Morning News – I Thought Selig Got Rid of Ties
The Cubs are all of nine games into Spring Training, and three in-camp battles remain the juiciest (and really only) roster discussions on a loaded team looking for a repeat. The 9-9 tie with the Rangers on Sunday certainly showed everyone the potential of some of the players involved in these competitions.
In the center field platoon discussion between Jon Jay and Albert Almora, the latter showed some ability that is not a tool in Jay’s game … power. Jay likely will hit for contact, but the boom-or-bust that has surrounded Almora for years let out a big boom with a grand slam in the fifth inning. It’s the voltage in his bat that should vault him into more starts than Jay (and maybe Jason Heyward? Kidding …. but am I?)
But real talk for a second … if Heyward goes all 2016 on Cubs fans again, when does Eloy Jimenez enter the conversation at the MLB level? Defensively, he’d be a liability with a light arm, especially with Schwarber in left, but he is tearing the cover off the ball and at some point will be pushing someone in the next year or two at the big-league level.
Infielder Tommy La Stella went oppo-boppo with a home run to lead off the scoring against Nick Martinez and the Rangers. I am not a fan of La Stella and his refusal to be demoted for the good of the team last season, but I will admit that he’s a handy little glove man with more pop than Mickey Morandini and therein lies his value. While Matt Szczur has my heart, La Stella likely will take the last bench spot. His utility is just too handy on a team that is loaded with outfield depth.
In the bullpen battles, Koji Uehara and Justin Grimm looked good. Rule 5 pick Caleb Smith did not. I still think that the Cubs carry 13 pitchers on Opening Day with a bullpen featuring Wade Davis, Carl Edwards, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Uehara, Grimm, Brian Duensing and Brett Anderson.
Unnecessary Hypertension, Part I
Believe it or not, Cubs fans still need to be OK with Wade Davis as the new Cubs closer. Sure, he got 3 runs on 3 hits hung on him in one-third of an inning Sunday. On paper, the skeptics who had an off day from dissecting Heyward’s hitless (0-for-15) swing, received fuel from Davis’s off outing. There is good news in the ugly line for the 31-year-old righty … his velocity was up and on point. Good enough for me.
Unnecessary Hypertension, Part II
Lester also got touched up for 2 earned runs in his first outing of the spring, all of 2 innings pitched. The Cubs Opening Day starter gave up an RBI double to Will Middlebrooks (Spring Training HOF Class of 2018) and two more hits. It was the first time he wasn’t taking signs from David Ross, so he and Wilson Contreras should be on the same page come April 2 in St. Louis.
Contreras remains my bet to break out for the Cubs in 2017. He hit a 2-run home run Sunday, and two of his three Spring Training hits are longballs. If his bat takes off along with his already strong defensive game, Miguel Montero better take Joe Maddon out to way more dinners if he wants regular playing time.
Former Cub ‘o the Day
Taking over in the third inning for Rangers starter Nick Martinez was LHP Wesley Wright, who had a mild 2014 with a 3.17 ERA in 58 games for the Cubs coming out of the pen. (Half a mention for Delino Deshields Jr., whose dad, Delino Deshields, played second base for the Cubs in 2001 and 2002.)
If You Want a Laugh
For those who are poking at Wade Davis for his performance Sunday, remember the Cardinals signed lefty Brett Cecil to a 4-year, $30.5 million contract this offseason. He gave up 6 earned runs on 4 hits Sunday without recording an out. Every fan base needs a hug at certain points in Spring Training.