Spring Training Miscellany: Cubs Win Again, Madrigal Showing Some Things, Impressive Bullpen Arms, More
The Cubs cruised today over the Athletics 6-1, behind efficient pitching and defense, which, hey, is how they’ll likely have to win a lot during the regular season. Marcus Stroman started things off strong, and no one in the bullpen really had a particularly rough time.
- Nick Madrigal once again fielded his position at third base as you would expect a typical third baseman to, and he’s slowly starting to create a baseline expectation of passability there. I’d still like to see him get some tougher plays and/or deeper throws, but then again, nobody is expecting him to be a plus defender at third. He just needs to be average or even slightly below average, and that could be good enough to justify some starts.
- *IF* that bat bounces back, of course. Madrigal ripped a couple hits today (groundballs, but well struck), and ran the bases well.
- It would awesome to learn that last year was just a total wash because Madrigal was never fully healthy to start the year, suffered cascading ancillary injuries because of it, and his performance in between was terrible because of the body. I don’t think the Cubs can plan on that being the case, but I like to remind folks (myself?) that until last year, Madrigal had always hit. At every level of his life. He does it differently than most, yes, and he’s going to be suuuuper susceptible deep struggles if the contact quality dips even slightly (as it did last year). But so far, he’s looked like he’s swinging it well and feeling good this spring.
- Leadoff man (probably) Nico Hoerner:
- Ian Happ had a couple hits today:
- We saw a balk today. I mention it because of MLB’s directive to umpires to be more aggressive in calling rulebook balks. It was Marcus Stroman with Tony Kemp on first base, clearly primed to try to steal. Stroman came to set, and then his front leg buckled ever so slightly – the kind of flinch that, in years past, you would pretty much never see called as a balk (and when you did, you’d feel singled out!). But it is a rulebook balk, because Stroman started that front leg without actually starting his delivery. It unfairly deceives the runner (Kemp did, in fact, take off and was “picked off”), and that’s what the balk rule is designed to avoid. So, right call, and you hope it is uniformly enforced this year.
- Julian Merryweather was getting squeezed today, but I really enjoy watching that guy pitch. Super easy to see why Cubs claimed him on waivers, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him make the Opening Day bullpen (and not just because he’s out of minor league options). Some guys you just watch a few times and you can see “it.” I can see “it” with him. Fastball has so much life, and the breaking ball gets so many awkward takes from hitters, who clearly can’t separate the two pitches.
- Speaking of relievers trying to make the Opening Day bullpen, I think Rowan Wick still falls into that category, though he’s likely a favorite. He looked good today after a rough spring debut. Fastball seemed to have good heat (we don’t get velo readings during the game, sadly), curveball was getting its normal solid break.
- Wick’s “walk” came on an automatic ball when Tucker Barnhart tried to call time, and Wick stepped off before the clock expired. But Meghan Montemurro found out that doesn’t work to reset the clock:
- Basically, a pitcher can’t “disengage” to reset the clock when there’s no one on base. The catcher can call a timeout, but he’s gotta actually go out to the mound.
- Tyler Duffey looked good again today, and might be the best bet of the non-roster invitee relievers to win a job (which wouldn’t be a shock, because he was a very good reliever in the big leagues with the Twins for a long time).
- Kevin Alcántara is so fun to watch out there, primarily because HE’s always having so much fun. Definitely hope he explodes this year, in large part because I really want to see him play for a long time in the big leagues. (Brennen Davis and Pete Crow-Armstrong are ALSO extremely fun to watch and very likable characters, so yeah, same for them.)
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