Putting in Work
Kyle Schwarber flashed some versatility at the plate on Wednesday. He led off the game with a bunt single and hit a two-run shot later in the game. While it remains to be seen how often we should expect to see the former from Schwarber throughout the season, it just goes to show how intriguing the idea of Kyle Schwarber leading off is going to continue to be. He’s more athletic than most are willing to give him credit for, and potential shifts open up the opportunity for him to find creative ways on base. The Cubs don’t need a base stealer up top, but Schwarber’s high-OBP, high-power skill set is going to be a blast to watch there.
Tommy La Stella has had an interesting past few days. He appeared at third base against Colorado on Monday, making a couple of solid defensive plays, before tying Thursday’s game against Arizona with a solo home run. His situation is an interesting one, as he’s obviously a candidate to fill out the Cubs’ bench. However, with two minor league options remaining, he’s one of the few that the organization has some wiggle room with. At the same time, given the situation that transpired last year, how would he react to such a move? I guess the best way to mitigate those concerns is to continue hitting the ball well and showcasing steady, versatile defense.
The Cubs should get a pair of players back into action this weekend, with Ben Zobrist returning from some neck stiffness and Javier Baez returning to camp off of his stint in the World Baseball Classic for Team Puerto Rico. Zobrist was day-to-day and missed a couple of days this week. He could be back in the lineup by Saturday. Baez is expected to return to camp on Friday.
Also, Jake Arrieta hit a 465-foot home run on Thursday. So. He’s ready.
The Cubs made a number of roster moves on Thursday, ultimately trimming their current roster to 36 players. Jim Henderson, a mildly interesting arm as potential depth for the Cubs, was released following a spring in which he pitched to an ERA over nine and a 2.57 WHIP across just 4.2 spring innings.
Six additional players were assigned to minor league camp. That list begins with Jeimer Candelario, the most notable of the bunch. Candelario made his debut with the Cubs last season, though there was only an outside shot that he’d nab one of the bench roles out of spring camp. As injuries take place and guys struggle throughout the season, however, it isn’t totally unreasonable to expect to see him over the course of 2017. He’s an increasingly versatile player who just didn’t showcase enough at the plate, with a slash that included a .235 average and .278 on-base percentage across 51 plate appearances. We’ll be watching his Triple-A performance with great interest.
Also optioned to Triple-A were Alec Mills, recently acquired from the Royals, and Jake Buchanan. Both pitchers are organizational depth on the bump and will likely see time throughout the year, if not when rosters expand in September. Buchanan made a couple of appearances late in the year for the Cubs in 2016. Additionally, pitchers Williams Perez, Dylan Floro, and David Rollins were all reassigned to minor league camp.
Probably also worth noting is the fact that the Cubs announced the order of their starting rotation for the beginning of the regular season. It’ll include Jon Lester for the opener, followed by Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. Brett Anderson will start game number four before the Cubs turn to Kyle Hendricks in the fifth spot. The five starters aren’t of any real surprise. The assumption has long been that as long as Anderson was healthy, he’d be the guy with Mike Montgomery in the bullpen (and maybe jumping into a start from time to time). While many are ready to make an issue out of Hendricks in the fifth spot, the order is ultimately of little consequence. With this particular order, Anderson and Lester, the only two lefties in the rotation, no longer have to go on back-to-back days.
Lead photo courtesy Rick Scuteri—USA Today Sports