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theo epstein and jed hoyerAs a last minute fill-in, I played softball last night (a doubleheader) for the first time in seven years. To my surprise, the hitting came back to me well enough – 2-4 with a walk – but defense, previously my calling card, eluded me. Since I was a fill-in, I played all over. But when I landed in left field, I was eaten alive. I’d never played out there before, either in my baseball days or earlier softball days (and in kickball, I am more of a center field guy), and I dramatically underestimated how hard it is to read the ball off the bat (especially at night and with the ball traveling through the lights). I could not have better exemplified the guy who has no idea how deep the ball has been hit, takes his first step in, and then regrets it. Twice in the same inning – both with two outs, oof – balls went over my head that a more skilled left fielder would have easily caught. It is not unfair to say that my misadventures cost us that game (we won the second game), and I have played my last inning in left field (and maybe my last softball inning if they don’t have me back). I am shamed.

  • In the wake of the Marlins’ Loria-tells-manager-what-to-do flap, folks asked Dale Sveum if the front office (which is slightly different, mind you, because Loria is the Marlins’ owner, not in the baseball operations department) tells him what to do with lineups and pitcher usage. Sveum said that, in his year-plus with the Cubs, he’s never once gotten that phone call. “We’ve had casual conversation [about philosophy], but nothing concrete,” Sveum said, per Gordon Wittenmyer. “All of us are smart enough to know how we’re going to use each guy …. I’m pretty comfortable that they trust me and my knowledge of the game and watching video …. It’s a great relationship.” The key here is that the front office guys don’t need to tell Sveum precisely how to use guys, because all fronts are on the same page about the organization’s goals. Sveum understands player value, and the front office guys understand that player performance drives that value. So, as long as Sveum is trying to put guys in the best position to succeed, then Sveum is also serving the front office goal of generating player value. Even beyond that, these guys simply have a collaborative relationship.
  • Matt Garza threw on flat ground yesterday, and reportedly felt good. He subsequently tweeted that he’d be back on May 1, which means he’ll be making his first rehab start at AA Tennessee on Wednesday (that’s May 1). From there, Dale Sveum said Garza will need either two or three more minor league starts before coming up to the Cubs. If it’s just two more starts, Garza could be back in the May 16/17/18 range, but I’d guess a total of four minor league starts is likely. That would put his return in the May 21/22/23 range. Here’s hoping.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa threw 25 pitches on flat ground yesterday, and is expected to throw 30 to 35 pitches off the mound on Monday. After that, he’ll likely need two minor league appearances (Wednesday and Friday?) before returning to the Cubs. Fujikawa went on the DL on April 13 with a forearm strain.
  • Josh Vitters (back) and Albert Almora (wrist) are in Arizona rehabbing, with Vitters playing games and Almora taking batting practice (per Arizona Phil at TCR). Vitters is essentially having his Spring Training after missing the real one with a quad injury and then subsequently injuring his back. Almora is coming back from having the hamate bone in his wrist removed following a break. He could start playing in games soon, and is expected to start his season at Kane County at some point in May.
  • Anthony Rizzo’s two homers last night gave him 8 in April, which is a Cubs record for lefties. He’s two shy of the overall club record, which is 10, set by Alfonso Soriano in 2011. If you think Rizzo doesn’t have enough time to catch Soriano, consider that he hit 4 of his 10 homers in his final three games that April.
  • Our second fantasy contest went off last night, and once again I finished middle of the pack. Nobody on my roster really hooked me up, and my CarGo/Tulo strategy didn’t score me many points. And Giancarlo Stanton did nothing for me, which, well, I suppose is a good thing. Triggerhut was your winner (Pablo Sandoval was his only player who didn’t work out), with sbrust, joe123, Wackoman1, Cubscorner, ajmills100, bryanroy91, twins414, Bretzky7, and stacy0703 rounded out the top 10. If you played in the first two contests, or even if you didn’t, stay tuned: we’ll be doing something new/different/fun in May. And we’ll probably do another one of these same contests, too. We can’t change things *too* much …
  • Internet Random

    “He subsequently tweeted that he’d be back on May 1, which means he’ll be making his first rehab start in September”.

    Fixed that for you.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Careful – he tweeted some angry things at folks who said snarky things like that on Twitter the other day.

      • Internet Random

        I’m glad to hear his dead arm isn’t affecting his twitter arm.

        • Caleb

          Haha

      • ETS

        I sympathize with Garza. I cannot imagine how frustrating this must be and that’s not even thinking about the financial impact of everything.

      • DarthHater

        “tweeted some angry things”

        Now, there’s a phrase that instils fear…

      • JulioZuleta

        Gotta be careful with the electronics. We don’t want another Carlos Zambrano-Guitar Hero fiasco.

  • @cubsfantroy

    Although I have no reason to not believe Sveum on the front office not interfering, I do have a hard time believing it. I think they have more of a say than what Sveum said.

    • Hansman1982

      I’d say that their influence is: “you want Marmol off the roster, make sure he’s closin games effectively”

    • cubmig

      Enter memories of Moneyball—–Howe vs Beane.

  • Jason P

    Unrelated to the bullets, but we might just be 4/5ths of the way to having our starting rotation fully rebuilt it we re-sign Garza. Samardzija, Garza, Jackson, and Wood all could be members of the rotation when we’re competitive, and if the number 2 pick works out, we could be done.

    A lot is said about how weak the starting pitching is in the Cubs’ system, but I don’t think it necessarily needs to be all that strong right now.

    • Brad

      Funny. Funny. ^^^^^. Please don’t resign a mediocre guy who is gonna spend half the season on the dl. I really like Garza but I’ve never been more for trading him.

    • Kyle

      I really don’t want to re-sign Garza. This is three straight years of injury problems, two of them involving the elbow.

      Pitchers are fickle, fickle creatures. Projecting a couple of them several years down the road is a fool’s game.

      We’re basically walking a tight-rope. We need all the guys in the rotation already to stay good and the No. 2 pick to pan out. If there’s any sort of attrition there, we have nothing to back it up.

      • Yoga Master

        Agree, I hope he can bring something come July.

      • Bill

        Kyle,

        Would you make a qualifying offer to Garza during the offseason? If he takes it you get to evaluate his health one more year and then maybe offer him an extension or trade him. If he doesn’t take the offer the Cubs will get a compensation pick. Nobody is going to give you a stale box of chocolates now for Garza, because of concerns over his health. It seems like making a qualifying offer to him is the only way to get anything from him.

        • Kyle

          Depends on what happens the rest of the year.

  • Andrew

    “for the really fans, not fake cub.Fans who do nothing but talk smack! Had tiny setback,everything is all good! 5/1 is my day.” is that the only tweet he has put out mentioning May 1st? seems pretty vague to me, and could just mean that is his next rehab start.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That is his rehab start.

      • Andrew

        ah ok i thought you were saying he was saying hed be back with the cubs by then

    • Alex

      For all the real pitchers…please stop tweeting and focus on pitching in a meaningful game for once.

      • macpete22

        Tell that to David Price. Not like he won the Cy young last yr or anything…

  • Timmy

    I guess with all of our misery about the Cubs’ new sub-mediocre ownership, at least we don’t have Loria. Didn’t he fire Joe Girardi simply for telling him to not embarrass him publicly? Not to mention the laundry list of the rest….

    Then again, he has brought two rings to Florida.

    • Alex S

      Mind-boggling isn’t it?

  • cubzforlife

    Sub mediocre? Really?

    • Timmy

      yes, and yes.

  • Die hard

    Cubs are turning the corner and should play .475-.525 ball rest of season ending up 75-87 or better and that will be a successful season

    • JBarnes

      2 wins against the Marlins is turning it around? At this point I’d be happy with 65 wins…the offense is a joke with Rizzo doing his best Mark Reynolds impersonation. I think you’re assuming this is the team that will be here in August/September, gonna be a lot of trades midseason to make this team even worse. IMO 75 is a little high.

      • Die hard

        I am trying real hard to turn over a new leaf and be more positive than negative— am on the 12 step plan — so comments like yours are to be ignored

        • JBarnes

          Ignore it if you want but there’s a difference between being negative and being realistic. I’m not sure how you look at this team now and what it will more than likely be at the end of the season and say 75 wins. A lot can change for the better or worse but I just don’t see it.

      • Jp3

        Or Rob Deer impression….ewwww…at least rob could teach him (Rizzo) how to take a walk as well and not just the K/HR part.

  • Stu

    Meanwhile, Brett Jackson is still striking out at an alarming rate. When does his new approach take effect?

    • Jason P

      Definitely would be nice to see the K’s drop. Yesterday was his first game back from a minor injury, but still… his stock’s going to plummet by midseason if he can’t turn it around. It’s a shame, because he’s a perfect prospect for the new Cubs’ philosophy otherwise. He plays good defense, works counts, and has some pop. It’s gonna all be wasted if he can’t limit the K’s and hit at least .240

  • Fastball

    It doesn’t,.!, He never plays ML ball for this team. He is and was overrated. He won’t even be a 4th OF’er. It’s an easy prediction. He can’t hit. He is the epitome of Kid K.
    It’s okay 90% don’t make it to AAA. He has had a nice little Milb career he can tell his kids and grand kids about some day. He will have a nice career in something other than baseball. He has a degree from Cal. He will do just fine. He cant hit that’s all there is to it.

    • BT

      Well, i guess that’s that then.

    • willis

      I’m fearing that this will ultimately be the case. I’ve been on this guy’s bandwagon for years, getting to watch him grow up a lot in the minors between AA and AAA…I’ve always loved what I’ve seen, but it has just fallen into a hell pit of disgust. It’s a shame really. I thought he would be the guy manning CF for the Cubs for awhile.

  • Kenster

    looked back on some of last years bullets and what A difference one year can make.. talking about If Samardzija will make the rotation, Sam Zell, John Grabow and If Chris Volstad will do well… Yeesh It doesnT look like much by the record but the Cubs sure are In A far better position now than before. So to anyone who complains about the Cubs sucking just take A look At last year

    • Cyranojoe

      Bizarro capitalization, but I agree with your sentiment. Kinda needed the reminder, too, so thanks.

      • Kenster

        Ha ya my phone Is funky like that It always capitalizes the first letter

  • Stu

    Cubs are definitely better than last year. The only problem that I have with the prospect route is that too few actually make it. Also, most teams have the staff now to properly analyze the right baseball metrics to find the overlooked good players.

    The only thing left is to pay the right players when they become available. Until the Cubs do that, they won’t be a top team.

    • MIkeL

      They won’t be a team completely made up of home grown talent. They will trade a few of their promising prospects for proven major league talent before the prospects even make it to the majors.

  • MightyBear

    Hey Brett, maybe you can get Soriano to give you some tips on how to play left field. LOL

  • Troy

    Jonathon Gray just threw 1st inning against Texas Tech 3 batters 3 strike outs with his last pitch on the gun 101mph

  • DocPeterWimsey

    tut tut, Brett. It was not that you couldn’t judge the ball. It’s that you are lazy and silly, and thus took inefficient routes to the ball and were not focusing properly.

    Actually, the differences apply even among outfield positions. I was much better at CF than LF or (especially) right: yes, the hooks gave me better depth perception, but the ball frequently went 3-4 feet further to the right or left than I expected. That’s a lot!

    • MightyBear

      Yes Doc but that was when Abner Doubleday was still laying out the rules of the game so you are excused.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        True story: I drilled Doubleday in the head when he was going to a “twofer” (as we called doubles back then). Goofball woke up thinking that he invented the game.

        OK, that might not be true.

    • Can’t think of a cool name

      Brett has no belly fire or TWTW.

      • MichiganGoat

        Because of his height he does have a decent sCRAP+ value

  • CubsFaninMS

    As a Cubs fans and with after another poor start to the year, many of us are immediately looking towards the future. Consider this, though… our future “ideal” starting five for 2016 or 2017… could they do any better than our starting staff is doing now? Our starting pitching, according to Fangraphs.com, has a current ERA of 3.02. This is good for third in the Majors. In comparison, the Astros’ ERA is more than doubled at 6.22. And honestly, if you look at it, it is not optimistic to believe our starting pitching will be in the top 10 in the Majors this year. Although Wood and Villanueva are pitching better than their history indicates, we have the possibility of Garza and Baker returning. Obviously I’m ignoring the three obvious gorillas in the room (lack of offense, poor bullpen, poor defense) but at least one aspect of our team is clearly upper caliber. Just a hunch but I believe Samardzija will do something really special this year. Very few MLB starters can mow down 13 hitters in 5 innings. That’s simply unheard of. If he wouldn’t have fallen apart in the 5th, 20 strike outs was easily obtainable with the pace he was going on. Verlander or Scherzer have yet to do that. Verlander’s record is 14 in one game, Scherzer’s 15. If Samardzija can stay focused, we have a special talent on our hands.

  • willis

    Here’s something encouraging…Pierce Johnson had another very good outing last night with 5.2 pitched and 0 ER. Wonder how fast of a track he’ll be on if he can stay healthy? I can’t imagine he’s in Low A for too long at his age.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      He’ll need to string a couple more solid starts together before he’s a serious candidate to move up, I think, but I really don’t see him finishing the season in Kane County.

      And an AFL assignment would not surprise me in the least.

      • willis

        I agree. if he does put together a solid May, I think he makes the jump at that point.

    • Kyle

      I don’t see him moving up until very late in the season.

      The quick promotions people are looking for just aren’t a thing with this front office.

  • mudge

    tw tw has 6 to 8 syllables depending on your politics. it’s not an abbreviation.

    • Can’t think of a cool name

      Your point is?

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