I had a really nice dream last night, which has been an almost completely absent thing during the pandemic (nice dreams of any kind have been supplanted by two types: (1) bad dreams, or (2) extraordinarily weird and vivid dreams). The thing is, there was nothing special about the dream at all. It was just me and the family at a McDonald’s, getting food and sitting down and eating. It was simple, and kind, and clear, and it just made me happy for a few moments.
• Ah, on to less happiness. The Cubs are 5-7, but arguably have looked even worse than that (it’s about a 68-win pace, so … yikes). Last night I got into how the Cubs’ start is already impacting the way we think about the course for the season, and I want to talk about one very specific slice of that from yesterday’s game: Shelby Miller’s debut. The 30-year-old former excellent starting pitcher is finally getting his shot to get back into a real big league role after so many years lost to injuries, surgeries, and the pandemic. That the Cubs got him on a minor league deal made sense given that backdrop, but he looked so good in Spring Training (not just the results, how he looked) that it felt like he might be a guy who winds up giving them 100 really good innings between the bullpen and the rotation. I suppose it’s possible he still could be that guy – it was only one outing – but he’s already behind the 8-ball since that first outing accounted for … 0.0 innings.
• First off, Miller came up yesterday for two reasons: (1) the Cubs knew they would need innings covered and wanted to manage Adbert Alzolay’s innings anyway; and (2) Miller had triggered the opt-out in his minor league deal, so the Cubs had only until today to add him to the big league roster if they wanted to keep him. Since he absolutely would’ve been signed by another club right away for all the projection reasons above, the Cubs did want to keep him.
Specifically: Miller had a 4/10 trigger date on opt-out; Cubs had until Thursday to respond. https://t.co/fjVeKPCfGg
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) April 14, 2021
• How much does one outing change any of that? Well, usually you’d say none. But boy, that was *exceptionally* bad. Miller started off with a couple bloops that fell in (he was already quite wild, though), which I’m sure was frustrating, and also created a more challenging situation. From there, he could not throw a strike. Just three of his next 15 pitches were even close to the strike zone, he walked in two runs, and that was it. The appearance was not about a subtle lack of command or a pitch that wasn’t working. It was complete wildness. So unless there was some OBVIOUS mechanical issue that is EASILY fixable and can be COMPLETELY eradicated, I don’t think it’s at all reactionary to wonder if Miller can come back from that outing. My guess is he gets one more chance at least, given that he’s pitched so little in the big leagues in the last five years (and none since 2019).
• From David Ross (Cubs.com): “[Miller was] just searching a little bit. It looked like his body was ahead of his arm a lot, a lot of misses up. Just didn’t look in sync out there on the mound yet.” That’s about as nicely as you can put it, and it’s what you’d desperately hope points to something quickly and easily correctible.
• By contrast, I appreciated how Justin Steele responded to being called into clean up Miller’s no-out, bases-loaded mess. He, too, couldn’t find the strike zone initially – throwing three straight balls to opposing pitcher Corbin Burnes. Steele found the zone, and although he gave up a single to Burnes, he stayed the course from there, striking out the next two and get a lineout to end the frame with no further damage. That was likely a very beneficial experience for Steele.
• That featured image of Steele up there, by the way, is one of those extended exposure deals from yesterday’s game. I chose it partly because he pitched, but mostly because it reminded me of how it must look to Cubs batters right now. They’re just having so much trouble.
• The Cubs’ team batting average is back down to .163, their worst mark through 12 games in at least 120 years. Here’s your highlight stat of the morning:
With 59 hits, the Cubs have fewer hits than the
… have runs.
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 15, 2021
• Meanwhile, Max Fried and Cristian Pache both hit the IL just before the Cubs series that opens tomorrow against the Braves. The Braves have had a very mixed start to their season, so it probably doesn’t help to lose those two. But they’re still rather loaded overall.
• Wild stat on Carlos Rodon’s no-hitter last night:
Carlos Rodón of the @whitesox had Tommy John surgery on May 15, 2019. Tonight he threw a no-hitter.
He's the first MLB pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter within 2 years after having Tommy John surgery.
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) April 15, 2021
• It’s still really crazy to me that Rodon did that:
From third overall pick to shoulder woes to bottoming out at 91.5 mph on his average fastball and needing Tommy John surgery to getting nontendered to coming back to Chicago anyway to hitting 99 in the ninth inning of a no-hitter, Carlos Rodón has had one hell of a baseball ride.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 15, 2021
• The Cubs, you’ll recall, were among the teams in on Rodon over the winter after the non-tender, but it wound up becoming clear that his strong preference was to return to the White Sox (and I think ultimately, by that point in the offseason, the Cubs preferred Jake Arrieta in any case).
• Happy nutaversary:
Two years ago today, Yu Darvish threw a 99 mph fastball that took out three people, including an opening nut shot. pic.twitter.com/w5lZ4q0e6Z
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) April 15, 2021
• Today is Jackie Robinson Day in baseball, and many MLB’ers are doing something important:
David Price, Jason Heyward & Jackie Bradley Jr. are among 100+ MLB players who have pledged to donate all or part of their game-day salaries to the Players Alliance on Jackie Robinson Day in MLB, per the nonprofit’s announcement. They say they raised $1M+ doing this last year.
— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) April 14, 2021
Jackie Robinson was a champion for change on and off the field.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 15, 2021