Coming back from a long trip on the road is always such a tough adjustment. Not only do you have to get back to your routine with the job and/or family, but I find that “extra” tasks always build up on me while I’m away, because I have less time to deal with them. That is to say, I’m only a couple hours into the new week, and I already feel way behind the 8-ball.
- Kyle Schwarber is laughing at critics who believe he cannot play effective outfield defense after a poor showing in the playoffs in 2015 (CSN). Joe Maddon and Jed Hoyer agree with Schwarber, and I would add that, from what little we’ve seen so far, Schwarber has looked perfectly adequate on defense this spring (with a great catch sprinkled in). For me, like most of you, I was already in position to disregard the handful of ugly-looking plays from the 2015 postseason as not necessarily representative of Schwarber’s outfield defense. Instead, I’ve been more curious to see how he looks this spring because of the knee injury he’s still coming back from. So far, I haven’t seen anything to suggest he’s worse for the wear, nor anything to suggest he can’t be at least an average defensive outfielder as soon as this season.
- Interesting to note, by the way: Schwarber has not yet seen time behind the plate in a spring game, after his role as the third catcher received so much attention and discussion at the outset of camp. You’d like to see him work in back there at least a little bit before spring comes to a close if he’s actually going to be in a position to rotate behind the plate from time to time in late-game situations or as a very occasional starter to maximize a matchup.
- As we get closer and closer to the end of Spring Training, the final Cubs roster decisions will come into focus. One that gets the bulk of attention is the final bench spot, which could go to Matt Szczur (who is out of options, but is less positionally necessary for the Cubs’ bench) or Tommy La Stella (who has options and is more positionally compelling, but who may not accept an assignment at AAA Iowa). That spot is “final” on the Cubs’ bench only if they carry eight relievers, a plan about which the team was pretty open about from thing one this offseason. But Mark Gonzales makes a good point in the Tribune: with three scheduled off-days in the first 10 days of the season, will the Cubs really need all eight relievers in those first two weeks? In other words, even if the Cubs are going to have an eight-man bullpen, might they come out of Spring Training at seven, which would at least buy them another couple weeks to make a decision on Szczur/La Stella? By which time things may have sorted themselves out organically?
- … of course, the flip side to that is which reliever is left out? Justin Grimm and Carl Edwards, Jr. have an option year remaining, so it’s possible one of those two, who would otherwise clearly be in the bullpen, may have to take a brief hiatus. There are still two weeks left of spring, though, so we’ll see what shakes loose.
- Hector Rondon says he was happy to pitch for his country in the WBC, but he’s not stressing about the ugly performances (CSN). Saying that he feels good, Rondon chalked the poor results up to a couple bad pitches, and good hitters who know him well. Like I wrote earlier this morning about spring results, it’s hard to be too bothered by a couple bad pitches that lead to outsized bad results (Rondon, for one example, had an ERA north of 12 last spring). Still, because of the way Rondon’s season ended in 2016 – he came back healthy from his triceps injury, but the results simply weren’t there – he’ll necessarily be observed more closely this spring, and in the early part of the season.
- An interesting long read from Ken Rosenthal on Orioles executive/coach Brady Anderson (with quotes from former Oriole Jake Arrieta), and the blurring of lines between being a member of “the front office” and “the coaching staff.” When you think about implementing strategies decided upon by the front office at the player level, you always have to remember that this divide exists – and the organizations that can best manage the communications between the players and the front office are going to be the most successful at actually putting into practice the things that their research indicates a player needs to be doing. (A reminder, for example, of one of the most critical things Joe Maddon does so well.)
- We’re still awaiting an update on Eloy Jimenez’s shoulder, which was the subject of additional tests this weekend. Carrie Muskat reports that, after an MRI and a CT scan, the Cubs want their orthopedic specialist to take a look, which doesn’t necessarily mean the results of the tests look bad, but it does mean there were lingering questions about the best approach to his recovery. The hope remains that rest will be all that is necessary, because if surgery is on the table, Jimenez could be looking at a lot of missed time. We might get an update today.
- Miscellaneous prospect thing I noticed at the back fields this weekend: Dylan Cease’s fastball is not just fast (he was hitting 98mph), but it very clearly has a ton of spin. I have only my eyes on which to base that, but it just looks different than other fastballs you see, with that late life we now know is most closely associated with a high spin rate. My guess is he’ll be a guy who can have a ton of success working up in the zone, not only to get whiffs, but also pop-ups. (Also: I am #NotAScout.)
- Joe Posnanski ranked the best homer robberies of all-time, and Michael offers his thoughts here.
- If you missed the early-morning take on another Cubs loss, and why such things in the Spring should not concern you.
- If you missed THE Giancarlo Stanton homer and THE Adam Jones catch this weekend for Team USA, you’ll want to un-miss it.
- This kid’s gotta be really tough to pick up:
Texas Tech lefty Jacob Patterson has a fun delivery – he turns almost entirely away from home plate. pic.twitter.com/pT0w5zM50H
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) March 20, 2017
- Luis has your morning Bears Bullets over at TYL.
- The ever-popular Swiss Gear backpack is on a huge sale again today at Amazon. Mine was the only bag I took with me to Arizona for six days. Granted, I’m a very light-packer, but still – that was six days worth of clothes, my laptop, and various small travel necessities. I really love this backpack.