On my way to Chicago this morning to then take in the game in the right field bleachers with some friends (including Luis!). Say hey if you see us. In the meantime, I kinda gotta blitz through these Bullets …
• The one-game winning streak is over. Back to making history:
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Cubs drop from first place to 9 games back in 12 days is tied for the largest fall for a first place team in a 12 day span since 1969. The 2011 Pirates did the same. In this case its leading the Cubs to a July sell off. https://t.co/gHOSOPWABa
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) July 9, 2021
• Your injury update stuff, which remains of considerable importance this month regardless of the standings:
Updates from Ross…
• Báez, Bryant still just day to day
• Bryant (hamstring) woke up “achy”
• Williams starting Sunday
• Tepera on target for Friday activation
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 8, 2021
• So, you’re likely to see Kris Bryant continuing to rest the hamstring until it feels 100% or close to it, because no one will want to risk a serious strain. The question is whether the “achiness” indicates he’s already there. Even mild ones linger.
• Good to see that Tepera will be returning for a good long pre-Deadline stretch, just to see where he is. Obviously thing soured as his usage got out of control, but hopefully the IL break will help him get back on track.
• Maybe it’s the SELL MODE mentality that gets you thinking about things in a future way, but I remain encouraged by Adbert Alzolay’s development as a young pitcher at the big league level, which is what matters right now much more than his results. Because, well, yup, those results were once again marred last night by the homers given up to lefties. It’s not good. It’s a problem. And it has to be addressed if he’s going to have more success than being a back-end starter who occasionally gives you great outings.
• To that end! Last night, in true Alzolay fashion, the dude just up and busted out a new pitch – a cutter – like he did last year when he suddenly started throwing a slider and a two-seamer. I’m not COMPARING him to Yu Darvish, but that’s the only other Cubs starting pitcher in recent memory who would show up to a start with a new pitch that we didn’t even know he was working on. And look how effective this pitch COULD be for him:
Adbert Alzolay, 94mph Two Seamer, 89mph Cutter and 85mph Slider, Individual Pitches + Overlay. pic.twitter.com/PsntfmSpIK
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 9, 2021
• That, RIGHT THERE, is what Alzolay needs to be working on – the hard cutter in and elevated to lefties. It is, among other things, a perfect complement to his two-seamer away. Lefties have been a real issue for him – it showed again last night – and he needs the cutter and/or the changeup to develop.
• Justin Steele is, as theorized, moving into the rotation at Triple-A Iowa after officially ending his rehab assignment and being optioned “back” to Iowa, where he was already being stretched out into a multi-inning role. The idea, in my view, would be to see if he could make a some starts in the second half for the big league team (post-deadline roster clearing), or at least go some piggy-back outings, to see how the stuff holds up past the 50 pitch mark. That, in turn, would give you a little more direction for his offseason preparation and possible role next year.
Hoyer says rookie LHP Justin Steele will be stretched out to "well more than a two-inning role; I think we're going to certainly try to put him in a role where he can face the lineup a couple times."#rotation
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) July 8, 2021
• Speaking of starters, it’ll be Trevor Williams taking the Sunday start in Jake Arrieta’s place. On Arrieta, who struggled badly and was then placed on the IL, Jed Hoyer was kind:
#Cubs Hoyer on Arrieta:
"Given what he's done for us in his career, given the highlights he's had and the talent he has, you want to exhaust everything…
"I think with a few tweaks he might well get back to being a really good starting pitcher again."
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) July 8, 2021
• Draft prep here at Cubs.com, including a lot from Scouting Director Dan Kantrovitz: “If you ask any of our scouts, they probably have a guy that maybe they hope ends up being our pick at 21. But, having done this now for 15 years, that player rarely ends up being the guy that you take with your first pick. Especially picking at 21, it doesn’t matter too much who we want. What matters most is who’s available at that pick at 21. There’s going to be 20 players that go off the board before us, so we don’t necessarily control our own destiny when it comes to who are options will be. I think everybody, including me, probably has a favorite or two. But it wouldn’t make sense for me to say who that player is before the Draft.”
• Here’s hoping the Cubs can find gems like Ben Leeper again this year in the draft (he was undrafted because of the shortened five-round draft, but the team considers him their “sixth rounder”) – the now Triple-A reliever just keeps on dominating:
Ben Leeper. Again. 1-2-3 inning. Two strikeouts. Hit 98 mph three times.
Leeper w/@IowaCubs — 12.1 IP, 0 H (!!!), 1 ER, 20 K, 5 BB
— Alex Cohen (@voiceofcohen) July 9, 2021