Vacation is coming to a close, and I should be back later today. You can expect normal posting/coverage to resume tonight/tomorrow morning. Vacation was certainly awesome and welcomed, but I’m ready to be back – I missed this place.
- The Cubs have a chance to sweep the Cardinals in St. Louis today, the kind of clause you’d not expect to see in any year after 2008 – at least not until the Cubs are consistently good again (though, yes, the Cubs did it back in 2010, too). The Cubs came back last night to beat the Cardinals 5-4 thanks to timely hits from Darwin Barney and Dioner “Kirk Gibson” Navarro (who legged out a double on his surprisingly not-so-gimpy ankle).
- The Cardinals had called up Michael Wacha to fill in for Adam Wainwright so that the latter could face the Pirates this week instead of the Cubs. I want to be able to say things like, “wrong decision, jerks!” But I can’t. Wacha allowed just two earned runs, though he lasted only five innings. If it’s Wainwright, maybe the Cardinals win, but it’s not like Wacha was absolutely blasted. Still, I enjoy the fact that the Cubs won a game the Cardinals were trying to steal.
- Junior Lake had another good game with a couple hits and a walk, and Kevin Gregg notched his 25th save. Pedro Strop was great once again out of the pen, and has almost certainly solidified himself in the Cubs’ collective mind as a late-inning option for 2014. Hopefully he maintains the kind of command and control he’s shown with the Cubs. Blake Parker also threw a scoreless, two-strikeout frame. Absent a nosedive in the next month, he’ll enter 2014 with a bullpen job to lose, too.
- The big star last night, however, was Welington Castillo, who had just one at bat. He homered in that at bat, and then walked twice, hit a sacrifice fly, and got hit by a pitch in his other four plate appearances. Dale Sveum was all about Castillo after the game, telling Patrick Mooney, “He’s proven to everyone that he’s a frontline defensive catcher. His mechanics allow him to be a good hitter and you’re starting to see that develop. We throw a lot at that kid and he’s come a long way calling games. There ain’t nobody better blocking the ball. We know he can throw. There’s no question he’s a frontline catcher.” After last night’s game, Castillo’s line is up to .278/.359/.381 with a .329 wOBA. You’d gladly take that from a solid defensive catcher (especially a cost-controlled one). The only concern I see is that .355 BABIP, which is probably not reflective of where Castillo will be long-term. If not, you’d like to see the walk rate tick up just a bit from its current 8% range, and you’d definitely want to see the Isolated Power (.103) come way up. Then you could see a .260/.350/.400 guy with sustainable peripherals – that’s a borderline All-Star line if it’s attached to a good defensive catcher.
- Cubs color man Jim Deshaies (JD) wrote some random musings, including this gem: “Is Dioner Navarro the first player in history to be carted off the field and not go on the disabled list? #Mandelbaum.”
- Pitching prospect CJ Edwards had a short outing yesterday, partly because he’d thrown 17 pitches just a couple days earlier (rain delay), and partly because he walked four in his 3.2 innings. That, and him giving up his first career homer, was the bad news. The good news is that he struck out eight in those 3.2 innings. Know how many outs you record in 3.2 innings?
Eight. Edit: Er, ok, it’s 11. Hooray math! Still, impressive.
- Apropos of yesterday’s discussion of the Arizona Fall League’s roster rules, Arizona Phil at TCR has a complete take on the rules. They conflict in many ways with the rules listed on the AFL’s own site, but when it comes to minor league stuff emanating out of Arizona, there’s no one I trust more than Arizona Phil – even over the league’s own page. So, the AFL rules have changed a bit in recent years, with teams sending seven players (not six), two of whom can be from High-A or lower (not one; and the date by which your level is determined for AFL purposes is August 15, not August 1). In fact, that latter rule actually looks like it’s two players from High-A *and* two players from below High-A. That would be a significant departure from what we’ve seen in the past, where the AFL was almost exclusively AAA and AA players. You can (and should) read Phil’s piece on your own to divine meaning, and to see his other thoughts on the AFL.
- The Cubs sent JC Boscan back to Iowa yesterday, now that they know Dioner Navarro is OK. In Boscan’s place, the Cubs called up outfielder Darnell McDonald (not Dave Sappelt). McDonald is a 34-year-old journeyman, so he probably doesn’t have much of a future with the Cubs (which might tell us a lot about the plans for Sappelt). To open up a 40-man spot for McDonald, the Cubs moved Thomas Neal (we hardly knew ya) to the 60-day disabled list with his shoulder injury. Absent a minor league deal to return next year, that may have ended Neal’s brief time with the Cubs.