The Rundown: Rotation Decisions Looming, Zo Booming, Javy Blooming

Brett Anderson’s return from the DL is sort of like getting an extension on a paper or having your boss postpone that performance evaluation you’ve been dreading. It’s great that things got pushed back, but facing up to it is inevitable. In this case, that means having to insert Anderson back into the rotation.

It’s possible he could be added back to the staff in a relief role, particularly when you consider how the Cubs have been streaming relievers all season. He’s not really a bullpen guy, though, a reality Joe Maddon acknowledged at the start of the season when Anderson was rewarded a spot in the rotation over Mike Montgomery.

That could mean a decision between Anderson and Eddie Butler, he of the disparate pair of starts following his recent call-up. Or it could mean going to that six-man rotation Maddon talked about back in Mesa, even if it’s only a temporary measure. Whatever the Cubs decide to do, they’ve still got a little time before another move is necessary.

A Tuesday bullpen session will go a long way toward determining the next steps in Anderson’s return, which Maddon said will definitely include a rehab assignment.

“For me, the biggest thing is for him to be well, to go pitch, to be pitching well and then you make that decision,” Maddon told reporters prior to Monday’s loss to the Giants. “But we haven’t put pencil to paper or whatever in regards to doing that yet.”

While the best possible scenario for the Cubs would be for Anderson to come back and be the guy who gave up two earned runs in three starts, not the one who gave up 18 in the other three, that might be a pipe dream. It could also be a nightmare if Anderson flip-flops and plays out a Jekyll and Hyde season. There’s also the matter of a contract with incentives tied to starts.

The Cubs can afford to pay a couple million dollars, they just can’t afford to shell out that money to a guy who’s getting shelled every time out. If they were going to cut him, they’d have done it already, so I could see Anderson coming back for another start at the expense of either Butler or Zac Rosscup. He’ll be on a short leash, though, and another abysmal outing could be his last in blue pinstripes.

Then again, Lackey’s stuck around.

Zobrist looks good in leadoff role

Conclusive? Hardly. But 11 total bases in two games as the Cubs’ leadoff hitter has certainly made the most of his new role. No walks, though, not that it matters in light of what else he’s doing with the bat. I’d imagine Maddon will stick with this since it ain’t broke, at least for a while yet.

Javy has turned it around

It wasn’t too long ago that our Brendan Miller looked at the poor numbers Javy Baez was putting up and presented a case for letting the versatile infielder play through it. The slow start, he reasoned, was reminiscent of last season and Baez just needed time to establish some consistency. He appears to have done just that here in May.

We could talk about the various splits and how Javy has six home runs and has only struck out 11 times in 69 plate appearances this month after notching only one and 21, respectively, in 66 trips to the plate in April. But what I have enjoyed about this turnaround is that it comes at a time when Ian Happ came up and got people talking about whether Baez is expendable now. Underestimate Javy at your own risk.

When he was at his best last season, the free-swinging Baez would shorten his stroke when behind in counts and would go the other way when pitched outside. His familiar aggressiveness was still there, it was just harnessed. That was lacking in April as he flailed away and failed to make good contact. Monday’s late-inning heroics (can you call them that when the Cubs still lost?) were an example of Javy at his best.

With the Cubs down 6-0 and Jason Heyward on first with no out, Baez was up there looking to rip one. The Cubs had done next to nothing against Giants lefty Ty Blach, who kept pumping strikes and inducing weak contact. Javy took a wicked rip and just missed on a two-seamer to open the at-bat. The next pitch, another two-seamer, ran away and to the outside corner before finding itself sailing into the bleachers in right-center to put the Cubs on the board.

It was Javy’s second opposite-field homer of the season and helped to raise his oppo OPS to 1.786 on the season, which is totally unsustainable but fun to reference just the same. Taking what pitchers give him and using the whole field makes this kid so dangerous. But what are the Cubs going to do with all these second basemen?

More news and notes

  • Throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley won’t be Carlos Zambrano’s only trip to the mound this year, as he told Bruce Levine he’s planning to pitch in the Venezuelan Winter League
  • The Cubs DFA’d Jake Buchanan to make room on the 40-man roster for Zac Rosscup, who is back after missing 2016 following shoulder surgery
  • Anibal Sanchez has been optioned to AAA in what the team says was his preference in order to stretch out as a starter; can’t hurt
  • If you need an ugly-ass tumbler to hold your morning coffee, Tervis has got you covered
    • I suppose “busy-ass” might be a more accurate descriptor
    • Tervis does make really good stuff
  • Memorabilia hounds beware, Fanatics is aflood with stuff
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