In today’s video courtesy of the Cubs, we see several catchers taking batting practice. Willson Contreras and Austin Romine, who will be the Opening Day roster catchers, are the first seen here. I must confess — the rest of the catchers in camp are guys I largely don’t recognize, so I’ll list them all here and perhaps you can figure out who’s who in the video: Miguel Amaya, Taylor Gushue, P.J. Higgins and Jose Lobaton.
Also in the video are several pitchers throwing bullpen sessions: Duane Underwood Jr., Gray Fenter, Tommy Nance and former Cubs No. 1 draft pick (2017, 27th overall) Brendon Little. Of those, only Underwood has a real chance of making the Opening Day bullpen, though you can be sure that Fenter will get a long look, as he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft.
One other thing I wanted to highlight this morning are Jake Arrieta’s comments regarding Adbert Alzolay:
As the veteran on the staff, Arrieta looks to have an impact off the mound. Right-hander Adbert Alzolay has already benefitted from his prescence. Arrieta estimated he has spent at least an hour talking to Alzolay every day for the past week.
The two played catch the last few days, and Arrieta stayed after his bullpen session Friday to watch Alzolay’s. Arrieta noted the rookie loves talking about pitching and he enjoys answering Alzolay’s questions. Arrieta said Alzolay is “hungry for knowledge.”
This is good news both for Arrieta understanding his role beyond pitching as a mentor, and for Alzolay working hard on his craft. Based on that and also the results we saw in some brief outings by Alzolay at the end of the 2020 season, I think Adbert could be a truly big pleasant surprise for the Cubs rotation this year.
The rest of Meghan Montemurro’s article about Arrieta is worth reading, especially this note:
He was hampered by a torn meniscus in 2018, bone spurs in his elbow in 2019 and a hamstring strain in 2020, all of which ended his seasons prematurely.
Presuming Jake is healthy this year, I expect a solid season from him. He’ll turn 35 in a couple of weeks, but I don’t see any reason he couldn’t put up numbers comparable to his 2017 season with the Cubs (3.53 ERA, 1.218 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9 ratio). Prediction: By the end of the 2021 season, Jake’s contract will seem a bargain and the Cubs will pick up the mutual option for 2022.