Results tagged ‘ lineups ’
Marco Estrada will take the ball Monday for the Brewers. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Year after year, there’s little question the Brewers can slug—in their first season without Prince Fielder, Milwaukee ranked third with 4.8 runs per game. But the departures of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum have left some questions in the starting rotation, forcing GM Doug Melvin to cobble together pitching depth right until the end of Spring Training.
Just days before Opening Day, Melvin dipped into the organization’s spending money to sign veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse to a three-year deal (and thus forfeiting the team’s first-round pick in the upcoming draft). Coming off a great start against the Diamondbacks, Lohse is slated to take the mound Wednesday at Wrigley Field. He’s coming off an age-33 season in which he set career bests with a 2.86 ERA, 211 innings, a .234 batting average against, and a 4.4 percent walk rate. His 16.6 percent strikeout rate was also the second best of his career. It’s an open question of which categories Lohse will maintain or regress as he gets another year into his 30s.
The Cubs will also see right-handers Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. A 2010 waiver claim from the Nationals, Estrada had exceptional command of all three of his pitches last year: fastball, curve and change. It’s not often you see a pitcher with a 90-mph heater striking out a quarter of the hitters he faced—and walking just five percent of all hitters. Meanwhile, Peralta is regarded as one of the Brewers’ top prospects and made the roster after an impressive September call-up. The 23-year-old Dominican pitches with gas, sitting in the mid-90s and able to touch above that. His slider also is a sharp, hard breaker that will get plenty of K’s. But his command and pitching feel are still works in progress that the Cubs will do well to plan against on Tuesday.
With Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart both on the DL at least for the next few weeks, the offense will be headed by the homegrown core of 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Jonathan Lucroy. Leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki overcame the doubters in his transition from Japan last year. He’s an all-around threat who will take a walk, steal bases efficiently, find the gaps and even take the ball out of the park from time to time. Lucroy is coming off a tremendous year (.320 AVG/.368 OBP/.513 SLG) from behind the dish, while Weeks hopes to bounce back from a career-worst season (.230/.328/.400). Either way, the Brewers should put up crooked numbers as ever in the NL Central.
Monday, April 8—RHP Marco Estrada vs. RHP Edwin Jackson
Tuesday, April 9—RHP Wily Peralta vs. LHP Travis Wood
Wednesday, April 10—RHP Kyle Lohse vs. RHP Scott Feldman
Braves RHP Craig Kimbrel has quickly established himself as one of the game’s top closers. (Photo By Leon Halip/Getty)
The last two seasons have left the Braves feeling a bit cheated, with 183 regular-season wins earning them just one postseason Wild Card game. It won’t be any easier to upset Washington in the NL East this year, but not for lack of effort in GM Frank Wren’s office.
The Braves loaded up with a fraternal pair of game-changing talents—B.J. and Justin Upton—to make up for the losses of Chipper Jones (retirement), Michael Bourn (free agency) and Martin Prado (trade). The Upton brothers join right fielder Jason Heyward to form one of the game’s most dynamic outfields, with good speed, big power and cannon arms at each position. The trio also could strike out well over 400 times this season.
Heyward, shortstop Andrelton Simmons and first baseman Freddie Freeman are all 23 years old and form the homegrown core of this team. Simmons is a fantastic defender—many have hailed him as the top defensive shortstop in baseball—and a good contact hitter who appears set to lead off. Freeman already has a pair of 20-homer seasons under his belt and shows a good approach that should see him hitting a good deal higher than the .259 he managed last year while battling vision problems. Heyward regained his footing and became an impact player after a shaky sophomore season thanks to an improved willingness to go with pitches.
The Braves have a well-rounded pitching staff, even if it isn’t at its historical best. Underappreciated workhorse Tim Hudson is followed by former Cub Paul Maholm. Kris Medlen made the most of every inning in 2012, with three months of outstanding starts following a bullpen stint to keep his workload down. Mike Minor still has to put together a complete season, while top prospect Julio Teheran has the pitchability and excellent fastball-change combo to succeed in the big leagues. Meanwhile, the bullpen has the game’s best closer in Craig Kimbrel, but with setup man Jonny Venters out indefinitely with an elbow injury, there’s more pressure on the bullpen’s depth—like newly acquired Jordan Walden and former waiver claim Eric O’Flaherty.
Friday, April 5—RHP Scott Feldman vs. LHP Mike Minor
Saturday, April 6—RHP Carlos Villanueva vs. RHP Julio Teheran
Sunday, April 7—RHP Jeff Samardzija vs. RHP Tim Hudson
[PITCHER TO WATCH] Craig Kimbrel
2012 STATS: 62.2 IP, 1.01 ERA, 50 K%, 6.1 UBB%, 49 GB%
The 25-year-old right-hander’s effectiveness can be summed up easily: Kimbrel stuck out half of the batters he faced in 2012. Combine that with a good ground-ball rate and a great walk rate, and you have the elite of the elite closing out games in Atlanta.
Kimbrel starts closed from the set position before unleashing a whirlwind of torque at the batter. He gets great velocity, extension and deception on his pitches as a result of his mechanics. His fastball sits in the high-90s, occasionally touching triple digits, with a ton of natural life to it. Kimbrel loves to use it on the right side of the plate, where he can bust righties in or get lefties desperately chasing for any contact. But his low-three-quarters arm slot also allows him to get a sharp angle on the left side of the plate, which keeps batters honest. His curve is a high-80s hammer with slider velocity but big break. It’s a weapon that will get whiffs in and out of the zone, and one he’ll drop through the back door to leave batters staring blankly.
PLAN OF ATTACK: Get ahead
After a first-pitch ball, hitters had a .595 on-base plus slugging percentage in 68 plate appearances against Kimbrel. After a first-pitch strike, they had a microscopic .269 OPS in 147 plate appearances with 97 strikeouts and three walks.
PITCHf/x data from Baseball Prospectus and BrooksBaseball.net.
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
The Cubs open up the season in Pittsburgh, where a team desperately trying to get over the hump awaits. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is the star of this team and a complete threat on both sides of the ball. He’s just part of a homegrown offensive core—including second baseman Neil Walker and third baseman Pedro Alvarez—that’s under 27 and hoping to break an 20-year spate of losing seasons.
On the other hand, the pitching staff has been pieced together through trades and free agency. Right-handers A.J. Burnett and James McDonald, and lefties Wandy Rodriguez and Jeff Locke were all collected in deals over the last few seasons. They’re joined by newly signed southpaw Jonathan Sanchez. Meanwhile, veteran Mark Melancon was added to bring games home to closer Jason Grilli, after a season in which an excellent Pirates bullpen faltered badly down the stretch.
[PITCHER TO WATCH] A.J. Burnett
2012 STATS: 202 IP, 3.51 ERA, 20 K%, 7.2 UBB%, 57 GB%
At age 35, A.J. Burnett revived his career with the Pirates after two consecutive down seasons in New York. Though his stuff didn’t really change much, he had better control and got more out of it than in several years. He’ll lead Pittsburgh out of the gate on Opening Day.
PLAN OF ATTACK: Aggressively go after batters
Burnett’s pitch sequencing is relatively typical, but it’s where he locates his pitches that can make life difficult for batters. He leverages his heat in the top third of the zone far more than the average major leaguer. In 2012, he also traded about half of his four-seamers for his sinking two-seamer. As a result, he kept the ball on the ground at his highest rate in seven seasons. The two-seamer is a weapon he’ll increasingly use to avoid barrels when behind in the count. Righties also have to guard against him sneaking it back over the low/away corner of the zone. Against lefties, Burnett will pull out a straight change-up, though it doesn’t have much velocity or movement separation from his two fastballs.
PUTAWAY PITCH: Curve
Once Burnett gets ahead of a batter, he turns to a hard, low-80s curve that he uses nearly 60 percent of the time. It’s a nasty pitch that has sharp, two-plane movement. What makes the pitch exceptional is his ability to drop it at the bottom of the zone, coaxing hitters into chasing borderline pitches. Hitters may know it’s coming, but it’s another matter to figure out if the pitch is going to cross the zone or break out of reach. Batters who did swing at the curve in 2012 ended up whiffing on it nearly half the time.
PITCHf/x data from Baseball Prospectus and BrooksBaseball.net.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Outfielder Dave Sappelt won’t have a starting position when the Cubs kick off their season in Pittsburgh next month. He might not even be involved in the probable right-field platoon. But the 26-year-old could be a mainstay in the outfield for years to come.
When the Cubs dealt reliever Sean Marshall to Cincinnati in December 2011, the organization acquired young, left-handed starter Travis Wood as the focal point of the deal. However, they also acquired Sappelt, a rangy defensive player with some pop in his bat. The best display of his offensive abilities likely came in 2010, when the 5-foot-9 right-hander hit .361/.416/.548 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with nine homers and 62 RBI, earning him the Double-A Southern League MVP. Over five minor league seasons, Sappelt owns a .299 career average.
In 2012, the Cubs gave him a September call-up, and he fared well in the latter months of the season, hitting .275/.351/.449 with a pair of homers in 78 plate appearances. Manager Dale Sveum recently praised the diminutive outfielder’s ability at the plate.
“I’m not too concerned about Sappelt,” Sveum said. “The guy has put himself in that category where he can kind of just hit.”
Sappelt will be starting in center field Tuesday, as the Cubs face the Rockies on the road. First pitch is scheduled for 2:10 CST, and the game will be webcast at cubs.com. Colorado will be sending lefty Jeff Francis to the hill. Here is the Cubs full batting order:
CF Dave Sappelt
2B Darwin Barney
C Welington Castillo
RF Scott Hairston
3B Junior Lake
1B Brian Bogusevic
SS Edwin Maysonet
LF Matt Szczur
P Scott Feldman
(Photo by Stephen Green)
It seems like a new starting pitcher makes his Cubs debut every day. Both Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva got their first starts earlier this week. On Thursday, Scott Feldman will take his turn, as the North Siders host the Oakland Athletics at HoHoKam Stadium.
The right-hander, who signed a one-year deal this offseason, relishes the opportunity to crack the Cubs rotation. He has spent his entire career shuttling back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen, starting 101 of 204 games over his eight-year career. With Texas in 2012, Feldman was 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA in 123.2 innings.
His best season came in 2009, when he went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA and struck out a career-high 113 batters over 189.2 innings. The 30-year-old has also won a pair of pennants in Texas’ back-to-back World Series trips in 2010-11.
Behind him will be an exciting team that includes two of the organization’s top prospects in Javier Baez and Jorge Soler. The shortstop Baez is going to see a bit more playing time with Starlin Castro out for the next 2-3 days nursing a tight hamstring. Despite being just 20 years old, many view Baez as one of the game’s most promising players. Soler, another elite-level prospect whose power bat has impressed this spring, will be playing right field.
First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 CST, and the game will be webcast at cubs.com. The Athletics will be sending lefty Brett Anderson to the hill. Here is the Cubs full batting order:
CF Dave Sappelt
2B Darwin Barney
DH Scott Hairston
LF Darnell McDonald
RF Jorge Soler
C Dioner Navarro
SS Javier Baez
1B Brent Lillibridge
3B Junior Lake
Travis Wood will take the mound in the Cubs’ Cactus League opener Saturday against the high-powered Angels offense at Tempe Diablo Stadium. In 26 starts last year, Wood went 6-13 with a 4.27 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. The left-hander could have the inside track on the fifth starter job out of camp because the Cubs other four projected starters are all right-handed.
Relievers Jaye Chapman, Rafael Dolis, Trey McNutt, Zach Putnam, Hector Rondon and Hisanori Takahashi also made the trip.
Ian Stewart was initially scheduled to make the start at third base, and Luis Valbuena was penciled in at second. But after hitting a ringing double Thursday in the first at-bat of his first game action since June 12 of last season, Stewart felt a tweak in his left quad as he was rounding first and was pulled from the game. He underwent a precautionary MRI Friday and will be out 10-14 days with a mild-to-moderate quad strain.
In his stead, manager Dale Sveum has moved the versatile Luis Valbuena to third and inserted minor league player of the year Logan Watkins at second. Sveum has always raved about Valbuena’s defense, but the the 27-year old needs to get more out of his bat to play on an everyday basis. Though he smacked a two-run home run in Friday’s intrasquad matchup, Valbuena struggled with the bat last season. In 90 games, he hit .219 with four home runs and 28 RBI. Still, Sveum made it clear that Stewart hasn’t locked up the starting third base job yet—especially considering his health issues.
“It was [Stewart's] job to win, not to lose,” Sveum said on Friday. “Things might change, because who knows when Stewart will be back to play. I know Valbuena can play third. He doesn’t need to play third to get his at-bats. The guy had a good winter ball, and obviously put a good swing on a ball today. I’m not too concerned about Valbuena. I need to see him everywhere. If things work out that way, then he’ll be playing third base quite a bit. But first half of spring, you’ll see him a lot more at other positions.”
The Cubs are slated for 39 spring games this season, including one exhibition game against a World baseball Classic opponent. That’s the most spring games they’ve played since 1952. They’ll play their home opener at HoHoKam Stadium tomorrow afternoon against the defending World Champion Giants, with Jeff Samardzija squaring off Matt Cain.
Len Kasper will broadcast today’s game on WGN Radio. Here is the lineup:
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs official Cactus League season kicks off tomorrow against the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium, but the team is gearing up for its second five-inning intrasquad affair Friday at HoHoKam. Most of the major league regulars are getting the day off, but top prospects like Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Junior Lake, Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur will all be on the field.
Brooks Raley, who went 1-2 with an 8.14 ERA in five games with the Cubs last season, will get the start for the white squad. Raley will be followed by Drew Carpenter, Rule 5 pickup Hector Rondon and Dayan Diaz.
Alberto Cabrera, who made a name for himself out of the Cubs ‘pen last year but is being transitioned to a starting role in 2013, will throw for the blue. Michael Bowdon, Blake Parker and Jensen Lewis will back him up.
The game kicks off at 1:05 p.m. Here are the lineups:
CF B. Jackson
The Cubs spent a quiet, rainy last day at the Fitch Park practice facility on Wednesday. A steady drizzle and gray skies limited the team to a few rounds of batting practice in the cages. After workouts, the players grabbed their gear and headed over to HoHoKam Stadium, where they’ll spend the rest of Spring Training.
The first spring game of the season, an intrasquad matchup between the blue and white teams, gets underway tomorrow at 1 p.m. local time. Prospects Chris Rusin and minor league pitcher of the year Nick Struck will start tomorrow’s game. Rusin will be backed up by Cory Wade, who spent the last two years with the Yankees, and Trey McNutt. Struck will be folowed by Robert Whitenack and Rafael Dolis.
Here are the lineups for tomorrow’s game:
RF B. Jackson
We’re only a week into the minor league season, but some young stars already are starting to blossom. A few of the Cubs affiliates are playing better than others, but there’s no denying some individuals left Spring Training ready to go.
High-profile corner infielders Josh Vitters and Anthony Rizzo have powered Triple-A Iowa to a 5-3 start. Vitters (.458/.500/.500) has racked up 11 hits in 24 at-bats, driving in six runs. Rizzo, who the Cubs acquired from the Padres for Andrew Cashner, has been just as impressive (.387/.424/.677), smacking three home runs and driving in 10.
Welington Castillo, a backstop who narrowly missed a spot on the Cubs Opening Day roster, is hitting .357 with a 1.214 OPS in 14 at-bats.
Top prospect Brett Jackson has recorded a .276 average with four RBI.
Ace Randy Wells is 1-0 in two starts, posting a 5.25 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and seven strikeouts.
Double-A Tennessee, resting at .500 with a 4-4 record, has plenty of bright spots in both the lineup and on the bump. Shortstop Elliot Soto has a .476 OBP and is slugging .500. Michael Burgess (.333/.417/.524) has a home run and 11 total bases.
Nicholas Struck (1-1, 2.25 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 15 K, 12 IP), Dallas Beeler (1.64 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 11 IP) and Trey McNutt (0.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8 K, 7.2 IP) have all been consistent members of the rotation early on.
Despite Daytona’s 1-6 record, a few individuals still have something to smile about. First-round pick Hayden Simpson has a 3.60 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP in two starts, and outfielder John Andreoli has a .429 average with a .600 OBP, drawing six walks in 20 total at-bats.
Pitching has been the key for Class-A affiliate Peoria. The Chiefs, who sit at 3-4, have gotten two solid outings each from Michael Jensen (2-0, 2.45 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 11 IP) and Patrick Francescon (0-1, 3.48 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 12 K, 10.1 IP).
By now, many are aware of Cubs Manager Dale Sveum’s ties to the Milwaukee Brewers organization. He spent 1986-91 as a player with the franchise to the north. Then from 2006-11, he acted at various times as the team’s bench coach, third base coach, hitting coach and interim manager. But he isn’t the only Cubs skipper in the last decade to have ties to the Brew Crew.
Rene, who went 0-1 as the Cubs’ interim manager in 2002, also spent time at the helm of the Brewers. Lachemann was an assistant to Don Baylor from 2000-02 with the Cubs, but he managed the team on July 5, 2002, against the Braves–the night Baylor was fired and before Bruce Kimm relieved him of his duties. Matt Clement picked up the loss in a 4-3 defeat.
Lachemann managed the Brewers during the 1984 season. There were high hopes for the squad, which was only two years removed from losing the World Series in seven games. But Lachemann’s team finished a disappointing 67-94, and he was fired with three games remaining in the season.