Chicago Cubs Lineup (2/29/24): Happ Leads Off, Mervis DH, Smyly Starting

This is a game that comes around just once every four years, as the Cubs suit up for a Leap Day contest against the Rockies. Kris Bryant won’t be in the lineup for this one, which isn’t surprising since it’s a road game for the Rox. I’d say that seems to be the case for all of Colorado’s recognizable players, but I’m not sure they have any other than KB.

I guess Nolan Jones is a dude.

Anyway, Drew Smyly isn’t facing a very formidable group on paper as he takes the bump for the second time this spring. His first outing was a scoreless one, though he did walk a pair of batters in as many innings as he tinkered with his new stuff. That splutter remains something to watch for as the lefty tries to earn himself a few more starts in 2024.

Ian Happ leads off in left this afternoon, followed by Dansby Swanson at short, Christopher Morel at third, and Nico Hoerner at second. Mike Tauchman is in right, Jorge Alfaro is behind the dish, Patrick Wisdom is at first, and Alexander Canario is in center. Rounding things out as the DH is Matt Mervis.

They’re facing longtime Cardinal Dakota Hudson, who looked like a potential top-of-the-rotation guy at the beginning of his career before elbow reconstruction cost him most of 2020 and ’21. A fastball that sat 96 mph as a rookie reliever was still around 94 as a full-time starter the following season, but it’s been below 92 for the last two years. Hudson failed to miss bats during that time, posting a 1.29 K/BB ratio that was the lowest in MLB (min. 200 IP).

Though Hudson’s 7.7% swinging-strike rate was better than 9 other pitchers in the last two years, including Adam Wainwright (6.1%) and Zack Greinke (7.2%), his 10.0% walk rate crushed him. When combined with 229 hits over 221 innings, his 95 free passes meant there was just too much traffic on the bases to overcome. I have no idea what he’s done this offseason, but the first highlights that pull up on X when you search his name show dudes squaring him up.

Even knowing these games mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, it’s never a bad thing to rack up a bunch of hits and have a little fun in the Mesa sun. First pitch from Sloan is at 2:05pm CT on Marquee Sports Network.

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