As of now, 38-year-old Cubs right-hander John Lackey doesn’t expect the 2017 season to be his last. “At this point, I think I’m more likely to pitch next year than not pitch,” Lackey told Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. “But we’ll see at the end of the season.” Lackey will be a free agent next winter, and while the Cubs unsurprisingly aren’t ready to commit to bringing him back as a 39-year-old, they’re keeping the door open. “It’s not a decision that you make right now,” said general manager Jed Hoyer. “But certainly we love having him. I think his edge, his swagger is fantastic for our team. And we’re certainly glad that we signed him last winter.” In 2016, the first season of a two-year, $32MM deal, Lackey recorded a 3.35 ERA, 8.6 K/9 and 2.53 BB/9 over 188 1/3 frames for the World Series champions.
The latest on four other National League teams:
- All three of the Mets’ fifth starter candidates – Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo – have fared well this spring, leaving the team with “a pleasant puzzle to solve” by Opening Day, writes Mike Puma of the New York Post. “It’s a great problem to have,” manager Terry Collins said. “We came into this camp knowing we have depth in the rotation. We didn’t know where Zack was going to be, but we felt with the other four guys and Robert and Seth, we had some depth here. And they have stepped up and shown us we weren’t wrong.” Wheeler hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2014 because of March 2015 Tommy John surgery, but he ran his fastball up to 97 mph on Wednesday. That “certainly” got the Mets’ attention, Collins noted. It’s possible Wheeler will open the season in extended spring training or the bullpen, though, as the Mets try to limit his workload. Lugo, meanwhile, is “a strong candidate” to begin the year in the bullpen, sources told Puma.
- Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang remains in South Korea, where’s waiting to obtain his United States visa, per Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kang, who received an eight-month suspended prison sentence on March 3 stemming from an offseason DUI in South Korea, is working out on his own, but he hasn’t faced live pitching. “He’s going to need some work, some game at-bats,” GM Neal Huntington told Nesbitt. “We can set up some sim games, we can set up a lot of at-bats for him in a short period of time. But it’s hard to say until we get him here.” Because the Pirates placed Kang on the restricted list last week, he’s not currently occupying a roster spot; further, he won’t receive pay for any regular-season action he might miss.
- Marlins third baseman Martin Prado suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain during Venezuela’s loss to Team USA in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday and is likely to miss some regular-season time, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. While that’s disappointing, Prado is relieved that he didn’t receive a far worse diagnosis. “I was not sleeping,” he informed Frisaro. “I was like, so worried about myself, worried about the team, worried about the future and everything. After I talked to the doctors, it was a big relief for me.” Until Prado comes back, Miami will turn to Derek Dietrich and Miguel Rojas at the hot corner.
- The Giants entered the spring without a clear No. 1 option in left field, but Jarrett Parker has separated himself from Mac Williamson in the battle for the role, observes Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News. “Coming into this spring, he knew what was at stake and he’s doing the job,” manager Bruce Bochy said of the 28-year-old Parker, who the skipper believes is “maturing as a hitter” and “playing well on defense, too.” Last season was Parker’s first extensive action in the majors, and he batted an above-average .236/.358/.394 in 151 plate appearances.