Monday, May 20, 2024

Craig Counsell Talks And Gives Plenty Of Insight On The Cubs

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The Chicago Cubs have gotten out to a hot start so far this season. The expectations immediately began to rise after firing David Ross and hiring Craig Counsell as manager. Many believed this would be the team to beat in the NL Central division. So far, they’ve proven to be a force.

After dropping two of three to the defending champion Texas Rangers, they returned home to win five of six. That includes taking two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Brilliant starts from Shōta Imanaga and Javier Assad had the Cubs feeling good despite injuries to Jameson Taillon and Justin Steele.

There are so many Cubs hitting the ball incredibly on offense, too. Seiya Suzuki has fans at Wrigley chanting “M-V-P” in the bleachers, while Cody responds to his own chants with home runs. Christopher Morel is laying off pitches out of the zone and hitting the good ones hard. Ian Happ is back to the form the Cubs need him to be to succeed. Despite his lackluster average, Nico Hoerner hits the ball hard and draws his walks.

All of this added together has equaled a formula for success and created a winning culture on the North Side of Chicago. However, the trip to San Diego raised many concerns, specifically about the bullpen and Kyle Hendricks’ future. Counsell joined Chicago’s 670 The Score today and was very open and honest about it all.

Follow our new Twitter account for real-time updates and in-depth analysis of all things Chicago Cubs.

Jose Cuas Goes Down; Keegan Thompson Getting Called Back Up

We learned last night that relief pitcher Jose Cuas is being sent back down to AAA Iowa after a rough start to his season. Cuas came to Chicago through a trade from the Kansas City Royals in 2023. In five appearances this season, Cuas went six innings, giving up ten hits and leading to eight runs. His earned run average is twelve-even.

Craig Counsell announced on Friday that Keegan Thompson will return to the big leagues and join the Cubs in Seattle this weekend. Thompson is a former third-round pick by the Cubs in 2017. He’s made 80 appearances at the big league level, both as a starter and a reliever. He’ll be coming out of the bullpen – likely sometime this weekend.

Counsell also discussed his use of the bullpen and openers. He said everything related to pitching will remain fluid. There will be times when he sticks with the rotation and times when he feels it’s best to give an extra off day. Everything will be by ear, but he will always be ready to act.

Craig Counsell Says Kyle Hendricks “Required” To Execute At Higher Level

One of the downsides of this year has been the performances we’ve seen from Kyle Hendricks. It’s hard for some Cubs fans to sit back and realize Hendricks is all that’s left of the 2016 World Series team. Some find it even harder to believe it was eight seasons ago.

Hendricks is a different pitcher than he was eight years ago. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. And the game is going in a different direction than what he can provide. Batters are torching him the second time through the lineup this year. It’s not just the result of a slow start; they know what is coming.

Counsell said that because of Hendricks’s character and experience in this game and on this team, he’s “required” to execute at a higher level than his peers. Whether it’s fair or not, it’s just how it is. But Counsell puts it on himself, Hendricks, and the entire staff to make the proper adjustments to get him back into being the effective piece he has been in the past.

Counsell “Appreciates” Michael Busch, Calls Him An “Important Player”

Matt Spiegel of 670 The Score asked if Craig Counsell has noticed anyone who has surprised or lured him on and off the field. His answer was rookie first baseman, Michael Busch. Busch has a .270 average through twelve games, with a couple of booming home runs and seven runs batted in. In 44 at-bats, he has struck out eleven times.

Counsell said Busch’s poise entering the situation he did has been impeccable. He was traded away from a team favored to win it all and told he would be the Cubs’ first baseman from day one. Before this season, Busch had not played consistent first base since college. He has taken it all in stride and has done a great job.

Busch’s success at first base has made the Cubs’ lives much more manageable. Since Anthony Rizzo was traded, the Cubs have not had someone to be their everyday first baseman. Cody Bellinger, Patrick Wisdom, and others shared the responsibility last season. But with Busch starting so well, there is some security knowing he is there and will be for some time.

Christopher Morel Will Keep Getting Reps At Third Base

Craig Counsell addressed Christopher Morel head-on by stating that he will continue to improve as a third baseman by the reps he gets in games. Morel made a couple of great plays in San Diego, which Counsell acknowledged. He says Morel is too much of an athlete and knows he has it in him. He will continue to start at third base regularly.

Morel started the year pretty poorly defensively at third base. He was said to be working all offseason on his skills at third, but we did not see a lot of improvement through spring and into the season. So far, in 2024, Morel has three defensive errors accounted for. That number is a favor, too. Some of that scoring is exceptionally generous.

Morel has consistently been on the field pre-game, working on ground balls and his throws to first. And we have seen improvement as of late. But while all that negative talk stays around about his defense, his offense has been out of this world.

Batting .298 to start the year, Morel has three home runs with ten runs batted in. What’s been most refreshing about Morel’s approach to the plate is his discipline is through the roof. In 50 plate appearances, he’s struck out just seven times. That is all-pro hitting.

My Final Thoughts

The bullpen in San Diego was scary, but it does not define the beginning of the season. Jed Hoyer and Craig Counsell have proven they’re going to make the moves this team needs to make. The next real tests will be the results of Kyle Hendircks’ next outing and the returns of Justin Steele and Jameson Taillon.

Steele and Taillon will be back in the rotation as soon as they return. Shōta Imanaga will obviously remain. The last two spots will be between Hendricks, Jordan Wicks, Javier Assad, and Ben Brown. Of those four, I believe Assad is the most deserving of staying in the rotation.

The last spot is a toss-up. I think Hendricks could be most helpful in Drew Smyly’s current role. Having two guys like that waiting in the pen could benefit this team in the long term.

As for the offense, keep hitting the good pitches and laying off the bad ones. Patrick Wisdom is returning soon and will provide more power off the bench and better at-bats against lefties.

This is a good baseball team on the North Side of Chicago. Counsell knows it, and he’s the right man to get the Cubs back in the playoffs.

2 COMMENTS

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Byron
Byron
Apr 14, 2024 6:58 am

I’m thinking maybe Kyle needs to let the bench call the pitches. Seems maybe he is thinking to much on the mound and not pitching.

blockwood9
blockwood9
Apr 12, 2024 5:26 pm

I got my MLB subscription so I could follow my Cubbies this season.

So far, so good! Hope Kyle finds his groove, and Steele recovers soon.

Go Cubs!

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