Opener Success, Roster Moves, Schedule Better, Rivas, Suzuki, Heyward, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Opener Success, Roster Moves, Schedule Better, Rivas, Suzuki, Heyward, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

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•   It was a matter of necessity because of Drew Smyly going on the bereavement list, but last night’s “Opener” strategy pretty clearly worked from where I was sitting. Yes, Scott Effross gave up two runs, but neither was earned because of a Patrick Wisdom error to open things up (and Jason Heyward kicked one in the outfield to make things worse), and without the defensive miscues, he likely goes two easy clean innings. From there, Keegan Thompson took the bulk innings, going 3.2 and allowing just one solo homer to Tim Anderson. Five innings from two pitchers isn’t ideal, and that’ll be even more the case when the bullpen is limited to eight, but it is absolutely not bad.

•   Speaking of the Smyly move – all the best to him and his family – the Cubs replaced him on the roster with Robert Gsellman, who was pitching exceedingly well at Iowa, and who has had some big league success before. He figures to see multi-inning appearances in some capacity, whether as another opener type, or a bulk guy. Gsellman does not have minor league options remaining, so he’ll have to stay with the big league team from here on out, or he’ll have to be subjected to waivers – even if he were to clear waivers, because of his level of service time (more than five years), he cannot be outrighted to Iowa without his permission. So it’s possible this run for Gsellman is succeed or go.

•   To make room for Gsellman on the 40-man roster, the Cubs DFA’d Locke St. John, who they’d only just added to the 40-man and brought up for one appearance against the Brewers before sending him back down. I liked the funky delivery, which seemed to fool Brewers batters for a bit (and then a few of them hit him HARD). I tend to doubt he’ll be claimed on waivers, but since he’s been outrighted once before in his career, he can elect free agency if he is outrighted again. In other words, it’s likely the choice will be his about whether he wants to stay in the Cubs org, or find a minor league deal in another organization.

•   Alfonso Rivas was the leadoff hitter last night for the Cubs, and although he reached base just once in the game, it’s hard to say it wasn’t a successful night: (1) Rivas walked once, but really should’ve walked twice, as his first inning strikeout in a 3-2 count came after a brutally bad strike call that was many inches outside the zone; (2) his magnificent 14-pitch(!) plate appearance against Michael Kopech in the 3rd indirectly led to Kopech leaving after just four dominant innings; and (3) overall on the night, Rivas saw a total of 29(!) pitches over his four plate appearances. To be sure, the leadoff guy isn’t solely up there to see a bunch of pitches, but it definitely helps the team in a number of ways when he does.

•   On the continuation of Seiya Suzuki taking strike threes:

•   Most guys last night were down a bit for understandable reasons, some more than others, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this just yet (though it is worth paying attention to if it becomes a pattern):

•   Speaking of the weather last night, what a screwjob of scheduling this series has been – a Tuesday and a Wednesday in early May for Cubs-Sox at Wrigley Field. I know that a LOT of things have to be coordinated to make a schedule work, but this was an extreme whiff by MLB. This should be a summer weekend series every time, and the rest should maneuver around that, not vice versa.

•   Hey, this couldn’t have happened again many batters besides Jose Abreu, who is not speedy, but that doesn’t make this double-play any less impressive:

•   As much as I want to be pleased that Jason Heyward is sporting a slightly-above-league-average wRC+ to this point in the year (103) after a walk and a hit last night, everything under the hood keeps telling you it cannot last. His 27.5% strikeout rate is terrible for his style of hitter and is the highest of his career by a long stretch, his .068 ISO is also terrible and is also the worst of his career. His 26.7% hard contact rate is the lowest in five years, the 33.3% soft contact rate is the highest of his career, and the 53.3% groundball rate is the highest since 2015. He’s hitting just 23.3% fly balls, and 57.7% of those fly balls have been on the infield! A career-high 12.5% of his groundballs that stay on the infield are going for hits, which, well, that doesn’t last (nor does the .367 BABIP).

•   All that said, with Michael Hermosillo struggling when he gets opportunities, and Rafael Ortega not finding a lotta hits, there’s not much being lost at the moment when Heyward plays in center, so long as Alfonso Rivas can stay in the lineup at DH or 1B. Heyward’s defense in center field has been about as expected, which is to say not good. I’d probably rather see a Ortega/Hermosillo platoon out there on the slim chance either shows that he can be a useful bench player throughout the year and into 2023, but that chance now appears sufficiently small that I can’t get too riled up about it.

•   What it would look like if I swung at any big league pitch, if I managed to swing at all:

•   The humor, unlike the air, is laid on thick in Colorado. And I like it:

•   I cried just a little bit watching this, and Michael called me soft:


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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.