Chicago Cubs Lineup (3/2/24): Hoerner Leads Off, Mervis at 1B, Imanaga Starting

The Cubs hung another loss on the White Sox Friday afternoon behind an offensive outburst that was once again keyed by prospects. That tends to be the case in these exhibition games and shouldn’t really be all that exciting, but it’s always fun when the young guys get things going. Owen Caissie may be having the best spring of anyone in the entire organization thanks to a quieter swing that is yielding big results, and he’s back in there again today.

Nico Hoerner leads off at second base, followed by Dansby Swanson at short, Christopher Morel at third, and Mike Tauchman in center. Miguel Amaya is behind the plate and Matt Mervis is at first as he continues to see a lot of action in the early going. That is likely to change a bit as Dominic Smith and Garrett Cooper are worked in starting next week, but Mervis can build his case in the meantime.

Alexander Canario is in right, Caissie is in left as part of a group that will get more run with Ian Happ on the shelf, and Moises Ballesteros bats ninth as the DH. Mo Baller is a husky dude who doesn’t pass the eye test for those who don’t know any better, though he will prove those observations wrong when he steps to the plate. Dude is mad hitterish and has an excellent approach.

The biggest news of the day is that lefty Shōta Imanaga is making his Cubs debut. His high-ride fastball has been a major topic of conversation at camp so far and he’s got some good breaking stuff to back it up. Should be fun watching him as he gets his MLB career going.

The Dodgers are running split squads today and will be sending 32-year-old lefty Ryan Yarbrough to the bump in this home half at Camelback Ranch. Unfortunately, they don’t have Shohei Ohtani in the lineup to face his countryman. Yarbrough has bounced around a bit, going from the Mariners to the Rays to the Royals and then to the Dodgers. A swingman whose numbers mostly fall squarely on the wrong side of mediocre, he’s hung around largely due to his excellent control.

A southpaw who doesn’t crack 90 and doesn’t miss bats can only carve out a niche if he doesn’t beat himself too often, and Yarbrough throws strikes. His sinker and cutter keep him employed, with both filling up the glove-side portion of the zone at relatively similar velocities. That doesn’t seem like a typical location profile for a two-seamer, which is probably why some services call it a fastball despite Statcast saying it’s a sinker.

This feels to me like a game in which the Cubs are going to tee off early and often, so I probably just doomed them to a shutout. First pitch is at 2:05pm CT on Marquee Sports Network.

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