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Russell’s Back, Protecting Pitchers, Roster Shuffle, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs News

This is what it’s like to write about the Chicago Cubs full-time, apparently: I had a dream last night that the Statcast data hose uncovered a new metric that indicated Addison Russell was actually below average, or average at best, defensively at shortstop. I was incensed, and determined to demonstrate that the data was completely flawed, and obviously useless. I woke up before I had an opportunity to find out what I would have done, but I think it was going to be something really stupid like measuring distances on my screen with a ruler (it was a dream, after all).

In any case: don’t cross me or Addison Russell, Dream Statcast Crew.

  • Speaking of Russell, he said yesterday that he’s just about 100%, and expects to play tonight in the exhibition game against Houston (Cubs.com). Russell has been throwing and taking batting practice, but you’d love to see him get in a handful of live plate appearances before Sunday night’s opener.

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  • As you know, Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella will both make the big league roster on Opening Day thanks to the Cubs’ decision to put lefty Brian Duensing on the DL to begin the season. Theo Epstein suggested that the Duensing decision was less about a current back injury, and more about giving him the benefit of more Spring Training time to get ready for the season, since he missed a lot of time with his earlier back issues (Cubs.com). In that respect, then, this really couldn’t have worked out better for the Cubs, who know get more time to make a decision on the optionless Szczur, but don’t have a planned member of the bullpen laid up with a serious injury.
  • I gotta share this Athletic piece again from Sahadev Sharma on the Cubs’ pitching infrastructure, because it’s just so good to see the player perspective on the way Chris Bosio, Mike Borzello, Tommy Hottovy, et al work with the staff. One theme that permeates is something we’ve heard before, but, no seriously, it’s really real: a guiding principle for Bosio and the Cubs is to simply let pitchers be themselves, and pitch how they feel most comfortable (even if it’s not an ideal mechanical thing here, or a way to use a pitch there). To be sure, they still work with pitchers on cleaning things up where necessary (we just heard about how much cleaner Dylan Cease’s mechanics are now, for example), but, as we’ve said before, if you can’t get full buy-in from the player, what’s the point in trying to change his delivery or pitch mix? I also very much appreciate how much it seems like the pitching infrastructure’s focus is on pitcher health, even if it means the pitcher won’t quite be at his absolute, maxed out performance. Because, again: if the pitcher isn’t going to be healthy enough that way to pitch more than 10 innings, what’s the point in trying to max out his performance? You will note that Bosio joined the organization shortly after the new front office took over (hired by Dale Sveum, by the way – thanks, Dale!), and the Cubs have had unusually – almost unnervingly – good pitcher health during that time.

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  • You rely entirely on Google Translate at your own peril, so I can say only that this article from Japan seems to suggest Munenori Kawasaki, released by the Cubs earlier this week, might be on his way back to a team in NPB.
  • Jon Lester joked that it was about time the Cubs got an offensive catcher (a poke at his former battery-mate David Ross (who hit quite well in 2016, actually!)), and offered very high praise for his new catcher, Willson Contreras (CSN).
  • High praise from Brett Anderson, who has been with four other organizations before the Cubs:


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  • Yessssssss:

  • This is a cool, visual take on Cubs lineup (the order in the video is Schwarber, Bryant, Rizzo, Zobrist, Russell, Baez, Heyward, Contreras – so it’s not exactly the lineup (no Jay/Almora) but still cool):


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  • If you missed it this morning, the Cubs broke another attendance record.
  • The players were out and about in these shirts earlier this spring, and folks were wondering where they could get them – well, they’re available just in time for the season:

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  • You said it, Ichiro:

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.