The Rundown: Jason Hammel K’s 11 in Another Superb Start, Castro Moved to 6th Spot and Homers, Baez to DH in Upcoming AL Series?

Jason Hammel is quietly putting together quite the year. But if he keeps pitching like he did last night, he’s going to be drawing a lot more attention.

Hammel was outstanding last night, tossing 6.2 innings, giving up one run and five hits in the Cubs’ 5-1 win over the Marlins. The most impressive part of his outing, however, was his 11 strikeouts (a career high) and zero walks. You’re going to have a lot of success with ratios like that.

On the year, Hammel has 69 K’s and only(!) seven walks.

After the game, Jon Lester weighed in on those impressive numbers:

It was nice to have a relatively easy win for a change. It’ll be important for the Cubs to continue to take care of business against the Marlins before moving on to take on the Nationals and Tigers.

Castro moved down in order

Joe Maddon decided to move Starlin Castro down in the order to sixth after hitting cleanup lately. Castro had a rough month of May at the plate, pulling a lot of ground balls right to the shortstop.

On the move to sixth, Jesse Rogers writes that Maddon told Castro: “I asked him to back off a little, just go play and have a good time.”

It appeared as if Castro continued to press last night, bobbling a routine grounder in the bottom of the 7th that likely shortened Jason Hammel’s outing.

But then he made up for it by crushing a home run to left in the next half-inning. It had to feel good for Castro after such a rough patch.

I’m hoping Castro can break out of his funk. I think the move to sixth in the order is probably a good thing. I like Jorge Soler batting cleanup more than Castro, and with Soler starting to swing the bat better, this is the right time to make the switch.

Who to DH?

With the Cubs heading to some American League ballparks coming up, they’ll have some decisions to make about who to use as the designated hitter.

As Patrick Mooney writes, when asked if Javier Baez — or even Kyle Schwarber — were possibilities, Joe Maddon said: “Of course, all those guys are options. There’s no doubt. (But) I don’t know where we’re going to go yet.”

Later, Maddon admitted they hadn’t talked about Schwarber yet as an option, so let’s not get too excited about that possibility just yet.

But I’d think Baez has a pretty good chance. He has been very good in Iowa as of late, and is knocking on the MLB door.


Shortly after last season ended, Theo Epstein said the goal for 2015 was to win the NL Central. Some people may have rolled their eyes at this statement, as this came before the Cubs signed Jon Lester and hired Joe Maddon.

Then at the Cubs Convention this past winter, Anthony Rizzo went one step further and predicted the Cubs would win the division.

Well, now with calendar flipping over to June, these lofty goals may not seem so far-fetched after all. And Joe Maddon is on board, writes Bruce Miles:

“We don’t plan on watching anybody else play in October. We want to be there ourselves. How do you get there? It’s the daily grind of the season. You have to believe that you can. It’s like the Henry Ford thing. If you believe you can, you can. If you believe you cannot, then you cannot.

“I choose to believe that we can. There are different things we’ve got to do to get to that point. I’m really eager to see how June unfolds because we’ve been able to get certain things together. Our players understand what we’re trying to do right now. I understand the players better. So let’s see how June plays out. Then we can make some determinations after that. But I’m not going to back off. I really believe we’re a playoff-caliber team. And that’s our goal.”

The confidence from Maddon doesn’t surprise me. It’s very clear now that Maddon is a very confident, positive manager. Every game that goes by, I’m starting to realize the effect that this confidence has on the club. It’s huge.

Other notes

* Double-A Tennessee pitcher Corey Black will be moved to the bullpen, according to Justin Rocke. An interesting move, as it could help Black move up through the system faster. Black came to the Cubs from the Yankees in the Alfonso Soriano trade in 2013.


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