The Rundown: More From the Epstein Presser, Royals Top A’s in Crazy Wildcard Battle
Theo Epstein addressed the media on Tuesday to wrap up the 2014 season, and as Evan wrote yesterday, Epstein said the goal for the Cubs is to win the NL Central title next year.
That was obviously the big take-away from the presser, but Epstein also touched on some other issues:
* It sounds like the Cubs don’t have plans for moving Starlin Castro off shortstop and that, in fact, Addison Russell will be moved around the infield in Spring Training next year. So if Russell does have the stuff to make it in the bigs, Castro would still be sticking at short. At least that’s what it sounds like…for now.
* Epstein also expressed confidence in Javier Baez and, despite some pretty big strikeout issues this season, Baez would be the 2015 second baseman.
* Two big parts of the Cubs’ bullpen this season, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez, will be returning as relievers next season, Epstein said. The two pitchers came over in the Matt Garza deal last season, and both have previous experience as starters. But both are probably more valuable to the team in the near future coming out of the ‘pen. Totally agree with this call.
* Epstein said Chris Coghlan will have an opportunity to play a big role in the outfield in 2015. We have discussed Coghlan a bit toward the end of the season, and I feel like he would be a great fourth outfielder option. That could be Epstein’s thought as well, as he said they won’t simply be content with Coghlan, Alcantara and Soler as starters in the outfield next year.
A’s vs. Royals
The American League Wildcard game on Tuesday was loaded with Cubs links. For starters, the A’s have five former Cubs on their squad: Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Josh Donaldson, Geovany Soto and Sam Fuld.
(Scott Downs and Casey Coleman — remember them? — were also in the dugout for Kansas City.)
The game featured starters Jon Lester and James Shields, both possible targets for the Cubs this off-season. With two great pitchers taking the hill, you’d think it would’ve been a low-scoring game. Not the case.
Kansas City took a 3-2 lead off Lester in the bottom of the third and it looked like it could be enough to win (with Shields pitching and the excellent Kansas City bullpen lurking in the background).
But then after facing only two batters in the sixth inning (and not recording an out), Shields was lifted for Yordano Ventura. A bold move, as Ventura is a starter and right-hander. He promptly served up a bomb to Oakland’s Brandon Moss (a left-handed hitter), and the A’s had a 5-3 lead. Yeah, that backfired. They later extended it to 7-3.
Lester went 7.1 innings and gave up six earned runs. The left-hander didn’t give up more than three runs in any of his 11 starts with Oakland after the trade from Boston this season.
The Royals ended up tying the game in the bottom of the ninth and winning in 12 innings. The losing pitcher? No other than Jason Hammel.
It was a crazy night. I’m happy for the Royals, but also bummed to not get a chance at seeing Samardzija pitch in the playoffs.
I still don’t know how I feel about the one-game Wildcard format. I like that an extra team has a chance at the playoffs. Tuesday’s game was incredibly exciting, no doubt (before it became a bunt-a-thon).
But to have your team’s season be done in one game after a 162-game season…that doesn’t seem right. I do know that I would’ve liked to see a full series between the A’s and Royals.