Chicago Cubs Lineup (3/14/24): Imanaga on Mound, Bellinger in CF, Peralta at DH

The Cubs are playing some pretty fun baseball lately, some of which comes from several non-roster invitees making cases for inclusion. Garrett Cooper has hit a pair of homers, David Peralta doubled and tripled in his first game, and Dominic Smith has looked very good at the plate as well. Add in Patrick Wisdom‘s recent power display and Matt Mervis‘s strong hitting and the bench looks to be in very good shape.

Shōta Imanaga has likewise shown flashes of brilliance, but his susceptibility to home runs has shown up as well. It’s clear he’s making adjustments to work higher in the zone with his fastball, something the Cubs targeted early as a way for him to make a successful transition to MLB. Locating the high-ride offering up should help Imanaga to avoid longballs, plus it’ll better set up his splitter and breaking balls.

Racking up 10 strikeouts in just over five innings is proof that he’ll be able to keep missing bats, now it’s just a matter of making sure every mistake doesn’t find a barrel.

Craig Counsell is rolling out a lineup today that’s heavy with regular starters. Nico Hoerner leads off playing second, Seiya Suzuki bats second in the order playing left, and he’s followed by Cody Bellinger in center, Christopher Morel at third, and Dansby Swanson at short. Michael Busch bats sixth playing first, followed by Mike Tauchman in right, Yan Gomes catching, and David Peralta at DH.

Going for the A’s is JP Sears, a lefty with a Justin Steele-esque repertoire predicated mainly on a fastball and slider. Sears has a changeup he only throws around 15% of the time, which is a little odd because it’s been his best pitch by far over his time in MLB. The slider has been particularly poor, dragging Sears near the bottom of the league in barrel and groundball percentages.

To be fair, it may have been the sweeper that was causing him the most problems. Statcast has Sears with both a slider and a sweeper, but there wasn’t much velocity differentiation and both often ended up in the same place despite the sweeper having more movement. Based on his early Cactus League results, I’m inclined to believe he spent the offseason working on something.

While I was unable to find anything definitive due to the lack of data in spring games, at least one observer noticed that it was slower and had more drop. Getting it further down in the zone would be huge for a guy who gave up fly balls at a 53% clip last year. Through three starts, Sears has 12 strikeouts and just one walk with one run allowed on three hits across eight innings. That’ll play, especially if he’s added a little giddyup to that 93 mph fastball as well.

We’ll get a look at his stuff at 3:05pm CT on Marquee Sports Network.

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