As a last minute fill-in, I played softball last night (a doubleheader) for the first time in seven years. To my surprise, the hitting came back to me well enough – 2-4 with a walk – but defense, previously my calling card, eluded me. Since I was a fill-in, I played all over. But when I landed in left field, I was eaten alive. I’d never played out there before, either in my baseball days or earlier softball days (and in kickball, I am more of a center field guy), and I dramatically underestimated how hard it is to read the ball off the bat (especially at night and with the ball traveling through the lights). I could not have better exemplified the guy who has no idea how deep the ball has been hit, takes his first step in, and then regrets it. Twice in the same inning – both with two outs, oof – balls went over my head that a more skilled left fielder would have easily caught. It is not unfair to say that my misadventures cost us that game (we won the second game), and I have played my last inning in left field (and maybe my last softball inning if they don’t have me back). I am shamed.
- In the wake of the Marlins’ Loria-tells-manager-what-to-do flap, folks asked Dale Sveum if the front office (which is slightly different, mind you, because Loria is the Marlins’ owner, not in the baseball operations department) tells him what to do with lineups and pitcher usage. Sveum said that, in his year-plus with the Cubs, he’s never once gotten that phone call. “We’ve had casual conversation [about philosophy], but nothing concrete,” Sveum said, per Gordon Wittenmyer. “All of us are smart enough to know how we’re going to use each guy …. I’m pretty comfortable that they trust me and my knowledge of the game and watching video …. It’s a great relationship.” The key here is that the front office guys don’t need to tell Sveum precisely how to use guys, because all fronts are on the same page about the organization’s goals. Sveum understands player value, and the front office guys understand that player performance drives that value. So, as long as Sveum is trying to put guys in the best position to succeed, then Sveum is also serving the front office goal of generating player value. Even beyond that, these guys simply have a collaborative relationship.
- Matt Garza threw on flat ground yesterday, and reportedly felt good. He subsequently tweeted that he’d be back on May 1, which means he’ll be making his first rehab start at AA Tennessee on Wednesday (that’s May 1). From there, Dale Sveum said Garza will need either two or three more minor league starts before coming up to the Cubs. If it’s just two more starts, Garza could be back in the May 16/17/18 range, but I’d guess a total of four minor league starts is likely. That would put his return in the May 21/22/23 range. Here’s hoping.
- Kyuji Fujikawa threw 25 pitches on flat ground yesterday, and is expected to throw 30 to 35 pitches off the mound on Monday. After that, he’ll likely need two minor league appearances (Wednesday and Friday?) before returning to the Cubs. Fujikawa went on the DL on April 13 with a forearm strain.
- Josh Vitters (back) and Albert Almora (wrist) are in Arizona rehabbing, with Vitters playing games and Almora taking batting practice (per Arizona Phil at TCR). Vitters is essentially having his Spring Training after missing the real one with a quad injury and then subsequently injuring his back. Almora is coming back from having the hamate bone in his wrist removed following a break. He could start playing in games soon, and is expected to start his season at Kane County at some point in May.
- Anthony Rizzo’s two homers last night gave him 8 in April, which is a Cubs record for lefties. He’s two shy of the overall club record, which is 10, set by Alfonso Soriano in 2011. If you think Rizzo doesn’t have enough time to catch Soriano, consider that he hit 4 of his 10 homers in his final three games that April.
- Our second fantasy contest went off last night, and once again I finished middle of the pack. Nobody on my roster really hooked me up, and my CarGo/Tulo strategy didn’t score me many points. And Giancarlo Stanton did nothing for me, which, well, I suppose is a good thing. Triggerhut was your winner (Pablo Sandoval was his only player who didn’t work out), with sbrust, joe123, Wackoman1, Cubscorner, ajmills100, bryanroy91, twins414, Bretzky7, and stacy0703 rounded out the top 10. If you played in the first two contests, or even if you didn’t, stay tuned: we’ll be doing something new/different/fun in May. And we’ll probably do another one of these same contests, too. We can’t change things *too* much …