The Rundown: Suzuki Injury Cramps Spring Plans, Steele’s Arm Fatigue Not Concerning, Madrigal Attacking 3B Opportunity, Another Labor War Looms

“Awkward instant and the first animal is jettisoned. Legs furiously pumping, their stiff green gallop and heads bob up. Poise. Delicate. Pause. Consent. In mute nostril agony, carefully refined, and sealed over.” – The Doors, Moonlight Drive/Horse Latitudes

Nothing takes the air out of a new season like an injury to a star player. Seiya Suzuki has an oblique strain, something that seems a lot more common in the past decade than ever before. Players are bigger, stronger, and faster now, which leads to an increase in the velocity and violence of a swing. They all go together. Pitchers are throwing harder and hitters need the reciprocal bat speed to compete. That explosion when bat meets ball “in mute nostril agony” can lead to injuries such as the one Suzuki suffered.

So where do we go from here? The Cubs have not stated a timetable for the second-year outfielder’s return, but you have to think he’ll be out six weeks at a minimum. Suzuki has already withdrawn from the World Baseball Classic and now Mike Tauchman has a shot at breaking camp with the big league squad. Tauchman starred at Fremd High School, attended Bradley University in Peoria, and has a strong relationship with Justin Stone, the team’s hitting director. The Cubs have plenty of other options, too.

Trey Mancini has played a little right field and it would be nice to see Brennen Davis get a shot, but he’s probably targeted for Iowa. Nelson Velázquez struggled last season and Christopher Morel is needed to back up multiple positions.

“We’ve got some guys that can bounce around,” David Ross said. “That’s why we value versatility. We’ll shuffle all that around, but those are the first guys that have come to my mind in how I’m reworking the schedules down the road for some people to play right field in case Seiya can’t get back (soon).”

If the Cubs are hoping to compete with the Cardinals and Brewers for the NL Central crown, they’ll need regular contributions from Suzuki. A couple of other key players are on the mend, too. Justin Steele is dealing with arm fatigue and Patrick Wisdom is dealing with a left groin injury, though he is expected to play today. Jed Hoyer has done a great job building roster depth, though nobody planned on needing that surplus from day one.

Ross doesn’t seem too concerned about Steele.

“He’s thrown a lot of bullpens,” the skipper noted. “He’s been here all offseason. It didn’t make any sense to push even the slightest thing. I think he’s in a good place.”

Suzuki’s offseason regimen was a big part of his anticipated growth as a second-year player. The right fielder added 20 pounds of muscle over the winter in order to better deal with the longer MLB season. He struggled at times but was one of Chicago’s best hitters during the final month of 2022, batting .282/.354/.847 with four home runs across 79 plate appearances. Though nothing has been officially determined, it looks like he’ll start the season on the injured list. That’s a tough loss for a team hoping to get off to a good start.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

After inking his deal, Machado threw a little shade in the direction of Fernando Tatis Jr.

Climbing the Ladder

“So please don’t give a thought to me, I’m really doin’ fine. You can always find me here, I’m havin’ quite a time.” – The Statler Brothers, Flowers on the Wall

Nobody had a tougher season than Caleb Kilian last year. He made his major league debut after an electric performance in the 2021 AFL championship but laid a big ol’ stink egg across three starts. Kilian struggled with command and was sent back to Iowa, never making the return trip to Chicago.

On top of that, eyebrows were raised when Craig Breslow offered a dismissive assessment of Kilian’s development last August. If Killian were playing Chutes & Ladders, he hit that big slide that dropped him from space 87 to 24 (yes, I just busted out the board game to check). The rookie went from being one of Chicago’s most promising minor league starters to an afterthought behind Jordan Wicks, Cade Horton, DJ Herz, Ben Brown, and Hayden Wesneski.

Kilian made his spring debut on Monday and retired six straight batters. If that’s a sign of things to come the Cubs are well-positioned to have a dominant rotation as soon as next season.

How About That!

Scout Ryan Davish said the Giants made the worst trade of 2022 when they sent high-upside pitching prospect Prelander Berroa to the Mariners for utilityman Donovan Walton.

The Rockies channeled the great Sherlock Holmes in solving the mystery of disappearing game-worn jerseys, which was an ongoing problem during the pandemic season. It’s a long story, but well with your time.

Max Scherzer loves the new rules and said that pitchers can now “totally dictate the pace” of play.

The double-pitch clock violation is something I will never get used to, however.

Joey Votto “believes” aliens will help the Reds win the 2023 World Series. This is a way better early spring statement than saying “I’m in the best shape of my life.”

MLB salaries rose 14.8% last year and the average annual pay per player is now $4.22 million.

Is it too soon to talk about a potential work stoppage in 2027?

The game is experiencing labor peace at the moment, obviously, but the posturing ahead of the next CBA has already begun.

The league has already started its attempts to bully the union according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic. One thing MLB wants is the ability to have the power to cut jobs or additional minor league teams ($) if the players association wants to strengthen its bargaining position. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that is a “non-starter”.

Extra Innings

Kilian’s delivery reminds me of Brandon Morrow. That could mean high strikeout numbers, but you might also have to worry about the potential for injury. I wish I could do overlays, but I can’t, so two separate posts will have to suffice.

They Said It

  • “[Suzuki] worked his tail off to take care of his body. Sometimes, things happen. There is some negativity in that, for sure. You want everybody to stay healthy. If you want to flip it to a positive, we’ve got a lot of games that don’t matter quite yet. Hopefully — whatever the timeline is — we’ll build him up in the right way to get him back on the field as soon as possible.” – Ross
  • “We’ve got a lot of different options. You’ve got young guys coming. What does all that look like? How do they continue to fit in big-picture-wise? I’ve said this before: We all put so much emphasis — players especially and I was in the same boat — on making the Opening Day roster. But there are a lot of guys in camp that won’t be on the Opening Day roster that are going to help us win ballgames this year. It’s about everybody continuing to maximize their skill set. Come in here prepared, have a great year, and help us win. And then leave the tough decisions to me and the front office.” – Ross

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

Morning mood.

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