Miller's Slider, Tepera Breakout, Waiting on Fan Announcement, Absurd Homer, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Miller’s Slider, Tepera Breakout, Waiting on Fan Announcement, Absurd Homer, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Pfft. I wrote about the Ship of Theseus and the nature of fandom two and a half years ago. You aren’t special, robot guy.

•   Shelby Miller will start today for the Cubs after previously pitching an inning of relief. That’s standard fare for early Spring Training, so the transition from “relief” to “starting” doesn’t really mean anything. Instead, the fact that he’s starting today – and will likely pitch a couple innings – means he’s being stretched out as a depth starter and/or a long-relief option. I dig it. The combination of relative youth (30), high-level success in his past, and considerable distance now from the injury issues that derailed him … it just makes me think there’s a chance here. Sure, Miller is a higher-risk chance than pricier one-year guys like Jake Arrieta or Trevor Williams, but I would say the upside is just as high (and you’re not gonna hit on all three). Like I said earlier in the week, I just hope Miller gets a real chance.

•   Meanwhile, he has a new pitch, too. Miller was famously an EXTREME fastball-only guy (think Lance Lynn type), rarely mixing in his curveball and cutter. But now, he has developed a slider over the past year+, and he digs it ( “I’ve never had something that was kind of nasty that people swung over the top of. It used to always just be fastballs. I was a fastball pitcher. But to add that pitch is going to help me a ton, I think.” He already got some swings and misses on the pitch in his first outing. Also, the data on what he was doing with his fastball this offseason was eye-popping. I’ll be curious to see where his fastball is sitting after so much time away. He used to be a mid-90s guy (again, you better be if you’re gonna lean that heavily on the fastball), but he might be able to succeed under that level if he’s actually added a good slider (and still has the curve and cutter available).

•   So what happens if Miller looks like a guy you want to give a shot to start out of the gate, but you also have Hendricks, Davies, Arrieta, Williams, Mills, and Alzolay? Well … don’t worry about it yet! That’s a late-March question, and the shape of it changes so significantly if a guy gets hurt or another guy gets delayed or Alzolay does have an option left or Miller actually looks bad or whatever. The odds are VERY MUCH AGAINST all seven guys looking like clear rotation options on April 1. (And yes, there’s also a guy like Kohl Stewart, but I’ve already got him mentally booked as a Triple-A rotation guy to open the season so the Cubs can see how his development is progressing.)

•   Over at FanGraphs, Dan Szymborski wrote about eight pitchers he believes could be primed for a breakout this year – a new level of performance success – and recently-re-signed reliever Ryan Tepera makes the cut. Pun intended. As you might expect, it’s the emergence of Tepera’s new cutter last year that gets him on the board. It was the single nastiest pitch in baseball last year by whiff rate, so now that he’s got a full season to deploy it, it’s not hard to imagine him emerging as an elite setup guy. His command waned last year as the short season went on, so that’s probably the main reason you didn’t see teams falling all over themselves to sign him, but at $800,000, it’s not hard to see why the Cubs jumped, even in a crowded bullpen mix. With Rowan Wick a near lock to miss time early on while he recovers from the intercostal/oblique issue, Tepera may wind up getting the first crack at 8th inning duties (and/or “shit, this situation is bad, we need a strikeout” duties).

At present, this is 100 more fans than are officially permitted at Wrigley Field:

•   We’ll see where things stand in a month, though again, the Cubs (and White Sox) no doubt want to see their plans approved or modified as soon as possible. I believe every other team in MLB now knows where they stand for Opening Day (and all will permit at least some level of fans).

•   Happy birthday to Jake Arrieta, who once got a standing ovation in Boston:

•   New deals today:

•   Jose Canseco:

•   We say “that ball is gone,” but we don’t usually mean, no, seriously, I have no idea where that ball is anymore, it may have entered another plane of existence:

•   Well this is just dang adorable:

•   Wild 24 hours for the Blackhawks:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.