cactusThe Cubs dropped one under the lights to the Padres at Cubs Park last night.

  • Carlos Villanueva had possibly his final opportunity to make an impression before the fifth starter job is decided, and he was just so-so: 4 IP, 3 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 3 K. One Spring start isn’t going to decide things in the battle with Chris Rusin, especially given Villanueva’s already well-established track record. That said, Rusin has beenĀ so good lately, and putting Villanueva in the pen doesn’t cost anyone their 40-man spot (just costs them a (possibly temporary) demotion to AAA to start the year). It’s a tough decision. On the balance, I’m still probably going with Villanueva if it’s me, but I don’t think there’s a wrong decision here.
  • Speaking of possibly temporary demotions to AAA, Justin Grimm is one of those guys on the bullpen bubble, and he had another crummy outing, in terms of results: 1.1 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 0 K. Spring Training is just Spring Training, but Grimm’s overall numbers are really disconcerting: 8.59 ERA in 7.1 IP, 14 H, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 3 K. Grimm’s is an interesting story, because we know he’s been a starter most of his career, and we know he’s been working on his pitch mix lately (maybe even this Spring, too). I can think of reasons why his results this Spring might be down that have nothing to do with how he’d actually perform in-season if he got the call. That said, I still think there’s middle-of-the-rotation upside there if he’s just given time to develop his secondary offerings a little bit more at AAA. I’m not sure if the Cubs are committed to him in the pen at this point, but his Spring performance has certainly given the Cubs an excuse to see what he can do back in the rotation at Iowa. As a starter, Grimm probably has more upside than any starting pitcher the Cubs have at the AAA level (it’s just a question of whether he can reach that upside, obviously).
  • Neil Ramirez and Brian Schlitter were already cut, but each struck out the side in his scoreless inning of work. That was kind of an interesting contrast.
  • Jose Veras got knocked around in his inning of work, and hopefully the Cubs’ closer is just showing us how meaningless Spring Training is for established guys.
  • Offensively, the Cubs didn’t really do anything worth noting here. Emilio Bonifacio had a triple. There you go.
  • abe

    That what happens when Beaz isn’t in the lineup..

    • jp3

      And OLT!!! BOLT (Baez and Olt)to the rescue!

  • Spoda17

    Grimm more upside than Hendricks..?

    • ssckelley

      Yes, Grimm has better stuff than Hendricks but he has been hit hard so far this spring. I think Grimm could benefit from starting the year in AAA with a possible call up either after the TDL or September. I think the Rangers screwed this guy up by calling him up last year and putting him out there before he was ready.

      • MightyBear

        Disagree. I don’t think he has more upside than Hendricks or Jokish. He has a problem that neither of the previously mentioned pitchers have. Command issues. If he hasn’t mastered that by now, it’s unlikely he does. He ends up in the pen. I’m not certain the other two do.

        • Brett

          When we talk about upside, though, we’re talking about a guy maxing out all of his physical abilities. Hendricks and Jokisch have great command that will take them far (relatively speaking), but they don’t have the “stuff” to have the same upside as other guys. That doesn’t mean they’re not more likely to be better pros – they might be. But that’s a separate issue.

    • J. L.

      Definitely. I’m not sure he has more upside than Neil Ramirez, though.

      • Edwin

        Neil Ramirez is my irrational breakout candidate.

  • CubFanBob

    Wonder what veras’s sp stats were last year

    • ssckelley

      Much better, from the stats I can see in my MLB app Veras had 7.2 innings, 12 SO, with a 4.70 ERA last spring.

  • Illini Cubbie Fan

    Just got my wisdom teeth out yesterday afternoon and am going to be spending a lot of time on the couch today. Any chance another 10,000 word piece is coming out today, Brett?

    • Brett

      Ha, sorry to hear about your convalescence – but, no, alas that’s once in a blue moon kind of thing.

      Here’s a good one from a couple years ago, if you haven’t already read it, though:

      • Jim

        Night and day different articles, mind you. Both each excellent, in their own right.

        • Brett

          Thanks, and yes – very different types of pieces.

      • Illini Cubbie Fan

        This hits pretty close to home as I am currently a Junior on spring break (Unfortunately the wisdom teeth took priority over my fraternity’s trip to South Padre) who has a growing obsession with the Chicago Cubs. I also have a genuine worry that my lifelong Cub fan father will never get to witness a World Series (He promised me a few years ago that we will get matching Cub World Series tattoos if it ever happens. If you knew how conservative he was, you would understand how huge of deal of this promise is).

        I’m curious, do think that the ONLY way that Steve Bartman will ever show his face at Wrigley again is if the Cubs win the World Series? I was literally only in 5th grade during that historic/unfortunate game 6…..

        Excellent piece and thanks for sharing.

  • Edwin

    Well, Wood had a pretty crummy spring his first time with the Cubs, and he’s turned out ok. So maybe some time in AAA could do Grimm some good.

  • willis

    Maybe Grimm is having trouble adjusting to this approach to ST compared to years past (being in a reliever only role vs being a starting pitcher) and that plus working on some pitches is causing his struggles? I expected more and do think that if he can commit himself to the pen, he’s got the stuff to be fairly good in that role. But this hasn’t gone well for him and he’s ticketed for AAA. Will be interested to see if they let him go back to starting or maybe but him in a back end of the bullpen role while there.

  • woody

    It’s obvious that Rusin deserves the 5th starter job over Villanueva. But this FO might not want him taking up a roster spot since they can conveniently stash him at AAA. And if they do that then shame on them. And I would like to see Arrietta get a few rehab starts under his belt before he gets his slot in the rotation. Maybe at Tenneesee where it isn’t so cold. I think Rusin has the best chance of picking up a win during the early part of the season.