The Cubs open their first homestand against a team that is in even worse shape than they are. The Brewers are already missing first basemen Corey Hart and Mat Gamel due to injuries suffered before the season, and in the past week 3B Aramis Ramirez, LF Ryan Braun, and SS Jean Segura have all been banged up. None of the injuries are necessarily *that* bad, but the Brewers didn't want a short bench so Ramirez hit the DL. I wouldn't be surprised to see Segura follow him there too. The Brewers already had SS Alex Gonzalez playing first, now he'll probably move to SS if Segura can't go and (dying laughing) Yuniesky Betancourt (dying laughing) is probably their starting first or third baseman.
2012 NL ranks listed in parentheses
The Brewers had a better year than I remembered, finishing with a 83-70 record but well out of the last playoff spot. They lost half of their rotation from last year, with Zack Greinke going to LA, Shaun Marcum going to the Mets, and Randy Wolf going upstate to live on a farm with a nice family (and millions of dollars). Offensively their best player is obviously Braun, but don't sleep on the rest of the outfield. Norichika Aoki quietly had a solid year and settled into the leadoff role, and while Carlos Gomez is still a terrible OBP guy (.305), he has plus power and speed and could be the best defensive center fielder in the NL now that Michael Bourn is in Cleveland.
I covered most of the Brewers ones above, but one of the other reasons why they had to break the glass on Yuni was because their usual backup infielders, Jeff Bianchi and Tyler Greene, are both on the DL as well.
Sveum thinks Barney could be back in a week. He gets his stitches removed soon, and has already taken some BP and fielded some grounders. Ian Stewart is DHing in extended spring training, but it will probably be a few days until he starts playing on defense. Matt Garza threw another bullpen session yesterday without incident.
Storylines and Players to watch
There's going to be epic amounts of booing whenever Ryan Braun steps to the plate. We might have a chance to see dueling bullpen implosions, as Brewers closer John Axford has been extremely hittable in the small sample of the season we've had thus far. He had plenty of struggles with walking batters last year (5.06 K/9), so he can get in trouble in a hurry.
The Cubs are still waiting for a few of their starters to heat up. Soriano has four singles and nine strikeouts, and leadoff man David DeJesus has two hits (both doubles) and a single walk. Starlin Castro has yet to record an extra base hit as well.
2012 ERA, FIP-, xFIP, and 2013 ZiPS projected FIP are listed for each pitcher.
Monday: Marco Estrada, RHP (3.64, 86, 3.48, 3.80) vs Edwin Jackson, RHP (4.03, 99, 3.79, 3.62) 1:20 PM CT
Estrada was knocked around in his first start, facing the Rockies. He struck out eight batters with no walks, but was burned by the long ball. Estrada has been a fairly extreme flyball pitcher in his career, so pitching in Wrigley in April is likely to suit him. He throws mostly fastballs, curves, and changeups. His fastball is definitely his best pitch, which is a little strange considering it averages around 91. He must get a lot of movement.
Edwin Jackson's last start looks okay from the statline, but I thought the start was pretty rocky. Jackson struck out five and walked one, but seemed to be struggling with his control of his fastball throughout the start. He'll get another chance against this decimated Brewers lineup.
Tuesday: Wily Peralta, RHP (2.48, 68, 3.56, 4.47) vs Travis Wood, LHP (4.27, 120, 4.62 ,4.39) 7:05 PM CT
I'll admit I don't know much about Peralta. He went up the ladder from high-A in 2010 to the starting rotation this year. It looks like much of his (pretty good) minor league numbers are related to a very low home run rate. He can be pretty wild but gets his share of strikeouts. He's a 95 mph fastball-sinker pitcher, which probably explains the home run rate somewhat. He gave up four runs, including a homer, in 5.1 innings against the Rockies in his first start.
Wood was solid in his last start, throwing six innings of shutout ball. I'm struggling to say much more about Travis Wood. He's okay, I guess #thisisayear
Wednesday: Kyle Lohse, RHP (2.86, 92, 3.96, 3.60) vs Scott Feldman, RHP (5.09, 92, 3.87, 3.83), 7:05 PM CT
Lohse was only signed a few weeks ago, thanks to the CBA's latest free agent compensation boondoggle, as well as some pretty high salary demands for a pitcher in his mid thirties. Lohse is another member of the Wandy Rodriguez Hall of Fame. He was mostly terrible during his 5 seasons with the Twins, but reinvented himself as a sinkerballer with Dave Duncan after joining the Cards. He's been solid ever since, aside from 2010 in which he was suffering from a rare elbow malady.
Feldman was awful in his first start. He gave up four runs in four innings and change, and was lucky that he didn't give up even more. His control was all over the place. I'm really hoping that he's the one who gets squeezed out of the rotation when Garza gets back. Villaneuva seems like the obvious choice for that though, and I wouldn't put Travis Wood out of the question either since the Cubs are likely planning to try and trade Feldman and Villanueva.
I think the Cubs win today, but lose the next two. Two pitchers with heavy sinkers against this lineup? At least the Cubs have the prospect of Yuni trying to field those grounders.
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