The Rundown: Cubs No-Hit Padres, Steele Strong in Spring Debut, Ríos Goes Yard, Red Sox Find Loophole in Shift Ban

“Try to shake it loose, cut it free, just let it go. Just get it away from me.” – Genesis, Tonight, Tonight, Tonight

The Cubs threw a combined no-no last night and I’m kinda-sorta glad it happened in spring training. We all know what transpired the last time Cubs pitchers authored a combined no-no, but if you needed a reminder, it preceded the great selloff of 2021. Nothing lasts forever and best efforts don’t always pay. Still, the far-reaching consequences weren’t so bad.

Kimbrel was part of the gang of four that no-hit the Dodgers on June 24, 2021. Zach Davies started that game and was followed by Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin before Kimbrel closed it out. Chicago followed that historical outing with an 11-game losing streak and the season was pretty much over. Hoyer cleaned house a month later.

Though there are no guarantees with prospects, all of those acquisitions should be on Chicago’s big league roster when Báez turns 32, Bryant 33, Rizzo 35, and Kimbrel 37. All of those prospects are among the organization’s top 20 and even if they don’t all pan out, I think we can agree Hoyer did the right thing at the right time. The Cubs also added hard-throwing No. 14 prospect Daniel Palencia in the deal that sent Andrew Chafin to the Athletics. Chafin turns 33 in June.

I don’t want to talk too much about the past, but Hoyer once tried to sell us on a starting rotation that included Davies, Williams, Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills, and Jake Arrieta following Kyle Hendricks. Could you imagine the top three of those facing Julio Urías, Walker Buehler, and Clayton Kershaw in the NLDS? I’d say Hoyer had his plan in place long before the team left Mesa for Chicago that spring.

Last night’s no-hitter was essentially meaningless because it was a Cactus League tilt. Five of the seven who pitched last night will make the trip north this year or have a solid chance of grabbing a roster spot. Of those, Justin Steele, Javier Assad, Brad Boxberger, and Jeremiah Estrada have yet to give up a run this spring. It’s still early, but it’s nice to see the pitching staff picking up where they left off in October. Marcus Stroman, Hayden Wesneski, and Jameson Taillon have been equally impressive.

I’ve said this previously, but I’m significantly more bullish on this year’s squad than most. I’ve read the predictions for a 77-win season and I think the Cubs will be much better. I’m also not buying the fact that a division title or Wild Card berth is out of reach. On my spreadsheet, the Cardinals are only a few games better than Chicago’s North Side baseballers. The Cubs won’t surprise as they did when they won 97 games and reached the NLCS in 2015, but I believe this team can win 90 games this year. Their pitching and defense will earn those 10-13 extra wins, trust me.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Speaking of being bullish, I think Edwin Ríos is going to surprise a lot of people this year and might get the starting gig at third base over Patrick Wisdom.

Climbing the Ladder

“In this undiscovered moment lift your head up above the crowd. We could shake this world if you would only show us how.” – John Mellencamp, Your Life is Now

Wesneski is generating the type of buzz that Mesa hasn’t seen since Bryant’s rookie season. One would think he’s a lock to earn a spot in the rotation but that’s not necessarily the case. Though he has electric stuff and a mound presence that reminds me of Arrieta in his prime, he may have to start the season at Iowa. Wesneski is competing with Assad and Adrian Sampson for the final spot in Chicago’s rotation.

Why would the Cubs break camp without Wesneski? Hoyer and GM Carter Hawkins might want to manage his workload at the beginning of the season. I expect the front office to handle their best young starters with kid gloves, even though Wesneski gives Chicago its best shot at beating preseason expectations. Hoyer is still eyeing 2024, even if he refuses to publicly say so. Cubs fans won’t like it, but you can’t fault the front office for being a little cautious with a guy who could be a No. 2 starter for years to come.

How About That!

The Red Sox have discovered a loophole in MLB’s new shift rule. And Joey Gallo, whom Boston tested it against in a spring training game Friday, still needs to learn how to not pull the ball so much. Will Middlebrooks believes the tactic could provide a “massive advantage” because of Boston’s monster wall in left field.

The Dodgers are the early favorites to sign Shohei Ohtani.

Max Scherzer wants clarity from the league and leniency by the umpires with regard to the new pitch clock.

Some MLB players are turning to nicotine patches due to the game’s ban on tobacco products.

The Yankees are looking for catching depth and the Dodgers would like to find a middle infielder to replace Gavin Lux.

Extra Innings

I love me a Jackson Ferris sighting!

Saturday Morning Six-Pack

  1. Expect a much warm spring and summer in Chicago since Lake Michigan never froze over this winter.
  2. A Jurassic-era insect was spotted flying around outside a Walmart in Arkansas.
  3. The folks over at Rolling Stone are a little bored these days so they curated a list of the 50 best songs by fictional bands. I would have chosen Sugar Sugar by The Archies as the best, but RS voted That Thing You Do by The Wonders just ahead of Scotty Doesn’t Know by Lustra.
  4. A man in southwest Florida died after becoming infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba, which state health officials say was “possibly as a result of sinus rinse practices utilizing tap water.” This is why I only drink Fiji.
  5. The show Seinfeld offers a fascinating example of the study of economics.
  6. If you’re looking for a time-waster slightly more exciting than watching an ice cube melt, I’ve got you covered. That’s how much I love all y’all (once again).

They Said It

  • “We’re generally done [adding to the roster]. But if someone came into camp, I wouldn’t be shocked, just because there are some players out there, in particular, some relievers.” – Hoyer
  • “When I look at Nico, it’s about setting a tone for our group to start a game. He’s as ready to go as anybody I’ve ever been around. Something about the way he plays sets a great tone for our team, so I like him starting things off.” – Ross
  • “I feel like as an infielder, I see certain things and I kinda call my own game in my head at shortstop and kinda pick their brains on why they do certain things and give my input on what I believe and what I think and things to watch out for. It’s really us just being able to help one another because at the end of the day if there’s something that we can share with each other that’s gonna make us better, we need to obviously be able to communicate that.” – Swanson
  • “I think I’ll be able to play until 45, honestly. I don’t know if I want to play until I’m 45, but with the way I take care of my body, and what I do as a starting pitcher, I think I’m going to be able to play this game for a really long time. My goal is to go out there, compete, have another elite year, and see what happens.” – Stroman

Saturday Walk-Up Song

I got ear-wormed this morning when my alarm went off, but if any song is going to attach itself to my occipital cortex and temporal lobe, this one is definitely ball-and-chain worthy.

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