Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

hisanori takahashiA fresh podcast episode is on the way this morning. You’ll have to excuse the one-day delay, which was, surprisingly, not baby-induced. The weather system that caused everyone undue panic on Tuesday did the same for my co-host …

  • It sounds like Dale Sveum is looking at non-roster invitee Hisanori Takahashi for the bullpen as a long reliever AND a LOOGY. “If he makes the team, he can be that [long guy],” Sveum said, per the Tribune. “He’s very durable and obviously if the game dictates, he can pitch to one [batter] and get the left-hander out, or be the guy that goes two-three innings.” It would certainly be nice to have a hybrid lefty like that in the pen, though Takahashi has had his best success the last few years as a situational guy. Still, I’ve liked him for the bullpen for a while now anyway, given that James Russell is currently the only other lefty. Assuming Carlos Marmol is not traded, the Cubs are presently looking at Marmol/Fujikawa/Russell/Camp as locks in the pen, with Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon a virtual lock. That leaves two spots to be divvied up among guys like Takahashi, Michael Bowden, Zach Putnam, Rafael Dolis, and the litany of other non-roster invitees. If Matt Garza and Scott Baker were healthy enough to start the season with the big club, neither of those two spots would be available. Kind of interesting to see the trickle-down effect of the starting injuries, and how they might afford the Cubs more time to select the right pieces for the bullpen.
  • Utility superman Brent Lillibridge has been missing from game action for a little while now, and it’s apparently due to a groin strain. It sounds like he’ll be out until early next week. He’s not a lock to make the team, but his versatility is certainly valuable. Lillibridge can play all over the field.

  • Speaking of injuries, Sveum says Matt Garza (strained lat) felt very good on Tuesday. “Talking to the trainer and him [Tuesday he] was the most upbeat he’s been and the best he felt,” Sveum said, per ESPN. “Now that it is going in the right direction, hopefully by the end of the weekend we will get him out to try and toss again.” If Garza’s able to throw pain-free (and then recover normally) this weekend, I’d think we’d see him on track to return after the minimum number of days on the 15-day DL to start the season. I wouldn’t count on that, but it remains possible.
  • Starlin Castro continues to rest his hamstring, which he now says is 100%. There’s no reason for him to play a ton of Spring games anyway, so he can return casually within the next couple weeks, and he should be fine for the season.
  • Jeff Samardzija got blasted by a Rangers minor league squad yesterday in a B game. Oh noes! Except he was just working on different combinations of pitches (including intentionally elevating a fastball to a prospect who jacked it for a three-run homer … as guys often do with elevated fastballs), so there’s not much you can take from the results.

  • Among the best signals that the Cubs are still lacking for high-level impact talent in their system? Baseball America ranked the top 20 prospective rookies for 2013, and just one Cub showed up on the list: 32-year-old Japanese professional Kyuji Fujikawa. And he was ranked 20th.
  • I am not surprised to learn that Carlos Villanueva, who has already impressed with his penchant for thoughtful quotes, is on the MLBPA Executive Board as the only non-American-born member.
  • Former Cub Randy Wells, who was always harder on himself (together with the media and fans dumping on him) than the numbers suggested he should have been, has only positive thoughts for the Cubs. He’s now with the Rangers on a minor league deal, trying to win a job in their rotation. Randy’s story was one of the more interesting ones last year at this time, when he was giving just one start all Spring, and then surprisingly sent down to AAA to start the year. He never really proved the Cubs wrong, and then finished the year hurt.

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