The Rundown: Cubs Appear Game-Ready, Ross Loves Camp Energy, Darvish Amazes, MLB Will Release 2020 Schedule Today

Though the team has completed just one full weekend of Spring Training 2.0, the Cubs seem to be slightly ahead of the curve as compared to the rest of MLB. While many other teams have yet to play their first intrasquad scrimmages, The North Siders now have two such contests in the books.

Javy Báez looks like he’s in midseason form, and have you seen how good Anthony Rizzo looks after dropping weight during the game’s forced hiatus?

That’s not to say that the Cubs are better prepared for the upcoming season than their competition, but it has to be a good sign that, to a man and with few exceptions, Chicago appears to be game-ready. Opening Day is just a little over two weeks away, so it’s nice to see that Cubs players stayed prepared during the four-month layoff.

Because it is so important to get off to a fast start in a shortened season, the fact that the team is already playing semi-meaningful baseball bodes well. The players have managed to stay in shape, and that’s a tribute to their work ethic and the guidance of the front office and new manager.

Playing .600 baseball during the first two weeks of the season is certainly not out of the question and could make getting to the postseason much easier. If 33 wins in 60 games is the minimum benchmark for inclusion in this year’s playoffs, earning victories in at least nine of your first 15 games makes for a heck of a first quarter. It will be interesting to see if the team can parlay its fast start into a division title.

Cubs News & Notes

  • David Ross said the Cubs showed “good energy” during the inaugural weekend of Summer Camp.
  • Jon Lester is working at a very deliberate pace so far, but pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said there’s no reason to worry about the veteran lefty.
  • Hottovy loves the way that Yu Darvish has embraced social media.
  • Darvish will lead the rotation this season, and by all accounts he is up to the task.
  • The veteran righty continues to tinker with his craft, and has developed yet another new pitch, a two-seam/splitter hybrid he is calling “The Supreme.”
  • If you are keeping count, Darvish now has an 11-pitch repertoire. Cue the Spinal Tap references.
  • Alec Mills and Tyler Chatwood squared off in the team’s second intrasquad game.
  • Chatwood said he is “locked in” as a starter heading into the regular season.
  • Ross and Hottovy want their pitchers to be ready for anything. “We’re trying to front-load all our starters,” Hottovy explained. “In a normal Spring Training, you’d be lining guys up. This guy would be your Opening Day starter. Ideally, here’s Day 2. Right now, in my mind we have seven Opening Day starters, because [we want to] get everybody healthy through a Spring Training like this. You can’t space them out too much, in my opinion, just because we can’t take that chance.”
  • Baseball will unveil its 2020 schedule later today, but the Cubs already know they will play their first game of the season on July 24.
  • Many are considering the Reds to be the early favorite to win the NL Central. That seems somewhat aggressive, but they should be right there with the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers in a dogfight for the title.
  • Theo Epstein is truly passionate about his efforts to promote diversity in professional baseball. If he decides to leave the Cubs after next season, Rob Manfred should do everything in his power to convince Epstein to drive this project as a member of the league’s executive team.
  • The Cubs will not have an intrasquad game today, but they will have a group of pitchers (Jharel Cotton, Trevor Megill, Casey Sadler, Ryan Tepera and Colin Rea) throw live BP.

Find Your Inner Hero

Kind of a left turn for this section, but Geico, with its innovative marketing campaigns, is really doing a great job of keeping it real during the pandemic. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and laugh a little. Some Twitter users complained that the Marco Polo commercial brushes aside our need to social distance right now, which is unwarranted voluntary oversight.

Odds & Sods

I’m in full agreement with Anthony Castrovince and have been saying for years that Cleveland should rebrand their franchise as the Spiders. Maybe it will help with that awful gnat problem. I expect the Braves may have to rethink their nickname, too. Why not go with the Peaches and have them use the Rockford uniforms from the AAGPL. Cole Hamels would look good in anything.

Apropos of Nothing Something

In Tuscaloosa, AL and probably elsewhere, younger people are having these crazy COVID parties, indicating that they genuinely do not fear becoming infected or passing the novel coronavirus onto others.

These get-togethers are said to be competitions posing as parties, with attendees vying to become the next victim of the pandemic. Participants ante up cash to enter the contest, and the first person to get infected after the party wins the pot.

I suppose I could go for the jugular here and mention that Alabama is one of the states seeing a spike in cases, but that’s too easy and reeks of yellow journalism by tying the two together without verifiable proof. Still, it’s irresponsible behavior, and interferes with efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Out of Left Field

I’ve got nothing.

MLB News & Notes

Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres is an early favorite for AL MVP, and he may have a leg up on the competition with 10 games against the Orioles.

Though David Price is the biggest and highest paid player to opt-out of this season, don’t be surprised to see a few more bigger names exercise their rights to sit out.

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle intends to play, at least so far, though he does have a number of concerns and really seems to be on the fence.

Astros reliever Joe Smith could be the next player to opt out. He has yet to report over concerns with his family.

We may see some dominant performances in the shortened schedule, but we may not see anything close to what Jake Arrieta did with the Cubs from July 30 through October 2 in 2015.

Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich is fully healthy and expects to have a big year.

The Rays could be baseball’s most dangerous team in 2020.

The Braves have indicated they are not considering a name change.

Extra Innings

This is something the league needs to be better at. Yes it was a holiday weekend but MLB restarted during a the day most businesses were closed in celebration of Independence Day. Let’s tighten it up, please and thank you.

They Said It

  • “I’ve got a veteran team. I don’t worry about their preparation for the games. I worry about the stuff you don’t pay attention to when you’re outside of the ballpark. That stuff is on your mind. It’s on their radar.” – David Ross
  • “The one thing about Jon, and he’s talked about it a lot through this down period, was he was a guy who really wanted to manage his throws. He wanted to, as he put it, save as many bullets as he possibly could. That doesn’t mean by any means he wasn’t throwing a baseball. He was staying active. He’s in a really good spot.” – Tommy Hottovy
  • “Since we are at this inflection point in history and this is the time we have to get it right, it really comes down to individuals being strong enough to look at their own shortcomings.” – Theo Epstein

Monday Walk Up Song

Cuts You Up by Peter Murphy –  COVID parties? Really? I’m getting too old for this shit.

“You know the way it throws about, it takes you in and spits you out. It spits you out when you desire to conquer it, to feel your higher.”

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