USA! USA! USA!, Injury Updates, Bullpen Concerns and Considerations, and Other Cubs Bullets
Thanks to the level of our bed, and the occasional need to visit the loo in the night, I pretty much always have at least one shin bruise at all times. Same spot, too. It’s neat.
- Last night’s Team USA win over Team Venezuela was tense, thrilling, and ultimately quite satisfying. That Trea Turner grand slam, man. So awesome. The game was right up there, for me, with the USA-Dominican Republic game from 2017 (the one with the Adam Jones catch) in terms of excitement. I get that the World Baseball Classic isn’t for everyone, and that’s totally fine. I just feel lucky that, for me, I’m really into it. I get to experience tense, thrilling, satisfying baseball in March. That’s rare.
- These moments-set-to-music things don’t alway work, but this one works really well on me (probably because I’m in an MCU re-watch and just reached ‘Infinity War’):
- The full highlights:
- Team USA moves on to face Team Cuba tonight at 6pm CT in the semifinal. Meanwhile, Team Japan is facing Team Mexico tomorrow night. And with all due respect to Cuba and Mexico, I really want to see a USA-Japan final.
- The remaining WBC games have already been sold out for a while, and I tend to think this says a lot about both the WBC and the A’s:
- Obviously the really bad news from the game is that Jose Altuve took a pitch off his hand, and has reportedly broken his right thumb. You hope he won’t miss too much time, but obviously it’s going to be discussed together with the Edwin Diaz injury as some of the collateral damage from the WBC.
- One stray Venezuela highlight I have to share, because this is just about impossible. Ronald Acuña Jr. is something:
- This reads incredibly close to David Ross saying “yeah, we’re very strongly considering Assad for the bullpen, specifically”:
- We’ll see if Assad pitches again in the WBC, and if he continues to look like a guy you’d want as a multi-inning arm in the bullpen right out of the gate. In contrast to Keegan Thompson, who seems to still be behind, Assad is clicking right now. Why not let Assad keep cruising, let Thompson continue to ramp up, and then see where things are in a month?
- Speaking of which, from Sahadev Sharma: “The spring has raised questions that didn’t seem to exist a month ago. Keegan Thompson is sitting in the low 90s and in general looking nothing like his best self — so much so that some in the organization question whether using one of his two remaining options could make sense as he continues to build up. Lefty Brandon Hughes has not looked good either.” I kinda hate that the Hughes thing tracks with what my eyes were telling me, but you can’t fight reality. He may need more time to ramp up, too, which opens up a significant question on how the Cubs will proceed with the initial bullpen composition. Surely they wouldn’t go with NO lefties, right? Even if Mark Leiter Jr. is in there as a pseudo lefty? That would mean someone like Anthony Kay or Ryan Borucki would have to make the team, which means another 40-man spot has to open up (make it two if it’s one of those guys and Leiter (and make it three if it’s those two plus outfielder Mike Tauchman)).
- Also: it seems like it can’t be a coincidence that Thompson and Hughes, specifically, were the two expected-to-be-in-the-opening-day-bullpen relievers who were delayed in their ramp up (or at least the Cubs were taking things very deliberately with them for reasons that were only vaguely described – no injury concerns were offered). It lets you hope that all we’re dealing with here are a couple guys who are behind everyone else, and thus will be “normal” in a few weeks or a month (the Cubs can weather that). What you don’t want it to be about is a guy who isn’t recovering normally between outings, or was feeling something back in January and that’s why he was slowed or whatever other scary explanation we could concoct in our paranoid fan brains.
- Saying it not because I think it’s at all likely, but instead because it’s not IMPOSSIBLE: what if, in addition to Javier Assad being a surprise in the bullpen, the Cubs also went with Hayden Wesneski there? If enough guys aren’t ready when the season starts, and if the Cubs feel like Wesneski is one of their best 13 pitchers (he clearly is), and if the Cubs decide to give Adrian Sampson some starts (debatable), then it’s not impossible. I do not think this is likely, but then again I wouldn’t have called Assad in the bullpen “likely” just two weeks ago. Now I do think that’s likely. So Wesneski should not be regarded as impossible, especially after Sampson looked really good yesterday.
- Heads up to a clearance sale at Fanatics today:
- It’s David Ross’s birthday today, by the way:
- Brandon Nimmo’s injury is to both his knee and ankle, which is not good, though both injuries are considered low-grade, so he might not miss THAT much time:
- This will get some negative attention, but I have a but:
- It’s unfortunate, but the but is this: you HAVE TO BE super aggressive on these calls in Spring Training if you want any hope of players honoring the rules closely in the regular season. It’s a GOOD thing when this happens in March.
- The thread is too long to embed here at the site, but I STRONGLY encourage you to go read Mark Appel’s thoughts on the maybe, maybe-not end of his career, on anxiety and gratitude, and on things that transcend baseball:
Spring Training Miscellany: Sampson’s Best Day, Not So for the Bats, Madrigal’s Glove, Reliever Competition, More
Assad Dominant Again and Raising More (Good) Questions, Mervis Returns, Sticky Stuff, Kilian’s Confidence, and Other Cubs Bullets
Spring Training Miscellany: Cubs Kinda Split the Day, Wesneski, Bellinger, Swanson, Mervis, Relievers, Much to Discuss
Smyly Flips the Switch, Next Up for Stroman, Cubs Take a Big Leap, PCA Wrecks, and Other Cubs Bullets
Spring Training Miscellany: Smyly Solid, Fulmer Locked In, Burdi Impressive, Hughes Not Quite There, Bats Quiet