So much of Spring Training matters only very little from the fan perspective. For the most part, most roster decisions are made irrespective of spring performance. Veterans are just trying to get their work in, and their results, in particular, do not matter at all. At the margins, performance things can matter a little bit, and certainly a player’s state of readiness could factor into early season decisions. Watching prospects and new players, though, that’s always fun for me.
The one big, glaring thing that ALWAYS matters about Spring Training, though, are the injuries. They happen every year, and it’s just a natural part of the game – even fake games – when you’re trying to get yourself ready for the regular season. Just stay healthy, everyone. Please stay healthy.
To that end, the obvious biggest thing from today’s game was top prospect Brennen Davis taking a pitch off the inside of his right knee, crumbled a bit, and ultimately had to leave the game after trying to run it out. The official post-game update is that he’s day-to-day with a knee contusion (bruise), but that’s really something of a placeholder diagnosis until you see how he’s feeling tomorrow. At that point, you might make a decision about whether further testing is necessary, or if he’s just fine. Either way, you won’t see him in a spring lineup again any time soon, because this is a time to be ABSURDLY overly cautious.
Oh, also, there was a game. The Cubs won it 3-2 over the Reds.
• Keegan Thompson looked perfectly normal in his two innings of work, which is really all you wanted to see (also looked svelte – wonder if he got in even better shape this offseason). He’s likely to be a multi-inning reliever for the Cubs this year, and I suspect he could be a dang good one.
• Nick Madrigal made his Cubs spring debut, grounding out twice to second base. Cubs lose the trade.
Nick Madrigal's first at-bat as a Cub: Watched first five pitches (from 3-0 to 3-2), fouled off a pitch and then grounded out.
An interesting leadoff option with his elite contact rate. Ross said he's at top today just to rack up a few ABs fast in his first game. pic.twitter.com/AeUSPKUkBR
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 21, 2022
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 22, 2022
• Nice to see Donnie Dewees out there getting hits and running well after a long road to get back to an opportunity like this. He’s competing for a job in the very crowded Iowa outfield at this point, and as a lefty power bat with some speed (and still a lot of talent that has been a little derailed for reasons out of his control), I’m really hoping he wins a gig. Just seems like a good guy to still have in the organization.
• It’s so very early, but Alfonso Rivas is reminding us how he was looking big league ready last year. I don’t know if the numbers and needs are going to work out for him to open with the big league team (especially thanks to his remaining options), but he will see time at the big league level this year, without question.
• Four of the minor leaguer deal, non-roster invite relievers got into this one – Locke St. John, Jonathan Holder, Stephen Gonsalves, and Eric Yardley – and all have a theoretical shot at making the Opening Day bullpen, depending on how large it is or isn’t. It’s more likely that they will either head to Iowa to be called up later, or could opt out of their deals at the end of Spring Training. You’d hate to lose any of them, as there are performances in their history to believe they can be good in MLB for the Cubs this year, but the relief group is just so crowded. Might just depend on how they are looking in two weeks. Tough calls coming.
• You have to keep in mind that pitching in the 9th in Spring Training games means you’re facing nothing but youngsters and fringe guys, but historically, the Cubs give that spot in these games to a young arm that they think has late-inning potential down the road. Today, it was converted reliever (formerly starter) Erich Uelmen, who looked like he’s added another couple clicks on his sinker (which was already a great pitch). I will confess to not having the deepest knowledge on Uelmen since he fell a bit off of the prospect radar a few years ago, but back then, he was kind of a one-pitch guy (with that one pitch being the really, really good sinker). After his bullpen conversion last year, the striking rate rocketed up close to 30% (together with his always great groundball rate), but he was giving up homers at an alarming clip (that can be a problem for sinker-ballers, especially against lefties, where your pitch just runs right into their barrel). Anyway, that is all to say: he’s a reliever to watch at Iowa this year, for sure.
• Running on Willy in Spring Training is, I suppose, a better idea than doing it during the regular season:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 21, 2022
• When he wasn’t hitting 112 mph rockets at Anderson Espinoza, Seiya Suzuki was doing more BP:
Daily Suzuki content:
— Andy Martínez (@amartinez_11) March 21, 2022