Spring Training Miscellany: Taillon Dominates, Leiter Perfect, Morel Blasts Off, More
What, you mean to tell me Cubs-Royals WASN’T the biggest baseball game going on last night?
- Cubs won it 6-2 in 6.5 innings, because it’s Spring Training and you can just end a game like that if you want. (It was the rain, but the Cubs were the away team and they still got credit for the two runs they scored in the top of the 7th. Spring Training.)
- Jameson Taillon threw the first five innings for the Cubs, allowing a two-run homer, but also striking out NINE in the process. He’s getting more and more comfortable with the sweeper, and he’s working really well with his new catcher, Tucker Barnhart. The two game-planned for this one as if it were a regular season game, and here’s hoping that’s how it always goes when they game-plan.
- Fun from Taillon on the homer (via Marquee): “It’s probably not something I’d wanna get beat on in-season to a good hitter, but I threw a really bad one the pitch before and I was stubborn and shook to it,” Taillon said with a smile. “Shook off Tucker, so that’s a good way to get our relationship started. I was just stubborn and wanted to like throw a better one and like kinda have that feeling in my head, that I’m not ending my night on a crappy changeup. Then I gave up a homer.”
- Mark Leiter Jr. was the only other Cubs pitcher in the game, and he went strikeout, strikeout, strikeout. Sure, the Royals clearly had the “whiff as many times as possible” call on for the game (weird choice, guys), but it’s still another impressive outing for Leiter as he tries to win a bullpen job. My guess earlier in the week was that he’s very likely to be in, and I think it’s all the more likely now. The Cubs will need a 40-man spot for him (and another for Mike Tauchman, who is expected to make the bench).
- Christopher Morel, who started in center field, hit his third homer of the spring:
- The expectation is that Morel, 23, will head to Triple-A Iowa to open the season. It’s not really a demotion in the grand scheme of things for a young guy who came straight up from Double-A last year, but he will definitely have to adjust mentally to having been a “big leaguer” one year and then having gone back to being a “prospect” the next year.
- I think the upside for Morel is still so significant that it’s worth focusing on development, especially given the Cubs’ quantity of 3B/2B types that they want to give some runway to open the season. By midseason, I could easily see Morel back up and filling a key utility role, with an eye on him becoming a “starting” utility man in 2024 and beyond. Obviously the dream is a Chris Taylor type (who, by the way, did not establish himself in the big leagues until he was 26).
- Patrick Wisdom continued his quietly excellent spring at the plate, with another couple hits.
- Based on what we’ve seen so far this spring – not the results, but how the guys have looked and how they’ve been used – I suspect we will see either Wisdom or Nick Madrigal starting at third base just about every day in the first month of the season. Wisdom will probably also see some time at first base and in right field, which could mean third base winds up something like a 60/40 split in Madrigal’s favor (with Edwin Rios starts sprinkled in – I tend to think he will get more of his ABs at DH and off the bench, right or wrong).
Taillon and Meatball Swings, Burdi and Estrada, Wesneski and Hendricks, Umpshows, and Other Cubs Bullets