The Rundown: Spring Training Winds Down, Cubs Roster Basically Set, Strop Set to Close, Javy Heating Up

Good morning, and let me start your week with a few column notes:

  1. Starting today I will be changing to my regular season format since games will be starting this week.
  2. Columns may be pretty light this week, too. I think all of us are done with spring training stories, and as glorious as Opening Day is, there is the obligatory off day that follows so news is generally slow. Besides, this is the week of my birthday,l and I intend to truly enjoy the final few days of this trip around the sun. I officially reach middle-age on the last day of this month and I am not happy about that.
  3. I will be making a big announcement on the day after my birthday, so make sure you look for hints in my posts this week ahead of next Monday’s jaw-dropping news.
  4. I will continue doing Saturday columns except for Memorial Day weekend.
  5. I desperately need owners for our AL and NL fantasy baseball leagues. Both are dynasty leagues with minor league drafts and all kinds of fun stuff, and each pays good prize money for the top four finishers. Contact me via email if you are interested in playing. I’ll give you all the details, show you some sample rosters, and get you in touch with our commissioner.

Onward…

Cubs News & Notes

  • Javier Báez had an uneventful start to spring training. Then the last eleven games happened.

How About That!

Justin Verlander and the Astros have agreed to a two-year extension that will guarantee him an extra $66 million.

Mike Trout said that the extended free agencies of Harper and Manny Machado were the red flags that helped dictate the terms of his contract extension with the Angels. A number of premium free agents-to-be have followed Trout’s lead.

Tyler Wade was all but certain to make the Yankees’ 25-man roster out of camp…until he suddenly wasn’t. Happ can relate.

Indians third baseman José Ramirez bruised his left knee when he fouled a ball off himself Sunday, and will likely miss Opening Day.

Aaron Boone thinks this year’s Yankees team is much better than the team that broke camp last season.

The Giants acquired catcher Erik Kratz from the Brewers.

Noah Syndergaard has some advice for Mets’ GM Brodie van Wagenan: pay Jacob deGrom his due. The GM used to be the agent for both pitchers.

On Deck

Though the Cubs have yet to officially announce who will start and when beyond Opening Day, it appears Maddon will go with Lester, Darvish and Kyle Hendricks in the three game series against the Rangers in Texas starting Thursday. Cole Hamels will then pitch Monday against the Braves in Atlanta.

Extra Innings

Final rosters aren’t due until Thursday morning, but it looks like Mark Zagunis, a third-round pick in the 2014 draft, will make the team. The outfielder is batting .357 with four home runs this spring and has a fan in Epstein. There have always been high hopes for Zagunis since he was drafted, and the demotion of Happ leaves an outfield spot available.

They Said It

  • “I won’t declare anybody the closer. I didn’t even declare Stropy the closer. Once Brandon’s out, we’ve got to figure it out. Once Morrow comes back, he will be the closer. But until we get to that point, I like the idea of using guys in the higher-leverage moment that suits their abilities better. I don’t want to run away from a moment, just because I classified somebody as the ninth-inning pitcher.” – joe Maddon
  • “I love [Collins’] competitiveness. He’s someone who never backs down and goes right after guys. He really has a ton of self-belief and he’s got legitimate stuff too. He’s got an above-average fastball and knows how to use it up in the zone.” – Theo Epstein
  • “I know there was a lot of talk about going back East, but I enjoy every minute being here. This is my home. I love it. I think the direction of the franchise, if it was going the other way, I would have had to consider going. But it never crossed my mind. I was going to be an Angel for life, sure.” – Mike Trout

Monday Walk Up Song

Down on Me by Aslan I’ll forgive you of you’ve never heard this amazing song before, which features sharp saxophone and harp interplay. Aslan is basically Ireland’s counterpoint to the Housemartins from England. The working-class band took their name from the fictional lion in C.S. Lewis’s series of books chronicling the land of Narnia. If you want a special treat, find their cover of the Stones’ Angie.

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Michael Canter

Favorite Quote: "Look Ma! Top of the World!" Cubs fan since I was five years old (1969): lover of B&W movies, the Oxford Comma, classic rock, and of course, baseball; annual roto-champ; partial insomniac; I detest the liberal use of the word 'albeit' by baseball writers; Nice guy, though somewhat brooding. Comment me, please and thank you.

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