Countdown to the Cubs Cactus League Openers: 11 days
The Cubs’ pen might have a couple of spots to fill and a few questions to find answers for but one role appears to be set. Joe Maddon said Saturday Hector Rondon will continue closing games for the Cubs. Maddon is happy with what he’s learned about Rondon in the role. Maddon hasn’t told Rondon yet because he didn’t think he had to.
Maddon stressed he’s a big believer in using his best relievers in high leverage situations, regardless of the inning. And Maddon reiterated he’s “really into reverse-split guys” because they are “dangerous.”
Jason Motte is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery and could play a big role in the pen. But beyond Rondon, Maddon has not made any decisions about his bullpen. Motte has reportedly looked good in early bullpen work.
Hector Rondon excelled in the ninth-inning last year. Prior to the break, Rondon was 2-3 in 35 games with a 3.93 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Rondon gave up 35 hits in 34 1/3 innings with 39 strikeouts and 13 walks.
After the break, Rondon was 2-1 with 18 saves in 29 appearances. Rondon gave up four runs, two earned, on 17 hits with two walks and 24 strikeouts in 29 innings (0.62 ERA, 0.66 WHIP). And for the season, Hector Rondon was 4-4 with 29 saves in 64 appearances with a 2.42 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP (15 walks, 63 strikeouts and 52 hits allowed in 63 1/3 innings).
Maddon, Lineups and Hitting the Pitcher Eighth
Don’t be surprised to see Joe Maddon bat the pitcher eighth this season among what could be 120-plus lineups he uses this year. Maddon explained his thought process for hitting the pitcher eighth and it has nothing to do with the pitcher’s hitting ability.
Maddon told the beat writers one of the factors in hitting a pitcher eighth is how deep he can pitch into a game. In other words, it’s more likely he would bat a five- to six-inning pitcher eighth where a starter expected to go past the sixth inning would hit ninth. Having the pitcher bat ninth would help delay the decision to pinch hit for him.
The Cubs skipper asked the front office to start gathering information on the benefits of the pitcher batting eighth in December.
According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Maddon will meet with Dave Martinez before the Cactus League openers on March 5 and put together starting lineups for a week’s worth of games. Maddon admitted he sometimes comes up with lineups when he rides his bicycle.
As reported last week, Maddon’s lineup could be a daily question for the Cubs. On the days the Cubs win he will not be second guessed for his lineup decision, on the days the team loses it will be the exact opposite. Joe Maddon likes to keep his guys fresh and there could be a lot of mixing and matching this season.
According to Scott Miller, teams will make their final offers to Yoan Moncada this weekend. And Moncada could sign with a team next week.
The Yankees are considered the front runner to give Moncada a huge signing bonus. Moncada worked out for the Yankees on back-to-back days. And New York is believed to be the only team that’s had three separate private workouts. Dodgers, Red Sox, Padres, Brewers and Tigers could be right behind the Yankees in the Moncada sweepstakes.
The way Joel Sherman understands it, the Yankees won’t go crazy, and there are a lot of rumblings the Dodgers are all about Moncada.
The winning bid for INF Yoan Moncada could be announced at some point during the coming week.
Jon Lester on Opening Night
If there was any doubt, all signs are point to Jon Lester taking the ball on Opening Night against the Cardinals.
The beat writers asked Maddon about Lester being his Opening Night starter and Maddon stopped short of saying Lester would face the Cardinals in game one of 162. Maddon said he has to talk to Lester before making an official announcement and added, “I’m not going to sit here and be disingenuous.”
Notes from Spring Training
A second group of pitchers pitched Saturday on Day Two of Camp Maddon as the same group of catchers did some catching. Miguel Montero worked with Welington Castillo and Mike Borzello gave Kyle Schwarber instruction. Here are various notes from Spring Training …
- Jake Arrieta, Eric Jokisch, Jacob Turner, Dallas Beeler, Kyle Hendricks, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Corey Black and C.J. Edwards threw bullpens on Saturday.
- Jorge Soler and Albert Almora reported to camp Saturday.
- Javier Baez lost 16 pounds this winter … mostly because he had work done on his teeth according to Jesse Rogers and he “couldn’t eat that much.”
- Addison Russell hit some long, big flies in Saturday’s BP.
- Joe Maddon said “you can tell a lot about a player’s baseball acumen by how he runs the bases.” Baez impressed Maddon when he saw him play in winter ball. But “patience will be the word” with Javier Baez.
- Mark Gonzalez reported Maddon “described Jason Motte as a force multiplier who makes his teammates better. Said he took the line from Colin Powell’s autobiography.”
- Neil Ramirez wants to work on his slide step.
News, Notes and Rumors
LHP Drake Britton saw several familiar faces at the Cubs complex in Mesa. The former Red Sox reliever knows current teammates Jon Lester, David Ross, Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard from their time together in Boston. Britton is happy and excited to be part of what he called a great and fun clubhouse.
Jordan Zimmermann was caught in the rumor mill all off-season. He said every time he turned on the television he saw different things about where he could be traded. Friends sent texts and people walked up to him and told him they thought he was going to be dealt to Boston or Chicago. Zimmermann is not sure if the Nationals will approach him about an extension this spring, but if Mike Rizzo does he will listen according to a report from the Washington Post. But if the Nationals do not sign him to an extension at some point during Spring Training, he will not discuss his contract during the season.
The Cubs front office invited Rick Sutcliffe to spend the month as a guest instructor against the spring … and Sutcliffe reported to camp on Saturday.
It’s really an exciting time to be a Cub according to Joe Maddon.
From Ace of MLB Stats: FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) Leaders since the 2011 season: Johnny Cueto (3.37), Brandon McCarthy (3.44), James Shields (3.49), Jeff Samardzija (3.52), Matt Cain (3.54) and Jon Lester (3.56).
The Boys of Spring is back-up, and redesigned. And Tim Sheridan posted some excellent pictures in between his PA duties at Sloan Park.
C.J. Edwards will continue to follow in Kyle Hendricks’ footsteps … Edwards agreed to blog about his experiences in Spring Training for ESPN like Hendricks did last year.
The Dodgers signed rehabbing RHP Brandon Beachy to a one-year Major League contract that includes an option for the 2016 season. Beachy is recovering from a second Tommy John surgery and will likely start the year on the DL. According to Jon Heyman, Beachy’s deal calls for him to make $2.75 million guaranteed this year.
Chris Coghlan, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester are among the Cubs’ players not in favor of MLB’s new pace of play rules according to ESPN Chicago.
Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin confirmed to Adam McCalvy that a relief pitcher having to face at least two batters was one of the ideas discussed at the GM Meetings in November to help with the pace of play. Melvin and Theo Epstein were among those in favor of the idea.
According to a report from Mark Gonzales, the Cubs had a strong presence at Friday night’s game between Texas-Christian and Arizona State at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Jason McLeod, Matt Dorey and Shane Ferrell saw TCU’s Preston Morrison throw a three-hit shutout. Many of the scouts in attendance were there to see top pitching prospect, TCU’s Riley Ferrell. Morrison kept Ferrell from pitching in the game by throwing an 88-pitch complete game.
And last, but not least, the South Bend Cubs mascot was named … Stu, by a final tally of 53% to 47% over Colfax.
This Day In Cubstory
2006 – Cubs signed free agent Bryan Corey
1965 – Eric Yielding, born
1938 – Steve Barber, born