I’m starting to think about plans before the Cubs/Cardinals Opening on Sunday evening. I’d love to get together with folks at a bar in the area, and, while I have a few that I like, I’m not absolutely married to any particular location. Anybody who’s going to be around have preferences?
- This week, you can expect to see players increasingly used in roles in which they’ll be used in the regular season, according to Joe Maddon (Cubs.com). That’s especially true for the bullpen, though Maddon said it could take well into April before those roles fully sort themselves out.
- Speaking of which, Maddon tells Cubs.com and the Tribune that he’s not worried about Jason Motte’s recent struggles: “I’m not worried about him. I think the velocity is real good, the shape of his pitches are a little different and I think it’ll get better.” Obviously Jason Motte and Jose Veras are different human beings, and, thus, subject to different outcomes, but you’ll forgive me if I’m haunted by the memory of the last former closer the Cubs signed for $4ish million to bolster the bullpen, whose short stint with the Cubs was disastrous. Here’s Rick Renteria multiple times last Spring about Veras, who was struggling badly with command: “I’m not concerned.” “I’m still not worried.” “I’m still not worried about him.”
- Motte has a 14.21 ERA this Spring, and has given up 11 hits (3 homers) and 5 walks in just 6.1 innings. He’s struck out only 4. If you’re concerns, I’d understand it. The velocity does look good for Motte, but he’s getting hit, hard, when he’s in the zone, and he wasn’t quite all the way back from 2013 Tommy John last year, either. There are reasons, however, to be less concerned than last year with Jose Veras. First of all, the Cubs aren’t counting on Motte to be the team’s closer right out of the gate. Further, the Cubs have the theoretical depth to accommodate a struggling reliever (though hopefully there won’t be too many of them), better than they did in April 2014. Finally, Veras was extremely wild in 2014 (not just a little wild), appearing to have very little sense of where any of his pitches were going (though he did manage to strike out 10 in 9 innings of work).
- So, what I’d say: Spring numbers for vets are usually fairly meaningless, and the coaches usually have a much better sense of how a guy is looking (though they also have an incentive to offer encouraging words in the absence of evidence). The Cubs are in a better place this year, should Motte struggle. The velocity does look good, and command often returns after velocity for TJS patients. Hopefully this Spring has been Motte working out the kinks. Maddon said he and pitching coach Chris Bosio believe they’ve identified a mechanical flaw, so we’ll see (ESPN, Tribune).
- Kris Bryant will see more time in the outfield this week, and Joe Maddon wants to see him getting more work there – as well as third base – if he happens to head to AAA Iowa to start the season (Cubs.com, ESPN).
- Patrick Mooney on the Cubs’ feast or famine offense.
- If you missed anything this weekend, here’s your catch-up.
- I’m OK with this:
— Clark the Cub (@ClarktheCub) March 27, 2015
- And this:
— Steven Wade (@eightdouble) March 29, 2015