Some lawmakers in New England want to move their time zone to Atlantic Time (an hour ahead of Eastern Time), which actually makes a lot of sense when you consider that the sun is setting in parts of New England at barely 4pm during the peak of the winter.
Speaking of which, don’t forget: we “spring forward” an hour on Sunday this weekend, but Arizona does not, which means Spring Training games will suddenly start an hour later.
- As I mentioned last night, the runs given up in Jon Lester’s Spring Training debut don’t especially concern or interest me as long as he’s feeling healthy, but the resumed inability to throw to bases defensively (and, presumably, on pick-off attempts) remains troubling. Lester had to make a long, under-hand flip from the mound on one routine comebacker, and couldn’t successfully make a throw to second base on another. I want to be crystal clear that this issue remains a relatively small one in comparison to his ability to pitch – as he showed last year, posting on the best seasons in recent Cubs memory (you may not have noticed, since his teammate won the Cy Young). But that doesn’t mean this is a non-issue, either. It’s a problem, and it’s one that will manifest itself from time to time throughout the season. Lester, 32, could improve as the season goes on, and he puts in the work every day to try and get better, but, by and large, I think that some of this is just going to be who he is.
- To that end, there’s a lengthy read in the Sun-Times worth checking out, with plenty of quotes from Lester, himself, admitting he hasn’t been comfortable throwing to bases going all the way back to high school. Unfortunately, as more attention is thrust on the issue year after year, it seems more likely that teams will continue to test him, both on the basepaths (as we saw repeatedly last year) and at the plate. I’m not sure if it’s an unwritten rule that you don’t do something that could really embarrass a fellow MLB’er, but I wonder if we’ll ever see a team try an extremely aggressive bunting strategy with Lester on the mound. Fortunately, at least, Lester is such a good pitcher that it may not quite be as simple as having every batter (many of whom never bunt) go up there and try to bunt the ball back to him (and, furthermore, if it’s *right* at him, he’ll have plenty of time to field and toss underhanded).
- More from Joe Maddon and Addison Russell at CSN on the possibility that he’ll be hitting 9th again this year, despite the drawbacks. Given the deep lineup, it seems at this point that the only realistic options are Russell in the 9th spot, or Russell batting 7th, with Miguel Montero or David Ross behind him, and then pitcher batting 9th. But if the desire is to have the pitcher bat 8th most days, Russell should probably bat 9th until and unless he explodes with the bat (which he very well could, though it’ll be much harder batting 9th, since he’ll once again see the starting pitcher the fewest times in baseball).
- You may have noticed that Jason Heyward, who was all set to be the Cubs’ starting center fielder until Dexter Fowler returned, has not yet seen time at the position this spring. Joe Maddon says it’ll happen at some point (Cubs.com), but it doesn’t sound like a priority. Heyward has played there before in limited doses with success, so maybe it isn’t a big deal if he gets much time there in the spring. Hopefully, though, it’s still the plan to get him re-acclimated to the spot from time to time so that the Cubs’ outfielders can be rotated to optimize match-ups and season-long health. I do wonder, though, if the Cubs are first feeling out whether Javy Baez, who has started in center field repeatedly this spring with mixed results, can be the primary back-up in center.
- Part of the reason the Cubs released Rex Brothers as early as they did yesterday was so that he would have as much time as possible to find the right next deal, according to Joe Maddon (Cubs.com). The Cubs could have waited a few more days to release him and still save substantial money, but if you know a guy is not going to fit, it’s better to pull the trigger early and give him a shot elsewhere.
- Bryce Harper had some very on-point things to say about the nature of fun in baseball today, and I’d really encourage folks to read about it. Maybe he didn’t express it all in the most tactful way, but the essence of what he’s saying is so critical to the long-term future of the sport.
- I’m looking at random Cubs stuff on Amazon, as I often do, and I see … what in the world is this thing?
- Grandpa Rossy with a little Vanilla Ice: