At long last, my Arizona odyssey is over, and I’m headed back home today. The travel day means I’ll probably be in and out a bit, though you should hopefully see relatively normal posting. Thanks for bearing with me, and don’t forget to return your seats to their full and upright position.
- The lineup remains a question as we start heading toward the part of the Spring where we’ll see more and more regulars, and we’ll start to get a more odious whiff of how those regulars will be used in the batting order. One question Cubs manager Joe Maddon is still having relates to the second batter: “The two-hole is like a mystery,” Maddon said, per Cubs.com*. All Maddon would say about the issue is that he likes to alternate lefties and righties, and he likes to see guys on base for the thumpers in the middle of the lineup. Since Dexter Fowler is a switch hitter and will be leading off, that doesn’t really tell us much about who will be in the two-hole. And, since the Cubs have some guys who are both OBP and thumper types, we don’t really get a lot there, either. For my part, I still really, really want to see Anthony Rizzo in the two-hole – best overall hitter, gets more at bats there than at 3 or 4, etc. – but, if that’s not going to work for whatever reason, then there are all kinds of combinations I could find satisfying. I wouldn’t hate Starlin Castro there. I wouldn’t hate Chrises Coghlan and Denorfia there, when facing the opposite-handed pitching. If Tommy La Stella is a regular and the OBP shines through as hoped, then I wouldn’t hate him there, either. I wouldn’t even hate Jorge Soler there, as a matter of fact. All of this depends a little on whether the day’s lineup has the pitcher batting 8th or 9th, of course.
- Also: notice how, in the conversation about the lineup, Maddon casually includes Kris Bryant together with big leaguers Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler as his run-producer types? (Cubs.com) Soon enough, he’s coming.
- Jason Hammel looked pretty good yesterday, and he attributes it to a bullpen session in which he threw 42 fastballs – only fastballs – work on his command (Tribune). It did look like he was using the fastball yesterday to set everything else up, and it felt like he was never outside the zone with his fastball, either.
- Joe Maddon tossed some love to Jon Lester for not letting Welington Castillo take any blame – even privately, in the dugout – for Lester’s poor outing earlier this week (CSN).
- Kris Bryant’s shoulder is getting better, but he still might not play in the field until Friday (Cubs.com). He says if it were the regular season, he would be playing, but nobody’s rushing anything right now.
- Matt Szczur, who made some notable swing changes this offseason, is having a great Spring, and Joe Maddon is clearly taking note (Cubs.com). The rub, though, is that a guy who has made those kinds of changes needs to be employing them every day in game situations – which would seem to imply that the best place for Szczur to start the season is going to be AAA Iowa, where he can play every day.
- Mark Gonzales says Daniel Bard will make his game debut in the B game on Thursday at Sloan Park (which is open to the public).
- The Tribune with a look at the coming left field video board.
- There are two good causes coming up at Sloan Park this weekend, and Carrie Muskat has the details here. One of them is the Respect Bald event that Joe Maddon is leading, in which you can participate on Sunday, if you’re going to be at the park.
- Happy news for folks in the Champaign area: 24 Cubs games (from ABC-7) are being picked up by WCIX. (h/t to Aaron for the find)