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• Having lost 7-1, it’s a bit of a trick to say that an early-game umpiring decision that took a single run off the board for the Cubs was the difference in yesterday’s game, so I won’t quite do that. But had Willson Contreras not been called for interference on his break-up-the-double-play slide, not only would it have then been a 3-2 game, but that third inning would’ve been extended. You never quite know how that could have changed the course of the game.
• But Contreras was called for interference on this play:
• Your super short version of the rule is that a runner cannot alter his path to the base in order to try to make contact with a defender, has to be able to reach the base with his hand or foot, and has to make an attempt to reach the base with his hand or foot. Here, I see Contreras altering his path slightly so that he can get wider to contact Newman, and I see him failing to make a real effort to touch the base (ultimately, he didn’t even touch the base). I don’t think Contreras did anything egregious here, and I also think it happened in an instant. I get why he did it. But the rule pretty clearly is designed to prevent exactly this kind of play, and indeed, had Contreras slid straight to the bag, Newman very likely completely the inning-ending double-play. So the rule worked here.
• Like most folks, I don’t really have a problem with a rule designed to protect otherwise defenseless defenders as they make the turn at second base. I also don’t even have a problem with the way the rule was crafted. Instead, I think most of us just beef with how unevenly and inconsistently the rule is actually applied (ditto the blocking-the-plate rule, and frankly, ditto the entire replay review standard). In this case, to my eye, Contreras broke the rule. The call was correct. But can we see it applied like that in all situations, not just a handful where the right person makes a stink about the wrong baserunner?
• As I said, probably doesn’t change the outcome of the game anyway, as the Cubs’ bats were lifeless the rest of the way. They got a couple baserunners in the game via hit by pitch, which is increasingly becoming a sore subject for the team, no pun intended. Catching coach Mike Borzello got tossed from the game after Contreras and Kris Bryant got hit by pitches, and he expressed his displeasure that it keeps happening (I presume).
• Still won’t be seeing Rowan Wick (or Jonathan Holder) any time soon:
Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said this morning that both Rowan Wick and Jonathan Holder have been throwing bullpens, but recovery remains a hurdle. Making progress, but throwing programs still conservative to build-in extra days off between mound sessions.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 11, 2021
• Neither guy is needed right now, as the bullpen has been pitching very well and isn’t taxed, but you can see an issue looming if the starting rotation keeps going short. The longer each of these two is out, the greater the chance you could see them shifted from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL if a 40-man spot is needed at some point. For now, you’re still several weeks away from that being a real consideration (it would keep the pitcher out until the end of May), but it’s on the radar if they aren’t projected to be ready before May anyway.
• Old friend Duane Underwood Jr. has made four appearances this year, absolutely owning the Cubs in three of them. The fourth? He gave up two runs in 2.1 innings to the Reds. More data is necessarily, but you do wonder about his early season success: did the Cubs give up on him too soon … or has he just been fortunate to face the Cubs a lot?
• (Obligatory comment on Underwood: the real miss was in not converting him to the bullpen a lot sooner in his career. The Cubs kinda did it as a last-minute thing, when he was already pushing up against a lack of options (thus leading to the squeeze that saw him traded this spring, albeit for an interesting prospect).)
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