Nasty No-No Cubs, Fun in March, Steele's Debut, Bote's on Fire, the First Extreme Shift, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Nasty No-No Cubs, Fun in March, Steele’s Debut, Bote’s on Fire, the First Extreme Shift, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Tonight is the annual daddy-daughter dance in our area, so I’m taking The Littlest Girl. Here’s hoping she’s ready to boogie and such!

  • The combined no-hitter last night was the Cubs’ first in Spring Training history, and the first in baseball since 2017. The nature of spring games is such that you’re so rarely going to see five, six, or seven pitchers combine to have no-hit innings. You’re just going to usually have a lotta guys pitching who aren’t yet big leaguers, or are fringy guys, and they’re pitching in front of non-big-league defenses. So in some ways it’s more uncommon than a regular season no-hitter (not that you would necessarily call it more special).
  • The two starters in the game – Justin Steele and Javier Assad – pounded the zone and got early contact. From there, every single reliever in the game (Brad Boxberger, Adbert Alzolay, Jeremiah Estrada, Cam Sanders, Nick Burdi) struck out at least one. It’s Spring Training and the Cubs weren’t facing the full complement of Padres for the entire game, but it WAS a nasty group of pitchers going last night. Fun, fun stuff. About as much fun as you can have in early March.
  • Great to see Justin Steele make his spring debut in the game and look completely normal and healthy after previously being scratched. There wasn’t a ton of concern there – “general arm fatigue” – but you still want to see that confirmation that, no, seriously, it’s all fine.
  • The goal, by the way, is to get Jon Lester down to Spring Training at some point so he can chat up Steele again (recall, it was some advice from Lester last summer that helped Steele attack righties inside a little more effectively). Via Marquee:

Ross is trying to get Lester out to Cubs camp this spring at some point and is “a little confident” he can make that happen.

“[Lester will] still be heavily involved,” Ross said. “A lot of that is just who he is and him trying to help out. I think he has taken a liking to Justin and probably taking some similarities in there with him.”

Of course, Steele is absolutely open to having Lester come out to Sloan Park and the Nike Performance Center.

“I would love to have him around camp,” Steele said. “Pick his brain, let him watch one of my bullpens so he could just give me any kind of knowledge. Anything he has to say, I’m more than willing to listen to it. He pitched for a long time in the big leagues and that’s something I want to do. If I can have anything close to his career, I’ll be extremely happy with it.”

  • This is what it looks like when a guy throws 101 mph and a batter is very worried he’s about to get got on the outside corner:
  • Nick Burdi, 30, who is finally healthy (clearly!), has big league stuff, despite being available in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Why was he available? Well, the health questions were significant, and will probably remain so; but the big issue is the control. A guy who can command 101 mph and a ridiculous slider like that is a rare bird indeed, and I’m not sure Burdi can. He always had walk problems, even in his younger big league days with the Pirates and in his top prospect days with the Twins. If he can keep the walk rate under 15.0% (which is still quite high), but also get that strikeout rate over 30.0%, then he could be a useful big league reliever, even without great command. But those are kind of the thresholds where he’d need to be, and for guys like him, they are inversely related: the more swing and miss he gets on reach pitches, the better each number gets. But if the command ain’t great and he’s not getting any reaches out of the zone, the strikeout rate drops AND the walk rate increases.
  • Anyway, though, Burdi has been really fun to watch, and it’s not like 101 mph grows on trees, even in today’s game. Here’s hoping the Cubs keep working with him, and maybe we get to see him make a big league appearance at some point this season.
  • Also looking incredible last night: Jeremiah Estrada (so many futile swings on his fastball) and Cam Sanders. The latter, who can hit triple digits, spun a couple big breakers, too:
  • David Bote had yet another good game at the plate (triple, single), and he’s pretty much doing all he possibly can to win himself a job on the big league bench *OR* find himself traded to another team with an opportunity (hello, Rockies?).
  • In case you were wondering, yes, David Bote has monster numbers for his career in the spring: .340/.425/.567.
  • Dodgers infielder Miguel Vargas is not allowed to swing right now as he recovers from a hairline fracture in his pinkie. But the Dodgers still want him getting game action on defense, and he can also practice tracking pitches in games. So he goes up there and stares at pitches, against pitchers who know he is not allowed to swing … and he’s walked four times:
  • It does make you wonder what your OBP would be if you announced to the pitcher every time you walked up that you would absolutely not be swinging. I bet there would be a mental component that actually worked a little. How about .300 maybe?
  • New podcast episode for your weekend:
  • I get exploring the margins of the rules in Spring Training, and I also am fine with pitchers varying their lengths of holding the ball (as Scherzer has said he’s playing around with). But also, the rule is the rule:
  • Speaking of rules, there it is. The first extreme shift that is still legal (the third outfielder is over in that “deep second base” spot), and of course it was for Joey Gallo:
  • I suspect we will see this OCCASIONALLY around baseball – the Cubs have discussed it internally – though it’s possible for a super-duper extreme guy like Gallo, it’ll be common. Take the over on triples for him this year?
  • This will absolutely turn on your waterworks, but it’s also really important. Good on both Mateo and George Springer:
  • Well this is just crazy:

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.