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Christopher Crawford

Baseball Daily Dose

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Dose: Closer Cub-nundrum

Friday, September 14, 2018


The Chicago Cubs are almost assuredly going to go to the playoffs. It would take a fairly significant collapse over the final two-plus weeks for them to not continue playing in the NLDS come October.

 

And, barring something nutty, it's safe to say that the Cubs will have leads late thanks to players like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and the resurgent Cole Hamels. There are questions, however, about who is going to finish those games, and it became even more of a conundrum after Pedro Strop suffered a hamstring injury on Thursday against the Nationals. The 33-year-old right-hander was trying to pick up an infield hit when he hit for himself in the 10th inning. There are more tests to be done, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters after the game they expect him to miss several weeks with the injury. Strop has pitched well in 2018, with 13 saves and a 2.26 ERA along with a 57/21 K/BB ratio over 59 innings with the Cubs.

 

This isn't just a problem for the postseason, either. The reason Strop was closing for the Cubs was that Chicago was already without closer Brandon Morrow, who has been on the disabled list since the All-Star break. The good news is that Morrow is throwing bullpen sessions, and is hopeful to return to the Cubs in the series with Arizona which begins on September 17. The bad news is that it's far from a lock, and because the Cubs are all but guaranteed a postseason spot, they might not want to rush the talented -- but often-injured -- right-hander back.

 

So if Strop is out and Morrow can't come back, who closes for the Cubs? There are options with experience, mainly Steve Cishek; who has been a stopper for the Marlins and Mariners and has pitched well (2.33 ERA in in 65 2/3 innings). The Cubs may not want to use Cishek in that role, and choose to keep the rubber-armed righty in his set-up role. Carl Edwards Jr. might have the best pure stuff of the Cubs relievers, but he's struggled as of late, and again, the Cubs may not want to remove him from the current role. Jesse Chavez has picked up three saves since his trade to the Cubs, and the right-hander owns a 1.45 since his move from Texas to Chicago.

 

There are no guarantees here, but Cishek and Chavez are the too most likely save options if Morrow can't return soon, with Chavez making the most sense because he's pitched in the role most recently. We should find out more soon.

 

The 40/41 club

 

On Wednesday, the Red Sox picked up a milestone win, picking up their 100th win. On Thursday, the Red Sox picked up win 101, and they also saw a player reach a milestone and a hitter add to his impressive total with Craig Kimbrel picking up his 40th save and J.D. Martinez hitting his 41st homer in a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays.

 

Much of the attention has gone to Edwin Diaz and Blake Treinen -- and for good reason, the two are having historic seasons as closers -- but Kimbrel's 2018 is nothing to sneeze at, either. The former Braves and Padres stopper has blown just five saves in 45 appearances, and he's posted a 2.33 ERA while striking out an impressive 89 hitters in just 57 innings. If not for the historic season from Diaz, Kimbrel would have the MLB lead in saves, instead of being 14 behind a player that challenged for the all-time record. It's still been a sensational season for the right-hander, and at just 30-years-old, there's no reason to think that Kimbrel is going to slow down anytime soon.

 

As for Martinez, what more can we say? Sure he isn't a great defender or anything close to it. When you hit .330/.400/.634 with the aforementioned 41 homers and 122 RBI, you can deal with the fact that he's best suited for designated hitter. This is two straight years of being as good of a right-handed hitter -- or hitter, period -- of any in baseball, and like Kimbrel, there isn't any reason to think he's not going to do this again in 2019. He's a special offensive player, and it's amazing that more teams weren't interested (willing) to pay him like one last winter. 

 

Wright to be active for likely final games

 

On Thursday, the Mets announced that David Wright will be activated to the 40-man roster for the final homestand of the year on September 25. The 35-year-old third baseman will be available off the bench for the series against the Braves, and then will get a start on September 29 against the Braves. It's widely assumed that Wright is going to retire at the end of the season, as he hasn't played in an MLB game since May 27, 2016 because of injuries to his neck, shoulder and back.

 

If this is it for Wright, it's disappointed, but he -- and Met fans -- should still be able to look back at his career fondly. When healthy, he was as good of an all-around third baseman as there was in baseball. In 1,583 games, Wright owns a line of .296/.376/.491 with 242 homers, 970 RBI and 196 steals. His ability to hit for average, power, and steal bases at the third base position made him a very valuable player for the Mets, and a very valuable fantasy player in turn. He'll go down as one of the very best infielders to ever play for the Mets, even if we can't help but wonder what could have been if not for injuries.


American League Quick Hits: Orioles OF prospect Austin Hays underwent surgery Thursday to repair a stress fracture in his right ankle. Hays mentioned on his personal Twitter account that the surgery "went well." He should be ready to roll for the 2019 season ... Athletics activated LHP Brett Anderson from the 10-day disabled list. Anderson will return to the A's rotation on Thursday against the Orioles after missing two weeks of action with a mild left forearm strain ... Mariners' manager Scott Servais announced Thursday that left-hander James Paxton is dealing with a "form of pneumonia". Paxton didn't travel with the club for their weekend series against the Angels in Los Angeles ... Red Sox' manager Alex Cora indicated that Eduardo Nunez will be held out of Friday's lineup due to soreness in his right knee ... Angels LHP Tyler Skaggs (groin) threw a successful 48-pitch bullpen session on Thursday ... Tigers sent RHP Johnny Barbato outright to Triple-A Toledo ... White Sox SS Tim Anderson hit a two-run homer in the top of the 12th inning to lead the White Sox past the Royals 4-2 on Wednesday.

 

National League Quick Hits: Pirates C Elias Diaz (hamstring) could potentially return to action next week ... Clay Buchholz was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday afternoon against the Rockies with stiffness in his right elbow. Matt Koch made a spot start in place of Buchholz ... Marlins OF Austin Dean was scratched from the Marlins' starting lineup for the first half of Thursday's doubleheader against the Mets due to nausea ... Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland was forced to exit Thursday's start against the Diamondbacks prematurely due to a cramp in his calf ... Dodgers INF Manny Machado went 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored, and the Dodgers outlasted the Cardinals 9-7 on Thursday ... Rockies RHP Seunghwan Oh has been held out of game action since Sunday due to tightness in his right hamstring ... T.J. McFarland was not available Thursday in Colorado due to left elbow inflammation ... He flew back to Arizona for treatment, but the Diamondbacks are hopeful that he'll be able to rejoin them this weekend in Houston ... Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara allowed two runs and two hits over seven innings against the Mets on Thursday. Alcantara has a 1.42 ERA after three starts with the Marlins.


Christopher Crawford is a baseball and college football writer for Rotoworld. Follow him on Twitter @Crawford_MILB.
Email :Christopher Crawford



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