Spring Training started this week in full force for the Cubs. At the same time, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts stuck his foot in his mouth by stating that he thinks the Cubs can make the playoffs. As my mother-in-law would say, “Bless his heart.” That was her way of calling someone an idiot. But really, what would you like him to say? “No, we’re going to be terrible.” He’s the owner, that is what he is supposed to say.
With the only improvements to the roster coming in the bullpen, starting pitcher Jason Hammel, and some depth down at Iowa, the offensive lineup will look eerily similar to the lineups of August and September. It is hoped that new manager Rick Renteria can have a huge influence in attitude and performance, particularly on the supposed core parts of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Games start this Thursday, the 27th.
I am raving about the following so far:
1. Arodys Vizcaino has been throwing some serious gas (97-98 mph consistently) along with a strong breaking pitch. I profiled the role that Vizcaino could have in reshaping the pen this year. He is off to a good start.
2. Starlin Castro came to camp in really good shape and Renteria promptly wants to have Castro hit leadoff and be the pre-Dale Sveum Starlin “the free swinger” Castro.
3. Javy Baez is punishing the ball in batting practice. The legend grows as he destroyed a car windshield on Friday.
4. Mike Olt has looked good in BP as well. He gives Cub fans something to cheer about, especially if he returns to 2012 AA Mike Olt form where he hit 28 home runs in under 100 games.
5. Samardjiza trade talk never ends.
6. Kris Bryant looks good in Cubbie Blue. It is a shame, to me, that he can’t go North with the club next month. I saw some BP of him and his hands were what I call “effortlessly quick” through the hitting zone which allows him to punish the ball.
7. Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson both have come to camp with the proper attitudes. It will be interesting to see what they do in the next month as they will be competing for a spot on the roster as the 5th outfielder.
8. Dan Vogelbach is 30 punds lighter and looks pretty ripped. I love his bat more than Rizzo at this point.
Things to watch for next week:
1. Armando Rivero – Will he get a shot to pitch at a meaningful time in a game?
2. Jake Arrieta – He says he can be ready by opening day. Will he step up his regimen and will the Cubs let him?
3. Some teams are in need of pitching. Will the Cubs trade some extra parts like Chris Rusin? or Carlos Villanueva? or Zac Rosscup?
4. Will Darwin Barney see much playing time with Murphy, Valbuena, Olt, and Alcantara around?
5. Can Edwin Jackson turn it around this year? He may not pitch until next week, but he has all the tools to do well. The Cubs really need him to turn it around this year.
Next weekend, I may not be posting as it is the regional History Fair on Saturday…And the Cubs will be on Sunday…I may have some thoughts on the game. We will see.