The Rundown: Almora Jr. D(r)iving Cubs, Baez Emerges as Team Leader, Starting Staff Struggling Badly

Quick one today, I am a bit under the weather.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Cubs-Rockies series and I believe that it will eventually be looked at as the series that kickstarted the season for the Cubs.

Kris Bryant left in the 1st inning after he was hit by a 96 mph pitch from German Marquez. Joe Maddon and Cubs fans everywhere hope Bryant will be okay. Initial reports were that he did not suffer a concussion, but he’ll undergo further testing just to make absolutely certain there are no lingering issues.

Albert Almora, Jr. was insane defensively yesterday and batting him leadoff ahead of Javy Baez has given the team a top-of-the-order presence they haven’t had since Dexter Fowler was here. The 24-year-old from Hialeah, Fla. is hitting .327 to start the year and he has shown tremendous discipline at the plate while also having the ability to spray the ball to all fields. Many MLB fans have forgotten that Almora was drafted immediately after Carlos Correa in the 2012 MLB Draft and was considered a cornerstone piece of the organization when the Cubs began their rebuild.

Maddon’s decision to move Baez up from eighth to second in the batting order paid enormous dividends, as the flashy second baseman has strung together 12 hits in his last 25 at-bats. After a week in which he hit an astounding .480, Baez’s batting average has jumped 100 points and he leads the team in home runs and RBI.

More importantly, Javy is really emerging as a team leader. He showed that leadership when he accused Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu of relaying signs to hitters from second base in the 3rd inning. Baez responded by moving from his shortstop position and standing in front of LeMahieu to block his vision.

Cubs News & Notes

I am starting to get worried about the team’s starting pitching, a supposed strength when the team broke camp at the end of March. Other than Jon Lester, too many walks have been issued and, the struggles of Yu Darvish aside, it’s more than a little concerning that opposing hitters are batting .304 against Jose Quintana.

Almora was briefly down after making a spectacular diving catch on Nolan Arenado’s drive in the 1st inning. He was attended to by team trainers but remained in the game, though he was part of another scare when he crashed into the wall after making a running catch on a Charlie Blackmon fly starting the bottom of the 9th.

David Bote was recalled to replace Ben Zobrist and the rookie got a double in his first big league at-bat on Saturday.

The Cubs are working to help Darvish correct his struggles after the 31-year-old right-hander was pulled in the 5th inning in a second consecutive start Saturday.

On a personal note, I spent the weekend in Milwaukee and caught all the Brewers games. Milwaukee has a very good team and they will be in Chicago at the end of this week to resume their season series with the Cubs. At 14-9, the Brewers are tied with the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central.

How About That!

My thoughts and prayers are with White Sox relief pitcher Danny Farquhar and his family. The 31-year-old is in critical but stable condition in the neurosurgical intensive care unit at Rush University Medical Center.

The Cardinals placed SP Adam Wainwright on the 10-Day DL with elbow inflammation. Wainwright is 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA in three starts this season. An elbow issue last season ended his season after 24 starts.

Brandon Belt set a major league record with a 21-pitch at bat against the Angels yesterday. The at-bat finally ended when Belt flew out to right fielder Kole Calhoun.

The Yankees called up No. 1 prospect Gleyber Torres before yesterday’s game.

The Astros outscored the White Sox 27-2 in a three game sweep.

Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout lead the major leagues with eight home runs. I know everybody — myself included — wants to see the Cubs sign Bryce Harper, but could you imagine seeing Machado and Baez man the Cubs infield for the next half-dozen years?

Sunday’s Three Stars

  1. Miguel Andujar – The Yankees’ rookie third baseman raised his batting average to .308 with a four-hit performance in New York’s 5-1 victory over Toronto.
  2. Patrick Corbin – The veteran left-hander is now 4-0 after yesterday’s Diamondbacks 4-2 win over the Padres. Corbin struck out 11 batters over six innings of two-run, two-hit ball.
  3. Albert Almora, Jr. – Three web gems land him on this list despite two-homer games by Machado and Jose Ramirez.

Hot Takes & Syrup

  • Derek Jeter denies that the Marlins are purposely tanking. Jeter has received heavy criticism for some of his offseason moves, but he still said he expects the team to be competitive and contend within the league.

The Said It

  • “We’re always talking about this technological method of stealing signs — that was old school. They’re trying to give location or signs and Javy was blocking. I loved it. I’ve never seen that before.” – Joe Maddon
  • “That’s the big question [with Darvish]. It’s happened a couple times so far, which is a concern. I’m not going to press the panic button yet, but it is something that needs to be looked into and addressed.” – Jim Hickey
  • “Tanking? What is … tanking? We’re trying to win ball games every day. When you take the field, you have an opportunity to win each and every day. Each and every day.” – Derek Jeter

Monday Walk Up Song

Loser by Beck. I hate flu season, but this is for Jeter.

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