Despite Ian Happ’s alarming struggles at the plate — he’s hitting .233/.282/.384 with a mammoth 46.2 percent strikeout rate through 78 plate appearances — Cubs skipper Joe Maddon says the team is not discussing the possibility of optioning the young switch-hitter to Triple-A Iowa (link via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times). Per Maddon, the 23-year-old is frustrated by his lack of contact but handling the struggles quite well. Maddon acknowledges that it’s difficult to get all of his young hitters into the lineup but maintains that the best place for Happ to right the ship at the plate is with the big league club for the time being.
More from the division…
- Jung Ho Kang has reported to the Pirates’ Spring Training facility in Bradenton, Fla., writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Manager Clint Hurdle explains that the plan for Kang is to get him into game shape over the course of the next month — he’ll remain on the restricted list and won’t be paid or accrue service time during that period — as he prepares for in-game action. “There will be no game activity until we get his arm in shape, his legs in shape, get him swinging, get our people to look at him and evaluate him and then go from there,” says Hurdle. Kang is preparing for a return to the Pirates after sitting out the 2017 season upon being convicted of a third DUI in his native South Korea and subsequently being unable to acquire a work visa.
- Given Greg Holland’s disastrous start to the 2018 season, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny confirmed today that Bud Norris is his closer for the time being, as Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “It’s Bud’s game right now,” said Matheny after effusing praise for the manner in which the veteran Norris has performed in high-leverage spots while ascending to the ninth-inning role. “But we’re going to have to have other people to pitch the end of the game. There are going to be times when Bud’s down and times when we need to put Bud in a little earlier and he needs help.” There’s no indication as to when Holland might be given another try in save situations, though with Norris boasting a terrific 1.72 ERA and 22-to-2 K/BB ratio through his first 15 2/3 innings of the season, he’s likely earned himself a reasonably lengthy leash in the the ninth inning.
- The fate of the Reds’ rebuild is in the hands of a group of starting pitchers that have yet to prove capable at the big league level or even, in some cases, in the upper minors, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. As Fay notes, the Reds have a fairly promising group of position players in the big leagues (plus an elite prospect on the cusp in Nick Senzel), but none of their pitching prospects have established themselves. As Brandon Finnegan, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano endure struggles in the Majors, alternatives such as Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed and Jackson Stephens are floundering in the minors. Fay notes that the organization’s plan had been to expand payroll next offseason and fill some holes via free agency as the nucleus of the next contending Reds team emerged, but that of course won’t have any impact if the team can’t overcome an increasingly problematic inability to develop starters.
- The Brewers announced tonight that righty Zach Davies is going on the 10-day disabled list due to some inflammation in his right rotator cuff. However, with two off days coming in the next week, the team added that it only expects Davies to miss one start. A corresponding move will be made tomorrow. The 25-year-old Davies has started off the 2018 season with a 4.24 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.32 HR/9 and a 48 percent ground-ball rate through his first 34 innings. His placement on the DL is retroactive to April 30, so he can be activated in a week’s time.