Day one of being largely unplugged was tough. I’m having fun with the family, make no mistake. But obviously I feel awfully connected to this world (the site, the Cubs, the ‘net generally), and it’s hard to stop the constant checking. I don’t know when it happened, but I became one of “those people.” I suppose that’s why vacations like this are important. I know, I know – #FirstWorldProblems, #BloggerProblems. There are absolutely no complaint here. Just reflection.
- … not that I was terribly broken up to have missed yesterday’s game (which, ok, confession: I did check in on my phone a couple times … ), where the Cubs were shut out once again by the Dodgers. That marked two straight shutouts for the Cubs, and 23 straight scoreless innings. The Cubs outhit the Dodgers 7-2 yesterday, but didn’t to much with runners on, spoiling a very nice outing from Carlos Villanueva.
- Random note from yesterday’s game: after pitching in a situational, mostly lefty-on-lefty role for the entire month of July, James Russell pitched his second straight full inning against the Dodgers yesterday (having done it also on Friday). If you were inclined to be inquisitive, you’d wonder why the change suddenly after the Trade Deadline passed. But, even if there is some kind of relationship there, it could be less about “protecting” Russell’s stats as it was about giving other guys more work. Also, keep in mind, the Cubs were fairly competitive in July, and Russell’s 14 July appearances came in games in which the Cubs were leading, or trailed by no more than one run (except for two games). In other words, they tended to call for situational appearances. Of course, yesterday’s game was a 1-0 affair when Russell entered, and ultimately faced two righties and a lefty.
- Logan Watkins was largely the story yesterday, having been called up to make his big league debut as Luis Valbuena hit the disabled list. Watkins, 23, was the organization’s Player of the Year last year, as was added to the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft (for which he was eligible). Clearly, he’s been valued by this front office. The rub for Watkins – if he wanted to be a future starter – has been two-fold: (1) his performance this year at Iowa has been mixed, hitting just .243/.333/.379 (his BABIP – .300 – is quite a bit lower than his previous marks, which were in the .340 range); (2) if a second baseman of the future is in the upper levels of the system, it is probably now believed to be Arismendy Alcantara. So, if Watkins is going to stick in the bigs, it may have to be as a utility guy. Fortunately for Watkins, he can play all over the field, and can play the more important defensive positions reasonably well. Many folks believe he could have a long, big-league career as a complementary piece. Watkins started at second base yesterday in place of Darwin Barney yesterday, going 1-4 with a single.
- Dale Sveum suggested that Watkins won’t be playing every day, though, indicating that the start was more about giving Barney two days off (including today’s off-day).
- The Cubs are due to receive a player to be named later (or two – if they don’t choose a single player from List A, they get two players from list B), and that player, if healthy, is expected to be pitching prospect Neil Ramirez. He recently spoke to MLB.com, as recounted by Carrie Muskat here, about his shoulder issues. He’s been throwing in the bullpen while on the disabled list, and could be returning soon. The Cubs – and all of us – will be watching his performances the rest of the year quite closely.
- With Luis Valbuena out, Dale Sveum would not rule out the possibility that Junior Lake sees some time at third base this year. Having played third base before in his career, Lake came up to the Cubs to play in the outfield (where he hadn’t played, really, in his career), which he is learning rapidly. Would the Cubs really want to interrupt that progress? It’s actually not a rhetorical question, given that Lake’s future with the club might be in more of a utility role than as a starting outfielder.
- If you didn’t catch it in the Minor League Daily this morning, Smokies on the Radio has a great piece on Javier Baez’s improving approach at the plate, and the kinds of things he’s been working on at Tennessee.
- Baseball Prospectus takes a brief look at Kris Bryant, among other prospects around baseball, noting that his power has been evident so far in his minor league career, and he’s getting passing marks at third base. Long-term, he’ll have to keep his strikeout rate in check, and might ultimately offer a better fit in right field (where he could be a plus defender). After a slow-ish start, Bryant’s season line at Boise is up to .292/.352/.583, including a 1.137 OPS in his last 10 games. That’s pretty much what you were expecting he’d do at this level.
- It sounds like Alex Rodriguez is going to be suspended for the rest of this and next season by MLB today, and it also sounds like he plans to appeal – meaning he could play as soon as today. Fun times for New York and national writers, I’d expect.
- About 12 other players are expected to be suspended for their connection to the Biogenesis clinic today, as well. Most of the names have been reported, but there could be a handful of surprises. They are not presently expected to be big-time players, but that doesn’t mean their identification won’t be interesting.