Cubs Spring Training Notebook: A glimpse into the future and pitch clock fun
MARYVALE, Ariz. — Cubs fans got a glimpse at the future Tuesday afternoon.
The day after a pair of split squad games and with several players banged up, David Ross trotted out a prospect-laden lineup against the Brewers in Maryvale.
Matt Mervis, Kevin Alcántara and James Triantos all started for the Cubs while fellow youngster Christopher Morel was also in the lineup at second base.
Mervis walked, struck out and doubled while Alcántara collected a pair of singles in 3 at-bats.
Triantos — who was 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts — was not initially in the starting lineup but Patrick Wisdom was scratched for the second straight day with left groin tightness. Triantos was inserted as the team’s DH in Wisdom’s place.
The Cubs are being cautious with Wisdom at this point in Spring Training and expect him to rejoin the lineup in the coming days.
Morel was robbed of extra bases at the plate and also made a diving stop at second base in the 4th inning.
Nelson Velázquez didn’t start but came on as a sub later in the game and provided a jolt offensively with a 2-run blast:
Nelson Velázquez sends one onto the hill in right-center pic.twitter.com/ptL6Y7Ziom— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) February 28, 2023
Velázquez later singled and came around to score on a Brennen Davis double in the 9th inning.
On the mound, a trio of prospects came on in relief of starter Drew Smyly.
Ben Brown threw 2 innings, picking up a strikeout and also gave up a long homer to Brewers slugger Rowdy Tellez.
Ben Leeper whiffed 2 in a scoreless inning, sitting at 94-95 mph with his fastball.
Cubs relief prospect Ben Leeper picked up a pair of strikeouts in his scoreless inning of work against the Brewers Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/Y1ucw6HLtr— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) February 28, 2023
Danis Correa hit triple digits on the radar gun several times throughout his inning of work but was plagued by some defensive miscues behind him (an error and a wild throw on a possible double play ball). He also gave up a 3-run homer to Milwaukee’s Abraham Toro, who turned on a 98 mph offering from Correa.
As part of Monday’s split-squad games, pitching prospect Caleb Kilian got the start in Scottsdale and impressed his manager with a pair of strikeouts in 2 scoreless innings.
“Up to 97 mph, throwing strikes, the changeup was working,” Ross said. “He’s identified just trying to get in the zone a little bit more and being more consistent. Yesterday was a nice step forward for him.”
Pitch clock fun
Smyly had his first game experience with the pitch clock and was surprised by the results.
This will be his 10th MLB season and he has over 940 innings under his belt. He always thought of himself as a relatively quick worker on the mound but with the new pitch clock, he felt rushed Tuesday.
“It was way more of an adjustment than I thought it would be for me, to be honest with you,” Smyly said. “I feel like I’m a pretty fast pitcher — I thought I was, but I felt myself definitely being rushed throughout those 2 innings.”
Smyly said at several points during his outing, the timer was running out and he had to deliver a pitch even though he and catcher Tucker Barnhart hadn’t yet agreed on an offering.
“There were a couple times where I just started throwing and I didn’t even have a pitch, which is pretty funny,” Smyly said.
He plans to continue to work with his new battery mate Barnhart and get on the same page as spring progresses.
Smyly offered up the possibility of pitchers having a “default pitch” if the timer runs out, so the catcher can have an idea of what’s coming his way.
With another month left in Spring Training, Smyly doesn’t foresee an issue with the pitch clock by the time the regular season comes along.
Under the weather
Cody Bellinger has been out of the Cubs lineup in recent days due to illness.
Bellinger and Wisdom join Justin Steele and Seiya Suzuki as Cubs who have been slowed by ailments over the past few days.
Suzuki had to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic due to an oblique injury and will likely miss at least several weeks. Steele skipped his start Sunday with arm soreness but threw a bullpen Tuesday and is expected to make his next start.
Strong sock game
During clubhouse availability Tuesday morning, Cubs reliever Jeremiah Estrada called a few media members over to help select his socks for the day.
The consensus was some Tupac Shakur socks, which Estrada was happy to show off during the workout:
This morning in the Cubs clubhouse, reliever Jeremiah Estrada called the media over to ask for help in picking out his socks for today's workout.— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) February 28, 2023
This is what we went with: pic.twitter.com/6ZgIbb1fR8
The 24-year-old right-hander made his MLB debut last season and sported a 3.18 ERA in 5 games. He is competing for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen this spring.
Hayden Wesneski will take the ball as the Cubs host the Mariners Wednesday at Sloan Park. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. Chicago time on Marquee Sports Network.