Off Days, Matchups, a Rumor and Cubs Big League and Minor League News and Notes

With Monday’s off day in the rearview mirror, the Cubs begin a stretch Tuesday night of six games in a row against the Pirates and Cardinals. Following next Monday’s day off, the Cubs will spend two days in the Bronx facing the Yankees. The Cubs have two more off days over the next 10 days before beginning a stretch of 13 games in a row before their next day off (May 1).

Jed Hoyer said that the Cubs will play Mike Olt against right handers and they do not view him as strictly a platoon player. The Cubs will play the matchups with Olt and start him against right handers they feel he will have the most success against. The Cubs are also being cautious with Olt’s shoulder to make sure he does not have any setbacks.

The Cubs do not figure to have an everyday lineup and will continue to play matchups while using the platoon advantage as often as possible.

And the Cubs could be looking to add a catcher to the mix.

Chris Gimenez

According to a report from Chris Cotillo, the Cubs are on a list of teams interested in signing catcher Chris Gimenez. Cotillo reported the Athletics, Rays and Rangers have made Gimenez an offer. The Rangers designated Gimenez for assignment on April 1 and outrighted him to Triple-A Round Rock two days later (April 3). Gimenez elected for free agency instead of accepting the assignment.

The 31-year old right-handed hitting catcher spent the spring with Oakland and Texas. In 26 games this spring, Gimenez hit .265/.342/.353 with three doubles. Gimenez can also play left field and first base.

Reports have suggested Gimenez is hoping he can re-sign with the Rays where he spent the last two seasons. Gimenez hit .224/.350/.305 in 95 games for Triple-A Durham last season after putting together a .260/.315/.330 line in 42 games with the Rays in 2012.

The Cubs interest in Chris Gimenez speaks to the lack of catching in the organization.

Justin Grimm

Tony Andracki caught up with Justin Grimm and Grimm “has his sights set on a rotation spot down the road.”

The Cubs asked Grimm to report to Spring Training ready to compete for a spot in the rotation. But the team changed their plan with Grimm and moved him to the bullpen. Grimm broke camp as part of a seven-man bullpen after a shaky end of the spring. Grimm has thrown the ball well but would like to eventually return to a starting role.

Grimm admitted that a relief role fits where he is at in his development. “From my standpoint, I value myself as a starter in the future,” Grimm told Comcast SportsNet.

As Peter Gammons pointed out Monday, the young right handers in the Cubs pen have performed rather well. After six games, Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Brian Schlitter have allowed one run on seven hits with five walks and 12 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings (1.63 ERA, 0.81 WHIP).

Minor News

Christian Villanueva launched his first Triple-A home run on Monday night, a three-run shot in the sixth inning.

Kris Bryant was held out of Monday’s lineup with a little discomfort in his ankle according to a report from Mick Gillispie. Buddy Bailey, the Smokies’ manager, said Bryant could have played if needed but he wanted to give Bryant an extended break with Tuesday’s off day prior to the Smokies’ home opener on Wednesday.

Arodys Vizcaino pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning on Monday night while his fastball sat in the 96-97 mph range and topped out at 98 mph. Vizcaino showed off his breaking stuff, which was described as “nasty” on Monday.

Josh Vitters was lifted in the fourth inning of Monday’s game after tweaking something in his knee according to a report from Tommy Birch. Vitters made an awkward catch on a ball hit to left field before falling on the warning track. Marty Pevey said Vitters is day-to-day. Vitters apparently tweaked his knee before the mishap on the fly ball.

News and Notes

The Cubs are feeding off Ryan Kalish’s all-out approach according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.

For those that might have wondered if John Baker has a sense of humor, the Cubs backup catcher told Carrie Muskat the reason he picked No.12 with the Cubs is that he thought there might be a few No. 12 shirseys left over from Dusty Baker’s days as the Cubs’ skipper.

Patrick Mooney asked if the Cubs can salvage the Edwin Jackson contract.

Ryan Roberts signed a one-year Major League contract with the Red Sox on Monday. Roberts spent the spring with the Cubs and almost made the Opening Day roster. Boston agreed to pay Roberts $1 million, plus a $250,000 incentives package, for the season and he will share time at third base.

And last, but certainly not least, 40 years ago (April 8, 1974) Hank Aaron hit a long drive to left off of Al Downing over the head of a young Bill Buckner, as he climbed the wall in left, and Aaron became the All-Time Home Run leader in Major League Baseball. Aaron ended up with 755 home runs and he was not only a Hall of Famer on the field, he is one off the field as well.

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  • GaryLeeT

    The sooner it’s Strop, and Vizcaino finishing games, the better I’ll feel towards the end. Of course, just having Veras not pitch at all would, go a long way towards that.

    • The Dude Abides

      Much like Marmol they will continue to roll Veras out there until he either proves he can’t bring value or until the Cubs get someone to bite and give up a prospect back in return. Only reason he is here.
      Hopefully sometime in July at the latest we see Vizcaino & Strop (unless someone shows interest in Strop).

      • GaryLeeT

        Unless it is an insane offer, I think the Cubs will hang onto pieces like Strop. Especially since they traded for him, and was not a quick flip signing. You have to start building at some point, right?

        • BigJonLilJon

          I don’t see them trading Strop at any point. They want him as a part of the future bull pen in some sort of role.

          • cubtex

            bullpen pitchers are fickle. If a team comes calling and gives a decent offer, I don’t think they would hesitate to trade him.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            I agree. If a team makes a good offer for Strop they’d listen. But it would have to be good. Strop is a heckuva arm out of the bullpen.

  • The Dude Abides

    Considering the time, money & energy they have spent on a backup catcher so far they would have been better off resigning Navarro. The experience and stability he would have provided would outweigh the relatively minor additional cost.

    • GaryLeeT

      I would like to have seen Navarro back too, but he wanted to start (and get paid like one), but the Cubs are committed to Castillo.

      • Zonk

        That was the issue….he wanted to start, so Cubs re-signing him wasn’t going to be possible. We had to move on…..

    • Larry Schwimmer

      You’re right…”from the CUBS point-of-view” it would have been better to re-sign Navarro. But how can you sign a guy like him who let’s you know that he wants to start and play most days? Answer: When he tells you that — you can’t sign him. It’s really important to also look at from the baseball player’s view.

    • Eugene Debs

      Navarro is struggling as the starter in Toronto…just like he has everywhere he’s started. Cubs got him off the literal scrap heap as he barely played the previous 2-3 seasons.

      He is better off as a backup and bench player. Good for him getting paid, but it will torpedo any chance at sustained success.

  • cubtex

    Jed Hoyer said that the Cubs will play Mike Olt
    against right handers and they do not view him as strictly a platoon
    player. The Cubs will play the matchups with Olt and start him against
    right handers they feel he will have the most success against.

    I wonder what the criteria will be on who they think he will have success against? If they considered both Charlie Morton and Roberto Hernandez not to be good matchups….I only see #5 RH type starters for Olt to get consistent playing time against.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      It’s a good question. But I think that they may have not sat down and had the discussion until this weekend, in a recap of the first week. At this point I would expect he’ll be in there against mot righties except the top guys.

    • Richard Hood

      I think it has more to do with what the guy throws and who our pitcher is than what level of starter he is. Do you really want someone who has a natural lift to his swing to pound the ball in the ground or pull it to the short stop 2 or 3 times against Morton? How is that helpful today? Later in the season when he is healthy and hopefully clicking you can see what he can do. Today having him as a bat off the bench off fguy that gets killed by LH hitters is a smart move.

  • cubtex

    Many are blaming Renteria for his lineups and not playing certain players….but look at what he was dealt. He has to get Barney in there at 2B. His best player so far and leadoff hitter is Bonifacio. Valbuena and Olt at 3B. He has to juggle Sweeney,Lake,Ruggiano,Schierholtz in the OF with Bonifacio. He has a tough job. He has a roster filled with platoon type players.
    The issue with me and many of the fans is that IF this team is not supposed to contend this year and is more to try and get answers on what they have with some of the young guy….you need to play the young guys. Sweeney is taking at bats away from Lake and Kalish. Barney is taking at bats away from Olt(since Valbuena could be playing 2B instead of 3rd when Bonifacio is in CF)
    Renteria was given a tough task with the roster he was given. They traded DeJesus for cash. Players like Sweeney and Barney do not have much value. It is better to get anything you can for these 2 guys so the Olt’s,Lake’s and Kalish’s can play.

    • Amie

      You forgot all about Mike Olts shoulder issue in your rush to make your own assessment of who should be playing. Hoyer clearly spoke of the shoulder but many Cub fans want to ignore it. At this point the no one is losing at bats, as it is way too early in the year. Also Kalish has not played in 2 years, he clearly is not up to playing daily.

      • cubtex

        If it is his shoulder…that is more reason as why he should have started the season in AAA (where he could DH on days his shoulder is acting up) He needs to get consistent AB’s.

        • jtrain23

          Part (maybe even most) of me wants to agree with you. However, I believe the organization was hoping to give Olt some momentum to build on by awarding him a spot on the Opening Day roster.

          With the setbacks he had last year, that confidence boost could help him more than the at bats in AAA would.

      • Larry Schwimmer

        I agree with Arnie. Let’s not be in such a big rush to make sure “new guys” get all this “playing time.” It’s early in the season. If anyone “breaks outs” and really hits — like Bonafacio,rest assured, that player will get lots of playing time. Meanwhile, let’s relax and get everyone into the games to see what each guy can do.

        • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

          I also think at this point there could be a chance of winning some ball games. They’re not quite ready to concede the season after the first week They want to win as many as possible, and still see if these guys can have some trade value. Before Sweeney got hurt last year he was headed for a trade and Schierholtz has garnered interest all winter.

          That said I want the younger guys in there. But not just because they’re young but in the case of Kalish and Lake I believe they are more potent players. Olt is a tougher call because Valbuena has been pretty decent so far and was lights out in ST. You hate to bench one of the few guys that’s been producing for you. Also, Valbuena has and will have trade value. Left handed, got some pop, good strike zone discipline, plays good defense at multiple positions. The guy will have suitors at the trade deadline. I’d still prefer to see him at 2nd with Bonifacio in CF and Barney on the bench. But also Barney has some trade value. Lots of things to consider in maximizing value and also putting the best team on the field as possible.

          • Swish23

            Concede the season? That was done in December ; like the last 3 years of this expansion era lose on purpose rebuild. No need to even sign Veras for millions; that’s a very expensive high A player at best prospect in return ; if that. Renterias lineups look like Sveum’s who looked like Quade. It’s not about winning; it’s about the very far away future so play Lake, Kalish, Olt, etc. it’s all for the #1 pick; so the FO looks like the genius they have not been. Just lose baby.

          • Denver Mike

            You lost me at “lose on purpose”

          • cubtex

            the players don’t try to “lose on purpose” but the teams Theo have put together the last 3 seasons have no chance of winning(hence the 100 plus loss team of 12 the 90 plus loss team of 13 and the 90 plus loss team of this year)

          • Denver Mike

            Agreed, but the the phrases “no chance of winning” and “los[ing] on purpose” are not interchangeable.

            I agree that the Cubs teams from the last 4 years had no chance of winning the World Series. But I have mentioned before about how I also believe that the personality traits that carry people to Theo’s level of professional success, in any field, would never allow them to intentionally lose or fail by design. By using the phrase “losing on purpose”, the user is indicating they have let their emotions get the best of good judgement. At that point there is nothing for me to personally gain by reading an emotional rant no longer based in fact, so I choose to move on.

          • cubtex

            understood

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            I guess they don’t want to just give up. You have them confused with the 1917 White Sox or something. Every game I’ve seen so far looks like an organization trying their butts off to win games. Maybe not doing real well at it but effort isn’t a problem. And management seems to be putting the players out there they think give us the best shot of winning.

            And just so you know…Oswald killed JFK.

          • Larry Schwimmer

            Boadrider, your points are well taken. But none of my comments were about “conceding” the season. It’s still early; it’s still cold; and I see everyone getting their playing time, especially if they show some production (like Bonafacio). Also, by giving some of the newer guys a chance to play when there is a favorable match-up, they can, hopefully do well and build their confidence. Sweeney getting hurt is last season is another reason for why it’s better to have more (rather than fewer) options. I do agree that I would rather see Kalish get the majority of playing time over Sweeney. Keep in mind: we’re a long way from positioning guys for the trade deadline. I think we need to let everyone play in April. Then, in May we can give certain younger players more of the time to prove they are MLB talent.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            I’m with you Larry. My reply was really more to another post. Discus sometimes puts these in weird order.

          • Larry Schwimmer

            Thanks. You know this posting system better than I :)

    • Denver Mike

      I agree with your overall stance that he doesn’t have much to work with, and that being the case he should be playing the future prospects more often. But I also think we need to give him a bit more time before we get too worked up about it. If we are still asking these same questions in May/June then there may be more cause for concern. It is a new year, and there is something to be said for getting all 25 men involved the first couple weeks just to see if someone you didn’t expect might surprise you, as unlikely as that might be. On top of that it is still damn cold in Chicago, so as much as I want Olt and Kalish to play every day, they return from various injuries and it definitely won’t hurt to ease them into action in April.

      Lake on the other hand should be playing every day just to see if he can be an every day player, or if he is destined to be a platoon guy. I agree with using platoons to find the best lineups, and set your guys up to succeed, but if they are only going to succeed twice a week how much good does that actually do them? If they don’t have the opportunity to carry that momentum into the next game I don’t think it is as effective for the player.

      • BigJonLilJon

        Am hearing Lake not to be in starting lineup tonight against Morton!!!

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

          Tonight’s lineup: Bonifacio 2B, Kalish LF, Rizzo 1B, Schierholtz RF, Valbuena 3B, Castro SS, Sweeney CF, Castillo C, Jackson P

        • Denver Mike

          Looks like Sweeney gets the nod over Lake. I haven’t really soured on too many players on this team just because I didn’t expect much to begin with, but Sweeney does nothing for me at all. The next time I see him make a highlight play of any sort will be the first.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            Totally agree. Sweeney does nada for me either. I like this lineup but would prefer Valbuena at 2nd, Olt at 3rd, Lake in CF and Bonifacio in right.