Team USA to the Championship, Suzuki Swings, Rios and His Role, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Team USA to the Championship, Suzuki Swings, Rios and His Role, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

First Monday morning in a long time without ‘The Last of Us’ available to reflect upon. And I think it’s safe to assume season two won’t be back until next summer or fall at the earliest. So that kinda sucks.

  • Team USA is headed to the World Baseball Classic final, trying to repeat as champions. They walloped Team Cuba 14-2 last night, with the Cardinals (grumble) standing out in particular: all of Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Adam Wainwright, and Miles Mikolas had huge games.

  • USA will play the winner of Japan-Mexico, which goes tonight. The championship will be Tuesday night at 6pm CT on Fox Sports 1. Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch tonight against Mexico, and is reportedly available to pitch in relief on Tuesday if Japan gets that far. Can you imagine Ohtani facing the Team USA lineup in the late innings of a WBC championship game? I must see that.
  • Cubs manager David Ross turned 46 yesterday, well into his second life in baseball as a manager. Thoughts from Cubs president Jed Hoyer on how Ross’s time being “developed” by the front office helps him as a manager, via David Laurila at FanGraphs:

“It was very obvious that he was going to be a manager, so we talked about, ‘OK, how do we take these obvious tools [and determine] the best process to go through to put him in the right position?’”

According to Hoyer, a big part of that process involved melding Ross’s player’s mindset with one more akin to his own.

“He spent a lot of time in the front office, learning what the R&D staff does [and] what we talk about during games,” explained Hoyer. “He sat in on trade deadline stuff and draft stuff. Looking back, that was so incredibly valuable. Rossy will tell you that listening to how we talk about players, how we talk about building a team… if you’ve never been there and have only thought about it from a player’s perspective, then you’re not going to have a lot of [perspective] when I go in there and talk about what we’re doing. He learned how to think about it through both a player lens and a front office lens.”

  • Seiya Suzuki was taking contact swings (front flips in the cage) yesterday, so I’m looking forward to hearing how he feels today, and whether he came out of it still feeling good. If so, you could start to imagine a world where he’s taking live BP, what, sometime next week? OK, I’m getting ahead of myself.
  • Edwin Rios has been getting enough playing time this spring that it seems increasingly likely that he will not only make the Opening Day roster for the Cubs, but that he might be a semi-regular in the starting lineup. Here’s Ross on Rios ( “Man, I think Edwin’s been one of the more impressive guys in camp. Looking at who he was coming into camp, the adjustments he made for the San Diego game over there, and the at-bats he’s had since then, has been really impressive. He’s worked some walks, gotten some deep counts; he’s hit for power. The outs he has made are really deep fly balls in big parks. There have been a lot of barrels, loud noises.”
  • It turns out that Rios is a bit of a swing wonk – he described it as sometimes digging in too deep – and his work with the Cubs has been about simplifying things, using the data and analytics only as a secondary tool for feedback. It’s interesting, because we’ve heard something similar about other new arrivals like Cody Bellinger and Trey Mancini. Doing less.
  • Back to Rios and the playing time question. Although he’s a powerful lefty bat, Rios doesn’t sport significant platoon splits, so he could play any day (we’ve talked before about how his splits are a little more pitcher-style-oriented, as he’s better than most at handling the high heat). With Suzuki out, Rios can get into games only when at least one of Nick Madrigal, Trey Mancini, Eric Hosmer, or Patrick Wisdom is sitting. Because of the way those guys’ roles/positions overlap, you could kinda rotate them all to optimize for match-ups and rest. I would like to see Rios getting a decent clip of starts, though, as he’s shown he can be a solidly above-average bat in the big leagues when healthy, with some upside from there.
  • An important owner here saying that the looming RSN reckoning presents an opportunity to finally do away with blackouts:
  • It’s something Rob Manfred has suggested many times before is the ultimate goal for MLB: nationwide streaming of every team to every fan, no blackouts.
  • I’ve seen others making the very astute and very correct point – now that Derek Jeter is gone from the Marlins, why can’t they bring back this beautiful and magical monstrosity:

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.