The Rundown: Party Like It’s 2-for-19, 99 Problems and HBP is At Least One, Battle for Utility IF Spot?

Thus far in his Cubs tenure, the word “bomb” has primarily been associated with Jason Heyward in a pejorative sense. But for at least one day, that was no longer the case. After taking a called strike on the the first pitch he saw from Jesse Chavez, Heyward absolutely jumped on the next offering and launched it way over the wall in right.

Given the absence of Southwest Airlines How Far Did it Fly stats in spring games, we don’t know how many happy feet this particular hit flew. Eyeballed estimates from the ballpark had it at somewhere between really far and 400+++ feet.

In writing up a quick post on Monday’s Cubs lineup, I had predicted home runs from Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, so one out of two ain’t bad. And War Bear came just a few feet from making me right on both counts.

It’s hard not to be excited about Heyward’s day, particularly when you see that he roped an opposite-field RBI double in the 4th inning off of side-arming southpaw Greg Mahle. Maybe now he can settle into the groove we’ve been expecting since he signed with the Cubs.

“We’ve been going in the right direction all along, but the last piece was timing and just feeling that out and me being able to tell myself when to go and when to get ready,” Heyward told reporters following the game. “And today I got to see myself and feel myself in game action. Do it the right way and give myself enough time to take good swings, fight off a tough pitch and get to the next pitch.

“I’m in love with that (double). Those are much tougher to come by, especially with two outs. Do what you came to do, and that’s to hit.”

You down with HBP?

It’s not likely that any of the recent scratches we’ve seen would be happening if the games mattered, but it’s still worrisome to see all these guys getting dinged up. Or maybe it’s not. Jeimer Candelario rested a bit after getting hit, Addison Russell too. Albert Almora came out of Monday’s game early after experiencing tightness in the calf he had fouled a ball off of Sunday.

Anthony Rizzo was back after sitting with a sore back and Candelario got some playing time Monday as well. It’s all just precautionary at this point, but there’s always that little pang of fear that springs up any time a guy is scratched from the lineup. That’s mainly because it’s tough to tell with any certainty whether these little bumps and bruises are superficial or perhaps more substantial.

So I’d like to ask opposing pitchers to dial in the control and stop hitting Cubs batters. Thank you.

Competition for utility IF?

Bruce Levine tweeted Monday that there was a “good competition between Tommy La Stella and Jeimer Candelario for Cubs utility infielder spot,” but that doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. If we were judging this in a vacuum, it’d be the Candy Man all day; he’s younger, has a higher ceiling, can switch-hit, and didn’t walk out on his team last season. Given the structure of the rest of the roster, however, TLS is a better fit.

That may sound counterintuitive, but all those reasons I gave for Candelario being a better player are exactly why he should not make the cut. Primarily a corner man, he’s going to get limited time (at best) at either first or third. And even if he can hold down 2B once in a while, the combination of Ben Zobrist and Javy Baez is already locked in there. Let’s not even bother talking about shortstop.

There’s always the possibility of an injury replacement, but, again, Baez can fill in anywhere on the infield should it come to that. It’d be silly to waste Candelario’s talent as a bench bat when he could be playing every day and showing off his wares in Iowa. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for him to remain a Cub, but it would be a disservice to him — not to mention the Cubs — to let him languish either in the minors or on the bench in Chicago for another season.

Expect more on this later.

More news and notes

  • The World Baseball Classic is well underway and Team Israel is looking unbeatable so far. If you want to show support for your favorite team or maybe just want to cop a new Javy Baez jersey, Fanatics has all kinds of WBC gear.
  • Trevor Rosenthal, in the mix for a rotation spot, was scratched from a start due to a sore lat and is now expected to go Friday.
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