Here are six quick things to think about heading into the weekend.
1. Pittsburgh is reeling thanks to injuries and are at .500. The Cubs will not face Gerrit Cole but they will face Francisco Liriano without Kris Bryant today who, according to the Cubs, has a “stomach bug.” The Cubs could really dampen the Pirates ability to contend for the division and the wild card with a sweep, but the Pirates aren’t going to roll over. The Cubs will face Liriano, Niese, and Tailon this weekend while sending out Arrieta, Lester, and Hendricks. It should be a fun series as they play a rare night game on Saturday!
2. Willson Contreras is already at the ballpark and caught a side session of John Lackey. He is not in the lineup today, and likely will not be in the lineup tomorrow as Ross will be catching Lester. Willson might not start until Lackey’s start on Monday. In the meantime, he’s going to work on what it means to be a catcher with coach Mike Borzello, David Ross, and Miguel Montero. They are going to teach him how to manage a game and a pitcher at this level before they throw him into the action in the middle of a pennant race.
3. The South Bend Cubs can clinch a wild card berth tonight. They play Lake County at 6:35 p.m., central time. However, the Cubs can clinch the first half Eastern Division title with a win and a West Michigan loss. Tonight, Casey Bloomquist takes the mound, and if need be, Carson Sands and Kyle Miller pitch Saturday and Sunday. The Cubs are 24-9 at home this year. The odds look to be in the Cubs favor.
4. The Arizona Cubs rookie league team begins play Monday. I will have a preview Monday as the roster is still not finalized. Most of the recent draftees have yet to sign. So far, only one draft pick, Michael Cruz, has inked his name to a contract. Zach Short is said to signing Sunday, but looks to be headed to Eugene.
5. Two Cub selections from the draft will be on display in Omaha this weekend at the College World Series. Third round pick Tom Hatch and 12th round pick Trey Cobb, both from Oklahoma State, will be pitching for the Cowboys as they take on UC Santa Barbara on Saturday at 2. Hatch has yet to allow a run in 2 postseason starts. Cobb is a reliever/closer. WIth the Cubs playing at night, this will be a perfect time to get a glimpse of at least Hatch.
6. The Cubs short season Class A affiliate at Eugene opens its season tonight against Boise. On the mound for the Eugene Emeralds will be none other than top pitching prospect Dylan Cease. He is currently ranked at #4 on our Top 21 list. Tonight, his fastball will be on display on my computer as the Emerald’s announced earlier this week that they will be having MiLB.TV this year!