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Cub Tracks can handle it

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The Lip and The Brat, Hendricks’ experience, microbe management, and other bullets

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He’s not Mark Blankfield, and that’s a good thing.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Previously, Cub Tracks was all tied up. I’ve managed to extricate myself from the clutches of the dread Rollie Whiplash while Donnie Do-Right rescued Nellie Fox from the White Sox and sent him to free agency to strike out on his own.

The Triple-A Cubs look pretty good so far this spring, with a sprinkling of players from the 25-man roster also acquitting themselves well. Ian Happ in particular has made quite a case for himself as a potential lead witness for the prosecution of another World Series Championship, and the members of the Starting Five haven’t had to be bailed out yet.

Me, I’m having so much fun that it should be against the law, wearing an illegal smile and putting away my briefcase full of blues for the spring and summer.

Opening Day is at the end of this month. It augurs well for the future that things are going so well at this juncture, and I submit to you that it should continue to do so. It shouldn’t take too much to make that case. Here are my always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Today in baseball history:

  • 1903 - The rules committee sets the height of the pitcher mound (box) to a maximum of fifteen inches.
  • 1942 - Owners decide not to allow furloughed players in the military to play for their clubs if based near a game site.
  • 1949 - The Browns, owners of Sportsman’s Park, move to evict the Cardinals in order to gain a rent increase.
  • 1967 - Commissioner General William Eckert approves the BBWAA’s plan to select a Cy Young Award recipient from both the National League and American League.
  • 1969 - Citing “I can’t hit when I need to”, Mickey Mantle announces his retirement.
  • 1994 - Leonard Coleman, MLB’s executive director of market development, is elected the National League president, replacing the retiring Bill White.
  • Happy birthday: Tom Walsh, Dolan Nichols, Jim Kremmel, Aroldis Chapman.

Cubs news and notes:

Joe Maddon sounded a little jealous that Davey Martinez brought camels to Nats camp today: “Very well done. You would think we would have done that by now, being in the desert. I’m really proud of that moment for him.” — ESPN

  • Joe Maddon on Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. [VIDEO].
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Glove Day brings back memories for Cubs. Willson Contreras said it’s like Christmas when the Wilson glove reps arrive.
  • Patrick Mooney (The Athletic {$}): Why the Cubs believe Jim Hickey is the right pitching coach at the right time. “Hickey’s awesome,” said Cubs reliever Steve Cishek.
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Anecdote about using Matt Garza as closer shows why Jim Hickey is perfect for Cubs. Unpacking Mooney’s article.
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Maddon’s rotation boasts Opening Day cred. Three of the Cubs’ five pitchers were Opening Day starters last year: Jon Lester, Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Hendricks, Darvish to follow No. 1 starter Lester in Cubs rotation. “The order assures the two lefties (Lester and Quintana) are spaced, and it provides starkly different right-handed looks after Lester in a given series, with the power pitching Darvish following the changeup/command specialist Hendricks.”
  • Patrick Mooney (The Athletic {$}): How a Rangers executive can see everything coming together for Darvish and the Cubs. “He’s been on three teams now that have all played at a playoff level – a World Series level for the Dodgers and the Cubs,” Josh Boyd said.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Lester: decline of 200-inning pitchers ‘terrible for the game’. “That puts too much pressure on your bullpen,” he said.
  • Vinnie Duber (NBC Sports Chicago*): How much does Cubs’ Opening Day starter Jon Lester have left in the tank? ‘I’m seeing probably the best version of Jon that I’ve witnessed’. “I think everybody looks good on paper,” Lester said.
  • Sahadev Sharma (The Athletic {$}): After first spring start, Kyle Hendricks is confident 2017 struggles are behind him. “In the years I’ve been really good, I’m in my mechanics already,” Hendricks said. “Which is what I feel right now.”
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Healthy, prepared Hendricks in right spot. “Let’s get another World Series -- who cares about the first game?” Hendricks said, laughing. “I’ll take the last game. Always.”
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Refreshed Hendricks feels ahead of schedule. Hendricks has more experience.
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): “The Training Wheels Are Off”: A more comfortable Hendricks is primed for a big season. “He looks like a different cat this year,” Maddon said.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Can Darvish replace big personalities in clubhouse? Do Cubs need it anymore? “He goes out there and plays like he’s definitely capable of playing, that’ll speak very loudly,” Maddon said.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Cubs want Darvish to ease into his role in the rotation. “I think it’s good to put Yu in the three hole,” Maddon said. “Let him just chill a bit and work his way into it.”
  • David Schoenfield (ESPN*): The player from each MLB team who doesn’t get talked about enough. Jose Quintana for the Cubs — Schoenfield has good things to say.
  • Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): Drew Smyly’s rehab has him eyeing the mound in March, the Cubs at the end of the year. “I definitely plan on playing,” he said.
  • Paul Sullivan (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Anthony Rizzo ready to do whatever is asked of him, whether it’s by Cubs or his hometown. “I think ‘Riz’ can handle it,” Theo Epstein said.
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Javier Baez’s knack for gems stems from early age. “I think it’s life -- what you go through, where you come from,” Baez said.
  • Bruce Levine (CBS Chicago Sports*): Arrow pointing up for Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber after body transformation. “Schwarber has downplayed the weight loss as a big deal. He simply looked at it as part of his training and evolution.”
  • CBS Chicago Sports*: Theo Epstein views Ian Happ as prime candidate to make ‘The Leap’ this year. “...he’s someone who might see a lot of playing time in center field for a contending team,” Epstein said. Interview included in article.
  • Happ’s consistent approach, not his homers, may earn him leadoff role. “Happ doesn’t seem like a guy who’s going to change his approach much regardless of his spot in the order.”
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Ian Happ happy now after learning to adjust to the Cubs on the fly last May. “I’m definitely more relaxed,” Happ said.
  • Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): Kris Bryant still out with illness, but did play catch today. “...flu or a virus of some sort.”
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): David Bote working with Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis to reveal hidden power. Those terrigen mists work wonders.

Food for thought:

Thanks for reading.