Spring Training Miscellany: Cubs Lost Both Games Today, But Boy Are There So Many Positive Pitching Stories
The Cubs dropped both halves of the split squad day today, to the Guardians and to the Diamondbacks, but I could not possibly care less. For reasons you’ll see below, it was a very, very happy day of Cubs baseball-watching. I had my MLB dot tv cranked up so I could bounce back and forth between the games and see as much as I could. I love the Cubs’ young arms, man. So many bright spots, and today was just a sampling.
Let’s get through a lot …
- I almost hate how good Caleb Kilian looked today, because I don’t want to do it to myself. I don’t want to treat two spring innings like a referendum on how his offseason went, and how much the knee injury may have been responsible for his struggles last year. But … I mean, he looked SO GOOD.
- Specifically, Kilian looked like the guy we saw late in 2021: he pounded the zone, he got swings and misses, the cutter (at freaking 92/93 mph) looked awesome, the four-seamer was 95 mph with some cut, and the sinker was 96/97 mph (IN FEBRUARY). It was as good as he’s looked, and if you were basing a prospect evaluation based on today, you would wonder why the heck he fell at all over the past year.
- It was mostly a great day for relievers from where I sat. I wasn’t able to watch everyone, but Jeremiah Estrada looked good – his fastball, which sat 95 mph, had that good life to it. Julian Merryweather looked really interesting. I like the delivery, and he’s got a good frame. Not hard to see why the Cubs wanted to take a shot on him. Anthony Kay was throwing 96-97 mph, despite being more like 94 mph last year. That’s QUITE an offseason bump.
- Speaking of velocity, Ryan Jensen and Cam Sanders BOTH touched 99 mph today, which is just bonkers for February. And it was at Salt River, which has full Statcast available, so those were – theoretically – legit readings.
- I love watching Jensen pitch, by the way. The stuff is just so nasty. So much movement on everything he throws. Yes, there was still some of that characteristic wildness, but the shortened arm stroke seems to help, and it certainly hasn’t done anything to hurt his velo or his stuff. He’s gonna be a dude to follow.
- Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer both had scoreless Cubs debuts. Tyler Duffey, who is on a non-roster invite but has a real chance of winning a spot in the bullpen, struck out the side in his inning of work.
- Nick Burdi, the former flamethrowing big leaguer whom the Cubs got in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 this year, was a bit wild – but also touched 100 mph and also threw a naaaaasty slider for a strikeout. It’d be awfully fun if he wound up returning to the big leagues this year.
- Not that it was all good news on the pitching front, with Rowan Wick exceptionally wild, and Jordan Holloway leaving with the athletic trainer:
- Jameson Taillon made his spring debut, and because he’s a veteran who is just building up his pitch count and getting in his work, I do a whole lot less evaluating. He left a lot up in the zone and got hit, but he also snapped off an exceptionally nasty slider that got a swinging strikeout of Steven Kwan (which is basically impossible):
- I can’t quite tell if that’s a sweeper or just a gyro slider that really took off. Taillon said after the game that he threw just one sweeper in his two innings, and he’s still working on the pitch.
- David Ross updated us on Javier Assad’s appearance from yesterday, which I was praising this morning. Turns out the Cubs’ guns had him up to 95 mph yesterday, which, whoa. Whoa.
- Gameday caused quite a stir when it said that Alexander Canario had entered the game against the Diamondbacks, but it was just a mistake:
- In fun with the pitch clock, we saw our first 1-1 opening count today:
- Speaking of pitch clockery, the game against the Diamondbacks barely lasted two hours. The game against the Guardians went almost three hours. That’s some extremely wide variance in two games being played at the same time. Messes with my brain.
- Hey, I hope Kris Bryant is healthy this year and hits 50 homers (which might help the Rockies win 65+ games):
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