META UP FRONT: We had some additional site problems last night – once again, my last 12 hours have been a nightmare – and I’d like to start being a bit more proactive in evaluating and maintaining the various levers on the site. So, if you are an IT freelancer with expertise in server environments, WordPress, and databases, please reach out. Familiarity with Bleacher Nation is likely to be helpful. My email is my first name followed by the at followed by the name of this website dot com. Thanks.
- Alec Mills had another rough outing yesterday, and it hasn’t much mattered whether he was in the rotation or in the bullpen, or facing righties or lefties. It’s been only 17.1 innings this year, so I’m not necessarily saying you already bounce the guy, but it isn’t as if we didn’t already have concerns about Mills (specifically hard contact and lefty splits) coming into this season. I’m sure the Cubs would like to get him back on track because he can be a versatile and cost-effective arm. But the other side of the coin is that, if he’s not going to have any trade value this year (TBD?), and if he struggles the rest of the way, you might see him as a 40-man roster crunch casualty anyway. I suppose that is all to say, the Cubs may have to figure out a plan for Mills before the Stroman/Miley/Smyly group returns.
- Meanwhile, part of the reason Mills took that start yesterday instead of Matt Swarmer is because the Cubs wanted to see Swarmer in relief (Bastian). Swarmer rewarded the look by going 2.1 innings scoreless and hitless, allowing just one walk and striking out four. He got seven whiffs on his 41 pitches, of which a whopping 28 were that slider. This is exactly what we’ve wanted to see from Swarmer – short-inning reliever with a two-pitch mix – and for at least one outing, it worked. (Remember the pitch-tipping thing, too. Maybe this is also evidence that Swarmer and the Cubs sorted that out.)
- Back to the rotation, where Marcus Stroman threw a “normal” 40-pitch bullpen this weekend (Cubs.com), which means he could face batters this week if his shoulder felt good after the session. From there, it’s possible he could head out on a rehab assignment as soon as this weekend or next week, though the Cubs have no reason to rush this thing.
- Rafael Ortega’s thoughts about possibly being the subject of trade rumors in the month ahead (Tribune): “I’ve seen it from afar, I’ve seen what’s happened. I don’t just play for my team. I also play for the other (29) teams here that are looking. They might have scouts, people observing (me). I only control what I can. I’ve seen it before with other players. If another team might be interested in me, it would be an honor for me and something I would be excited about.”
- You have to remember where Ortega is coming from as a player who grinded for over a decade in seven different organizations before he really got playing time in the big leagues as a 30-year-old. He pretty much HAS to have that kind of go-with-the-flow, I’m-playing-for-my-next-job mindset. On the year, Ortega is hitting .269/.359/.398/114 wRC+, while playing capably anywhere in the outfield. He remains pre-arbitration through next season. I can’t see him netting a substantial return for the Cubs, but a worthwhile prospect? Yeah, I could see it, especially given Ortega’s salary situation.
- David Robertson, obviously a trade candidate, looked really awesome yesterday closing out that win. He touched 95 mph on his cutting fastball, which was particularly explosive:
- The Twins are losing their pitching coach in the middle of the season, poached by LSU:
- Reportedly, Johnson is getting a substantial salary bump – from $350,000 with the Twins to $750,000 with LSU – which winds up telling me how little the Twins (other orgs, too?) value the difference between Pitching Coach A and Pitching Coach B. I would think they were paid a lot more than that, and/or that a $400,000 difference wouldn’t be enough to lose a guy in the middle of a season. I get why he’s heading out; harder to see why the Twins didn’t just pony up to keep him.
- I know Rafael Ortega uses a hand guard on the bases, but this one used by the Cardinals yesterday just seems EXTRA long: