Everyone filling out their brackets today? I haven’t done one in a couple years – the product of not working in an office, I guess – but I definitely do miss the excitement of tracking the tournament through the lens of my picks, even if it’s all just randomness at some level.

  • Lefty Brian Duensing is dealing with lower back pain, which is why he was pulled from his game a few days ago (the one where he was getting wrecked), but has been pain free for a couple days and should be back in a game soon (CSN). With fellow lefty Caleb Smith having a mixed spring so far (sometimes I see flashes, other times he seems very hittable), and Jack Leathersich “sidelined with tightness in chest” (Carrie Muskat), it’s becoming increasingly important that Duensing stay healthy and be ready to go on Opening Day. Moreover, for his own purposes, although he was signed to a big league deal, his $2 million salary would not prevent the Cubs from cutting bait if they felt there was clearly a better option for the roster. We still don’t have a great sense of how effective he can be, primarily against lefties, but also for a full inning if needed.
  • The Cubs are fortunate that they have some righties who are probably just as good against lefties as they are righties (Koji Uehara, Justin Grimm, Carl Edwards Jr. come to mind), but, if you’re going to be carrying eight in the bullpen, as the Cubs plan to, you’d sure like to have more than just one lefty out there (especially when that lefty, Mike Montgomery or Brett Anderson, is going to need to be stretched out at times to swing into the rotation).
  • Other lefty options are Rob Zastryzny (but you’d much rather see him continue starting at AAA Iowa, especially if his second half changes in 2016 stick – he could be a legit big league starter for the Cubs when they have a huge need in 2018 and beyond), and David Rollins (he doesn’t seem to be getting a ton of time in Spring Training games, for whatever that’s worth).
  • With the World Baseball Classic taking center stage right now, and featuring some extremely dramatic moments, the age-old debate about post-homer celebrations is upon us again. I’ve made no secret that I love when there’s a spontaneous outburst of joy from a player after he crushes one (or a pitcher when he logs a big strikeout), and the WBC has not let me down (Wladimir Balentien’s right there was pretty freaking extreme … but I dug it). Javy Baez did something of an ironic non-celebration as his celebration this weekend when he crushed one for Team Puerto Rico:

  • Joe Maddon talked about those kinds of celebrations, and I’ve gotta say, he offered the perfect take for those who don’t like the bat flips and what-have-you (Tribune): “For me, would I prefer it? No, I’d prefer not. I don’t get it. But just because I don’t get it doesn’t mean it’s wrongful to do it.” That could be a freaking billboard for almost every subject of debate in the world right now. There’s a lot of grace and humility in saying “I think things should be This Way, and I don’t really understand That Way, but I’m not going to rip on people who do it That Way.” For my part, I disagree with Maddon’s preference that players do the “act like you’ve been there and will be again” thing, but I can see where he’s coming from, and I don’t think he’s crazy for saying it. (My only response would be: huge plays are rare, and you might not be there again. I’d much rather watch a guy lose his mind after a big homer than put his head down and trot like all he did was sell another copy machine. Life’s too short.)
  • When it comes to these kinds of celebrations, we can’t deny that there’s a cultural element (please read former Cubs catcher, and current Cubs executive, John Baker’s take on playing the game the right way). Not everyone grew up how you grew up, and it’s worthwhile keeping that in mind.
  • Speaking of the WBC, the United States is moving on after beating up on Team Canada last night. It started with a brief, rough outing by former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, who had the honor of facing the U.S. team and the Dominican Republic team in his two starts. Yikes. I still say good on him for stepping up for his country after more than three years of retirement.
  • Also from WBC action, a controversial (but really cool) play in the 9th inning of the DR/Colombia game not only completely changed the outcome of that game, but also of which teams moved on.
  • This picture is just fantastic. Look closely at the ball as it compresses into the bat (probably a little bit of that is reality, and a little bit is the speed of the camera shutter):


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