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phillies logoThere are quite a few angles to this series, which is nice, because in the last few years, that hasn’t always been the case. It’s the home opener. It’s the return to Wrigley Field of Ryne Sandberg as the Phillies’ full-time manager. It’s an opportunity for the Cubs to grab just the tiniest bit of momentum in the early going. And it’s a beatable team.

The Series Preview gives you the rundown on what you need to know for the upcoming series. In that way, it’s kind of a preview. About a series. See how that works?

We’re Going Streaking

The Cubs dropped two of three in Pittsburgh, all one-run games, but won on getaway day.

The Phillies also dropped two of three in their opening series against the Rangers, with their two losses coming the last two games. It’s obviously a bit early in the year for any kind of real streak, but maybe the Cubs can extend this one just a little bit.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, April 4 at 1:20 CT on WGN, MLBN.
  • Saturday, April 5 at 1:20 CT on CSN.
  • Sunday, April 6 at 1:20 CT on WGN.

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Cubs

Starters: Travis Wood (-), Jeff Samardzija (0.00 ERA, 3.12 FIP), Carlos Villanueva (13.50 ERA, 11.37 FIP)

Lineup (it’s a mess trying to lay this out right now, until clear platoons develop):

  1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF/2B
  2. Junior Lake, LF (or Luis Valbuena, when he’s in there)
  3. Starlin Castro, SS
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B (or Justin Ruggiano, when he’s in there)
  5. Mike Olt, 3B
  6. Nate Schierholtz, RF
  7. Welington Castillo, C
  8. Darwin Barney, 2B
  9. Pitcher

Phillies

Starters: Roberto Hernandez (-), Cliff Lee (14.40 ERA, 5.92 FIP), A.J. Burnett (1.50, ERA, 3.62 FIP)

Lineup:

  1. Ben Revere, CF
  2. Jimmy Rollins, SS
  3. Chase Utley, 2B
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd, RF
  6. Carlos Ruiz, C
  7. Domonic Brown, LF
  8. Cody Asche, 3B
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

I could begin and end this section with Emilio Bonifacio, and it would totally be legit. He’s hitting .688/.706/.813 through three games, and playing pretty decent defense at multiple positions, too. He won’t quite keep this up, but he could literally do half as well and be an All-Star. He probably won’t do that, either. Just enjoy the ride while he’s riding.

Next best line on the team through three games? It’s Luis Valbuena at .429/.600/.429. If he keeps hitting, Ricky Renteria will have to keep finding a spot for his bat, even if it comes at the expense of a Mike Olt start here and there.

Speaking of Olt, he and Anthony Rizzo are the only two other guys on the entire roster with a wRC+ above 100 (i.e., above average). The team line right now is a woeful .222/.295/.294. The Pirates have some good pitchers, but it was a slog, man.

It’s just three innings, but Pedro Strop has walked no one and struck out three, and he was pretty much untouchable in Pittsburgh. Hopefully that continues.

Phillies third baseman Cody Asche has gotten off to a hot start, with a .500/.556/1.000 line over his first 9 plate appearances.

For all of the pronouncements of his early demise, Ryan Howard is a very warm .308/.357/.615 to start the year, but, hey, there’s plenty of time.

In fact, the Phillies as a whole are hitting .306/.364/.468. Of course, a series in Arlington, with a DH, against a decimated Rangers pitching staff will do that for you.

  • willis

    No Olt or Lake today, but Barney (and his awesome bat) is in the lineup…pretty weak lineup for opening day. Lake and Olt are the two most exciting bats on this team because all fans are wondering if they can make it, if they can be a part of this rebuild. I really hop RR doesn’t do a strict platoon with them all season. And if he does, every once in awhile he let’s one of them play and moves Valbuena to 2nd. I understand here and there going LH heavy, but this lineup is 5-3 LH v RH and in the end, you have to let these two sink or swim.

    • CubFan Paul

      Yeah, I don’t understand why Barney is in there today

      • willis

        I don’t either. If you’re going to sit bats that actually have some pop because of a LH/RH thing, then why does a guy who can’t hit get to play as well?

        But I really hope this is just early season overthinking/managing and that he gives Lake and Olt plenty of run consistently. This one in, one out, one in, one out, isn’t going to show us, and more importantly the organization, whether or not these two can be solid major league players. The Cubs have a great opportunity with two young, talented players here. Giving them 50% of the time isn’t helping anyone.

        • KHRSS

          Agree.

        • Thiscantbegood

          Well the thing is tomorrow they are playing Cliff Lee so we will all see a heavy RH lineup. Also Valbuena is off to a hot start which has carried over from spring training. But RR could have played Valbuena at 2nd and Olt at 3rd. Barney is just straight up garbage. He needs to be traded for a washing machine. *Semi-pro reference.

    • JCubs79

      RR is still tinkering with the lineup. Were 3 games into the season. Relax. Things will sort themselves out.

      • KHRSS

        What is there to tinker? We know that Barney can’t hit and we also know the Cubs need to see what they have in Olt and Lake.

  • ssckelley

    It is too bad Veras blew that save the other day, hurts his value and obviously the Cubs lost the game. I would love to see the Cubs trade Veras and use Strop or Rondon as the closer.

  • cooter

    I don’t know Brett. Maybe I’m too optamitic, but after watching the game yesterday I don’t think the cubs are all that bad. If a few guys shine this year ya never know what’s going to happen.

    • CubFan Paul

      75 wins

      • cooter

        Notice I held my tongue on the playoff contender. I don’t want to get jumped this early in the morning. hahaha

      • C. Steadman

        I would take 75 wins this year

        • CubFan Paul

          I won’t less, maybe even 100 losses. It’s a lost year, so we might as well root for another Kris Bryant from the June 2015 Draft

          • C. Steadman

            But if we get less wins that means all the young guys had another bad year…the previous two years we had bad records mainly due to midseason selloff and poor performance, but I don’t think this year’s sale will be as hefty as last year’s so if we have 60 some wins it means a lot of our young core had bad years. We are starting to churn out some good prospects that were developed not just drafted high so i think we can afford to have a lower draft pick in 2015 because that means our young lineup took a step forward.

            • CubFan Paul

              “But if we get less wins that means all the young guys had another bad year”

              Or they could all perform nicely & development to plan, but still lose 100 games because of a lack if pitching and mid season sell off

              • Jason P

                If Olt, Castro, Rizzo, Castillo, and Baez/Alcantara later in the year develop, they probably won’t lose 100 games.

                • CubFan Paul

                  As long as they lose 90

                  • C. Steadman

                    72-90 could be a possibility even with the young guns taking a step forward

                    • C. Steadman

                      But I’m not hoping for 90 like you are, I want them to win as much as possible because the more wins means the better performance out of the young guys…rooting for the Cubs to lose is not in my blood.

                • Funn Dave

                  We don’t care how well our pitching staff develops? Just the hitters?

              • C. Steadman

                Yeah, there’s no way they lose 100 games if all the young guns on offense have a year they’re expected to have or better. The only expected selloff of the rotation I see is Shark(extention still a low possibility as well), Hammel and a low possibility of E-Jax. Otherwise, I see Jackson, Wood, Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, (any one of Ramirez, Rusin, Jokisch, Wada, Cabrera) as the post trade rotation.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Happy may be going Lefty heavy today as we see LHP tomorrow.

  • cub4life

    Brett, Luke,

    A little off topic but I noticed that Alberto Cabrera was outrighted to Iowa, who do you think they well send down to Ten?

    • Jason P

      No one important or no one at all. They could always release a minor league veteran.

  • Dustin S

    Not super excited about today’s lineup either. Castro is key, it seems like every time they had something going he was up and hit a lazy fly ball. I know RR has to let it ride with him to a big degree though. Even with missing most of spring training he just looks so lost at the plate. We’ll know he’s back when we start seeing his liners up the middle again. He still might need an Iowa stint to shake him up mentally though before it’s all said and done.

    My hope with Barney is that the semi-benching lights a fire and gets him going. At times he’s shown more when he was pushed.

    • Spriggs

      Lighting a fire under Barney isn’t going to make him good.

  • C. Steadman

    Travis Wood is my favorite Cub. I haven’t really had a favorite since A-Ram, but he instantly became my favorite when he grand slammed his way to a W against the Sox. He won the game for himself with the bat twice last year, he’s the only thing kinda keeping me on the pro non-DH for NL…Vogs is tugging the pro-DH side.

    • http://BN Sacko

      He can Pinch Hit if there is DH.

      • C. Steadman

        But we won’t pinch hit if there is a DH. AL teams don’t pinch hit pitchers, the only reason you see it in the NL is because the manager is running out of available position players on the bench because he’s already pinch hit multiple times before that.

        • http://BN Sacko

          I know I just meant it’s not a total unexpected move.
          He really does bat well and is a great athlete and could be used to save the bench for awhile until a better opportunity for a regular Phitter.

  • Jon

    Don’t like Happy’s obsession with Barney

    • willis

      I don’t either. I’m hoping they are just trying to catch early season lightening in a bottle with him so they can interest a team enough to give them something for him.

    • gocatsgo2003

      “Obsession”? Really? Seems to me more like “will be part of a platoon that is still to be determined and, in any event, is a likely candidate to be double-switched out of a game if Valbuena and/or Bonifacio are playing that day.”

      • Jon

        For better or worse, we need to find out what we have in Olt. I get sitting him now and then against tougher righties, but he should be in the lineup today.

        • willis

          I concur. And it’s not like those of us questioning this are saying Olt is Mr. Awesome or anything. But this team needs to know what he is. Same with Lake.

        • gocatsgo2003

          Dude… we are in game 4 out of 162 with Olt starting two of the first three games with a PH appearance in the game he did not start.

          If it becomes clear that Olt is getting the Logan Watkins treatment over time, then I get the uproar… right now? Nope. Not even close.

          • Jon

            Yeah, and that’s a pace of 80 games 300 AB season. I don’t like the trend. Especially when Olt done nothing yet to lose his job.

            (I’m arguing that Barney should get bumped for Olt, not Valubenua)

            • C. Steadman

              There is no trend yet…It’s been one series, heck Bonifacio is on pace for 594 hits then…way too early to talk about trends after three games with a new manager. If it was Sveum, then be worried but we don’t know Renteria’s strategy/lineups just yet.

            • willis

              Yeah I have no problem with Valbuena being in the lineup. But playing Barney over Olt? Ick.

              • Jon

                If Olt was a poor defender, you could argue it, but by all accounts, and he’s nothing to disprove this so far, Olt is a plus defender at his position. So give me the right handed infielder, with good D, than can actually hit a baseball.

                • Kyle

                  It’s early, but Olt hasn’t actually done a lot to show he can actually hit a baseball.

                  Nine whiffs on 18 swings would make Brett Jackson blush.

                  • C. Steadman

                    I’m agreeing with Kyle, also a cold, rainy April day against a sinker baller righty doesn’t spell the right conditions for an Olt start.

          • Jon

            And comparing Watkins to Olt is silly. Watkins was never considered a serious prospect or to have any potential impact to the team.

            • gocatsgo2003

              I didn’t say he was the same caliber of prospect; by “Logan Watkins Treatment” I meant sitting on the bench day after day for seemingly no reason. In this case, the reasons aren’t all that difficult: i) It’s early in the year and the platoons are still developing and ii) Olt likely has some adjustments to make to playing full-time in MLB.

              • Jon

                Adjustments and executing on those adjustments are made by playing. Not sitting on the bench.

        • Sandberg

          Remember, Olt may still be dealing with some shoulder soreness.

          • CubFan Paul

            That’s what Aleve is for. He’s a paid professional.

            • Sandberg

              hah good one

            • gocatsgo2003

              … with a long-term interest in the health of his shoulder (and the rest of his body), because failing health could literally cost him millions of dollars in future earnings potential.

  • C. Steadman

    Look I understand why losing more games the previous years were better than winning 80 games and missing the playoffs. It helped build our farm system up quickly which was a must need. And it’s a good argument to not spend on highly priced free agents. But this year, with a young roster that many of these guys can be part of the future, I don’t see the benefit. We already have a well built farm system so don’t need a high pick. And if we lose 60 some games with a roster built with a lot of our young players and expecting players to come up sometime during the year was well means that a lot of these guys had bad years. This year I don’t give a crap about the 2015 draft position, because seeing Olt, Castro, Rizzo, Shark, Wood, Castillo, Lake, and others that could potentially be the future having a bad year isn’t worth the pick we get in the high pick. Much rather pick in the middle in 2015 because it means these guys had good years which is worth more than a high pick.

    • C. Steadman

      “get in the high pick”

      in the 2015 draft it should read….end rant

      • CubFan Paul

        “And if we lose 60 some games with a roster built with a lot of our young players and expecting players to come up sometime during the year was well means that a lot of these guys had bad years”

        Whose projection models are you using?

        • C. Steadman

          I meant win 60 some….nice catch haha

          • CubFan Paul

            “And if we lose *100 some games with a roster built with a lot of our young players and expecting players to come up sometime during the year was well means that a lot of these guys had bad years”

            Whose projection models are you using?

            • C. Steadman

              I’m not using a projection model. I’m using common sense, if Castro, Rizzo and all the young guns take a step forward then we won’t lose 100 some games.

              • CubFan Paul

                You answered what I wanted to hear above

                ’72-90 could be a possibility even with the young guns taking a step forward’

                That’s all I was saying.

                ‘rooting for the Cubs to lose is not in my blood’

                eh, not lost per say, but we’re rebuilding and 72-90 is a lot better than 82-80

                • C. Steadman

                  If we win 82-80 with the current roster we have, then a ton of players took massive steps forward. So I wouldn’t say 72-90 is better than 82-80. We don’t need extremely high draft picks anymore(if the Cubs scouting department is good as they should be) because we have a good minor league system. Heck most of our Top 20 were acquired through trades and IFA’s.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    “82-80…then a ton of players took massive steps forward”

                    Not necessarily. Good players doesn’t mean more wins

                    “We don’t need extremely high draft picks anymore”

                    When you build a non-contending team, you’re aiming for extremely high draft picks.

                    • Funn Dave

                      Good players don’t lead to more wins? Um…ok….

                    • C. Steadman

                      If the current Cubs win 82 games then a lot of players took positive steps forward. I’d rather see current players take steps forward than get an extremely high draft pick and the bonus pool that comes with. To me, there’s more value in that now.

                    • gocatsgo2003

                      But we can do both — the players who are part of the long-term plan can take a step forward, but not win many games due to trades, injuries, underperformance of others around them, etc.

                    • C. Steadman

                      Yeah, that was the previous two years. This year’s roster has a lot of players that could be part of the future along with Baez, Alcantara, and others that will be called up this year.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “players took positive steps forward. I’d rather see current players take steps forward than get an extremely high draft pick”

                      Players improving or not taking a step back doesn’t always correlate in the W/L column.

                      Rizzo, Castro, Welly, & whoever could take positive player development steps forward and they could still only win 59 to 72 games, because that’s the way the roster was constructed.

                    • C. Steadman

                      “Players improving or not taking a step back doesn’t always correlate in the W/L column.”

                      It will this year because there’s a lot of youth on this team and coming up. If we only win 59 games, a lot of players did bad which means negative player development.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “If we only win 59 games, a lot of players did bad which means negative player development.”

                      Not necessarily. It’s not that black & white.

                    • Funn Dave

                      “Players improving or not taking a step back doesn’t always correlate in the W/L column.”

                      Not *always,* no, but nine times out of ten it does. If Castro and Rizzo had taken steps forward last year, we would have won more games. They took steps back, instead, so we lost a lot of games. Where are you getting the notion that the team’s talent level does not correlate to the team’s win totals? Sure there is some variance when you account for RISP #s, etc., but come on.

                    • C. Steadman

                      “Not necessarily. It’s not that black & white.”

                      You really think 59 wins and the individual performances that come with it will be good for player development? You are overvaluing a high draft pick in 2015 over the current club and its development. And good points by Dave.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “Where are you getting the notion that the team’s talent level does not correlate to the team’s win totals?”

                      The Angels finished 78-84

                      The Jays 74-88

                      The Giants 76-86

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “You really think 59 wins and the individual performances that come with it will be good for player development?”

                      …losing 59 games doesn’t mean everyone stunk or took a step back (Jose Altuve is still awesome and alive)

                    • Funn Dave

                      Paul, you’re looking at really specific, unlikely scenarios and expecting them to play out as such for the Cubs. If our players play well, chances are we will win some games. If our players play poorly, chances are we will not win many games. You can’t expect our “core” guys to all hit .400 or have <2 ERAs and have everyone around them play terribly enough to get a high draft pick. Baseball just doesn't work that way.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “You can’t expect our “core” guys to all hit .400 or have <2 ERAs and have everyone around them play terribly enough to get a high draft pick"

                      Don't start putting words in my mouth to move your goalposts after I proved my point.

                    • C. Steadman

                      59 wins doesn’t mean everyone stunk, but it sure means a majority of our players did. And a majority of our players that will see time this year can be seen as the future.

                    • C. Steadman

                      ” after I proved my point.”

                      Astros aren’t counting on many of those players from their 2013 roster to be part of their future. The 2014 Cubs are.

                    • Funn Dave

                      “Don’t start putting words in my mouth to move your goalposts after I proved my point.”

                      Hahaha. You haven’t proven anything, and are getting increasingly unreasonable. And I haven’t moved the goalposts one bit. I’m still showing you how unrealistic it is for you to expect the Cubs’ core players to have good seasons and show improvement while still ending up with a terrible record and a high draft pick.

  • JAllman

    I understand you want lefties in the lineup against the former Fausto Carmona so why is Barney in there? I’d prefer Valbuena at 2B and Olt at 3B. Another option would be Kalish in the OF with Boni at 2B. It looks like RR may have too much respect for our weak hitting gold glover.

  • C. Steadman

    “get in the high pick”

    in the 2015 draft it should read.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Home Game Fans are expecting Barney.

    • CubFan Paul

      Yeah, his .208/.266/.303 is so titillating

      • willis

        It’s a bad move starting him today. The fans want to see players they can dream on, not Barney.

        • gocatsgo2003

          … and they will have 80 more opportunities to do so.

        • Spriggs

          The only good news is that he isn’t batting first or second. There is no hope for a manager who puts him there. Unfortuantely, I think we are going to see plenty of that.

      • http://BN Sacko

        I know but they still want to see him. They will learn to not seeing him soon.

        • CubFan Paul

          Are the people you’re talking about not baseball fans?

        • willis

          Why do they want to see him? So they can see an 0-4 with three pop ups and a short fly to center?

        • C. Steadman

          Wait, I thought your first statement was a joke…

        • Funn Dave

          I don’t think so, man. Last year, maybe. This year, they’re all sick of him.

  • notcubbiewubbie

    playing boom boom valbuena over olt.completely stupid. this is the year you have to find out what we have in mike olt.
    if you want boom boom’s bat in the lineup sit that puke barney. hope olt doesn’t have to change his name to oltiveria to get playing time.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Uh… Valbuena is only 28 as well (turns 29 in November). While he would ideally be more of a utility man on a top-flight team, he stands just as much a chance of being part of the team’s long-term plans as Olt at this point.

      • notcubbiewubbie

        boom boom 2012 265 at bats.219 2013 331 at bats .218. hopefully you missed my point we already know what we have in valbuena.a part time utility man.don’t totally hate on the guy but hope this goof ricky isn’t going to put wins over development. this is still a rebuilding year and because of the abundance of infielders coming in the pipeline you have to find out what you have in mike olt. don’t remember valbuena ever being mentioned as cleveland’s top prospect???

        • gocatsgo2003

          … and he generated about 1.6 WAR in those 108 games. Over a full season, that’s 2.4 — not a superstar by any stretch of the imagination, but a solid player nonetheless.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I hope that Renteria has the hook ready if Veres gets in the game and doesn’t have his stuff. That was ugly the other night. That was one complaint I had about Dale. He would leave a guy in there too long after it was obvious that they weren’t going to get it done. Example….. if you walk the leadoff man and lose the next hitter then the hook is appropriate.

    • CubFan Paul

      Even after Veres lost his shit, loaded the bases, & blew the save, he tightened up that curveball that he previously had *NO* command of and threw it on that 3-2 count for strike-3 to end the rally/inning.

  • Kyle

    We need to consider the possibility that the front office doesn’t think Olt’s bat is worth everyday playing time and just are getting a little value out of him as a lefty-masher because why not?

    • CubFan Paul

      Keep digging in on this Olt stance until he proves you wrong?

      • Kyle

        “need to consider the possibility”

        =

        Digging in on stance?

        • CubFan Paul

          Your 35 word question

          =

          Digging in on stance.

    • Sandberg

      Certainly possible, but also just as possible that they are giving him some extra rest because he had shoulder soreness in spring training.

    • ssckelley

      After the season he had last year I don’t blame them. Put Olt in the best position to succeed for right now. The fact he made the big league team after last season is a small miracle.

  • KHRSS

    Olt and Lake should be playing almost everyday to see if they are worth keeping, especially with so many players in the minors who play those positions and some who will make it to Wrigley this year.

  • Funn Dave

    One thing people seem to be overlooking is how playing time could affect Barney’s trade value. Nobody wants to trade for a guy that’s riding the bench.

    • CubFan Paul

      The Nationals traded for Hairston last year.

      • Funn Dave

        And he played last year. I’m not saying Barney needs to play every day, or even often; but he’s at least got to get out there sometimes.

        • CubFan Paul

          “Nobody wants to trade for a guy that’s riding the bench”

          112PAs is all Hairston got between April 1st and July 8th. Barney can get the same and still be traded.

          • ssckelley

            But Hairston was a 4th/5th outfielder who hits lefties with power. Barney offers very little off the bench other than a defensive replacement. Barney has got to prove he can hit, at least, replacement level in order for him to be worth anything.

    • Spriggs

      Everyone knows that Barney blows. He has little to no trade value. And it won’t improve by playing him.

      • ssckelley

        He still has a little trade values as a utility middle infielder. He proved he can still play shortstop effectively. He is not worth much solo but packaged with say Schierholtz the Cubs could get a decent return.

  • another JP

    Barney is going 3 for 4 today with a couple ribbies…. lineup bitching karma effect.

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