Chicago Cubs Lineup (3/20/24): Tauchman Leads Off, Cooper at 1B, Leiter Opening

The Cubs are back at it this afternoon following a lackluster evening affair, and they’re going to be using a lot of pitchers in this one. Adbert Alzolay was originally going to serve as the opener, but now it’s Mark Leiter Jr. Either way, it allows Craig Counsell to audition a few bullpen arms and get his rotation squared away over the final week of Cactus League games.

Mike Tauchman leads off in left, then it’s Nico Hoerner at short and Cody Bellinger in center. Garrett Cooper is at first, David Peralta is the DH, Miguel Amaya is behind the plate, and Miles Mastrobuoni is the third baseman. Alexander Canario handles right and David Bote is at second to finish things off.

They’re up against 30-year-old Paul Blackburn, a righty who’s spent the last seven MLB seasons with the A’s after being traded to Oakland from Seattle in November of 2016. Blackburn was actually drafted 56th overall by the Cubs back in 2012 and was paired with Daniel Vogelbach to bring Mike Montgomery to Chicago in June of that championship season.

After several seasons spent battling injuries and bouncing between the bigs and Triple-A, Blackburn has managed to make 20+ starts each of the last two years. That might not have happened with a different organization, but the A’s haven’t exactly been trying to win the AL West recently. With a career 4.90 ERA, a 17.6% strikeout rate, and a 7.2% walk rate, this dude doesn’t exactly strike fear in opposing lineups.

One little bit of trivia: Blackburn had a 3.22 ERA through 10 starts as a rookie in 2017 before his season ended when he was struck on the hand by a liner off the bat of Trey Mancini.

Over two spring starts so far totaling six innings, Blackburn has allowed four runs on eight hits and one walk. He has struck out five, however, so maybe he’s got some new stuff working. As a soft-tosser with a fastball that sits 92, Blackburn relies on a wide variety of pitches to get his outs. He’ll throw the following pitches in descending order of usage, all at 11% or higher: sinker, cutter, slider, four-seam, curve, and change.

First pitch from the Cubs’ old stomping grounds at Hohokam Stadium is set for 3:05pm CT on Marquee Sports Network.

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