Bruce Chen Finds Out Javier Baez Can Do Whatever He Wants
Bruce Chen was torched for five home runs (two by Javier Baez and one each by David DeJesus, Alfonso Soriano, and Alberto Gonzalez) over five innings, as the Cubs cruised to an 8-3 vistory over the Kansas City Royals in Cactus League action this afternoon at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ.
Baez took Chen deep with a solo HR onto the berm beyond the LF fence with two outs in the 1st, and then again with another solo HR (this one a Monster Jam) over the scoreboard and into the parking lot with two outs in the 5th, and has now hit four home runs in his last five plate appearances (he hit home runs in his final two PA versus Team Japan yesterday, including a walk-off two-run HR in the 9th).
LHP Hisanori Takahashi got the start for the Cubs and worked four solid innings (53 pitches - 15 strikes), allowing one run (a Mike Moustakas solo HR over the bullpens in RF) on five hits (three singles, a double, and the HR) and one walk, with one strikeout and a 7/3 GO/FO. He also picked a runner off 1st base.
The Cubs have stretched-out Takahashi as a starter over his past three appearances, and while he seems to be suited for that role, there does not appear to be a spot for Takahashi in the Cubs starting rotation at this time, even if Matt Garza (strained lat) and Scott Baker (TJS rehab) are not ready to start the season. The Cubs might have a "piggy-back" role in mind for Takahashi, where he would follow Scott Baker to the mound if Baker does not have his pitch count up to necessary levels by the end of Spring Training. (Baker would start the game and go as far as he can, and then Takahashi would follow and pitch multiple innings if necessary).
RHRP Michael Bowden took the mound in the 5th and pitched two shutout innings (26 pitches - 18 strikes), allowing two hits (a triple and a single) and no walks. He struck out two (the last two hitters he faced), and got the other four outs on pop ups or fly balls.
Bowden has pitched OK (not great but not bad) so far in Cactus League games, but he has an advantage over most of the other contenders for middle relief jobs in the Cubs bullpen because he is out of minor league options and thus cannot be sent to the minor without being exposed to Outright Assignment Waivers (which are irrevovable), but even if waivers were to be secured, Bowden can refuse an Outright Assignment and elect free-agency because he has been outrighted previously in his career. So the Cubs have to make sure to get a good read on what Bowden has to offer now and in the near future.
Shawn Camp followed Bowden and labored through a 27-pitch (only 12 strikes) 7th. Camp surrendered a single and a walk to start the inning, and eventually allowed a run on a two-out infield single, but at least he was able to get out of the inning without further damage.
Kyuji Fujikawa pitched the 8th inning and allowed a run on two hits (a lead-off double by Brandon Wood, a single, and an 8-6 RBI FC where CF Dave Sappelt just missed making a spectacular diving catch, but still was able to get to his feet in time to make an accurate throw to 2nd base that forced the runner who was on 1st).
Carlos Marmol worked a fast 1-2-3 9th (two deep fly ball outs and an infield pop up).
Six of their eight Cub runs resulted from the five home runs (Soriano hit a two-run dinger, and the other four were solo shots).
The Cubs scored another run in the 3rd, as Alfonso Soriano walked and later scored on a throwing error by the KC second-baseman, and collected their final tally of the day in the 6th on a two-out Justin Bour RBI ground single through the box that followed hits by Rafael Lopez and Christian Villanueva.
The Cubs made several roster moves yesterday, optioning IF-OF Junior Lake to Iowa, 3B Christian Villanueva to Tennessee, and OF Jorge Soler to Daytona, although they can continue to play in MLB Cactus League games (Villanueva and Soler played in the game at HoHoKam Park today, but Lake will be out 4-6 weeks with a rib injury).
The reason those moves had to be made yesterday is that normally an injured player cannot be optioned to the minors, but the one exception is a player who did not accrue any MLB Service Time the previous season, as long as the player is optioned to the minors no later than the 16th day prior to MLB Opening Day (which was yesterday).
By optioning Lake, Villanueva, and Soler to the minors yesterday (and Matt Szczur, Trey McNutt, Logan Watkins, and Rob Whitenack earlier this week), the Cubs covered themselves in case any of the seven (none of whom accrued MLB Service Time last season) are injured prior to being optioned (as happened with Lake) or in an MLB Cactus League Spring Training game.
If the Cubs did not option the seven to the minors by yesterday's deadline, they would be taking a risk that the player could be injured prior to MLB Opening Day. And if that happened, the Cubs would have to place the player on their MLB 15-day or 60-day Disabled List and pay the player at the MLB salary rate (about $2,650 per day), rather than the lesser minor league "split salary" rate (about $430 per day for Lake and Szczur, and about $215 per day for the others), with the player also accruing MLB Service Time for days spent on an MLB DL during the MLB regular season (which could eventually affect when the player would be eligible for salary arbitration and/or free-agency).
But because they were optioned to the minors by yesterday's deadline, any of the seven can be placed on the Disabled List of the minor league club to which the player was optioned. And this is exactly what will happen with Junior Lake. He will be placed on the AAA Iowa DL at the start of the season (and be paid at the minor league "split salary" rate), will probably spend about a month at Extended Spring Training at Fitch Park while getting back into playing shape, and then will be reactivated when he is ready to play.
I think with Hammels and Hendricks struggles the 2nd half we forget how dominate of 1st halves they had and how many games they won us as the offense was struggling. We also forget they are back of the rotation guys and we can't be expecting ace quality there.
Maybe it's just Werth & Ross I'm noticing. Weird.
CRAIG: Jose Albertos is not chunky like Fernando. He's built more like Dylan Cease. Exact same body type. And his delivery is free & easy. He's definitely not a "max effort" guy.
Hendricks after 50 MLB starts: 17-11, 3.45 ERA, 1.12 WHIP. Not bad for a #5 starter. He may be a 6-inning max guy, but, if he can keep those stats up, I will gladly take it.
Speaking of WHIP -- last year, he was tied for 11th in the NL. Tied with Hammel.
Last year's NL rank in WHIP: Arrietta 2nd, Lester 9th, Haren 10th, Hammel T11th, Hendricks T11th. Wow.
I went to a Nats game in DC two years ago while looking at colleges with my son -- it's a fun park, worth a visit if you are in the area.
I also saw the "slowness" thing -- particularly Werth, who would mosey out of RF about 5 seconds before the inning started.
It's Dusty's fault. It'll be the end of them.
Speaking of how teams "look", my take on the Nats- It's really weird, but the pace of the entire team seems slow. Slow walking to the plate, slow on the mound, even on some routine groundouts, it looked as if there wasn't a ton of hustle. Don't get me wrong, when the ball is hit to their outfielders, they get after the ball, I'm really referring to non-critical action- they mosey around. It's kind of odd. Maybe that "calm power" is part of the Nats ethos, idk.
My favorite moment of Hendricks' performance last night was the last strikeout he rung up- the cajones it took to throw a high, 86MPH fastball to Zimmerman on a 0-2 count. And he swung the bat like it was a 96MPH heater. I literally laughed out loud.
In listening to Maddon's post-game, he is interested in how these other teams "look" to him. He is assessing for today...and tomorrow. I love this guy.
One observation from last night: Joe Ross is incredibly slow. 20-30 seconds between pitches at times. Hendrix had a nice, peppy rhythm which is great to see.
I know there are plenty of purists here which I applaud, but the game just will not sustain itself unless change of pace rules come into play. Pitch clock, improve the shit-ass reviews, mound visits (there is a clock for this), batter time outs, etc.
Thanks, Phil. Albertos at 17, and having gotten a good signing bonus ($1.5, even though as Mexican prospect I think his team gets half of that?), throwing in the 90's and showing some command of a curveball sounds pretty interesting, even if that control is only for a dozen-pitch sample.
What kind of a frame does he have? Is he on the stocky and short-ish side (I'm recalling Fernando Valenzuela!), or somewhat taller? A lot of 17-year olds have projection, "when he fills out" projection. Would that apply at all for Albertos?
I definitely hang around here looking to reply to your comments as noticed by my nearly year long absence.
there's a fine line between posting something relevant, useful or at least humorous versus posting something irrelevant, useless or unfunny...actually it's rather quite a thick line and easy to see for most people not named crunch.
I certainly am digging the RISP machine Zobrist version.
Cubs are taking advantage of bad D by their opponents -- did it a few times in PIT and the Nats botched 2-out rundown leads to 3 Cub runs in the 8th. Which were nice to have.
I hope Kyle had fun at the dance party -- he was terrific.