Super Tight Bench, Love for Miller and Pederson, an Anniversary, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Super Tight Bench, Love for Miller and Pederson, an Anniversary, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

One year ago today, the shit really hit the fan. On March 11, 2020, the Thunder-Jazz thing happened. The NBA suspended its season. The Tom Hanks thing happened. If you’d been questioning to that point whether the novel coronavirus pandemic was going to impact your life, you knew at that moment things were about to change. The next day, MLB suspended Spring Training and announced a delay to the regular season (initially a two-week delay … how quaint was that?). If you’d told me then that we’d still be clawing our way out from this thing a year later, I wouldn’t have believed it. Or I would have believed it, and would’ve been so depressed that I probably wouldn’t have covered those early weeks of the shutdown the same way. Maybe it wound up for the best that I was so deeply naive about how long this would take.

A year later, the NBA is playing games. Spring Training is proceeding normally-ish. Fans are going to be back at baseball games. Case positivity rates and hospitalization rates are declining rapidly. Vaccines are being distributed. Things are better now than they were. I can’t believe it’s been a year.

Baseball …

•   There’s a lot about this that makes me mad – not at the Cubs or David Ross, but just at the situation (

Right now, the expectation is that the Cubs will open this season with a four-man bench. That could leave the team picking between an extra outfielder or a more versatile utility man for the final job. Ross said his priority will be pinch-hitting ability, regardless of position.

“When you have the pitcher batting again,” Ross said, “there’s going to be definite moments where you need a real bat on the bench, and maybe the position’s not quite as important.”

•   Going with just four on the bench when you’re up to 26 roster spots now is crazy (but is just the state of the game), and also having to think about pinch-hitting for pitchers again, because pitchers can’t hit but will have to (despite having not done it now for a year and a half) is enraging. And you combine the things, and it makes you madder, because you think about how teams are going with nine relievers primarily because of the bump up in innings from last year – trying to keep guys healthy – and yet there was no allowance made for that on the size of the rosters OR the DH. It’s really asinine.

•   As for the substance of Ross’s comments, a four-man bench (implying a nine-man bullpen (anyone else remember when a seven-man bullpen was kind of robust?) is just so tight. One of those four is your back-up catcher, Austin Romine, so it’s really just three extra players. If healthy, Jake Marisnick will be on the bench as the fourth outfielder. If David Bote doesn’t win the nominal starting job at second base (i.e., if Nico Hoerner is the starter), Bote takes a spot. Eric Sogard is a good bet. Cameron Maybin is a good bet. Ildemaro Vargas is a decent bet. And we’re now already way over the number. Anyway, a lot of this will clarify organically over the next couple weeks, but it’s tight.

•   Shelby Miller shows up in getting some behind-the-scenes love here at NBC, and Sahadev Sharma said the same on our last podcast. None of that means Miller is definitely going to – for example – make the rotation, but a guy with his unique path, clear upside/pedigree, and still being only 30 years old? Weirdly, it reminds me a lot of the Chris Coghlan signing, actually. Tons of very early career success, then a parade of injuries leaves him to sign a minor league deal where others have left his career for dead. But actually, he just needed health and the right organization to put together some good years.

•   Joc Pederson is fitting right in, with David Ross telling NBC that he was out picking up some food when a car pulled up next to him and laid on the horn. Ross says it “scared the crap” out of him and he jumped “about 4,000 feet.” It was Pederson, just effing around.

•   Jordan Bastian hooks us up with a classic story that I can’t believe I’d never heard:

•   Travel mugs, extension cords, computer gear, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

•   Clearly the Cubs rotation is going to dominate this year:

•   Kyle Hendricks gets back at it today after what may have seemed like a long time off – he actually made his last start at the back fields, so he’s still on a normal schedule.

•   Anthony Rizzo doing some good with his homers:

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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.