The Rundown: Cubs Hit Vegas For The Weekend, Team Is Go For Launch, Pace of Play Comes to MiLB

Well, the dog days of Spring Training have hit me in the form of writer’s block. The heart of the matter here is that there is just not a lot of original stuff to write about because from Day 1 everything has pretty much been set: roster, rotation, lineup, and bullpen. The only significant battle of Camp ’18 has been for the leadoff spot in the batting order, and Ian Happ has stepped up significantly with a 1.556 Cactus League OPS that includes five taters.

Not that the team is boring. In fact, it’s more of a mission in a sense. The Cubs came to Arizona with designs on getting back to the World Series. Sure, there are nine or 10 other teams that aren’t tanking this year with similar aspirations, but the Cubs seem prepared in an almost NASA-like way. All that’s missing is a mission patch for their uniform sleeves. We are two weeks away from the season opener in Miami and we are go for launch. Roger that, Houston?

Cubs News & Notes

Las Vegans and tourists from all over the world get to revisit the Midwest matchup that played out in the 2016 World Series with games at Cashman Field set for Saturday at 4 pm and Sunday at 1 pm. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call this a preview of the 2018 Fall Classic, with the Indians still working on that dubious of having not won a championship since 1948. Yup, that’s 70 years.

The Cubs want to get Jason Heyward back to being a six-win player, but he is going to have to produce at the plate in order to do that. Heyward found himself on the bench for some postseason games in both 2016 and 2017 and he’s off to a slow start this spring, not a great return for a $184 million investment. Entering Wednesday, he was 4-for-26 (.154) on the spring.

Kris Bryant has decreased his strikeout total in each of his three MLB seasons, and last year he posted a career-best 95 walks. Many hitters around the league these days seem willing to strike out more if it means more home runs, but Bryant appears determined to be a more disciplined player at the plate. Bryant’s stated goal for this season is to walk more and strike out less.

Capable of being a No. 1 starter in plenty of big league rotations, Jose Quintana seems to be overshadowed by the rest of the team’s rotation. “He may go overlooked nationally or whatever, but he would be a front-end-of-the-rotation starter on 30 teams in baseball,” said new pitching coach Jim Hickey. “I consider him that here, as well, whether he pitches Game 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. He’s still a leader of the rotation, and boy, I tell you, he’s exciting, too. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

The Cubs have a secret weapon in coach Mike Borzello, who is known as the “brain trust” by members of the team’s front office. It’s Borzello’s job to prepare reports on each of the hitters the Cubs’ starter could face that night, outlining their tendencies during different phases of a given at-bat. In an article from about a year ago, Time Magazine examined how instrumental the Cubs’ catching coach was in the development of Kyle Hendricks.

How About That!

Yesterday, when talking with Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, Yankees OF Aaron Judge Judge told Machado that he’d look good in pinstripes. Harmless, right? Not according to MLB, who thought Judge’s remark was inappropriate.

The Seattle Mariners produce some of the best television ads in all of baseball.

Manager Rick Renteria of the White Sox benched outfielder Avasail Garcia for dogging it to first base in yesterday’s game against the Brewers.

Minor League Baseball has laid out a plan to speed up the game by starting extra innings with a runner on second base, limiting mound visits, and using a 15-second pitch clock with no runners on base. “We believe these changes to extra innings will enhance the fans’ enjoyment of the game and will become something that the fans will look forward to on nights where the game is tied late in the contest,” MiLB president Pat O’Conner said in a statement. For the record, I am not a fan of these changes.

Future Cubs OF Bryce Harper isn’t likely to get the $400 million contract that has been the speculation of baseball writers for the past two seasons.

A baseball source on Wednesday would not rule out the Yankees making a run at Alex Cobb if his price drops enough and the Yankees can continue their quest to stay under the luxury-tax threshold.

Hot Takes & Syrup

  • Dale Sveum – Forgive Us Our Sins: Actor Jim Caviezel filled in as the Royals bench coach for a team photo with Dale Sveum absent because of a doctor’s appointment for a stiff neck. Ian Kennedy chimed in: “Jesus was in our dugout, watching over us a little bit.”
  • He’s No Ron Santo, That’s For Sure: Former Phillies 3B Mike Schmidt retired from baseball 30 years ago and decided that, finally, his heir apparent exists. That would be Nolen Arenado of the Rockies. Schmidt led the veteran’s committee that helped keep Santo out of the Hall of Fame until after he passed.
  • Rob Manfred Must Be Stopped At All Costs: I am so tired of pace-of-play changes. Minor League Baseball is a testing ground of sorts and their new rules to speed up games are just bad. Starting an inning with a runner on second base fundamentally changes the way the game is played.

Thursday Walk Up Song

S.O.B. by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. I’ve got to attend to my NCAA bracket and the watch parties start at 11am. Did someone say “beer”?

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