Happy Craig, Adjusted Jake, Studious Adbert, Nasty Nick, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Happy Craig, Adjusted Jake, Studious Adbert, Nasty Nick, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

A Happy Easter to all who celebrate (the second time in as many days that I’ve used that line, though the first was about Jake Day). We’re off to do some family things, so let some Bullets get you to game time …

•   It wasn’t a save situation because the Cubs tacked on, but Craig Kimbrel wanted to get out there anyway to close down yesterday’s Cubs win, which he did with three straight strikeouts. “He wanted in [Saturday’s game] no matter what,” manager David Ross said postgame, per NBC. What we saw was the guy who – just like last year! – dealt with mechanics being out of whack when he got underway (season last year, Spring Training this year), which meant the fastball velocity and ride wasn’t there, and the curveball had a long, sweeping shape instead of the downward bite you want to see from a knuckle curve. And then yesterday, he was clearly in the process of turning that all around, again, just like last year. I was thrilled.

•   The fastball still needs a couple clicks, but seeing 96-97 mph in his first outing of the year? Pretty normal for him. There was probably more tailing action than you’d like to see from him, but it was interesting that the Cubs were clearly having him work down right now instead of up (and he got two strikeouts staring at the fastball because of it). When the fastball velocity isn’t quite there yet, Kimbrel can get hammered up in the zone. So an intentional effort to go down in the zone early in the year? A more permanent change? At his best, Kimbrel will work BOTH the top and bottom of the zone, though, so there might not be much to it.

•   Either way, the curveball looked fantastic, and it was clearly pairing well, since he got a whopping nine called or swinging strikes on his 16 pitches. It was a good, good first outing for Kimbrel, and it absolutely had to feel good to get things started that way after how things went for him in the mucked up 2019 and 2020 seasons.

•   Good Lord Brandon Workman was obscene yesterday:

•   I didn’t internalize it as it was happening, but looking back at his outing, something really interesting about Jake Arrieta’s work yesterday: he threw ONLY his sinker, slider/cutter, and curveball. Just three pitches. No changeups, no four-seamers. A one-off tied to the Pirates/first outing of the year? Part of the adjusted plan with the Cubs? The four-seamer really started to go away back in 2017 anyway, but the changeup was a heavy part of his arsenal the last few years, and – at least in isolation – was a very effective pitch.

•   It doesn’t sound like the plan is for the changeup to go away entirely, though (Cubs.com):

Arrieta’s pitch distribution was part design and part response on Saturday. He recognized early on that his cutter was not functioning properly, and the righty also opted against mixing in the change. That left the sinker and curve for the heavy lifting, but Arrieta found a way to make it work.

“That’s a really good sign,” Arrieta said of his ability to adjust in-game.

It was an immediate example of how Arrieta hopes the many hours he dedicated this spring to fine-tuning his delivery can pay dividends. He feels healthy now after a few injury-marred seasons with the Phillies and is trying to correct some mechanical habits developed in that span.

“If the timing and the arm slot are there,” Arrieta said, “everything plays up a notch, really. It’s the late break on the curveball. It’s the hard movement down and in to lefties with the cutter. And it’s the late life on the changeup.”

•   Given the way they were working together in Spring Training – their pitch mixes overlap quite a bit, and you’d love to see the younger learn from the elder – it was great to see Adbert Alzolay literally taking notes during Jake Arrieta’s outing yesterday:

 

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•   Bonus fun from Arrieta’s re-debut? He was wearing a “FOUNDER” shirt after the game, which he’d been sent from Joe at Obvious Shirts. It was Arrieta’s performance in his first go with the Cubs that inspired the first Obvious Shirt, as he explained with some really kind words:

•   Nick Castellanos got into it with the Cardinals yesterday, frustrated by a hit by pitch, aggressively celebrating scoring on a wild pitch, then getting run up on by Yadi Molina and Nolan Arenado and a buncha Cardinals. He talked about it after the game, with respect offered to the Cardinals, but his typical level of energy and emotional honesty:

•   Oh no, Luis Robert …

•   Jose Berrios and Corbin Burnes had dueling no-hitters THROUGH six innings last night, with Burnes losing his in the 7th on a Byron Buxton home run, and the Twins losing a combined one in the 8th after Berrios had departed. Burnes, by the way, is currently unfair:

•   As mentioned yesterday, Angels reliever Ty Buttrey has decided to leave baseball, despite probably being able to carve out a nice career over the next several years. He shared his perfectly good reasons:

•   Cubs:



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.