Whole Lotta "Close" for the Cubs, Hendricks Command, Pederson, Hicks, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Whole Lotta “Close” for the Cubs, Hendricks Command, Pederson, Hicks, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The horse was juicin’? And he didn’t even hit any dingers? You just have to ask yourself whether it was worth it.

•   That was so close yesterday. Javy Báez was clearly batting at less than 100% – hopefully today’s off-day does him well, but I wonder if he’ll need more time than that – but he still managed to fight a long at bat against Richard Rodriguez, who has been darn good four years running, and then put the ball in play the other way. Unfortunately it was a bouncer right at second base, and the Cubs’ comeback efforts – notching three runs and putting the tying run at second – came to an end. A few feet in either direction, that’s a base hit, and the game is tied. I guess the Pirates used up all the “few feet here or there” luck earlier in the game.

•   To that end, you’re just not going to get me to be bothered by Kyle Hendricks’ outing. He gave up a couple softly hit (but legit) singles, one hard single, one deep fly ball that turned into a triple, and walked a guy. That was it through 27(!) batters faced. Hendricks did what he was supposed to do, and sometimes that flukey situation happens where a bunch of crappy contact strings together for hits, and a couple guys make errors behind you, and you’re charged with six runs (four earned). Do that exact same performance 100 times, and I’ll bet you it’s a quality start 98 times.

•   Both Hendricks and David Ross said after the game that he pitched well, even if the results were poor. ‘‘I thought he threw the ball fine,’’ Ross said, per the Sun-Times. ‘‘Some soft liners found holes. Felt like wherever we positioned our infielders or our outfielders, they hit it just away from them. I think Kyle threw the ball really nice. Balls were down, off the end, ahead in the count a lot. All those things point to good signs for him.’’

•   More importantly, Hendricks sees his progress from the early-season struggles (which were definitely NOT just bad luck): ‘‘It’s still on the right track,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘I’m still getting better action on my pitches; I’m getting to the bottom of the zone better. Threw some good curveballs, good changeups today, so at least I have a chance going out there. I feel like I can trust my stuff more, so I would say still positive progress, progress in the right direction. Just have to stick with it, keep making good pitches and things will turn around.’’ He’s right about his pitch location – the fastballs are still a little too frequently belt-high, but the curveball and changeup were consistently lower-third and below. That was a major problem earlier this year when his changeup was getting hammered and he wasn’t even able to throw the curveball.

•   To my eye, you combine this outing with his great one against the Dodgers last time out – and the similar improvements we’ve seen from Zach Davies, finally, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s just taking these types a little more time to adjust to the new baseball. I will say I am now as optimistic on those two as I’ve been since Spring Training (and the optimism on them got reeealllllllll low there a couple weeks ago).

•   Renewed optimism on Joc Pederson is probably going to take a fair bit longer, but he’s certainly had a good week, including another three-hit day (that’s two out of the last three days). But, hey, he got back over the Mendoza line, and his slash is now merely “quite bad” rather than “holy shit this is scary” – .206/.317/.279. What’s scary is that his 75 wRC+ is now solidly better than a host of other guys who get plenty of run when healthy: Ian Happ (69), Eric Sogard (68), David Bote (57), Jason Heyward (56). Pederson, who was supposed to get a multi-month run of starting every day against lefties, is still putting up absolutely brutal numbers against lefties. He did do this, though:

•   Jacob deGrom is in the early part of what could be a truly historic season … but he got pulled from his start yesterday with right side/lat tightness. He’s getting an MRI.

•   Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks – who is pitching now for the first time since his 2019 Tommy John surgery – got a second opinion on his elbow inflammation and apparently it wasn’t great. He is gonna get some kind of injection (orthobiologics?) and will be resting for at least six weeks. After that, assuming he’s able to ramp right back up, he could return maybe after the All-Star break? It’s a huge loss for the Cardinals bullpen.

•   Meanwhile, the Cardinals getting heavy use out of Alex Reyes for the first time in a long time – what a road he’s had – and the ERA is tiny, but the 27.1% K rate/18.6% BB rate sure seems like a warning sign flashing to me. Reyes is still only 26, which is incredible given that he’s been on the radar for nearly a decade (he was a tip-top prospect almost immediately after signing internationally). Heck, do you remember when he absolutely owned the Cubs as a starting pitcher back in his 2016 rookie season?

•   The Braves are re-signing reliever Shane Greene to a tiny contract, and it remains a bit of a public mystery why (1) he lingered in free agency as long as he did, and (2) he is getting barely $1 million after years of very high-level success. Clearly there are some serious concerns/warts that we never really had occasion to dig into. But he might wind up another boost to the Braves’ bullpen, as they sure seem to be righting the ship after early struggles.

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.