You know what today is? It’s Kyle Schwarber‘s birthday!
Happy birthday @kschwarb12.
Keep mashing. pic.twitter.com/QHminyYZSm
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) March 5, 2017
Which meant that he didn’t have to play the game today (he played Saturday though). However, Javier Baez took over as the leadoff guy before he has to leave for the World Baseball Classic. Javy ended up going 1-for-4 before leaving the game, his one hit being a loud single and all solid at-bats. Let’s stick with players that I actually care about…
- Jon Lester — Lester made his debut one day after Kyle Hendricks made short work in his two innings. With Willson Contreras as his new personal catcher, Lester breezed through the first inning, but then allowed the Rangers to score two runs when he ran into some issues with command. Lester had some thoughts after his day was done (via Jesse Rogers):
#Cubs Lester: "The 1st one is always the hardest because it's the 1st one. It's the 1st time getting on the mound, the fans, the warmup"
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 5, 2017
This is normal in spring training so no worries, the velocity was there and it seemed like Lester and Contreras were in synch for the most part, except for that one pitch that got Willson in the goolies. That happens a lot to Willson, but he got his revenge with a home run.
Little two-run knock. pic.twitter.com/nTlnY37v5s
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 5, 2017
- Wade Davis — Davis was traded for in the offseason to replace Aroldis Chapman as the closer, and allow bullpen mainstays Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon to stay in their setup roles. It seemed he was a bit too amped up for his debut, throwing lots of balls and hittable pitches despite having good velocity (it helps that Surprise has a stadium equipped with Pitchf/x data; you can check it out here). He did get one strikeout, but gave up a walk and three singles before that to give up the lead. Might as well get that out of the way before the games count.
- Koji Uehara — another offseason acquisition, Uehara peppered the zone and didn’t give up any hits or runs. The first out was a lineout to left, but the other two were easily dealt with.
- Tommy La Stella — Tommy came back from a few days off due to hamstring issues, and made the most of his opportunity, getting an opposite field homer, a sacrifice fly, and an excuse-me flare single as the designated hitter before leaving the game for a pinch runner. My guess is that the Cubs keep him as the last man on the bench since he can back up the infield positions, leaving Jeimer Candelario (who’s no slouch, picking up a couple solid hits) as emergency depth. Here are some Tommy highlights:
Warning track power!
- Matt Szczur — the resident Roman emperor got a bloop hit in his bid for that last bench spot, but with just about everyone capable of playing the outfield, I think La Stella has the inside track and Szczur may be waived or traded…alas, he’s a solid player and a good guy to boot, but there are only 25 spots and someone has to go in a roster this loaded.
- Albert Almora — the defensive wizard had decent at-bats all game, but he made the highlight reel with this play:
Albert also hit a grand slam, WOW. That gave the Cubs the lead.
- Justin Grimm — this was also Grimm’s spring debut, and like Davis, he was throwing pretty solid heat at 92-94 mph. He recorded a swinging strikeout against Mike Napoli on a 94 mph heater, and had his breaking ball working pretty well, striking out Rougned Odor on a curveball.
- Jeimer Candelario — as written above, Jeimer got a couple hits, and also got hit on the ankle by a pitch. He was replaced by a pinch-runner after showing some pain, but seemed to at least be able to walk off the field on his own. Tough luck for a guy who has been raking all spring, but like I said, I don’t think he’s making the team out of camp anyway.
Bruise for Candelario. Caught him on the leg just above the ankle. No x-rays. Figure Cubs will probably rest him tomorrow just to be safe.
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) March 5, 2017
Most of the starters were out by the sixth inning, so that’s when I stopped caring about the nitty gritty and just enjoyed the rest of the game. The Cubs play Monday against the Angels, and we should see the return of Anthony Rizzo to the lineup. Rizzo wants his at-bats:
Maddon confirms Rizzo will play Mon-Tue. Wanted to be ready for #Cubs game vs Team Italy. Joe: "He didn't want to miss his paisans"
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 5, 2017
The Cubs are pretty generous with their pre-arbitration raises, unlike some other organizations you may have heard of…
addison russell, cubs agree at 644K. theo, boras believed still working on a bryant deal.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 5, 2017
My guess is that it’s just a raise for Kris Bryant rather than a long term deal to stay in Chicago as a Cub for life, but hey, we can still dream.