The first day of Cactus League action is in the books, and the Cubs already have two numbers there in the standings, one in each column.
The Sloan crew beat the A’s by a score of 4-3, while the Scottsdale crew fell 8-6 to the Giants. I want to get into a little bit from the games and the rest of the day below, but please know that there will be even more tomorrow. Because I am a dork, and two games worth of Spring Training action is a whole lot of grist for the mill. (Also, I tend to focus more on the non-regular types in Spring Training, as it’s extremely meaningless that, for example, Kris Bryant went hitless today.)
- Mike Montgomery started the home game, needing 24 pitches to get through his scoreless frame. He struck out two, as the A’s clearly couldn’t square him up, but he also walked two, as he clearly didn’t have his best command. On the first day of Spring Training, that’s truly not a big deal, and it shouldn’t be your focus.
- I’d say the same of, for example, relief prospect Jose Rosario’s 0.1 inning of work, which featured four hits, including two homers. He was throwing bullets, but he was extremely hittable … which means very little. For all we know, he was simply trying to light up the middle of the zone today for whatever reason, and/or experimenting with pitches (he got crushed on a changeup that, like, didn’t change; and the other one looked like a BP fastball for some reason). He’s a long shot to make the bullpen as is, but he will remain one of the Cubs’ top near-term relief prospects regardless of what happens this Spring.
- Felix Pena got to close out the Sloan game, which is notable only in the sense that he’s clearly viewed as a possible late-inning arm for the Cubs (even though Spring Training is Spring Training, you often see “closer” type pitchers getting “closer” type innings of work (which has always struck me as a little odd, given that the other team usually has its youngsters and minor league depth in at that point, but I suppose none of it really matters too much)). He struck out two in a scoreless 9th, as he does. Pena was fantastic last year at Iowa, and then showed late-inning stuff with the Cubs in a short September look-see. He may not make the bullpen out of Spring Training because of a numbers crunch, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t see time in the big leagues this year. Possibly substantial time. I remain a huge Pena fan.
- Sticking with the bullpen, I thought Brian Duensing and Jack Leathersich looked really good today. Each is a lefty, and each has a shot at being the only non-Montgomery-non-Anderson lefty in the bullpen on Opening Day.
- Over in the Scottsdale game, I don’t have much to say about the pitching, as I couldn’t even really listen to the game while watching the other (and the kids). Rob Zastryzny led off with a scoreless frame, and I see that Pierce Johnson followed with a perfect (one strikeout) inning of his own. Zastryzny is most likely ticketed for AAA Iowa as starting depth, but could see time out of the big league bullpen at some point again this year – he was awfully good down the stretch and in the second half at Iowa. I like him as a starter, though. Johnson may very well be a reliever at this point after so much lost time to injuries and some wildness issues. He could be a good one, though.
- Jon Jay had a couple hits in his Cubs debut. Save some of those positive first impressions for April, my friend.
- Eloy Jimenez singled, Ian Happ doubled, Jeimer Candelario tripled, and Charcer Burks homered today, so it was a Cubs prospect cycle.
- Chesny Young saw time at shortstop today, which is not necessarily notable – he played there a little bit last year – but his big league chances as a utility man would obviously skyrocket if he can play passable shortstop long-term.
- Kyle Schwarber grounded out twice to second base, and got no plays in left field. Good. Fine. Whatever. Stay healthy, big guy.
- OK, what you’ve been waiting for. Jason Heyward swung the bat:
Here it is. Jason Heyward's new swing. Can't tell too much. On the first pitch, by the way. pic.twitter.com/cn5taqD45L
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) February 25, 2017
Jason Heyward's first swing of the season on his first pitch. pic.twitter.com/YYdpfof1AA
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticChi) February 25, 2017
- I know I should say nothing, because it’s just a few swings, and you truly can’t tell much from them. But it’s too tempting. Frankly, I’m encouraged. I thought his balance and weight transfer looked really good today, and even that RBI groundout was ripped. The set up is obviously different, but look at this swing from 2012 – that’s the swing the Cubs have suggested they’re trying to get him back to, and I can honestly see it a little bit (focus on the hips).
- There was a special guest today at Sloan:
A little extra motivation as we begin 2017. pic.twitter.com/d3EKg8M75P
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) February 25, 2017
- Spring Training fun:
Currently in Scottsdale, number 85 is up to bat for the Cubs. Number 85 is also on deck for the Cubs. pic.twitter.com/MfM2JAfR8K
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) February 25, 2017
- Not the Cubs, but it’s still fun to see (and you should follow Baseball is Fun):
First at bat of the Spring … and Bryce Harper's back. pic.twitter.com/O4l56ROkgY
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 25, 2017