The Wife and I went to a food truck fest last night, which made for some awesome eats, but I couldn’t help but notice that the 45 trucks in attendance were all jacked into huge generators, billowing frightening amounts of nastiness into the sky in one concentrated channel. That probably wasn’t good. But, you know what? My burrito was awesome. Worth it. ‘Murica.
- As you know, Starlin Castro was pulled from yesterday’s game after a mental lapse with the bases loaded allowed a runner to score on a pop fly to shortstop. You know how the story plays out from here: Castro (to his credit) owns up to the mistake, apologizing profusely to his team. Dale Sveum expresses frustration, openly wondering when this kind of thing is going to stop. It’s the same script for everyone involved, including the fans who are left shaking their heads.
- What’s difficult for fans and observers to reconcile is that, although each individual mistake/lapse/whatever is completely explainable and understandable … Castro keeps having them. And we keep waiting for the one that is the “a-ha” moment, where the light flicks on and we see a discernible change going forward. He’s 23, so it’s not like there isn’t plenty of time, and it’s not like those determined to give him more time are being naive. But let’s be very honest with ourselves here: if Castro were hitting this year, a mental blip like this becomes a discussion point for a day, and then is largely forgotten. Because he’s not hitting, it becomes the rallying point for those who’ve been anti-Castro for a long time already.
- Me? I am as frustrated as anyone by these kinds of mistakes, but they worry me far less than his offensive struggles this year. That’s where my focus is, and where I’d like to see him improve over the last month and a half. Whatever happens with Castro long-term (and he’s under contract for a long, long time), getting him back to the .300/.340/.425 guy who can play adequate or better shortstop should be the focus. The mental stuff … well, if he returns to being that guy, we might just have to live with it.
- From Castro to Javier Baez – a penned transition that is becoming increasingly pointed – folks were asking Dale Sveum about Baez before yesterday’s game, thanks to his increasingly ridiculous performance at AA Tennessee. My heart swooned at this comment, per Cubs.com: “[W]atching him now, it looks like [Baez] has toned down a lot of his movement and hand movement, and his leg lift is a lot slower and calmer than it was in Spring Training – and even early in the Minor League videos I watched. That’s what development and adjusting are about, that’s what you want to see – that you’re able to handle strike-to-ball sliders. I think, in this last week or so, it seems like, listening to the reports, that’s what he’s been doing. It sounds like he’s laying off a lot of stuff – [he's] a lot more calmer, a lot more under control.” Performing fantastically at AA is one thing; improving BB/K rate stuff is another; but doing those things because of swing and approach improvements? That’s tickle-you-pink material right there.
- (Carrie Muskat points out in that piece that Baez has a strong split going at AA, with a huge batting average against lefties and a weaker one against righties. It’s a very good point to make, though the particular split doesn’t really concern me. For one thing, it’s a very small sample size, and Baez didn’t have a particularly strong split in his time at Daytona earlier this year. For another thing, Baez’s BABIP against lefties at AA is .500, and just .258 against righties. I’d say there’s some flukishness informing both of those figures. For still another thing, Baez sports an .810 OPS against righties at Tennessee (.361 wOBA). That’s mighty good for a 20-year-old shortstop at AA, even ignoring how much he’s been feasting on left-handed pitching. Still, it’s something to watch.)
- From the infirmary, Brian Bogusevic (hamstring) has officially been assigned to the Iowa Cubs for his continuing rehab. He played successfully down in Arizona for a bit, and he’ll get a little time at AAA before presumably returning to the Cubs soon.
- Scott Baker, whose rehab was interrupted by rainouts and the need to recertify his injury (his 30-day rehab stint was up), will start again for Daytona today. He hasn’t had much success so far on the results side of the ledger. The Cubs would undoubtedly like to see him make at least a few starts in the bigs before the end of the year so that they can have a little more data to input into the old is-he-worth-another-prove-it-contract computer.
- Arodys Vizcaino is headed to Mesa, per Carrie Muskat, to continue his rehab. You’ll recall, Vizcaino, 22, is missing his second straight full season after Tommy John surgery and then subsequent bone spur surgery. Jason McLeod recently said in a podcast spot with Buster Olney that Vizcaino was looking very good this past Spring Training, and it sounded to me like, absent the setback, Vizcaino probably would have seen a lot of action this year – maybe even in the bigs. Bummer. As it is, he’ll continue rehabbing in Mesa in the hopes that he can pitch competitively in the Fall.