The Rundown: Happ Primed for Breakout, Rizzo Remains Sidelined, Cubs Remain COVID-Free So Far

Maybe it’s because trades will probably be difficult to pull off, but it’s been quite some time since fans and sportswriters have complained about the Cubs lacking a decent centerfielder. Perhaps Ian Happ is the reason for the silence, though.

Happ was having a fantastic spring before MLB went on its pandemic-forced hiatus, going 13-for-27 with two home runs and 11 RBI in Cactus League games. Happ’s performance in Arizona was especially encouraging after he closed last season with an equally terrific September.

In the final 25 games of 2019, Happ slashed .311/.348/1.021 with six taters and 17 RBI. More importantly, the Cubs played .571 baseball in games which he started. Big things have been expected of “Happer” since last season ended, with many projecting 2020 could be a breakout year for the outfielder and second baseman.

‘‘I took my end of the season last year into spring training,’’ Happ said at the start of Summer Camp. ‘‘I took that confidence, took how much I believed in myself, into spring and had a great spring, and that’s what I’ll do here. I’ll take the confidence that I built in spring training and really try to carry that over.”

Happ has also been one of the more accessible players since the pandemic started, co-hosting a podcast while selling coffee to raise money for charity. If anything, that’s a clear indication that he has matured a great deal heading into his fourth season with the team. His confidence is almost infectious. If Happ can stay locked in this season, he could propel the Cubs to a postseason berth.

Cubs News & Notes

Find Your Inner Hero

Blue Jays reliever Ken Giles shows that just doing what’s right, and leading others while doing it, can be an heroic trait.

Apropos of Nothing

Batman and Robin were advocates of masking up going all the way back to 1966.

Sliding Into Home

I had another esophageal episode last night, so I’m going to remain on a liquid diet until I have my procedure Saturday morning. In trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I sometimes frustrate myself. Believe it or not, the bigger issues are easier to handle because I know my liver is bad and it’s a slow process, etc. Not being able to eat solid foods is akin to having a swarm of pesky gnats follow you everywhere. It can be more than a little demoralizing when the neighbors are grilling steaks and you’re sucking down some Ensure.

Odds & Sods

Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler used a Wiffle-ball pitching machine with a turbo setting to stay prepared while players were away from camp. The manufacturer claims pitches can be fired at speeds from 35 mph to 140 mph. I think we all want one now, right?

MLB News & Notes

Cincinnati infielder/outfielder Derek Dietrich, who tested positive for COVID-19, has been cleared to join the Reds and was added to their 60-man roster.

Tigers starter Matthew Boyd had a coronavirus scare of his own after helping an injured man.

It appears right-handed starter Zack Godley will sign with the Red Sox.

Of teams that did not play in the 2019 postseason, the Rangers, Reds, White Sox, and Padres are among the best-positioned teams to make a run at this year’s playoffs. Don’t sleep on the Cubs, especially if they remain COVID-free.

New White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel has abandoned his wind-up, and has been perfect since camp started. Manager Rick Renteria has had to purposely put runners on base to give the soft-tossing lefty some practice with runners in scoring position.

Because he has an existing condition, Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius indicated he will wear a facemask while playing this season.

Extra Innings

Happ was featured in a recent episode of The Offseason.

They Said It

  • “We have an opportunity to bring joy to a lot of people that are home through these tough times. But we are all human. If guys start testing positive left and right and this thing gets out of control, I’m sure you see some guys opt out. We’re in a pandemic.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “I definitely had a few conversations where I needed to get my shit together. But those guys, they saw something that they liked and they stuck with me. I really appreciate what they’ve done for me. I’ve been playing this game for a long time and not to give my all, there’s no excuse. That’s what the message was. I have the talent, why not do everything you possibly can to put yourself in the best position to be in the show.” – Duane Underwood, Jr.
  • “I need [the stadium noise] as a player, for sure. We played the first two games without it and it was very strange. Just a little too quiet. You could hear everything that was going on.” – Ian Happ

Thursday Walk Up Song

Rock the Casbah by the Clash – One of my neighbors went into a fit of rage yesterday because I wore my black John Baker face covering just to go get my mail. In the midst of yelling and putting her finger in my face for a good 2-3 minutes, she said I looked like a “f***ing Sandinista” so I thought I’d dedicate this morning’s selection to her.

Hey…I’m just jamming to life as we now know it, and have no intention of wreaking havoc on my community or overthrowing my government. In case you are unaware, this song is about the Iranian ban on Western music after zealots seized control of the country in 1979.

She told me “science has proven the facemasks are bullshit.” It still looks cool on me, though.

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