You may have missed it, but yesterday’s win was the second in a row for the Cubs. A win today would give the Cubs their first three-game winning streak on the year, and cinch their first series win. Against the Cardinals. At Wrigley. Come on, man. It’s fate!
- Ryan Sweeney got an MRI on his hamstring yesterday after he left the game with a leg injury, and I’d imagine we’ll get word of the results at some point today when the Cubs make a roster move. And there could be a huge number of roster moves coming today …
- The Cubs have got to make a move today anyway to accommodate the return of Jake Arrieta, so we could actually see a series of moves. If the Cubs elect to bring up someone like Chris Coghlan, as Carrie Muskat believes they will, then the Cubs will have to bounce someone from the 40-man roster to add Coghlan (or will have to transfer Kyuji Fujikawa to the 60-day DL, which might make sense at this point). It’s conceivable that the Cubs could waive someone from the bullpen, which would open up a 40-man spot for Coghlan, open up a 25-man spot for Arrieta, and keep the bullpen at an already-robust 13 (because Carlos Villanueva is heading to the pen, which would otherwise take it to an unthinkable 14). Best guess? Fujikawa to the 60-day DL, Coghlan added to the 40 and 25-man, Sweeney to the 15-day DL, Arrieta to the 25-man, and Brian Schlitter back to Iowa. If I get all of that right, I’m playing the lottery today.
- The baseball-wide belief that batters in the two-hole are supposed to be slap, contact hitters who frequently give themselves up to move a runner along remains one of my pet peeves. It’s actually optimally filled by the best overall hitter in your lineup, one who understands that his job isn’t to move runners over by making outs – his role is to do what a hitter should always do: hit the ball hard and get on base. Managers still haven’t caught up, however, as this FiveThirtyEight piece explains. I know it was something of a flap last year, but it’s still true: the best hitter on the Cubs’ roster for that two-hole is Anthony Rizzo (even moreso this year). I’m not complaining about where he’s hitting, mind you, because the differences in lineup construction don’t net a whole lot of extra runs, and because he’s killing the ball where he is. I’m just saying that, your best hitter should bat second, and Anthony Rizzo is the Cubs’ best hitter.
- Speaking of Rizzo and his awesomeness this year, he’s really taken to new hitting coach Bill Mueller. Rizzo told Cubs.com: “Bill’s done it, he did it for a long time. He knows how to calm myself down personally and other guys. It’s not just mechanical, but he deals with the mental side as well.” There’s some secret sauce in there, and Rizzo/Mueller aren’t giving up the goods. That’s just fine.
- Kerry Wood and Ted Lilly are both out scouting pitchers for the Cubs, and will be with the front office in the draft room this year (Cubs.com). It sounds like there’s some grooming going on there, and I like it.
- Jose Veras will begin a rehab assignment with AA Tennessee soon, according to Carrie Muskat. He’s been out with a strained left oblique after a brutal start to the season.
- Whenever Veras returns, he may not have a shot to win back the closer’s job, especially if Hector Rondon takes it and runs with it. It was just two games, but, given the way the score and innings shook out, it was clear that Ricky Renteria was planning to use Rondon as the closer yesterday and on Wednesday against the Reds (that one wound up not being a save opportunity, because the Cubs added on in the top of the 9th). Does that mean he’s now “the closer”? We’ll have to see. It’ll be interesting if there’s a save opportunity today, which would have Rondon pitching back-to-back days, and three out of four (after already having a fairly busy April). As a closer, that’s the kind of thing you’re expected to do regularly. Rondon clearly has the stuff and the numbers to justify being given the closer job at this point – he was lights out in the second half last year, and saw his velocity tick up as the year went on. This year, his numbers are fantastic: 0.63 ERA, 26.8% K rate, 7.1% BB rate, and no home runs in 14.1 innings.
- Something I really liked about Rondon’s appearance yesterday: although it was just a one-run game, he trusted his stuff enough to attack hitters in the zone immediately. They even got some decent wood on the ball (Matt Adams really sent a liner to left), but his defense got the outs – which they’ll do for you some 70% of the time. When you walk a guy, he gets on base 100% of the time.