The Rundown: Contreras Catching Lester, Schwarber Easing Back Behind Plate, New Slogans, Cardinals Get More Bad News
Given how fast and furious the news was coming out of Cubs camp, I half expected to see Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson taking BP Tuesday morning. Nothing game-changing, really, but Joe Maddon addressed several topics — including more questions about his handling of the bullpen in Game 7 — on the first official day of Spring Training. Let’s go rapid-fire on some of the highlights.
Updates on the roles of Contreras and Schwarber
We all saw it coming, but Maddon confirmed pretty quickly that Willson Contreras would serve as Jon Lester‘s personal catcher. It’s the only pairing that makes sense, as the wet noodle hanging from Miguel Montero‘s right shoulder would turn every single or walk into a triple. Besides, Contreras is actually a good framer — check out the evidence here and here — which means we may not see much drop-off from Grandpa Rossy’s performance.
In keeping with the catching theme, it was announced that Kyle Schwarber will be eased back into a part-time role behind the plate. He still hasn’t been medically cleared to resume catching duties and will only do so a couple times a week once he is. Schwarber has been working strictly in the outfield thus far and will maintain a focus there while preparing to be ready as the team’s third catcher by opening day.
“I’m going to embrace what they put out for me and take it head on,” Schwarber told the assembled media on Tuesday. “I still have the passion for catching but if it’s not medically smart then don’t risk it.”
Size of the rotation
Maddon is still toying with the notion of a six-man rotation, but probably won’t start tinkering with it until after April. That first month has a few more built-in days off, so it really shouldn’t be too taxing on the core group. Even when they do get deeper into the season, I have to think this is more a matter of flexing an extra guy in there now and again to keep the main starters fresh.
Maddon said "That's Cub" is one of the slogans for the 2017 squad. That plus "Don't forget the heartbeat" and "Be uncomfortable."
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) February 14, 2017
Sorry, but I can’t hear the heartbeat deal — a callback to Jason Heyward‘s infamous rain delay speech — without thinking of this:
Yes, that’s Don Johnson. For those of you who aren’t old enough to remember the 80’s, it was a regular thing for movie stars to record singles or albums. In addition to Sonny Crockett up there, you had Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis, and Patrick Swayze, among others. But I digress.
In addition to the the slogans listed in the tweet, Maddon also mentioned that “authenticity” will be key to this season. Though I can’t recall having heard it before, I learned Tuesday that “That’s Cub” has actually been around for a while. A little over two years, to be exact. Theo Epstein first mentioned the phrase when speaking to season ticket holders at an even in October 2014:
“We had a game the other day in the Instructional League where a player hit a ground ball and didn’t run hard to first base,” Epstein explained And the other players, 18, 19-year old prospects yelled at him, ‘Hey, run hard, that’s not Cub’ and he started running hard. Then a guy made a great play to end the game and everyone said ‘That’s Cub right there. Great play.’”
It’s corny as all hell, but I’ll allow it.
Hair today, gone tomorrow
The last couple Spring Trainings under Maddon have seen the Cubs participating in an event in which they shave their heads to raise money for charity, so I’m sure that’s on tap again this year. Which means Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez may end up buzzing off their new coiffures before too long.
@javy23baez sportin' the blonde hair. #cubs #ST17 #Springtraining pic.twitter.com/vPiX4HWmQM
— John Antonoff (@baseballinfocus) February 14, 2017
Rizzo sporting curls pic.twitter.com/5NWiinqyNQ
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) February 14, 2017
This is going to sound blasphemous to the scores of people who responded with love for Rizzo’s perm, but I am not a fan of that thing. It’s mainly a matter of aesthetics, but he’s not fast enough to add that additional drag coefficient
Cards’ Alex Reyes has MRI on right elbow
It’s almost impossible to make me feel bad for the Cardinals, but their recent spate of bad luck when it comes to the health of their pitchers has me teetering dangerously close to the edge of sympathy. After losing starter after starter to injury over the past couple seasons, they may be down a man before games have even started.
Updated, and Reyes wasn't only #cardinals pitcher sent for an MRI today. Day 1, down 2. https://t.co/7iKcXgEKm2
— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) February 14, 2017
Goold later tweeted: “Look, Reyes has a previous strain in right elbow. A strain is a tear. Concern is new damage, not previous partial.”
Even if you’re happy to see the Cards fighting an uphill battle, it’s never a good thing to see a guy lost to injury. That goes double for a young player like Reyes who is just starting to scratch the surface of his ability. And there’s something to said for beating your opponent when they’re at full strength, thus eliminating any sort of excuse.
More news and notes
- The Indians have hired Grady Sizemore as a player development advisor
- I’m going to be recording an episode of the Ivy Envy podcast later tonight
- Justin Masterson has been working out for teams in Phoenix