The Taylor Family is taking a Spring Break trip to Florida, which means today is all about preparation madness. Thanks to The Wife’s superlative organizational skills, my involvement is mostly limited to doing whatever I’m told to do. I believe in myself.
- Well, we’ve all kinda been thinking it privately and quietly, but Kris Bryant went and said it, so now it’s OK to feel it (Cubs.com): “Hopefully, we all translate what we’re doing here in Spring Training into the season. If we do that, I think we’re going to be even better than when we won the World Series.”
- Players are optimistic, and they say things. But players tend not to say things quite like this when comparing themselves against a team that won over 100 games, was dominant right from the word go, and then won the team’s first World Series in 108 years. They don’t say things like this, that is, unless they have a whole lot of inputs around them that suggest it really is possible. And I think Bryant is absolutely correct. *IF* Spring Training performances tell us anything at all about how these guys will perform going forward, based on the roster construction, this is a team that is so good on paper from top to bottom. The rotation could very well be the best of the Joe Maddon era. The lineup could be at the point where so many guys break out. The defense could once again be elite. The bullpen has so many guys with closing-caliber stuff (if they can command it) and now has more strike-throwers.
- Pedro Strop made his Cactus League debut last night, and looked more or less fine, but it’s still not a lock that he’ll avoid the disabled list to start the season:
Strop said he feels great, expects to pitch Saturday or Sunday, says staff still a little concerned over limited work this spring.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 23, 2018
- Here’s the thing about building the arm up for the season: even if you get in a few healthy Cactus League appearances, the body simply reacts differently when it’s the regular season. And if proper arm strength and flexibility and ease hasn’t been built into that arm by the time you ask it to throw meaningful innings, bad things can happen, even if the guy otherwise looked just fine in the outings he was able to get. That, I suspect, is what the training staff is concerned about. If Strop goes these next two outings just fine, that might be enough, given that he’s thrown on the side for a while, and also in a minor league game. But if the Cubs decide not to use him in a Cactus League game, you’ll know they’re considering a DL stint to begin the season while he builds up a little more arm strength/readiness, which can be backdated such that he might miss only the first few games.
- This is just fantastic, and yet another WHOA moment:
Seeing Schwarber run the bases after his HR yesterday was another moment where it really struck us just how incredible his offseason body transformation was. So, we compared it to him running after a HR last September for fun! pic.twitter.com/eHclQF3bnu
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) March 22, 2018
- The Cubs are 29th on this list, ahead of only the Astros, which is both fair and fun:
— The Athletic MLB (@TheAthleticMLB) March 23, 2018
- Random factoid I picked up from that fun piece? From 2008 to 2013, only the New York Yankees had more wins than the Tampa Bay Rays. The had a down year in 2014, lost Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman in the offseason, and they haven’t had a winning record since.
- Old friend Jake Arrieta, looking weird in a Phillies uniform, made his Spring debut yesterday, and was reportedly hitting 95 mph on the gun at moments. Doing that in his first outing obviously *could* be a great sign for the Phillies. Or it could be he’s amped up and trying to show something (which would not necessarily be great). Or, most likely, it’s just a hot spring gun. Whatever the case, best of luck to him. He’s still quite good.
- Another old friend – an old mustachioed friend – gets a job with a rival:
Brewers have hired former big leaguer Carlos Villanueva as "Special Advisor – Baseball Operations & Player Development." He'll be based in Miami and will assist in a variety of different areas of baseball ops.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) March 22, 2018
- Another old friend, Jeff Samardzija, injured himself in a tuneup start against the Cubs’ AAA spring squad, and will start the season on the DL with a pec issue. That’s bad news for a Giants club that clearly aims to rebound into competitiveness this year.
- Amazon has a big Deal of the Day on a very fancy travel mug of some kind. I can’t say I’m familiar with it, but it looks really intense, and I am intrigued.
- Today is the final day of the clearance event at SportsMemorabilia.com (it’s Fanatics’ memorabilia arm), which means you should check out the Cubs goods before the day is up.