It will be another busy and interesting week for the Chicago Cubs both on and off the field leading up to the team’s only day off from Cactus League games next Monday.
Jake Arrieta makes his second spring start Monday afternoon in the first of back-to-back practice games with the Padres. Roster cuts are expected as soon as today. The Cubs made one change to the roster but the second round of cuts should see several of the minor leaguers optioned or re-assigned to minor league camp.
Comcast SportsNet and WGN-TV will broadcast games this week. And ESPN is carrying Thursday’s game from Sloan Park against the Diamondbacks. Plus, Pat Hughes will make his spring debut Sunday.
Kyle Hendricks put together an excellent start Sunday in the eventual tie with the A’s at HoHoKam Park. Hendricks gave up just one hit, walked a batter and struck out five over four shutout innings. Hendricks has not allowed a run in a starting role this spring.
In three appearances in the Cactus League, two starts, Hendricks has given up one run on five hits with a walk and 11 strikeouts in 11 innings.
Hendricks credits his changeup with the results he’s produced this spring. Hendricks has pitched ahead in the count, which is critical to his success. Hendricks said he lost the feel for his changeup last season when got out of his mechanics. Hendricks explained it “didn’t have any depth on it, no angle.”
Kyle Hendricks said the confidence and trust Maddon showed in him last year when he was struggling has continued this spring. Maddon wants Hendricks just to be himself on the mound. And Hendricks has just about locked down a spot in the Opening Day rotation by following his skipper’s advice.
Javier Baez started at second base Sunday at HoHoKam Park. It was the fourth different position this spring for Baez, who is expected to see time at seven of the eight defensive positions before the end of the Cactus League schedule.
Baez has played shortstop, second and first base and center field.
The day after making a sensational play at first base, Baez turned in another gem at second base.
The Sun-Times detailed the play and the reaction from an A’s beat writer, “He ranged far to his right for a grounder in the second, then threw back across his body for an out that was more difficult than he made it look. ‘The A’s are not going to make that play all year,’ one writer from the A’s media said.”
Javier Baez has played well in the field, outside of a couple of mistakes, but has struggled at the plate. Baez is 4-for-20 in seven games with a double, a home run, a walk and seven strikeouts (.200/.238/.400). And while he wows crowds with his bat speed, the wild swings have been a staple of his at bats to this point in the Cactus League games.
Joe Maddon told Carrie Muskat that he’s “trying to coach into him this spring is self-awareness.” Maddon explained, “Everybody wants to talk about hitting, talk about mechanics at the plate, on defense, whatever. For me, the more self-aware he is, the better he’ll do at this.”
Baez has the ability to slow the game down in the field, but he has not been able to carry that to his at-bats.
The Cubs would obviously like to see more contact from Baez. Maddon thinks Baez has made good adjustments at the plate this spring. Baez will always have extremes to his game. If the Cubs could get Baez to produce the way he did at the plate last September, he will be a valuable part of Maddon’s bench this season.
Shane Victorino and Matt Szczur
According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Shane Victorino and Matt Szczur could play in games this week.
Victorino is expected to be back in the lineup Monday when the Cubs take on the Padres at Sloan Park. Victorino should be Maddon’s designated hitter.
Szczur hasn’t been able to play in a Cactus League game due to an oblique injury. He is expected to play in minor league games toward the end of the week.
News and Notes
• Kyle Schwarber returned to the Cubs’ lineup Sunday. Schwarber was 0-for-3 at the plate. Schwarber made a good running catch before hitting the wall in the third inning. Schwarber was asked about his catch after he left the game, Schwarber said to the Sun-Times, “If I have to go through a wall I’ll do it.”
• Joe Maddon doesn’t want to hear old timers complain about the younger generation.
• Comcast SportsNet reported, the art of the walk-up song is a reflection of the Cubs’ personality.
• According to a report from the Tribune, the ability to adapt and adjust lead to achievement for Cubs’ Ben Zobrist.
• The Cubs added a ‘B-Game’ to the spring schedule, Thursday at 12:00pm CDT (10:00am MT) against the Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
• Patrick Saunders asked if the Rockies are to blame for Rex Brothers’ struggles. Saunders thinks the Rockies ruined Rex Brothers … “Scouts I’ve talked to state that the Rockies tinkered with Brothers’ mechanics so much that he lost his direction on the mound. His natural feel for pitching got lost in a jumble of directives from upper management and pitching coaches.”
This Day in Cubstory
1989 – Marwin Gonzalez, born
1957 – Ty Waller, born
1957 – Steve Lake, born
1950 – Dave McKay, born
1942 – Bob Raudman, born