Cubs spring notebook: Alzolay in action, Marisnick mashes and Kimbrel’s spring
MESA, Ariz. — Adbert Alzolay’s 3rd Cactus League start was more complex than the box score indicated.
He was charged with 3 runs (2 earned) and 2 strikeouts in 1.2 innings in the Cubs’ 10-2 loss to the Royals, but 1 of those whiffs was a dropped 3rd strike that extended the inning and led to a pair of runs.
After former Cub Jorge Soler began the 2nd inning with a home run, Royals second baseman Nicky Lopez swung over the top of an Alzolay offering that scooted by Willson Contreras in the dirt and allowed Lopez to reach first base safely. A couple pitches later, Contreras attempted a pickoff on the runner at third base and the ball sailed into left field as 2 runs came around to score.
Alzolay ended up coming out of the game shortly after because he reached his pitch count but he came away from his outing pleased with his mechanics. He felt he was flying open too soon with his delivery his last time out and felt “much, much better” today, particularly with his sinker and fastball.
Alzolay also found a silver lining in the dropped 3rd strike as a good developmental lesson amid an exhibition game.
“Oh absolutely,” he said. “That’s gonna happen in a normal game. That’s something you can’t control. The only thing that I can control is just making pitches. So that’s why it’s good that happened right now so we can keep working on those moments and have my mind ready for those moments when the season starts.
“But yeah definitely it helped me because I didn’t pout like, ‘oh my gosh, this and this happened.’ In my mind, I just kept throwing and making pitches.”
He also threw a really nice looking breaking ball to catch Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez looking to end the 1st inning:
Frozen. pic.twitter.com/ab97AfmQ0W— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 13, 2021
Craig Kimbrel pitched in Friday’s game and gave up 4 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks in 0.2 innings. It was his 3rd appearance this spring and he’s been charged with 9 runs total.
David Ross wasn’t concerned with the previous 2 outings but thought Friday’s game resembled some of the struggles with command Kimbrel worked through early in the 2020 season.
Ross said he planned on having a conversation with Kimbrel Saturday and the Cubs might get the veteran closer in their Pitch Lab for a more analytical look.
“Yesterday was probably one of the outings that most resembled some of his struggles [last year],” Ross said. “But that second/third outing for a lot of these guys has not been sharp for most of them. I think Craig falls in that category as well. The ball just wasn’t coming out like it normally could yesterday and didn’t look like it had much behind it in general even though the radar gun said 94-95. It just wasn’t as explosive as it normally is.
“I’ll touch base with him, see how he’s feeling this morning and we’ll try to tackle that and make sure he feels good or gets back to finding those keys and mechanics that we’ve identified.”
Ildemaro Vargas opened the Cubs’ scoring Saturday with an absolute shot to left field:
Home run hugs >>> pic.twitter.com/hplE4ik1Pj— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 13, 2021
Vargas, 29, is now hitting .429 this spring and is a switch-hitting utility guy who can play just about every position for the Cubs. The team loves his versatility and attitude and he’s out of minor-league options, so he represents an intriguing player to watch as the Opening Day roster comes into focus.
“B” game action
The Cubs played a “B” game at Sloan Park Saturday morning against the Diamondbacks. It essentially amounted to a split-squad game with the official Cactus League action taking place 47 miles away in Surprise Saturday afternoon.
Zach Davies got the start in the “B” game and threw 61 pitches over parts of 4 innings. These stats don’t even count for Cactus League action, but for whatever it’s worth, he got 12 outs and gave up 3 runs on 4 hits. However, 2 of the outs were bunts from Arizona pitcher Merrill Kelly to lead off the 2nd and 4th innings as pitchers reacclimate back to hitting.
To throw another wrinkle into the mix, the Cubs actually got 4 outs in both the 2nd and 4th innings and a run was scored in the 4th inning after the 3rd out was recorded. The “official” Sloan Park scoreboard credited the Diamondbacks with only 1 run that inning, so maybe his final line should really read 2 runs over 3.1 innings?
Eh, whatever. Spring training in 2021 is wild. The main takeaway was Davies built up to a 61-pitch workload.
Jake Marisnick took his first game at-bats in a Cubs uniform in the scrimmage against the Diamondbacks. He led off each of the first 5 innings and rattled off 3 straight hits in the middle, including a ringing double off the left field wall:
.@JSMarisnick with 3 hits in today's early contest. pic.twitter.com/jAlliDlAFF— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 13, 2021
Marisnick has been slowed in camp by a calf injury and served as the DH in the “B” game. He initially suffered the calf issue during a baserunning drill but said it felt great in Saturday’s action.
The plan is for him to get the day off Sunday and then see game action again Monday, potentially playing the outfield.
Marisnick was hampered by hamstring issues last season and utilized the time off this spring to work on shoring up his entire lower body.
“A big part of my game is being able to run and do things with my legs and I think with some of the stuff with the calf that we’ve been doing, we’ve had a chance to work on my hips and work on hamstrings where it hurt me a little bit last year,” he said. “So to be able to take that time to get really in tune with everything in my body and work on everything was huge.”
The Cubs signed the veteran this winter as valuable outfield depth, an elite defender who also provides a right-handed component at the plate. With Opening Day just under three weeks away, Marisnick still feels like he can be ready for the start of the regular season.
—Anthony Rizzo also played in the “B” game and walked and stole a base.
—Nico Hoerner saw some time at shortstop in the Cactus League tilt against the Royals. He is competing for the Opening Day second base gig against Vargas, Eric Sogard and David Bote.
Vargas played third Saturday, Sogard started at second in that game and Bote started at second base in Friday’s contest.
—Infielder Sergio Alcántara is not in Cubs camp yet after experiencing visa delays. Alcántara was initially selected off waivers in February and was designated for assignment two weeks later when the Cubs signed reliever Brandon Workman.
Alcántara cleared waivers and was added as a non-roster invitee to spring training but has been slowed by the travel issues.