Cubs @ Reds: Series Thread (Games 4-7)

The Cubs head out for their first road trip with a series win against the Brewers under their belt. Next up on their divisional to-do list are the Cincinnati Reds, last year's fourth place team but an opponent with the potential to jump up and surprise in an unusual season. This four-game series constitutes 6.67% of the whole season; there's some substantive work to do in Cincinnati.

Game 4, Monday, July 27
CHC: LHP Jon Lester (0-0, -.-- ERA)
CIN: LHP Wade Miley (0-0, -.-- ERA)
5:40 pm CDT

The series opener is a match up of veterans. Wade Miley makes his debut as a Red following a very serviceable 2019 with the Houston Astros. You may remember that he also pitched an injury-shortened 2018 season with the Brewers. Right-handed hitters have fared significantly better off of Miley both in his career and recently, so the Cubs may take this opportunity to get some playing time for bench righties Albert Almora and/or Steven Souza. Almora is 4-10 with a dinger off of him, while Souza is 6-24 with a .750 OPS. Rizzo is 3-23 with no homeruns, but maybe those were loud outs; he's struck out only twice against Miley.

Lester gets his first action of 2020 after building up a bit more slowly than his rotation-mates. He hasn't been a top-of-the-rotation guy for three seasons, but the Cubs hope he can put up a bunch of solid outings and continue his campaign toward 200 wins. Former Cub Nicholas Castellanos has hammered Lester to the tune of 3 homeruns in only 12 at bats ( along with 3 singles and a double). Eugenio Suarez has tormented Lester across 42 ABs, accumulating 6 homeruns and a 1.306 OPS in the process.

Game 5
CHC: RHP Alec Mills (0-0, -.-- ERA)
CIN: LHP Tyler Mahle (0-0, -.-- ERA)
5:40pm CDT

Tyler Mahle opens the sequel in his sixth career start against the Cubs. Last year he had two no decisions having allowed seven earned runs in 12 innings pitched. Baez 4-10 with a homer off of him as is Schwarber, albeit Kyle has also struck out 5 times against the righty.

Alec Mills has been more than serviceable when called up on by the Cubs in 2018 and 2019. He finds himself in the rotation to start 2020 due largely to an injury to Quintana. Perhaps the 28-year-old righty can take advantage of it. He pitched 12 of last year's 36 innings against Cincinnati and allowed 4 runs across three appearances. He earned a win in a 2-inning relief appearance in Cincinnati on Sep. 16.

Game 6
CHC: RHP Kyle Hendricks (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
CIN: RHP Sonny Gray (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
5:40pm CDT

Sonny Gray's 2019 was his best season yet and a remarkable rebound from a middling 2018 that he spent with the Yankees. Current Cubs have done little off of him, collectively posting a .357 OPS in 122 ABs. Albert Almora leads the pack at 3-10 with a HR (and 4 strikeouts).

Hendricks pitched a gem on opening day, completing a 3-hit shutout in just over 100 pitches. If he can just do that every start, that should do.

Game 7
CHC: RHP Yu Darvish (0-1, 6.75 ERA)
CIN: RHP Luis Castillo (0-0, 1.50 ERA)
5:10pm CDT

Luis Castillo really started to put it together last year and has come into his own as a legitimate ace. He even neared the now elusive 200 inning mark, though he fell short at 190.2. Kyle Schwarber has tagged him for 3 homeruns and collected four walks off of him, and Contreras and Happ have posted OPSs north of 1.000 in limited exposure as well. Victor Caratani, Darvish's designated receiver, has 7 strikeouts and only one hit off the righty.

Darvish took a loss in his first start, struggling a bit with inefficiency and then giving up six hits in only 4 innings pitched. He did, however, avoid both the walk and the long ball. He's held most current Reds down, but last year's rookie sensation Aristides Aquino has tagged him for two homeruns in five ABs.


Boom, there it is.

MARLINS get Twelve (12)  positive covid tests. Four over the weekend and eight today (includes two coaches). The Marlins Home Opening Game in Miami vs Orioles is cancelled. Miami Team to stay in Philly. 

The Marlins are quarantined in Philly at a local hotel, putting the entire hotel staff at risk. The visitor clubhouse is a risk with the Yankees due to play tonight but at least the Yankees are at a different Philly hotel. The Philly club attendants for the visitors clubhouse are quarantined. The Yankees do have their own Clubhouse staff in town. This is the next level of disruption-outbreak. 

sources are from The Athletic and MLBTR

Any news on the Reds players that sat out Sunday?

I'm sure they will all get rapid tested before allowing them to play vs Cubs in Cincy tonight.

The Yankees/Philadelphia game has been cancelled  

Definitely a case for re-scheduling tonight's Cubs/Reds game as well - We'll see. 

Lineup posted: KB (LF), Rizzo, Javy, Schwarber (DH), Willson, Souza (RF), Bote (3B), Nico, Almora (CF) 

I like it  

Good lineup construction with a lefty on the mound - rather not see JHey starting against them more times than not.  Hopefully KB's bat gets going but at least he's played very sharp defense at third and he hasn't been a liability in the outfield in prior years. Bote had extreme reverse splits last season - need that to straighten out as well. 

I'm hearing up to 13-14 Marlins have tested positive 

Can't imagine they play a game in the next 2 weeks without bringing in the entire taxi squad. With that many positives, everyone should be quarantining.

MLB: These protocols will protect our profits players from a very contagious virus!

Marlins active roster: 40+% infected in 1 weekend.

CHARLIE: I would think all MLB clubs are bringing the max three player Texi Squad on all road trips, regardless of the CoViD situation for that club (probably one MLB-ready pitcher, one catcher, and an INF-OF utility-type position player). 

I am definitely confusing my terms. I meant the backup group staying ready at minor league facilities. I fully forgot about the three player taxi squad.

Ruh roh...Willson Contreras brought his own Lysol and bedsheets to Cincy. Nick Senzel and Mike Moustakas of the Reds woke up today not feeling well.

 Contreras needs a mask, and not just a catche's mask, alrough it might inhibit hia abiliity to talk trash behind the plate.  

rain delay...

it's long enough that they're not expected to make another announcement for an hour+.

first pitch at 7:25 (8:25 EST)

Marlin-Orioles game tomorrow has been canceled too. But of course.

len/jd in suits bothers me more than it should.  i have no idea why i even have an opinion on this.

rizzo is good at HR's and HBP's.

lester goes 5ip 0h 1bb 1k, 1hbp on 76 pitches.  he was taken out throwing a no-hitter, but he wasn't exactly dazling even if it wasn't bad at all.

I wish Winkler's command was anywhere near as fine as his hairdoo 

Wonder if the back issue KB experienced last week is still biting him - weird seeing him look so bad/off against 87 mph fastballs up in the strike zone 

Really did not want to see this become a save situation.  Also: in late innings with a lead, may want to swap Souza out for JHey because Souza just cost the Cubs two runs ... and thus creating the save situation 

Yeah, I tend to dog on J-Hey but that was a  good reminder on how valuable his defense can be. 

Theo, baby. Your bullpen is killing me. Again. 

Every Red has spit on Kimbrel's offspeed offerings

Well, that was a big improvement by Kimbrel - he did not give up a homer. #progress

Clutch job by Jeffress - How in the hell is Theo going to get out of this self fulfilling Kimbrel death spiral. 


That might have gone a wee bit better.

I found it interesting that Ross let Kimbrel get into the worst case scenario for a reliever without control/command (outside of a game-ending HR). Once the bases were loaded, I started getting "Marmol" flashback anxiety attacks. Clearly a 3 run lead was the perfect situation to break in Kimbrel but, sheesh...that was as close to ugly as it gets.

Kimbrel is toast. Might be time to cut losses. He at least shouldn't be the closer for the moment.

went to bed to a 8-1 game.

this pen is butt.  kimbrel is butt.  butts.

kimbrel is the first pitcher since 9/26/18 to walk 3+ and HBP a guy in 0.1ip.  that pitcher was kimbrel.

Kimbrel becomes a free-agent and delays signing until mid-season, then gives up a ton of game-blowing HR once he does return to MLB, then starts to get skittish about throwing strikes and tries to get hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone, then walks the world, and that's where Kimbrel is at right now. 

From the Cubs POV, they can't use Kimbrel in high-leverage sitiations until further notice. It's not that Jereny Jeffress or Dillon Maples or Rowan Wick are great closer options, but Kimbrel is an unmitigated disaster right now. 

Even with 16 pitchers (and 11 relief pitchers) on the Active List roster, there is already a strain on the Cub bullpen just four games into the season.

They probably need to drop Josh Phegley right now (Phegley is out of minor league options and will likely be claimed off waivers when the Cubs remove him from the active list, but so be it) and replace him with another RP (like maybe Jason Adam, Adbert Alzolay, Dakota Mekkes, Colin Rea, or Michael Rucker) and then keep Jose Lobaton on the taxi squad as a 3rd catcher (in case anything happens to Contreras or Caratini) and sign one or two more veteran AAA catchers for the practice squad.   

The Cubs cannot afford to keep Phegley on the Active List. They can't wait until the 30-to-28 cut-down on the 15th day of the regular season (August 6th). They need to replace Phegley with another pitcher immediately.  

cool long term follow up. Probably makes Theo/Jed feel good too.

from the Athletic (Bowden)

Thankfully, there were a lot of feel-good stories over the opening weekend. Daniel Bard of the Colorado Rockies won his first game since 2012 and appeared in his first game in seven years. He pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless ball, picking up the victory. Having overcome the yips, he said just three words to his manager Bud Black after the win: “That was fun.” 

WAS players have "voted" to not play MIA this weekend.  it's up to MLB, but WAS has made their voice heard.  this is all working out just great.

also, MIA has 4 more covid positives.  15 players and 2 coaches...

Manfred has the right to relocate game(s) as he sees fit, which should be no big deal given the fact that there are no spectators and thus no ticket sales to refund, and there should be hotel rooms available all over the country in case of a last minute change of venue. So while the Marlins probably wouldn't like it, Manfred could order them to just stay isolated in their hotel rooms and (for the players who don't test positive) play road games only indefinitely. 

Also, Manfred can temporarily change waiver claim priority so that a club that has an outbreak can get first waiver claim priority as long as necessary. And since players on the CoViD-19 IL do not count against the MLB 40-man roster, the Marlins can probably just keep making waiver claim after waiver claim (they claimed two pitchers from the Reds yesterday) and get additional players that way. 

Worst case scenario is that the Marlins (or any other club that might face a CoViD-19 outbreak in the days and weeks ahead) just don't play for a period of time and the postponed games are not made up. But so what? What with the goofy schedule and with 16 teams making the post-season playoffs, does it really matter if some games are canceled and not made up (as long as the situation isn't intentionally manipulated by a club to gain a competitive advantage)?   

so now we're here...

Craig Mish @CraigMish
The Miami Marlins 2020 season at least temporarily,  has been paused. This will allow the team to continue to monitor health and safety of players.

...also, the yanks/phillies game tonight has been postponed

Manfred has the right to relocate game(s) as he sees fit, which should be no big deal...

How about Nuuk, Greenland?  Would he need approval from Denmark?

Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Mexico City, San Juan or Santo Domingo?

London, Rome, Berlin or Tel Aviv?

does it really matter if some games are canceled and not made up (as long as the situation isn't intentionally manipulated by a club to gain a competitive advantage)?   

So now we have to worry about bad teams performing or allowing bioterrorism on the good teams? The Yankees have a lot of enemies. Could an owner be bought off to the allow his team to sacrifice the season to take out the Yankees? Tribalism, the new America (except we can't use "Tribe" as a team name). Who is Putin's favorite team? (Answer: The Reds).

Man Cubs bullpen is a shitshow so far. Rowan Wick our best reliever?

It's nice to have *something* familiar these days.

Of the 11 (11!) relievers currently on the 30 man roster, I have these four relievers as their current top tier: Wick, Ryan, Jeffress and Tepera, with top tier defined as least likely to implode in any appearance.  

ERIC S: Agreed, plus maybe Brad Wieck (but only if it's version 2019) once he is healthy.

And I would add that if there is anybody in the pen who might emerge as a shut-down high-leverage get-out-of-a-tough-jam guy like Carlos Marmol was back in the day (before he became a closer), it would be Dillon Maples, who has the best pure stuff on the staff and is virtually unhittable (though he must cut-down on his walks before I would trust him to get the final three outs). And I like Rex Brothers as another late-inning "get out of a jam with strikeouts" guy, but (like Maples) he can't close unless & until he throws strikes more consistently.  

Alec Mills should have value as a multi-inning and piggy-back guy if & when Quintana is back in the rotation, and I would also say that although Duane Underwood Jr gives up too many HR to be a useful late-inning reliever, he does have the variety and quality of stuff to be a SP or (even better) a multi-inning piggy-backer, except the Cubs won't be able to send him to South Bend to get him stretched-out since he is out of minor league options (as is Mills). 

Norwood (despite the high-90's FB velo), Winkler, and Sadler (despite being out of minor league options) have the least value and should be the first to get cut.

My heart sank when Winkler came into the game with a 6-0 lead in the sixth and immediately walked the first two hitters on nine pitches (and the pitches were not particularly close either) Really set the tone for the remainder of the game.  I think Sadler walked the first batter he saw in an exhibition game on four pitches with a lead as well ...

Agree with your tiers and it's a bummer that Wieck has had the health setbacks this year

bryant and contreras days off.  both at once?  a'ite.

rizzo / caratini / baez / schwarber(LF) / happ(CF) / heyward / bote(3rd) / kipnis(DH) / hoerner

bryant evidently has a "left elbow issue"

You knew something was wrong when guys were blowing him away with 87 mph fastballs

says he "hyperextended" his elbow on a reaching swing last night and getting a day off to be on the safe side.  hopefully that's the beginning and end of that rather than something that was bugging him and got worse on that swing.

m.mikolas (STL) to have season ending arm surgery.  in great STL tradition, some minor leaguer not on the national radar will come up and pitch cy young quality ball until they're traded away and totally fall apart.

Or they'll sign some middling loser and turn him into their number 3 starter. Kyle Lohse anyone? How about Braden Looper? Maybe a little Jeff Suppan while we're at it?

the cubs dugout is talking smack to the guy who tried to fight an entire dugout last year.

So Wick for the save?

Nice job by Sadler tonight, even with the home run allowed

Or Wick for no save. I'm good with that. 

The Cubs 162 game rounded-off equivalency record is now 11-3, their best start since 2016.  

And the Reds are in the midst of an 11 game losing streak

I think it's been discussed but Cardinals just lost Miles Mikolas for the season to pitching arm flexor tendon, probable TJ surgery. Calling all Bob Tewksbury and Kyle Lohse clones. Can Dexter Fowler pitch?

As much as he stung the Cubs in 2018, particularly in comparison with Chatwood at the time, the Chatwood free agency pickup over Mikolas certainly looks much better now

the original mikolas contract was 2 years.  that extension they handed him is gonna sting...well, is currently stinging.

bryant / rizzo / baez / schwarber (LF) / contreras / heyward / happ (CF) / caratini (DH) / hoerner

mlb suspends joe kelly (LAD) 8 games for throwing at alex bregman (HOU)...that's a normal season equivalent of a 3-week suspension.

it's notable that joe kelly is a notorious headhunter at this point that's been suspended for it in the past.

I forgot about Hendricks huge home/road splits from last year. Reds have rudely brought them back to my attention

Just one of those nights - Gray is simply dealing - no-hitter type stuff

No doubles for Castellanos, so there!

You can ignore the grand slam

rex brothers with 38 pitches of crap to cap off hendricks losing it in the it's norwood's turn to do whatever it is he wants to do being down by 9 runs.

The Reds lineup was all over Hendricks tonight - he did a pretty nice job of avoiding major damage but he could not overcome Brothers 

brooks raley of CIN showing his old team he's got the right stuff to be in the cubs pen.

triple play!

hey, something good.

...and replay shows it was a blown call.  it wasn't challenged for some reason.

-edit- turns out that part of the blown call (infield catch) isn't reviewable

I'm trying to determine which relief appearance was more horrific: Brothers or Maples? 

I'll help Theo with his roster moves:

DFA Brothers, Phegley

Option: Maples, Norwood

Select: Hultzen, Abbott

Recall: Alzolay

there are good in-house pen solutions...

career 2ip 0h 0bb 0k, 6 batters faced, 6 outs...david ross

we got our closer.

Even though we are heading into the second week of the MLB regular season, the games feel more like the second or third week of the Cactus League to me. 

Colin Rea called up from the South Bend Bubble - Dillon Maples sent back to said Bubble. 

From limited times I've seen Rea pitch in the majors, he's gives up hard contact, but generally his pitches end up in the catcher's mitt when not smoked over outfield walls

ERIC S: Rea was the PCL Pitcher of the Year in 2019. He has a full assortment of SP-type stuff and is a classic #6 (4-A) starter with a minor league option available (actually two) that would have made him valuable in a pre-CoViD-19 2020 MLB season in a Des Moines-Chicago "shuttle" role, and now at the very least he will give the pen somebody who can throw multiple innings.    

Intersting thing about Rea is that with 12 days in MLB in 2020 (12 days in 2020 being equivalent to 33 days in a normal MLB regular season) he will become arbitration-eligible post-2020 (which also probably makes him more-likely to be non-tendered post-2020) 

Also, by spending the first seven days of the 2020 MLB regular season on the Cubs MLB Active List roster Dillon Maples accrued 20 days of MLB Service Time. 

Phils-Jays series canceled. Phils have one coach and one staffer but no players test positive. 

That works out perfectly, because now the Nationals (whose weekend series with the Marlins was canceled) can play the Blue Jays (whose weekend series with the Phillies has been cancelled) three games in DC over the weekend. 

The new thing in MLB circa 2020... 

Ad hoc scheduling, just like a mid-summer after-dinner pick-up game back in the old neighborhod when I was a kid.  

"You guys vwanna play a game?" 

"Sure! Let's do it!"  

bryant / rizzo / baez / schwarber / contreras(DH) / heyward / caratini / hoener / happ

david bote is sitting around waiting for someone to get injured so he can play i guess.

Cincy weather doesn't look promising that they'll get a game in tonight and you figure for Covid reasons they would not want teams/coaches/staff lingering around for a long time. 

I forgot Bote broke a toe in the first series of last season - he was hitting with a hot bat towards the end of the year and he's certainly been smoking the ball so far. 

But can't see benching Willson at DH over him

game postponed.

MLB likely to announce (premature news blurb, but it's believed to be in place) double headers will be 7-inning games this season.

I'm more OK with this than with a runner on 2nd to start a tenth inning.

i didnt like it in minor league games, and i'm not a huge fan of it so far in the majors.

the 7-inning thing has been officially agreed on for the 2020 season.

Some of us are old enough to remember Ernie Banks favorite saying, "Let's play 1.6 !".

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  • Arizona Phil 5 hours 18 min ago (view)

    DJL: I don't think Ildemaro Vargas being out of minor league options is much of a concern to the Cubs because as things stand right now he projects as the team's primary utility infielder in 2021. He can play all four INF positions (1B, 2B, 3B, and SS, plus corner OF, too), and he is switch hitter with some pop, especially from the right side (remember the 9th inning HR he hit off Josh Hader in September?). 


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 6 hours 1 min ago (view)

    I'm a little surprised Ildemaro Vargas was tendered, given that he's out of options. He has value and isn't expensive as he is pre-arb this year, but still a bit surprised. Have to think he's got an inside track to an Opening Day spot at this point


  • waveland 14 hours 47 min ago (view)

    really appreciate the years and years of your updates


  • Arizona Phil 16 hours 41 min ago (view)

    BRADSBEARD: Strumpf was wearing a cast on his hand in Minor League Camp before everything got shut-down in March so his not being at South Bend might have had something to do with that. I don't know why Rivas wasn't at the ATS. 


  • bradsbeard 17 hours 25 min ago (view)

    Do you have any idea why Rivas and Strumpf weren't at the alternate site in South Bend? I thought Rivas especially showed enough in ST games to be viewed as a legitimate depth option, especially with the DH. 


  • Arizona Phil 18 hours 34 sec ago (view)

    Alfonso Rivas reminds me a bit of Rafael Palmeiro when Palmeiro first came up to the big leagues and was a "doubles machine" (before he started hitting home runs).   

    Rivas played D-1 baseball at the University of Arizona, so (just like Nico Hoerner, who also played in the PAC-12) I don't think he needs a lot of additional time at AAA before he's ready for MLB. He's a very advanced hitter, as long as you are OK with lots of doubles & lots of walks but not many HR.   


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 19 hours 2 min ago (view)

    I hadn't thought of that but I really like that option


  • bradsbeard 19 hours 7 min ago (view)

    I really hope Rivas has a chance at the LF job. Would ease some of the sting of Schwarber being cut loose. 


  • Arizona Phil 19 hours 8 min ago (view)

    CRUNCH: I got the impression that Ross had seen enough of Schwarber in LF, so implementing the universal DH may be necessary before Schwarber returns to the Cubs in 2021. I think the Cubs would be fine with Schwarber as their main DH going forward. 

    BTW, I strongly suspect that the universal DH will be included in the next CBA, but whether there will be a DH in the National League in 2021 is still TBA (which is really stupid, since clubs need to know right now for sure one way or the other whether or not there will be a DH in the N. L. in 2021). 


  • Arizona Phil 19 hours 19 min ago (view)

    Besides the guys on the 40, Cubs 2021 NRI relievers with a legit chance to win a bullpen slot in Spring Training include LHRPs Josh Osich and Rex Brothers, and RHRPs Jake Jewell, Trevor Megill, Dakota Mekkes, Michael Rucker, and Joe Wieland (presuming they are not taken in the Rule 5 Draft). 

    Brothers and Wieland are out of minor league options, however, so if added to the 40 they could not ride the "Chicago - Des Moines Shuttle" like the others could. 


  • crunch 19 hours 25 min ago (view)

    i am rooting for the cubs to retain schwarber.

    even though he's average on the best of days in LF (except his above average arm), i would like to see him and his work ethic remain in the cubs system...the homers from the left side of the plate are nice, too.


  • Arizona Phil 19 hours 48 min ago (view)

    At least as things stand right now, Kris Bryant is your Cubs de facto 2021 Opening Day LF! (Of course we know he will be traded before then...). 

    Otherwise, minor league NRI outfielders Ian Miller, Michael Hermosillo, and Rafael Ortega will be competing for Opening Day OF slots, with a legit shot to win a job.

    Even Alfonso Rivas (who was hitting rockets from foul line to foul line at AZ Instructs) and/or Eddy Julio Martinez (who has had a very good winter in the Mexican Pacific League) might have a shot.  


  • Arizona Phil 19 hours 50 min ago (view)

    I would think that both Colin Rea and Kyle Ryan must have signed contracts with minor league split salaries, otherwise I doubt very much that they would have been tendered. 


  • Arizona Phil 20 hours 2 min ago (view)

    With Tepera non-tendered and Winkler, Ryan, and Rea signed, the Cubs 2021 Opening Day bullpen (right now) would appear to be Kimbrel (clearly not tradeable), Wick (virtual lock), Winkler (can't be optioned without his consent), Underwood (out of minor league options), and Maples (out of minor league options), and then three from amongst Adam, Norwood, Rea, Ryan, Stock, and Wieck (each of whom can be optioned back & forth to AAA as needed).


  • Arizona Phil 20 hours 21 min ago (view)

    The Cubs have signed RHSP Colin Rea, LHRP Kyle Ryan, and RHRP Dan Winkler to 2021 MLB contracts (terms TBD) and tendered 2021 MLB contracts to all other unsigned players on their MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) except OF Albert Almora, OF-1B Jose Martinez, OF Kyle Schwarber, and RHRP Ryan Tepera.

    So Almora, J. Martinez, Schwarber, and Tepera are now unrestricted free-agents, free to sign an MLB or minor league contract with any club (including the Cubs) without any salary restrictions.   

    The Cubs MLB Reserve List now stands at 34 (six slots are open). 


  • Arizona Phil 20 hours 43 min ago (view)

    Keep in mind that as things stand right now the Cubs projected 2021 MLB payroll is almost $50M under the 2021 CBT threshold (which will be $210M), so they don't have to worry about contract AAV if they can sign a player to a multi-year deal with a low 2021 base salary and then substantially higher salaries post-2021 (when they should be able to generate their normal attendance-based revenues --.presuming CoViD-19 is no longer a problem by that time).