The Rundown: Bryant Wants to Play in WBC, Cubs Announce Rotation, Help Rizzo Raise Money with Dingers

The lack of participation from some of America’s best players in the World Baseball Classic has been a frequent topic, but the rising popularity of the event could change things on a couple fronts. The most influential factor might be FOMO, aka fear of missing out, as the guys playing meaningless Spring Training games watched their friends and teammates enjoying all the pomp and circumstance of international competition.

On the other hand, MLB might have something to say after seeing how the WBC captured the attention of baseball fans in a way it hasn’t in the past. Rob Manfred is surely looking at this like getting the keys to a brand-new marketing vehicle, even though he’d undoubtedly be the guy driving under the speed limit in the far left lane. Still, it can’t be worse than what the league has floated to this point.

If baseball wants to appeal to more kids, promoting its stars would be a good place to start. And who better than Kris Bryant, who recently told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers that he wants to participate in the WBC in the future.

“Something I’d like to do but this year wasn’t the year,” Bryant said.

C’mon, man, you’re saying that playing into November and then getting married in January presented some timing issues? Well, yeah, that does make sense when you think about it. That’s particularly true for Bryant, who wanted to implement some tweaks to his approach prior to the Cubs’ title defense. While he could have worked on that stuff during tournament play, it’s not quite the same as the everyday competition in Mesa.

You’ll never be able to assemble a roster of the 25 most talented players, but the recently concluded display of baseball awesomeness may have ensured that the US will get pretty darn close in the future.

Cubs go with counterintuitive rotation

I went a little deeper on the potential implications of the Cubs rotation shortly after it was announced Thursday, so forgive me for doing a fly-by this time around. Really, it’s about driving home a couple points and taking a brief look at the bullpen.

First, stop complaining about Kyle Hendricks holding down the “last” spot in the rotation. Just like a leadoff hitter, he’s only going to be the fifth pitcher once. Besides, this configuration may only last through a couple revolutions, given all the early off-days and the various matchups that present themselves.

“Everybody gets hung up on numbers,” Joe Maddon said of his decisions on the rotation. “He’s definitely better than a No. 5 starter. It just happens that we’re going to slot him in the five-hole coming out of camp. It’s not a pecking order regarding ability by any means.

“It’s kind of neat when you can have these conversations, knowing that ego’s not going to play a part of it from the player coming back at you. They know it is part of the overall picture. They also know that the purpose is to try to do what we did last year.”

There’s also the matter of Mike Montgomery, who went from clubhouse leader to hybrid fifth starter to bullpen arm over the last couple months. While I have been saying for a while that the former Mariner is better as a reliever, his role right now is as much about Brett Anderson being better suited to starting. We’ll still see ol’ Monty on the bump in the 1st inning on occasion, though.

What really stood out to me in looking over the first few weeks of the schedule is that it’s possible for Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Arrieta, and Anderson to face their former teams. That’s gonna make for some good social media-ing.

The moral of the story is that the Cubs yet again have an excellent rotation, maybe even better than they did last year. You know it, I know it, and Arrieta knows it.

“I think on paper — and with what we’ve actually done on the field — it’s tough to not say that (we have the best rotation in baseball).”

Join #TeamRizzo to knock cancer out of the park

The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation will once again be raising funds by asking donors to pledge money for each home run the Cubs first baseman hits this season. It’s really a great deal because everyone wins. The deal is simple: pick your donation amount and the funds will be automatically deducted the day after Rizzo homers.

In addition to the warm fuzzies you’ll get from knowing that you’re helping kids and families battling cancer, every donor will have the opportunity to purchase Foundation event tickets and merchandise before they’re made available to the general public.

I participated last year and signed up last night to do so again. Click here to join the team and make your donation.

More news and notes

  • The Mariners optioned Dan Vogelbach to AAA
  • Luis Valbuena won’t be flipping any bats for the Angels for 4-6 weeks as he recovers from a hamstring strain
  • The Giants have released Gordon Beckham
  • Jake Arrieta hit a monster home run against Zack Greinke
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