As I’ve said before, I sleep a lot easier after losses like yesterday’s than losses like Thursday’s (the one the bullpen blew against the Pirates). It was a “worse” loss, but I can’t go back in my mind and say, “if only this would have happened, they would have won” – because they would have needed a whole lot of “this” to win yesterday’s blowout.
- Jose Veras took news of his removal from the closer’s role well, and met with the media yesterday to discuss his current issues. (Cubs.com) He says all of the right things, but he doesn’t know what the problem is – other than he’s not in the zone enough. With the Cubs being blown out yesterday, we didn’t get to see who gets the first crack at closing one out. Maybe we’ll see today. (I almost said “hopefully,” but, actually, I don’t hope for a save opportunity. I hope for a 145-0 win.)
- Carlos Villanueva’s outing yesterday was probably better than the 9 earned runs suggest. A couple tappers led to a few runs, and a couple of poor decisions to try and cut down lead runners, rather than just take an out, likely led to another couple runs. All in all, though, it was an inconsistent outing: Villanueva would flash a few excellent pitches in a row, and then leave one out over the heart of the plate. In the second inning, when he gave up his first four, every single hit – including the tappers – came on a pitch that was right down the pipe. Some were hit hard, and some were not, but that’s not a place to live. To his credit, as I said, he was also mixing in some beautiful pitches on the black. It looked like more of a, say, five inning, three-or-four-earned-run-type performance.
- Sean Kernan writes that Arodys Vizcaino is looking good so far at Daytona (where he’s pitching primarily because it’s warm), and he’s probably not long for that level. Vizcaino has thrown three scoreless innings, allowing one hit, one walk, and striking out two. I strongly doubt he’s fully unleashing his arsenal of offspeed stuff, too. Instead, I suspect he’s leaning on that upper-90s fastball as he builds back up arm strength and muscle memory.
- As the Cubs go through some bullpen tumult and turnover, Vizcaino’s name is going to come up a lot. But let me offer a couple reminders: (1) Vizcaino has thrown just three times so far in the minors, and the Cubs are clearly still taking it very easy with him. As we’ve seen in the bigs so far this year, it can be very difficult to take it easy with anyone in the pen – because you need them to be able to pitch almost any day; and (2) Jake Arrieta is set to return within a couple of weeks, which will squeeze out a reliever already, and, after that, Kyuji Fujikawa could return a few weeks after that. When Vizcaino is truly ready, sure, he probably is better than most of the guys in the pen, but the glut still exists, and has to be considered in terms of the timing. If you’re expecting Vizcaino to come up before June, I don’t think that’s likely. (I know it’s ugly, but you can’t forget the service time considerations, and Vizcaino’s a unique case in that regard.)
- Jed Hoyer reminds folks that, when there’s a blown save, it costs the bullpen innings that they wouldn’t otherwise have to throw. (ESPNChicago)
- Cubs outfield prospect Jae-Hoon Ha has been added to AAA Iowa from extended Spring Training, where he was rehabbing an offseason wrist injury/surgery. From what I’d heard, he was not expected back until June, so this is a pretty remarkable return (or I heard wrong). Ha, 23, is not an upper tier Cubs prospect, but he is a superlative defender at all three outfield positions, and could hit enough to carve out a big league career as a reserve outfielder. For now, he adds another dimension to the Iowa outfield rotation that already includes Josh Vitters, Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, and Chris Coghlan. Gonna be tough to get all five regular starts, and we’ll see who sits most. Very hard to see Vitters or Szczur not getting daily starts.