The Presidents Day holiday is here, though my understanding – thanks, Wikipedia! – is that the day is considered a holiday only for George Washington’s birthday, since February 12 is celebrated in the state specifically for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
Whatever the case in your state, today is a federal holiday. And, although we deeply respect the presidential greats of the past, we’re just going to keep on plugging with a normal day here at BN …
- A great set of notes here from Sahadev Sharma at The Athletic on the great relationship between the Cubs’ two currently-designated center fielders (Jon Jay and Albert Almora), on Mike Montgomery’s willingness to do what the team needs (but his desire to start), and much more. One aspect I want to highlight, though, is the set of comments from Joe Maddon on his two late-inning relievers, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, each of whom suffered a late-season injury last year, and neither of whom was quite himself in the postseason: “When you get hurt like that at that time of the year, it’s hard to play catch up. You get to the moment where you’re trying to win a championship, you got to put personal feelings aside on both sides. I have nothing but trust [in Pedro Strop]. My god, the threat is when you have him, you want to use him too much, always. And the same thing with [Hector Rondon], I talked to him about that. I think Rondon got hurt last year because part of it was my greediness on using him too much in the early part of the season.”
- We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the Cubs’ bullpen could be absolutely ridiculous this year if Strop and Rondon are healthy and their typical effective selves. To line them up ahead of one of the best closers in baseball in Wade Davis, with complementary arms like Carl Edwards Jr., Koji Uehara, and Justin Grimm (and I could keep going), and it’s easy to dream on one of the best bullpens in baseball. But the “if” there at the start – about Strop and Rondon – is not an insignificant one. I will need to see it on the field before I can comfortably conclude that whatever happened with those guys last year was a totally injury-related fluke (plus the inability to build back up from there before the postseason), and not some other kind of turning point. You never expect a guy to just lose it, but then, when it comes to relievers – even dominant ones – history has taught us the painful lesson again and again that sometimes the light switch just flips off without obvious explanation.
- Circling back to Maddon’s point, then: hopefully the Cubs maintain the luxury of bullpen depth going into the season, which will allow Maddon to lean less heavily on Strop and Rondon (and Davis, who had his own injuries last year). Workload is always a consideration: in the two season prior to the injury-impacted 2016 campaign, each of Strop and Rondon were among the 35 most heavily-used relievers in baseball both by appearances and innings.
- A little chatter at Cubs.com about exit velocity, and, because it’s not quite as easily-accessible as some other stats, it’s worth sharing this bit for posterity: “Among Cubs starters, Jason Hammel compiled the highest average exit velocity at 90.8 mph against him, followed by John Lackey (90.4 mph), Lester (87.8 mph), Kyle Hendricks (87.2 mph) and Arrieta (87.2 mph).” Anecdotally, that all sounds pretty much exactly right. Nice when that happens.
- Elbow surgery – though not the big, bad kind – reportedly in the offing for a Cubs pitching prospect:
Source: #Cubs prospect Carson Sands has a bone spur that requires surgery.
— Robert Murray (@RobertMurrayFRS) February 20, 2017
- Sands, 21, you might recall as a member of the trio of high school arms the Cubs took in the 2014 draft and signed for a seven-figure bonus (Dylan Cease and Justin Steele being the other two). Last year, he threw just under 75 innings at Low-A with mediocre results.
- Friendship is the best ship:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) February 19, 2017
- Fly the W, baby:
— John Simatovich (@RealJohnboy01) February 20, 2017
- An appropriate response to the terrible possible rule:
Would players ever agree to starting extra innings with a runner on second base? Tony Clark's answer was very simple. "No." <laughs> "No."
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 19, 2017
- I agree that this is a good quip:
Best quip of spring from official: Lanky Sandy Alcantara set pro baseball record by throwing faster than he weighs. Hit 102 mph. #Cardinals
— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) February 19, 2017
- I am a big Mallex Smith fan now after the new Ray shared his thoughts on his impactful time in the Mariners’ organization. He was a Mariner for one hour.
- If you missed anything this weekend, catch yourself up here.
- And a Presidents Day sale, folks:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) February 20, 2017