Cubs Spring Training Notebook: Marcus Stroman returns after WBC, Jameson Taillon readying for regular season
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Marcus Stroman went to the World Baseball Classic with the belief that the atmosphere was unmatched.
He returned with plenty of affirmation.
“I think that energy is very reminiscent of a playoff, World Series game truly and I love it,” Stroman said Tuesday afternoon. “I’ll play in every World Baseball Classic there is until I can’t walk anymore. That passion is something that’s unmatched and that energy. So, I love it. I love everything about it.”
There were several young Cubs players that experienced the intense and unique environment of the WBC for the first time this spring. Matt Mervis played in Miami with team Israel and Javier Assad pitched for Mexico in a sold-out Chase Field against Team USA and in the quarterfinal against Puerto Rico.
“It’s just being around the vibe, the environment kind of prepares you for October baseball,” Stroman said. “And [it] kinda is like, wow, like you have that buzz when people are screaming, and energy is very loud — it’s hard to kind of replicate, necessarily.”
Stroman returned after Puerto Rico’s quarterfinal loss to Mexico, a game in which he started. He made 2 starts for Puerto Rico, posting a 3.00 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP and a .212 batting average against in 9 innings. The righty returned with the tips of his dreadlocks dyed blonde, just like the rest of the team, aptly named “Los Rubios” — The Blondes.
“The World Baseball Classic is great because you see how many fans you truly have out there,” Stroman said. “Like I couldn’t tell you the amount of support and love I got from Puerto Rican fan base.”
As Spring Training winds down, the focus for many players shifts from trying new things or fine-tuning to game preparation.
For a pitcher that means incorporating a gameplan and mimicking the preparation that goes into a start in the regular season.
“I talked to Tucker [Barnhart] before the game, kinda did like a pregame little meeting or what I wanted to do,” Tuesday’s starter Jameson Taillon said.
It worked, for the most part.
The righty had 9 strikeouts over 5 innings of work, allowing just 2 runs on a 3rd inning home run to MJ Melendez.
“It’s probably not something I’d wanna get beat on in-season to a good hitter, but I threw a really bad one the pitch before and I was stubborn and shook to it,” Taillon said with a smile. “Shook off Tucker, so that’s a good way to get our relationship started. I was just stubborn and wanted to like throw a better one and like kinda have that feeling in my head, that I’m not ending my night on a crappy changeup. Then I gave up a homer.”
But other than that pitch, the preparation and execution gave Taillon confidence. He’ll likely have one more start before the regular season starts and he’s at good point — he’s up to 5 innings and seems to have more confidence with the slider grip he incorporated this offseason when he signed with the Cubs.
“The slider’s just been a lot better in the bullpens lately,” Taillon said. “Today I just kinda had some cues I worked on in between starts and I thought today was a lot better. I’d say consistent shape that way. I knew where to start it and where it’s gonna finish.”
The Cubs travel to Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz. to take on the A’s. Adbert Alzolay will start for the Cubs. Lefty Drew Smyly will start a minor league game at Sloan Park.