Cubs drop exhibition opener to White Sox, rematch tonight

Kyle Hendricks (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Kyle Hendricks (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Game Recap

Good news: Kyle Hendricks looks ready to open the season. His curveball was sharp and appeared to have more lateral movement compared to last season. He has spent a lot of time refining that pitch and if last night is any indication he is close to figuring it out.

More good news: Both second baseman delivered offensively.

Jason Kipnis opened the scoring:

Nico Hoerner drove home the second run (and added a sharp single later):

Bad news: A four-run 5th by the White Sox proved the difference in the game. Hendricks began the inning and looked to be tiring a bit. After allowing some base runners he was relieved by Jharel Cotton who was subsequently shelled.

Cotton possesses a great changeup, but as of right now his fastball and curve are fairly ordinary. When he catches too much of the plate with either he is susceptible to hard contact. The Cubs 40-man roster is overloaded with right-handed relievers though, and as one of those on the fringe it wasn't a good time to have a bad outing.

The Cubs are likely looking at trimming a righty or two from the roster in order to add a third left-handed reliever. Rex Brothers was pairing a wipeout slider with a 95-97 mph fastball last night. Command is, and likely will remain an issue for the lefty, but the guy misses bats. And the Cubs can really use that skill out of their pen this summer.

Meanwhile, the offense dried up in the middle innings as the Cubs hitters had no answer for journeyman Ross Detweiler and other members of the White Sox bullpen.

What I paid the most attention to last night was the way Willson Contreras has changed his approach to receiving pitches. He is keeping his glove low and loose as the pitcher goes through his motion and then is much quicker to the ball during its flight. It allows him to get around the pitch and be moving his glove back toward the middle of the strike zone when the ball arrives. This is a vast improvement over the way he would often stab at pitches last season, with his glove moving out of the zone when the ball arrived.

His movements are very exaggerated right now, often drawing his glove all the way back to the middle of the zone after receiving every pitch, but this is a good first step. As he gets more comfortable with his new approach I would like to see him calm his movements. Catchers typically receive the ball with much more quiet hands on pitches that are clear strikes. Even if he only improves on that aspect in a minor way, what he has already accomplished during his offseason work, should show up as improved framing numbers at the end of the season.

Rizzo still hopeful for Opening Day

We all know Anthony Rizzo wants to be out on the field on Opening Day. Judging by the way he was moving in batting practice prior to yesterday's game, and the way he was joking around with teammates in the dugout during the game, I'm guessing he will be. At the very least it does not appear that an IL stint will be necessary. Barring a setback, if he misses any time it is likely only the first couple of games. Expanded rosters should mean there is no need to carry another player in his place.

Game Preview

Yu Darvish takes the mound against Dallas Kuechel in a veteran matchup at 7 CST. The two hurlers feature vastly different approaches. Darvish misses bats as well as any starter in the league while mixing 5+ pitches every time he takes the mound. Meanwhile Kuechel pitches to contact and relies on generating ground ball outs. Few are better at it, and Kuechel in fact led the Majors in GB% last season.

Lineups pending

Filed under: Game preview, Game Recap

Comments

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  • I liked what I saw from Brothers and was not very enamored with Cotton. Ordinary was a good way to put it. Cotton doesn't appear to be a guy who has a big margin for error whereas Brothers has some issues but is not as hittable. Winkler was interesting. Lots of moving parts with that delivery but you cannot ignore the MPH.

    I do not understand why the club seems so down on Mekkes. It makes no sense to me that he is not even getting a sniff when guys like Cotton are getting opportunities. I admit I am looking at stats versus video on him. You would like to see his walks reduce a bit. What are the Cubs seeing that is preventing him from even getting a chance?

  • In reply to Gator:

    Definitely agree on Mekkes, my only thought is they're holding him back to get more outings before he possibly replaces someone who's faltering (God-willing, no one does though); not sure if there's any minor league stuff going on at all this year, I've admittedly been extremely out of touch on that end recently.......

  • Good news on Willson' s framing. Still boxed a couple out of the zone, but it's an important improvement. He ran the bases well too.

    It was fun to watch some baseball again, even if it is practice.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    It seems EXTREMELY like practice out there with NO ONE in the stands, but I guess that's what the entire year is going to look like............

  • The Cubs have just added 2nd-round pick Burl Carraway to the 60-man player pool. The lefty reliever will try to harness control of his impressive arsenal, which includes a fastball that touches 100 MPH and an even more dominant hammer curve, in hopes he can become the 1st player taken in this year's draft to reach the big leagues.

    Spending a 2nd-round pick on a college arm that is nearly unanimously projected to be strictly a reliever has previously been taboo, but that speaks to upside of Carraway. He is described as a baseball rat, with several comparisons to the great Billy Wagner due to his diminutive physical build and powerful left arm.

    I've liked this pick since we made it. The game is changing, with far more emphasis placed on the bullpen as part of routine game planning. Taking a reliever this high is a risk, but from what I've seen and heard, I'm really excited to see how Carraway develops.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    After watching the pen last night I say why not? I know some fans were interested in seeing how former top prospect Jharel Cotton looks after transitioning to the bullpen. But boy the Sox were teeing off on him last night, and personally I was somewhat disappointed that his FB was only topping out around 92-93. I do like Ross giving him another inning though, and he fared better pitching in a clean inning. I was hoping to see a bit more velocity from Cotton in shorter pen spurts.

    I’m hoping one of these bargain arms surprise us, but as of now the pen can use more high end relief pitching. Wick and Kimbrel are arguably their 2 best relievers, and I hope kimbrel gets back on track like I think he has a chance to. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they may have no choice but to bring up another power arm like Marquez or Callaway. Overall lots of question marks in this pen. The cubs are going to need to buy starting pitching again in the near future it appears, and my hope is they end up with a surplus of promising, cost controlled ace relievers. Like you though I’m really excited about Callaway, and for those with athletic subscriptions I’d suggest listening to the cubs podcast where they interviewed the kid. Really impressed by his demeanor and he seems to really have an advanced understanding and acceptance of analytics.

  • What about J. Norwood? I like his wild power arm, and hope he gets a chance in 2020.

  • In reply to Naujack:

    Looked good last night. Consistency with his secondaries and command are what have held him back in the past. If he can continue to throw like this he can help.

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    The Cubs didn't sign their 3rd round pick Jordan Nwogu so I assume that there was a deadline to do so. I know that they overpaid for a few of them and Howard signed for his slot money so maybe they didn't have enough to sign him. He was an intriguing pick.
    I'm glad to see that Carroway was added to the 60 man roster. Is Jensen on there? I haven't seen or read anything about him this offseason.
    It was good to see baseball these last few days, although the Sox seem much more ready to hit the ball than the Cubs right now. They will be fun to watch.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I hope this isn't official. It was reported yesterday that he was at Wrigley Field, and some on twitter thought this was an indication that he was close to signing. I know we get another 3rd round pick if he doesn't sign, but you never want to fail to sign a guy that you liked enough to take that high. I felt Nwogu seemed to have pretty solid upside at the plate. Do you know if it's official that they haven't signed him Jonathan?

  • I thought they had till 8/1 to sign him? Might be wrong. Don't know.

  • In reply to Missed Signal:

    According to google the deadline to sign draft picks is 8/1. Nwogu was reportedly at Wrigley Field yesterday also, so some were reporting they actually maybe close to a deal. Unless I'm missing some report that they're not going to be able to come to an agreement.

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    In reply to kkhiavi:

    Thanks about the 8/1 deadline. I hope he signs and if was at Wrigley Field then that's a good sign. Now we need to see the people of Marquis at Wrigley...I have Comcast and want to watch this Friday.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/cubs/cubs-sign-third-round-pick-jordan-nwogu-their-last-unsigned-pick

    Nwogu has officially signed as of about an hour ago. Glad this got resolved it just isn’t ideal to fail to sign our 3rd rd pick in a draft that was only 5 rounds this year. I also like his upside for a 3rd rounder. Agree on marquee I’m also a Comcast subscriber, and at this point it feels possible if not likely that we may miss some games. Hopefully both sides are motivated to reach a deal, as they should be considering how wide of a reach Comcast has over the Chicago area.

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