The Chicago Cubs lost last night, but only after Yu Darvish finally seemed to settle into the strike zone. They have another game against the Reds in Cincinnati tonight to see if they can keep their series loss-less streak (dating back to the beginning of April!) alive.
But beyond the X’s and O’s on the field of play, Anthony Rizzo is out with a sore back, Ben Zobrist is on the restricted list for personal reasons, the two top two relief arms are on the Injured List, as is the team’s primary back-up catcher. Discussing all of that and more is Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer, who jumped on 670 The Score today with Bernstein & McKnight.
You can catch the full interview right here, or embedded at the bottom of this post, but I’ve gone ahead and grabbed some of the highlights and attached some thoughts of my own for you below:
- Even though Yu Darvish wasn’t as efficient as you’d hope, Jed Hoyer can still look at a start like last night – which we covered in greater detail here – and dream on Darvish’s obvious potential. “[A night like that] was a really good example of the kind of pitcher he can be – dominating at times last night.”
- Looking forward, Hoyer believes that Darvish has been working incredibly hard and has been more trusting of the Cubs coaching staff and process. “Every side session he takes incredibly seriously and he and Tommy Hottovy have a really good relationship and he’s been working on a lot of different things.” Ultimately, Hoyer believes the lack of walks last night was huge, implying that even if he struck out only 2 batters (instead of the 11 he actually whiffed) he could have still succeeded because of all the weak contact. And given that the command has been the biggest frustration for Darvish so far, last night was a really good sign.
- The Cubs are trying to say “as little as possible” on Ben Zobrist out of respect for him and his family, but Hoyer does have some news to share. For one, the team has been and will continue to be in touch with Zobrist on a regular basis, but there is still some uncertainty regarding when he’ll actually return. But to the extent you were wondering if the league would force their hand, it sounds like no, they would not: “There’s no deadline. We can take this day to day. Whatever time increment you want to use on it, we do …. We just want what’s best for him.”
- The Cubs are “hopeful” that Anthony Rizzo can help the Cubs out this weekend (i.e. he will not be starting tonight and is likely unavailable off the bench either). The Cubs are also holding out hope to avoid an IL stint altogether and there are some positive signs in that regard. “It’s unclear when exactly he’ll be back, but it’s not a long-term thing.” The minimum injured list stay is 10 days, and, if he’s out today, Rizzo will already be through five days.
- Jed Hoyer believes the quality of Ian Happ’s at-bats have been getting better and better at Triple-A, “Now that his strike zone is organized and his approach is organized, I think we’re gonna start to see at some point he’s gonna go off and start hitting homers like Ian Happ can.” Hoyer lauded his hard work and attitude. The Cubs can’t wait to get back the “incredibly dangerous switch-hitter, which he is.”
- The Cubs should be getting their back-up catcher back soon (UPDATE: Today, actually). “I think [Victor Caratini] is going to be up really soon. We love the way he was playing before he got hurt. It was a shame. I think that’s as good as he can swing the bat. He was catching well.” Beyond the obvious on-field performance (the stuff we can see from afar), Hoyer gave Caratini credit for the big voice and presence he had become on the catching/pitching staff. “Guys think really highly of him.”
- Relatedly, Hoyer all but confirmed that Taylor Davis is going back to Iowa when Caratini returns, which could be any day now. He said he’s done a great job catching Yu Darvish, which he has, but that’s pretty much the only thing he can definitely do. And it’s not like Caratini calls a bad game. In other words, maybe Willson Contreras isn’t the guy to catch Darvish, but that doesn’t mean it has to be Davis.
- Brandon Morrow is going to throw “early next week,” according to Hoyer, which is a bit of news for us, but Hoyer very quickly pivoted to Pedro Strop after saying “We’ll know more at that point.” Which doesn’t make me exactly encouraged, given how slow Morrow’s return has been.
- Strop, by contrast, is apparently doing very well with his hamstring recovery and is feeling really good, but Hoyer isn’t sure when he’ll be pitching off a mound again. Weirdly, he said they were “on schedule” with Strop, despite not really knowing what comes next. [Brett: The good news I’m aware of with Strop is that he can keep throwing right now so that he doesn’t have to build back up his arm when the hamstring is good to go.]
- Beyond that, Hoyer just had a little conversation about the how the evaluation game is changing with continually improving technology and how the Cubs are always trying to stay ahead of the curve.