Players Start Heading Out, Oblique Lessons, Taillon Helps the Bullpen, Kay, Wainwright, and Other Cubs Bullets

Getting some fancy cinnamon rolls this morning (like a blueberry-lemon crumble situation), which I won’t be having until this evening. So I’ll be thinking about that all day.

  • Marcus Stroman pitched well yesterday in his final spring training game before heading off to the World Baseball Classic. Team Puerto Rico’s first game is on March 11 in Miami, and Stroman will head down today to join his new team for the next several weeks. “I feel like I’m ready,” Stroman said of heading out, per the Sun-Times. “I come into the season ready. So, the up-downs [between innings] are definitely a thing you need to get to in spring training just so you feel that waiting, that cold and then getting hot again. But I feel like my routine even in between innings is pretty dialed in. So I feel great. I’m ready for games.”
  • Stroman will be joined on Team Puerto Rico by Nelson Velazquez, who is trying to lock down a spot on the Opening Day roster (and maybe even the fill-in starting job in right field). A good showing in the WBC could only help.
  • Pool play for Team PR will be March 11 through 15, and if they move on all the way to the championship, they would be playing through March 21. Generally speaking, you can expect all the guys playing in the WBC to head out around this weekend, and then they’ll be back when their team wraps up.
  • A couple years ago, Nico Hoerner dealt with an oblique strain, and then a setback in his attempt to return from it, so he may have a little insight for teammate Seiya Suzuki as he deals with the first oblique strain of his career. One of the biggest things is that, unlike some other dents and dings in a given season, the oblique strain is not one you can play through: “Swinging is a violent thing and it’s something that’s hard to do when you’re anything less than 100%,” Hoerner told the Tribune. “If your hamstring is a little tight you cannot run as hard to first, but I’m not going to swing as hard at this fastball because that’s tough to do.”
  • Guys feel little things throughout the season, and, as we’ve discussed before, if you never play through ANY kind of discomfort, you’re probably going to play about 10 games a year. But different injuries require different levels of caution and care, and the oblique is one you just can’t mess with.
  • General point on that, and something I’m trying to get better about: I know we talk a lot about how frustrating it is when the Cubs don’t use the Injured List for a guy who is hurt, but I know that it’s also a balance. Sometimes it’s really tricky to evaluate the difference between “feeling a little something” and “no, you’re actually hurt.” And sometimes, a guy really might be feeling great if you just wait one more day. From the outside, we probably make injury-related decisions seem way too easy.
  • Jameson Taillon wants to add those extra innings in his starts wherever possible, primarily because it saves his bullpen from having to face certain hitters too many times in a given season:
  • Interesting way of thinking about it. Usually, when we consider the desirability of a starting pitcher going 7+ innings, it’s more about saving the bullpen from work in general – i.e., more rest for those guys – or about not having to pitch certain late-inning relievers early in a series. But Taillon’s point is more accumulative than that, offering the example that if he can help his relievers see Paul Goldschmidt one fewer time in a given season, that could make them more effective when they DO have to face him (because he won’t have as much familiarity).
  • The bullpen competition is mighty crowded, but Anthony Kay’s sweeper did look like it had a crapload of movement yesterday:
  • For yesterday, though, I would agree with Bryan that it was notable Kay wasn’t getting any chase from lefties on the sweeper – that’s a must if you’re going to be using that pitch in a big league bullpen. One day in spring doesn’t mean much, and I am definitely digging the mid-90s velo from a lefty. Ultimately, Kay’s roster spot might come down to whether the Cubs sign someone like Zack Britton (still possible), whether the Cubs prefer a different second lefty like Ryan Borucki or Roenis Elias, or whether the Cubs decide to go with seven righties and only one lefty (Brandon Hughes). In that way, Kay might actually be competing for an Opening Day bullpen spot with Mark Leiter Jr., a righty who is nails against lefties because of his splitter.
  • Once again, Adam Wainwright’s second spring start with Willson Contreras behind the plate did not go well:
  • In fairness to Contreras, though, this may have been as much about a massive drop in velocity for Wainwright as anything else (everything is down about 4 mph compared to last year, which is apparently not where Wainwright normally is at this point in Spring Training). Wainwright chalks it up to getting his body physical right and ramped up, but we are talking about a 41-year-old for whom the fall-off COULD come at any time. For as vaunted as the Cardinals lineup is right now, their pitching staff seems mighty vulnerable.
  • Codify’s tweet is a joke, by the way, but the video is not a joke:
  • That has gotta be distracting to almost all pitchers, and in a regular season game, you’re going to get yelled at by the umps for doing it (I’d hope). Some pitchers would probably let an errant pitch fly.
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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