The Rundown: Get a Grip, Hendricks Returning Soon, Cubs (Probably) Won’t Be Sellers

Hey, have you heard anything about Jake Arrieta’s inconsistent mechanics and results? I’d understand if you said no, because it’s, like, not a ubiquitous topic or anything. Wait, strike that. Reverse it. Despite the saturation of the topic, I got a little excited hearing Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio talk during the pre-game show on 670 The Score about how he’s been working with Arrieta on changing the grips on various pitches.

There seems to be this pervasive misconception among fans that athletes who’ve reached the pinnacle of their sport are done learning and growing or that they never need adjustments. Why anyone would think that’s the case with any endeavor is beyond me, though it’s not surprising that people would criticize that which they don’t truly understand.

And before you go thinking I’m insulting you, please know that I don’t understand how to throw to slider or curve either. At least, not with enough juice to be effective. And I sure as hell couldn’t stand in there and hit a 95 mph fastball or properly judge the spin on a breaking pitch.

Bosio spoke before the game about a pitcher’s grip being similar to a golfer’s in that it’s easy to fall into small changes that can eventually become new habits that impact results. As such, it’s necessary to revisit those grips from time to time to dial them back in and ensure that they’re being repeated properly.

In Arrieta’s case, that means being cognizant of not choking the ball, particularly when he throws the changeup. Rather than hold the ball as deep in his hand, the former Cy Young winner just wants to have enough pressure to secure it. He likened it to opening a tube of toothpaste, in that you need to hold it tight enough to take off the cap, but no so tight that the contents splooge out all over.

He’s also trying to hold the sinker back in his hand so that there’s less contact with his fingertips, less friction. We saw those changes in action during Arrieta’s last start in Cincinnati and also Saturday night, when he was generating some very nice arm-side run on the sinker early on. The later innings, however, were a different story.

Actually, it was just the even innings that bit him. Arrieta faced 10 total batters in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th innings, but had to grind through 17 batters to generate his other eight outs. The 6th inning was an especially brutal affair as Arrieta allowed three runs on four hits. Even worse, the three extra-base hits came against the sinker that had looked so good early. The other knock came on that infamous slider that had once been unhittable.

Whether it was a blister, too much sweat, or failure to maintain those new grip changes, Arrieta looked like a completely different pitcher from inning to inning. As a friend put it, he’s like the Schrödinger’s cat of pitchers. In which case:

Hendricks rehab set

Tendinitis in his pitching hand had kept Hendricks out of the rotation since June 4, but he’s now scheduled for a rehab start Monday with AA Tennessee. If all goes well, he could be activated in time to rejoin the Cubs when they open the second half in Baltimore.

So what happens to rotation at that point?

The easy answer is to say that Eddie Butler is optioned to AAA or shifted to the pen. He’s right-handed, so removing him as a starter doesn’t alter the balance there. Oh, then there’s the thing about him not pitching very well. The biggest issue remains his propensity for clogging the bases with walks, though that hasn’t come back to bite him as often as you might think.

But could the Cubs opt to move Mike Montgomery back to the bullpen? He’ll be available there today as they close out the first half, which is more a matter of necessity heading into the break. Montgomery has acquitted himself well on the whole and has a nice basket of pitches. He’s also susceptible to control issues and hasn’t been great when it comes to turning over opposing lineups.

We may need to look at this topic at more length once we get into the break.

Cellar sellers

Games like Saturday’s make it easy to want to push the eject button and bail on the season. Or maybe you found yourself trying to fast-forward the rest of July from your DVR remote. Thing is, Cubs brass is looking at things from a different angle.

“I can’t foresee [being sellers],” Theo Epstein said Friday. “But, frankly I wouldn’t have foreseen being under .500 a week into July either. So if things take a horrible turn from here, I guess anything’s possible. But realistically, we’re in it. There’s virtually no scenario I can envision in which we’re sort of…in which we wave the white flag on the season. I could not see that, not with this group, not where we are.”

And he’s talking about more than just the standings or the strategy as it involves just the numbers or the results. Major League Baseball is a business and we talk about players like commodities, but you can’t always treat them as such in reality.

You see, this isn’t as simple as looking around your house and deciding to have a garage sale after seeing a bunch of crap you don’t need. That old bed frame might not be part of your future, but it is also an inanimate object that has zero emotional attachment to that box of DVDs or the 15 extra basketballs from various summer camps. People, on the other hand, might not take as kindly to seeing their teammates jettisoned when they reach the end of their usefulness.

Were we dealing with just an instant-gratification model, selling makes all kinds of sense. With a team that needs to eventually work to bring in free agents and retain young stars, selling off could set an undesirable precedent. You think guys are going to dig it if they know the Cubs are willing to punt on a season like this if things get rough?

“We’re dealing with human beings, we’re dealing with human beings. It would be a lot simpler if we weren’t and it wouldn’t be as much fun. But we’re dealing with human beings, so we have to find a way to get better performances out of guys and as a team and as an organization. This isn’t where we should be. We won 200 games over the last two years. We won the World Series largely with this group.”

More news and notes

  • Ken Rosenthal reported during FOX’s broadcast of Saturday’s game that the Cubs are considering dealing one of their young position players in pursuit of a controllable starter, then proceeded to explain why they wouldn’t or couldn’t part with any of them.
  • Joe Maddon says he did not consider pinch-hitting for Jason Heyward against LHP Tony Watson
    • Heyward has a .650 OPS vs. LHP, Albert Almora Jr. has a .999
    • According to Ryan Davis, Maddon’s answer was very curt
    • Maddon’s stubborn devotion to certain setups is troublesome
  • Last year’s Cubs went into the break on a 2-9 skid, so even a Sunday loss puts them at 4-7, a whole two games better
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