Why Lucas Giolito likes the cooler weather in Arizona — and the back-end backbone of the Cubs bullpen – The Mercury News



Why Lucas Giolito likes the cooler weather in Arizona — and the back-end backbone of the Cubs bullpen – The Mercury News

The long ball carried the Cubs offense Wednesday.

Cody Bellinger, Edwin Ríos and Christopher Morel all homered in a 4-2 win against the Oakland Athletics. Ríos’ two-run homer and Morel’s solo homer were each their fourth of the spring, leading the Cubs. In a bullpen game, nine pitchers combined to strike out eight A’s and walk three.

Meanwhile, left-hander Drew Smyly pitched in a minor-league game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Sloan Park. He threw 80 pitches in five scoreless innings, limiting them to two hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.

The Sox went 0-for-2 in split-squad action, falling 2-0 to the Texas Rangers in Peoria, Ariz., and 4-3 to the Kansas City Royals at Camelback Ranch.

Mike Clevinger allowed one run on three hits with three strikeouts and one walk in five innings against the Rangers.

“It was good to finally get out there and extended a little bit and get to roll the lineup over again and being able to work with (catcher) Seby (Zavala) back there,” Clevinger said.

Davis Martin allowed four runs on five hits with four strikeouts and one walk in 4⅓ innings against the Royals.

Chicago Tribune baseball writers LaMond Pope, Meghan Montemurro and Paul Sullivan will be providing Cubs and White Sox updates throughout spring training.

Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger give Cubs bullpen strong foundation

As the Cubs whittle the roster in the coming days, configuring the bullpen will be a large part of the front office’s and coaching staff’s discussions.

There won’t be any debates about the opening-day status of veteran relievers Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger, leading manager David Ross to remark, “That’s one less name I’ve got to make a decision on.”

Fulmer and Boxberger are expected to serve as the back-end backbone of the bullpen — each threw a scoreless inning Wednesday against the A’s — allowing Ross to determine how best to utilize the other six relievers at his disposal.

At least once the Cubs figure out whom they want to break camp with.

“We’ve got a lot of good arms in camp,” Ross said Wednesday. “Guys that are throwing the ball well, guys that are on the 40-man, guys that are off the 40-man, and those are really hard decisions. We don’t take those lightly. But at the end of the day, some really good pitchers won’t make the team.”

Fulmer, entering his third season as a reliever, is still in question-asking mode about the role and figuring out what works best for him. The mix of relievers in camp has impressed Fulmer.

“Just the versatility, everybody can do any situation,” Fulmer told the Tribune. “Everybody’s going to pick each other up. If one guy doesn’t get the job done one day, he’s going to come back and do it the next day.

“That’s really important from the bullpens I’ve been with so far. The more people who can throw leverage innings, who can close out games, who can be the bridge guy, who can be dealing as a multi-inning long man, it brings everyone together.”

Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. is coming off a three-strikeout inning Tuesday as he tries to close out camp strong as a non-roster contender for the bullpen. Leiter, who has struck out seven, walked one and surrendered one run in five innings, remains in the mix, Ross said.

“He looks like exactly like he was throwing at the end of last year, which is what he did really well for us,” Ross said. “The roster stuff, unfortunately you wait until the last day. I’d love to give you the answers everybody wants, but you’ve got to let things play out. The roster stuff is tricky.

Cool conditions help with Lucas Giolito’s preparation

It was 63 degrees at the beginning of Tuesday’s Sox game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Starter Lucas Giolito saw a benefit from pitching in the cool, wet conditions.

“Usually spring training in Arizona is sun shining (and) it’s 80 degrees, but it hasn’t been that way this spring,” Giolito said Tuesday. “So it’s better preparation when we are back in Chicago and Detroit and all those places in April. So, yeah, I liked it.”

The right-hander allowed two runs on one hit with six strikeouts and two walks in 4⅓ innings in the 6-5 victory in Phoenix.

“I’m very confident with where I’m at,” Giolito said. “I’m liking how pitches are shaping. I like how the pitches are working. I like the sequences. Working very well with … (catchers Yasmani Grandal), Seby and (Sebastián) Rivero.

“I’ve been liking how I’ve thrown to all three guys. Good rapport with everybody. Pitch-clock stuff has been good. I like the pace of that. Good body of work so far. One more (spring start) and then the (regular) season.”

In particular, Giolito likes where his off-speed pitches are.

“Changeup, curveball, slider,” he said. “I’m liking the swings that I’m getting, keeping guys off balance — especially with the slider, using it to lefties and righties. It’s been a really good pitch for me, just developing that.

“Being able to make adjustments. During each outing I feel like I’ve had to make quick adjustments and I’ve been able to do that, to be able to get out of some situations and keep it going. So it’s been (a) very productive (spring).”

Roenis Elías on the complicated relationship between Team Cuba and Miami-area Cubans

Left-hander Roenis Elías returned to Cubs camp Tuesday grateful for his World Baseball Classic experience with Team Cuba.

He started Cuba’s semifinal loss against Team USA, which he described as his biggest moment of the tournament. But playing in Miami for that game Sunday meant division for South Florida Cubans, a complicated situation for those who escaped oppression in Cuba.

The Cuban roster featured a mix of players who defected and are now in the majors and those who still live on the island.

The WBC marked the first time Cuban-born big-leaguers were allowed to participate, which coincides with Elías’ first experience playing for Cuba in an international tournament. Cuba previously had not let defected players be part of their roster.

“There were lots of Cuban fans and half of them were cheering for us and the other half were protesting against us,” Elías said Wednesday through an interpreter. “There was some ugliness with some of the fans throwing things at our families in the stands, but we’re here to play baseball. We’re not here to politicize anything. So I took it to the point of separating the politics from baseball here.”

Yoán Moncada receives WBC recognition

Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada was named to the WBC All-Tournament team after leading Team Cuba to the semifinals.

Moncada slashed .435/.519/.739 with four doubles, one home run and five RBIs in six games.

“(He had a) really good tournament,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said Wednesday. “And he did some things that was really good for me to see too. He drew walks, he hit for some power.

“He just played baseball the way baseball needs to be played. We’ll continue that.”

Moncada is expected to return to Sox camp Thursday.

“He has the talent and he is working very hard this year,” Sox center fielder and Team Cuba teammate Luis Robert Jr. said through an interpreter. “That’s a reason you’re seeing the results he had in the tournament and hopefully will carry over into the season.”

What we’re reading this morning

Up next

  • White Sox vs. Giants, 3:05 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago+, WMVP-AM 1000
  • Cubs vs. Diamondbacks, 3:05 p.m., Marquee

Quotable

“He came in in a really good spot, just trying to prove himself of what he is as a baseball player but asked to do something new and put in the work in the offseason. He’s moved well. … He gets better every single day. He’s looked really good on some balls coming in, some challenging balls to his back hand. He’s looked the part over there, very comfortable pretty consistently.” — Ross on how Nick Madrigal has looked at third base from the start of spring to now

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