Countdown to Pitchers and Catchers Reporting to Mesa: 8 days
Mike Olt has already reported to the Cubs’ facility and he’s eager to apply the lessons he learned last year according to a report from Carrie Muskat.
Olt showed the power that made him an untouchable prospect a couple of years ago. Olt smacked 12 home runs and hit eight doubles in 89 games in the majors last season. But Olt struck out 100 times with only 25 walks in 258 plate appearances (.160/.248/.356) and lost confidence as the season progressed.
The Cubs sent Olt down to Triple-A Iowa. He worked with Iowa’s hitting coach Brian Harper, changed his stance and produced at the plate. In 28 games with the I-Cubs, Olt batted .302/.348/.585 with nine doubles and seven home runs for a .933 OPS. Olt struck out 33 times with eight walks in 115 plate appearances.
When he returned to the Cubs in September, Mike Olt went 10-for-38 (.263/.370/.368) with four doubles, 16 strikeouts and six walks in 17 games.
Olt told Carrie Muskat, “I’m just making sure I’m ready and making the adjustments I need and that I learned last year. I took a lot out of last year. It took me a while to kind of get over a lot of negative things, but when I started focusing on the positive things I did and the things I can improve on, which were slightly easy adjustments, I think it’ll help me. I just lost confidence, and that’s the most important thing about baseball is confidence.”
Olt said he is going to focus on making more consistent contact. He knows now that he does not have to swing hard every time he steps in the box. He also realizes he got himself out a majority of the time.
The focus will be on where Kris Bryant starts the season when camp begins, but Mike Olt sees himself at third base for the Cubs on Opening Night against the Cardinals.
Mike Olt is expected to see time at third base, first base and both corner outfield spots during Spring Training. The front office views Olt as a valuable contributor off the bench if he’s not able to grab an everyday job.
Joe Maddon spoke with Tom Verducci about pace of play. And the Cubs’ skipper was rather candid on the subject.
“I’d like to know the real reason why we need to do something about it,” Maddon said in the interview from Sports Illustrated. “What is the purpose behind the faster game? I’m not really clear on that. So that, I don’t understand. To me, I think it’s more of a media kind of thing – probably deadlines at the end of the night based on more items being carried simultaneously as opposed to the newspaper the next day. It has to be tied to that somehow.”
Maddon said he never cared how long a game lasted. He wished for extra innings every night and he doubts a child would like to see a game played as quickly as possible.
The Rays played the longest games in the league last year. And Maddon is “an expert on the balance between pace of play and offense.” Verducci explained, “For one, Maddon was an early adopter of advanced baseball information, and still operates on the cutting edge.”
Tom Verducci’s interview with Joe Maddon is a must read and provides excellent insight into the Cubs manager.
Backend of the Bullpen
Those that watched the Cubs after the break last season not only saw Jake Arrieta seemingly dominate every fifth day, Anthony Rizzo turn into a team leader, Starlin Castro put together a bounce back performance, the emergence of Kyle Hendricks and the trio of Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler make their debuts … and hit some rather long home runs. But several of the power arms in the pen took a big step forward in their development.
The front office has assembled a crop of young power arms, plus Pedro Strop and Jason Motte. And there is depth in the system behind the relievers on the 40-man roster. RHP Armando Rivero and RHP Corey Black project as back of the bullpen arms and both relievers will be in big league camp this spring.
FanGraphs noticed what Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Neil Ramirez did last year and decided to take a deeper look at their performances.
According to FanGraphs’ research the Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Neil Ramirez trio is arguably top five in baseball, worse case top 10 in the game when compared to other team’s top three relievers.
FanGraphs pointed out Ramirez “has the right handed version of Sean Doolittle’s fastball, Rondon has Kelvin Herrera’s fastball and nobody has a slider quite like Strop’s.”
News, Notes and Rumors
Tom Ricketts met with President Danilo Medina on Tuesday in the National Palace to discuss various baseball topics, including the Cubs’ plans in the Dominican Republic according to a report from the Dominican Today. Ricketts presented President Medina with a Cubs jersey. Joe and Todd Ricketts also attended the meeting along with Luis Eluaja, the COO of the Cubs’ facility in the Dominican.
Jackie Robinson West Little League squad was stripped of its U.S. title after it was found the team knowingly used players who were ineligible because they lived outside of the approved geographic boundaries.
Anthony Rizzo announced Tuesday that his foundation’s Cook-Off for Cancer event will be held on May 14, 2015 at Revel Space in Downtown Chicago. Details for the event will be released at a later date.
Updated the report on the Cubs draft and estimated bonus pool to include information from Jonathan Mayo … click here.
Bruce Levine talked with Chris Bosio on his Saturday morning show, Inside the Clubhouse, on 670 the Score. The Cubs want Jake Arrieta to be an innings eater in 2015 according to Levine. And for the entire interview with Chris Bosio, click here … Chris Bosio Talks Cubs Pitching on Inside the Clubhouse
Speaking of pitching, Anthony Castrovince ranked the top 15 rotations in baseball: 15) Reds 14) Orioles 13) Pirates 12) Angels 11) Tigers 10) Braves 9) White Sox 8) Cardinals 7) Rays 6) Indians 5) Mets 4) Padres 3) Mariners 2) Dodgers 1) Nationals
And speaking of the Nationals, according to Buster Olney “there is anger among the teams that Major League Baseball permitted Max Scherzer’s deal to have such a high percentage of deferred money.” Olney expanded on his tweet with a quote from another executive saying the league should have stepped in and done something about the structure of the contract. The bar has been raised for future free agent starters “and will cost other teams millions of dollars.” Click here and scroll down for the details of Scherzer’s contract.
The White Sox announced Tuesday that former Cubs outfielder Tony Campana tore his ACL during “a recent training session” and will likely miss the entire 2015 season.
The Atlanta Braves were rather busy Tuesday. Not only did Atlanta sign RHP Matt Capps to a minor league contract with a Spring Training invite, according to Mark Bowman, RHP Jose Veras also signed a minor league contract with the Braves that included a NRI to Spring Training. Veras spent last spring with the Cubs and could not get on track before he asked to be demoted and was eventually released. Veras was 0-1 in 12 appearances with an 8.10 ERA and 1.73 WHIP (13 strikeouts, 12 hits, 11 walks in 13 1/3 innings) with the Cubs. Veras finished the year in Houston and was 4-0 in 34 appearances with a 3.03 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP.
Anthony Castrovince also looked at the Cole Hamels market Tuesday. And he thinks it’s down to one team for Hamels, the Boston Red Sox.
The Tigers announced Tuesday the surgery on Victor Martinez’s left knee went well. And Martinez will begin the rehab process immediately. The Tigers said he will resume full activity in 4-6 weeks and should be ready for Opening Day.
Dayn Perry had fun with baseball cards he received in the mail.
The Cubs announced AC/DC is playing at Wrigley Field on Sept. 15, 2015 … tickets go on-sale Monday, Feb. 16.
And last, but not least, according to the Miami Herald, the Marlins will host the 2017 All-Star Game … three NL cities in three years: Cincinnati (2015), San Diego (2016), Miami (2017). And it’s setting up for the Cubs in 2019 to host the Mid-Summer Classic once the Expansion and Restoration of Wrigley Field is complete.
This Day In Cubstory
2006 – Cubs avoided arbitration with RHP Carlos Zambrano and agreed to terms on a one-year, $6.5 million contract. Zambrano made $3.76 million in 2005 and was seeking $7.2 million through the process.
2004 – Cubs signed free agent Will Ohman
1988 – Shane Peterson, born
1977 – Cubs traded Bill Madlock and Rob Sperring to the Giants for Andrew Muhlstock, Steve Ontiveros and Bobby Murcer
1968 – Dave Swartzbaugh, born
1953 – Tom Veryzer, born
1939 – Willie Smith, born
1928 – Chris Kitsos, born
1924 – Hal Rice, born
1897 – Red Shannon, born
1863 – Jimmy Ryan, born