most Cubs sat around Tuesday afternoon in a daze. Some were clutching bottles of beer as they pondered how a spring of high hopes had disintegrated into a six-game losing streak and 13-24 record.
Manager Don Baylor had just aired them out in a 10-minute session for players and coaches only. It was the second oral lashing they had sustained in as many days.
Kerry Wood laced into his team Monday night for "playing like we're already out of it. We're dead. We're flat."
They looked just as flat again Tuesday. Baylor had plenty of material after watching his team give up 17 hits while failing to score more than four runs for the sixth straight game.
"I had a lot of things to say," Baylor said. "I wanted it directed to the guys in the clubhouse. [My demeanor] wasn't calm. They understood the way I felt."
No players spoke up at the meeting. And none were invited to speak.
Baylor said he was "shocked" by how poorly his team has played. Is it a lack of effort, focus, what?
"There's a long laundry list," he said. "And you're probably not wrong on any of them."
Instead of promoting future ace Mark Prior from the minors, the Cubs sent Juan Cruz to the mound Tuesday in hopes that he could win his first game against a Cardinals lineup that feasts on right-handed pitching.
The decision backfired, though, as Cruz became the first Cubs starter to begin a season 0-7 since Mike Morgan in 1994. No Cubs starter dating back to 1900 has lost his first eight decisions.
"He can't continue that way," Baylor said. "To be 0-7 to start the season, most veteran guys could probably get through it. He'll probably say he's not thinking about that. But when you're young and have no history behind you, you have to be."
The 23-year-old Cruz said simply: "I'm trying to get my first win, but it seems impossible for me. I don't know what's happened."
Prior will start Friday for Triple-A Iowa and could make his major-league debut May 22 against Pittsburgh. But the Cubs might need Cruz to take the ball one more time in a May 21 doubleheader against Pittsburgh.
"We'll sit down and evaluate where we stand," Baylor said.
An even greater concern is the offense, which ranks as the third worst in the National League. Newcomer Bobby Hill scored both runs Tuesday after his bloop double in the first inning and leadoff single in the eighth.
Baylor benched Fred McGriff and his .213 average in favor of Mark Bellhorn, who reached base twice.
Since the Cubs' last home run, a solo shot by Sammy Sosa on Thursday, the Cubs have surrendered 10 homers.
"It's exasperating to watch what's going on," hitting coach Jeff Pentland said. "I'm more or less dumbfounded by what I see. But we'll keep going after it."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times