Rotation Clue, Where's Brailyn, Catcher Injury, Velocity Talk, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Rotation Clue, Where’s Brailyn, Catcher Injury, Velocity Talk, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The Wife surprised me with balloons yesterday, to mark a little milestone, and I gotta say: balloons still play.

•   The Cubs are doing the ‘B’ game thing today at the back fields, where Zach Davies will make his next start (Bastian), and Jake Marisnick will get his first “game” action. Their main game will be at the normal time against the Royals today, and Adbert Alzolay will make the start. It’s still a little early to be thinking too much about this, but you’ll note that the current spring rotation the last time through, in terms of who pitches on what day, has gone Hendricks, Arrieta, Davies (Alzolay same day), Williams, Mills. Does that mean the Cubs are already anticipating that Alzolay will be the one who doesn’t open the season in the rotation? Not necessarily, because you can shift around easily enough in the early going. But, that said, it’s hard not to see five in order there and think that’s how things will open up, especially if the additional option year comes through for Alzolay.

•   Not really sure what to make of Brailyn Marquez being behind the other arms in camp because of a “delayed” start to his Spring Training ( The Cubs are intentionally being vague – was it an arm issue thing? a COVID protocol thing? a conditioning thing? – but it’s never good when your top pitching prospect shows up to camp and is not ready to throw the same way everyone else is. All we know is he’s on a throwing program. So I have unspecified concerns. That said, I *do* believe the Cubs would be overly slow with Marquez anyway, because – despite being on the 40-man roster – there was no way he was breaking camp with the big league team, and he might not even have been a guy they’d want to send to the alternate site for April. So there’s not a whole lot of sense in ramping him up in March just to have him … re-ramp up at minor league spring training in April. But I get a little confused because the Cubs aren’t just saying that – they’re saying he’s behind. So … what’s actually up?

•   You do wonder at what point the Cubs will have to start planning that another catcher will be the back-up for the opener:

•   With Taylor Gushue cut from big league camp yesterday, your back-up options are veteran extremely-glove-first guy Jose Lobaton, or versatile more-bat-upside P.J. Higgins. I’d love for the Cubs to get a chance to find out if Higgins is ready to be a big-league back-up (because the bat might be league-average-ish (which is great for a back-up catcher), and he can also play the corner spots), but I also mostly just want whichever catcher is back there to be the guy that the starting pitchers are most comfortable working with. A little boost in offense would be nice, but it’s a back-up catcher – you mostly need the Cubs to max out the performance they can get from this pitching staff. That’s why they chose Romine in the first place, in my opinion.

•   A little velocity talk from yesterday’s game:

•   So, as Bryan’s note indicates, Thompson hitting 97 mph right now in Spring Training would be an absolute eye-popper. It was already kinda crazy that he’d boosted himself up to 95 mph last year, and was probably a huge part of why the Cubs now saw “ceiling” in a guy who’d otherwise been all about the pitchability floor (and thus he got added to the 40-man roster). But at 97 mph? That’d be kinda nuts, especially if he was anywhere close to that as a starter.

•   If you’re thinking it was just a matter of a hot gun at Sloan – would may be a decent guess – then I have some really bad news for you. In his same set of notes from yesterday’s outing, Phil indicates that Craig Kimbrel was at just 94-95 mph on the Sloan gun. So either it was hot for Thompson (and MEGA-YIKES on Kimbrel), or it was not hot for Thompson, and you’re stoked about him while being still only pretty-darn-concerned about Kimbrel. There’s still time for Kimbrel to ramp up, and as we’ve said, even if he were only 96-97 mph by April, that wouldn’t be atypical. But Kimbrel was 95-96 initially, and then he’s been 94-95 (reportedly) in his last couple outings, all of which have been atrocious from a results standpoint. Now that he’s had four brutal appearances, does my joke about how he did that last year and then was fantastic after that play out? Please and thanks?

•   As for Jake Arrieta’s velocity yesterday, it was about where you’d expect for him at this point, around 92-93 mph, but he’s hoping he can tick back up to where he was in his heyday:

•   That said, Arrieta knows the limitations that aging brings, and in a way, he’s in a perfect spot to be in a rotation with guys like Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies: “It’s more about trying to adopt an approach like Kyle Hendricks or Zach Davies. They show the ability to get guys out consistently at a high level without high velocity. Staying within themselves, changing speeds, moving the ball around and creating deception.” I mentioned yesterday watching the game, there were more than a few pitches that looked a heckuva lot like the way Hendricks executes.

•   To be sure, Arrieta’s crossfire delivery is always going to make it tougher for him to have the kind of pristine mechanics and command that make Hendricks a unicorn, but Arrieta naturally has velocity that Hendricks does not, and he also has five usable pitches. So if being with this crew helps Arrieta become a more successful contact-manager type, then it’s still all good. There isn’t just one version of that type of pitcher, and even going back to his time with the Phillies, I said this was the type pitcher he was going to have to evolve into in order to have success as he gets older. Maybe with the Cubs he can actually make that transition – missing barrels, fewer walks, lotta groundballs, constantly changing speeds, etc.

•   Fun with golf:

•   Surprise (but still be safe and smart out there this weekend, folks):

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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.