Rich Looks Hardened; Aaron's Miles Away
He doesn't exactly pack 'em in like Wood and Prior used to.
A crowd of about 7,000 gathered last night at Principal Park. Some portion of it was there for the express purpose of watching Rich Harden tune up for his return to the big leagues this weekend.
I watched Harden warm up in the bullpen before he took the mound. From less than 10 feet away he sure doesn't look the 6'1" or the 195 # attributed to him in the media guide.
The other thing I noticed right away was that his pant legs went all the way to his shoetops. The rest of the team tucks 'em below the knee, knickers style. I'm guessing he paid for the fashion privilege with a post-game clubhouse spread before catching the first plane out of town.
He retired the first six batters he faced on only 22 pitches without topping 90 mph. The second inning required only eight.
In the 3rd his velocity rose noticeably and he struggled a bit. I'm not alleging cause & effect there - just reporting.
A sharp leadoff single was followed by a dribbler to short that went for a hit. After his Round Rock counterpart laid down a sacrifice bunt, Reggie Abercrombie singled in the only earned run Harden gave up. Abercrombie hit the first pitch and it looked like a changeup. In the 1st & 5th Harden fanned him with a steady diet of high fastballs. The changeup and splitter were more effective as out pitches once Harden got hitters down in the count. A Round Rock hitter [think his name is Hyperbole] is quoted in the local paper this morning as saying that Harden, "threw me a split-finger...that was probably one of the best pitches I've ever seen." My goodness!
Anyway, after Abercrombie stole 2nd, Harden issued one of his two walks to load the bases before bearing down and getting out of the jam on two weak flyballs to So Taguchi in right. He threw as many pitches in the 3rd as he had in the first two innings combined.
All six of his strikeouts were swinging. I had him for first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 20 hitters he faced. 44 of his 70 pitches were strikes.
Here's an inning-by-inning breakdown:
1. Strikeout swinging [four pitches]
2. Strikeout swinging [five pitches]
3. G3; unassisted [five pitches]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. F7 [two pitches]
5. L9 [one pitch]
6. Strikeout swinging [five pitches]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
7. Single to right [seven pitches]
8. Infield single [three pitches]
9. Sacrifice bunt [two pitches]
10. Single to left [one pitch]
11. Walk [five pitches]
12. F9 [one pitch]
13. F9 [three pitches]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
14. Strikeout swinging [five pitches]
15. Walk [four pitches]
16. FC; 1-6 [three pitches - should have been a DP to end inning; SS dropped a perfect throw on the pivot]
17. Strikeout swinging [five pitches]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
18. E3 [five pitches]
19. Strikeout swinging [three pitches]
20. 5-3 [one pitch; call it a night...]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Harden was a little slow covering first on the grounder to the right side that began the 5th inning. Luis Rivas ranged wide to field it before throwing it way behind Harden. The whole play was out of sync and it led to the other [unearned] run charged to Harden.
As for the other rehabber in town...
Miles played 3rd last night after two games @ 2B. The good news is that he made a real fine play on a bunt in the 5th that looked like a sure hit.
The bad news is that he went 0-5 with three strikeouts, one of those on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 3rd. At least he went down swinging. I don't look for him to fill the clutch-hitting shoes of Aramis Ramirez, but at least the I-Cubs will get one of their better players [Scales or Blanco?] back.
Last & Least: I got a kick out of Jason Dubois lining a screaming single off the wall in right-center [last time I saw him a routine foul pop to left caromed off his melon into the stands]. He ultimately got where he was supposed to be by scampering [?] to 2nd on a blocked WP. Later in the game he also scored from 2nd, hustling all the way on a more garden variety single by Matt Camp...Samardzija throws today against Bud Norris [future NL Central mound opponents] in a noon matinee...MW
"Terms of the deal were not disclosed."
Theo inks five year extension
PC tonite at PNC
Not as a major factor, but could be a tie-breaker. But, yeah, on performance and experience, it's Coghlan.
Arrieta’s 2.85 ERA would be good enough to lead 26 other teams. He's 3rd on #Cubs behind Hendricks (1.99) and Lester (2.28)
Meanwhile on the SouthSide
For sure! Russell and Baez are the first infielders in a while to make me think of star defensive players in football or basketball--it's almost like they force turnovers, and they definitely play the field with a degree of athletic aggression I'd expect from a linebacker.
[Edit: Was meant to be a response to JB above.]
tebow hit a HR in the 1st pitch he sees in instructs..lulz.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.