Spring Training Miscellany: Cubs Kinda Split the Day, Wesneski, Bellinger, Swanson, Mervis, Relievers, Much to Discuss
Is it splitting a split-squad day when you lose one game and tie the other? Probably not. But whatever you call it, that’s what the Cubs did today, losing 9-7 to the Dodgers and tying the White Sox 4-4.
- Hayden Wesneski had the gooood slider going today, frequently making Dodgers hitters look foolish on swings out of the zone and taken pitches in the zone. I cannot say enough good things about how he looked in the first few innings. By the 4th, though, as the lineup turned over and Wesneski was using more of his pitches, his command got a little shakier – perhaps having to be a little more fine as the hitters were more keyed in on him. That led to a walk, a single, and a homer in quick succession. After another hit, his day was done (that runner scored after Wesneski departed), leading to a seemingly ugly line: 3.1 IP, 4 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K.
- To be honest, I’m glad that 4th inning happened. I strongly suspect that 5th starter job is Wesneski’s, so he might as well get a little actionable information out of his day today (whatever that information might be). You don’t want to see boom-boom-boom happening in the regular season, but I’ve gotta believe there is something about his pitch usage, his approach, or the way opponents reacted to him that’ll be valuable to him, even if only slightly. Not a lot to be gained by just getting more whiffs on the slider, because in the regular season, he’s going to have to have his other pitches working, too.
- Great cap, though:
- And the six strikeouts were sure pretty:
- I can still mostly talk myself out of any panic about Dansby Swanson’s production this spring by saying that it just doesn’t matter – the games aren’t real, the match-ups aren’t real, etc., etc. But I will concede, at this point, the volume of swinging strikeouts is at least a mild concern. It makes you think his timing is off – he’s swinging through a LOT of pitches in the zone – and that’s the kind of issue that doesn’t really care about whether you’re playing a “real” game or not.
- On the bright side, there are still a lot of fake games left for Swanson to get in his practice and get the timing reasonably sorted out in advance of the regular season. Oh, and one more thing: I don’t know whether there’s a reason for it or any signal to it, but April has been, by far, Swanson’s highest strikeout month and worst production month in his career. Maybe there’s just something to him being a really slow starter. Of course, he did double in his final PA of the day, so he’s probably all set now.
- Speaking strikeouts, Edwin Rios is probably also going to have a lot of them. But that power is certainly not debatable:
- Cody Bellinger continues to look very comfortable at the plate, and hit the ball hard. That’s really all you want to see from him, and dang I hope he carries it into the regular season.
- Matt Mervis returned from the World Baseball Classic, slotted right back into the lineup, and recorded three hits.
- I’m trying not to read too much into the composition of the rosters for these games, but it was hard not to notice that a lot of the pitchers in the non-Sloan game were guys who likely aren’t making the Opening Day roster. Cam Sanders, who struck out another three (but did allow a solo homer), was included in that game. I wouldn’t have bet on him making the Opening Day roster in any case (not on the 40-man, limited experience as a pure reliever at Triple-A), but I think the Cubs are setting him up to be a guy who will arrive sometime during the year when there’s a need, assuming his work at Iowa looks as good as it did in flashes last year. Because man, his stuff has looked incredible this spring.
- Other relievers in that game whom I expect to be in Iowa’s bullpen to open the season: Jeremiah Estrada, Brendon Little, and Manny Rodriguez.
- Ryan Borucki (in that game) and Anthony Kay (in the Sloan game) both pitched very well again today. If Cubs decide they have to go with two lefties to open the season (or if they decide Brandon Hughes is still behind), it’s likely going to be Borucki or Kay.
- Adbert Alzolay went two innings today as he readies for a versatile role in the bullpen.
- This guy has a job. Period:
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