‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is officially available today to buy in digital HD, and, no, this is not an April Fools Day thing. I’ve been waiting for this so that I can finally watch it again (sure, I could have gone to the theater again, but I wanted to create some distance so there was a little more freshness to the re-watch). I wonder if I’ll still feel like I did when I left the theater: that was a well-done movie, a lot of fun, better than the prequels, but boy did it seem like a carbon copy of ‘A New Hope.’
- John Lackey didn’t pitch in the exhibition game against the Mets in Las Vegas yesterday, but he did pitch in a minor league game back in Mesa. Arizona Phil has a brief recap here at TCR, and I think the most interesting thing is that Lackey threw 100 pitches, not unlike Jake Arrieta, who threw 102 in his final spring outing. We know that the Cubs are planning to proactively protect their starters in the early going this year, which not only will include shorter starts in April, but also included a later start to Spring Training. Is that why we’re seeing these starters throw far more pitches than you typically see for a final Spring Training start? Usually, you bump a guy up for the penultimate start, and then he throws only about 45 to 60 pitches in that final one. It’s interesting, and it’s a reminder that the Cubs are constantly re-assessing how to best prepare pitchers for the season and to ensure maximum health. There’s still so much we don’t know about how to do that when it comes to pitchers.
- Lackey, now 37, still has good velocity and stuff, and, although he’s probably not a good bet to post a sub-3.00 ERA this year (so much of that last year came from the Cardinals’ historically absurd and unrepeatable LOB% – guys got on base against them, and then simply didn’t score), he’s definitely a good bet to give the Cubs 200 quality innings. I really think Cubs fans will be happy about Lackey’s production so long as they have the right perspective on him going into the season. The Cubs don’t need him to pitch like an ace, and they certainly didn’t sign him to a contract that suggests he is one. He’s supposed to be a durable, six-to-seven-inning starter every time out, giving the team a chance to win every time. If he’s that guy, I’m plenty happy.
- A fun, nice read from Jeff Passan on David Ross, one of the most beloved Cubs in the clubhouse, and the “grandpa” of the team. there’s also a snippet of information in there about his free agent pursuit, which you may have missed or forgotten, because it all took place in the shadow of the Cubs going after, and landing, Jon Lester. The day the Cubs agreed to a deal with Ross, you may recall that there were reports that morning that he’d signed with the Padres (who, it turns out, offered him more money). Now that Passan mentions it, I do remember, but I’d forgotten how firm those reports were – it was the Dexter Fowler situation long before those erroneous reports of Fowler signing with the Orioles. The only differences were that Ross wasn’t returning to the Cubs, so there was no past relationship there to give it a little extra oomph, and also the fact that the space between the reports and the signing was only a matter of hours, not a matter of days. Still, it was good to be reminded that these things do happen from time to time.
- Speaking of protecting pitchers up there above, and speaking of Passan, his incredible-looking new book, “The Arm” comes out in just four days. Like I said before, I really think it’s going to mark a fundamental shift in some folks’ thinking about pitchers.
- Among many other comments here at Cubs.com, Joe Maddon mentions that he’s made a push this spring to get his younger, bigger guys to adjust as they get deeper in the count, which I take to mean that, once they get two strikes, there should be more of a focus on putting the ball in play (as Anthony Rizzo has done so successfully). And in a separate piece at Cubs.com, Maddon mentions that Kris Bryant has made “a lot of adjustments in the count,” which, again, I take to mean more of an emphasis on putting the ball in play with two strikes. You don’t want a player like Bryant to completely give up all of his power, even with two strikes (he works so many deep counts that doing so would give up a lot of his power (and even if a guy strikes out four out of five times when he gets to two strikes, if he rips the ball that fifth time, he’s actually doing a great job)). There’s a very tricky and delicate balance here.
- Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster have signed on to be baseball analysts with WGN Radio, which no longer has Cubs games (they are on The Score now), but which will still have baseball-related content.
- Manny Machado and Chris Davis combine for a killer play in the infield, and it’s hard to say which end of it was better. Probably Machado, because he’s a freak, but Davis’s play at first is about as good as it gets on receiving a throw.
- How about new Yankees infielder Starlin Castro starring in a re-enactment of a scene from ‘Step Brothers’? It makes me smile, then makes me a little sad. It’s pretty fun, though.
- Speaking of Castro, here he is talking about when he found out he had been traded:
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) March 30, 2016
- Did you catch everything yesterday? No? Well here’s your chance:
- The day started off right, by watching Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber go back-to-back.
- Among many other things, the Bullets looked at the defensive questions for the Cubs in the outfield.
- A fascinating backfill of information: the Cubs reportedly offered only Junior Lake to the Padres last year for Ian Kennedy.
- Javy Baez (thumb) is eyeing a return soon-ish.
- The first chunk of the BN Top 40 Cubs prospects list is out.
- The Rizzo Sandwich is actually about the Cubs’ expected batting order.
- Tons of interesting bits from around the league, including Andrew Miller’s broken hand.
- The Cubs have signed another minor league pitcher.
- A look at Neil Ramirez as the Cubs’ 8th man in the pen.