Sampson's Role, Now Hendricks Works on Patience, Front Office Promotions, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Sampson’s Role, Now Hendricks Works on Patience, Front Office Promotions, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

In a couple weeks, we’ll be aching for the regular season. I know this. Happens every year.

But for today, it’s the first Spring Training game! So I get excited! There will be Cubs players doing Cubs baseball things on my Cubs baseball stream this afternoon!

  • Kyle Hendricks threw off the mound yesterday for the first time in seven months, having taken a careful approach to recovering from the capsular tear in his shoulder, and having reworked his mechanics. It was all good news after, as Hendricks not only suggested he felt really good out there, but by all accounts, the new mechanics showed up quite well – his pitches were moving like his pitches should.
  • Now the hard part, says Hendricks (The Athletic): “Now we’re going to really have to be patient. It felt so good out there, that’s going to be the hard part now. It’s been three months this far and I’ve been patient with that. Luckily I can be patient when I need to be. I just have to lock in on the process. I have everybody here helping me and keeping me on path, which helps a ton.” The Cubs don’t want Hendricks to push to return quickly – they need/want a maximally effective Hendricks for the final four months of the season (or whatever) much more than they need a guy to just throw out there in April. I don’t even want to let myself think about the possibility of a resurgent Hendricks boosting this staff come June, but I can’t help it. It’s percolating.
  • In the meantime, the fifth starter job is coming down, presumably, to one of Adrian Sampson, Hayden Wesneski, or Javier Assad. Sampson will follow Marcus Stroman in today’s game, and he told the Tribune that he likes to keep a little fire in his belly:

A turning point last year came in late June when the Cubs optioned him for a fresh arm, prompting an angry response from the right-hander during his conversation with manager David Ross. He was recalled days later and stuck on the 26-man roster the rest of the season while posting a 3.28 ERA in 19 starts.

“(Ross) still brings it up here and there in a positive way though,” Sampson said. “He knows it’s a strength of mine to be a little fiery, and I use that to my advantage. There’s a line you’ve got to not cross and be able to balance it and try not to get too emotional out there. So as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned how to teeter the line but not cross it, but I’m still using it to my advantage when I’m pitching so it’s good for me.”

  • With Sampson, the question is whether he can continue to show such impressive command and pitchability that he stays off the barrel. That’s how he succeeded last year, despite a waaaay sub-20% strikeout rate and a mediocre groundball rate. He didn’t walk anyone, and he didn’t give up many barrels. He has reportedly bumped his velocity a bit this offseason, so we’ll see if that holds and if he can still command it just as well. Even a tiny tick up in his strikeout rate would go a long way to helping ensure he can stabilize as a big league starter, because succeeding long-term as solely a contact manager is a tough gig. Sometimes the balls fall in, and a couple leave the yard.
  • Other Cubs pitchers who were on a velocity program this offseason – the ones we know about – are Rowan Wick and Javier Assad (Sun-Times). I expect there were more, but adding velocity isn’t the primary offseason focus for every pitcher, nor should it be. I’m sure a lot goes into figuring out which guys it makes the most sense for. You can certainly see it for those two, as Assad – like Sampson – is not a big strikeout guy, and that would certainly help him. And Wick has always been at his best when he can stay in the 96+ mph range, but his velocity has always varied much more widely than a typical late-inning reliever.
  • That Sun-Times piece has more on how Cubs minor league coordinator of pitching performance James Ogden builds mobile structures for pitchers to use in weighted ball programs. Now that’s commitment.
  • “The energy is just different,” third baseman Patrick Wisdom said of camp this year, per the Sun-Times. “There’s a heightened level of will to win and expectancy, if you will. You just sense it. The way people are carrying themselves, the way they talk, the things we talked about, it’s all about winning and striving to be the best.”
  • Movie poster edition:
  • This is just sweet:
  • Brett Phillips with some pitch clock thoughts (and this is me just now realizing for the first time that the stupid new thing that allows some users to go over 280 characters means embeds cut off, sigh):
  • A pitch clock thought that keeps smacking me over the last 24 hours: if you’re saying you like the pitch clock but you think it should be longer or come with lesser consequences for violations means … you do not like the pitch clock. If it doesn’t ACTUALLY set a meaningful limit or have REAL teeth, then it doesn’t do anything. To my mind, this version of the pitch clock – which is already longer than in the minor leagues – is the right version to start with. If you don’t like it, then you probably just don’t like the idea of a clock at all (which, hey, that’s a valid opinion!).
  • Front office promotions aplenty:
  • Kindness:
  • Manny Machado, who can opt out of his deal with the Padres after this season, previously suggested that extension talks were over. But Dennis Lin reports that the talks are still ongoing. So there is still a chance that one more superstar free agent disappears off the market.
  • Speaking of superstar free agents after this season. Unicorn:

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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.