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Shelby Miller Jersey

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Shelby Miller has had an up-and-down career, but it’s been mostly down in recent years. When the Cubs signed him to a minor league deal this offseason, nobody thought much of it, but he is turning heads in camp. Can it lead to a roster spot?

It’s always important to remember that spring training results should be taken with a grain of salt, but so far this spring he has pitched in Wholesale Chicago Cubs Jerseys four games, made one start and has a 1.29 ERA with eight strikeouts in seven innings. He credits his success to a slider that has become his main out pitch this spring.

We recently noted Miller is a possible candidate to round out the rotation for the Cubs in the 2021 season. That’s likely a long shot, but bullpen roles and spots are constantly changing, and if he keeps pitching like this, it’ll be hard to deny Miller an opportunity.

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Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies, Trevor Williams and Jake Arrieta will take up four spots, and guys like Miller, Adbert Alzolay and Alec Mills will be fighting for the last two spots. The Cubs are still waiting on the status of Alzolay’s option, and that could dictate some of the pitching decisions for this years team.

Miller has battled injuries and a lack of success for the past four years. In 2017 and 2018, he started four games each and missed most of the year with injury. In 2019, he made eight starts and 19 appearances with Rangers, posting an 8.59 ERA. He last saw success in 2015 with the Braves, pitching to a 3.02 ERA before the wheels came off with the Diamondbacks the next season, and he’s never recovered.

Cubs: Time is on Miller’s side
Miller is still only 30, so he has time to revive his career. Maybe his days as a starting pitcher are done, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have success as a relief pitcher for the rest of his career. If the Cubs can find a diamond in the rough with Miller, that will just give them another weapon to use moving forward. Baseball is a long season and the right-hander will give Chicago innings at some point, whether that be out of the rotation or the pen.

Miller was once a power pitcher that would use his fastball to blow hitters away. Once hitters started timing it up and hitting it, he started to lose his success. The development of this slider will help him become a better pitcher rather than just a hard thrower.

NEXT: Cubs let Bryant play injured again in 2020
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Miller still may not make the team, given the sheer number of guys in the mix for a bullpen spot and the relative depth of the rotation candidates, but he is doing his best to make sure he opens his eyes to get, if nothing else, a long, hard look from Chicago.

Rafael Ortega Jersey

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MESA, Arizona — Rafael Ortega is not a power guy. In 410 career MLB at-bats, he has three home runs.

He did hit 21 homers at Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves system in 2019, but that’s nearly a third of his 68 career minor league home runs in 4,135 at bats.

Ortega might never hit a regular-season Chicago Cubs Jerseys China home run for the Cubs. Heck, he might not play a regular-season game for the Cubs.

But he will certainly cherish the memory of hitting a walkoff grand slam Tuesday afternoon in Mesa before an enthusiastic gathering of 3,423 at Sloan Park, giving the Cubs an unexpected 9-8 win over the Athletics.

Walkoff wins are pretty rare in spring training; I can’t remember the last time the Cubs had one, must be six or seven years ago.

Before I get to the rest of this game, let’s watch the walkoff homer [VIDEO]!

Now, let’s rewind tho the beginning. Trevor Williams threw three innings today and two of them were quick, efficient 1-2-3 innings. In the other, he allowed back-to-back doubles to Mitch Moreland and Chad Pinder and the A’s took a 1-0 lead. Overall, though, I thought Williams threw well and that gives him two consecutive good spring outings. It’s only spring training, but I think the Cubs got themselves a steal in Williams.

The Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the second. Jason Heyward singled and David Bote walked, and that brought up new Cub Eric Sogard for his first Cubs at-bat [VIDEO].

Nice piece of hitting for Sogard to tie the game.

Unfortunately, that brought Craig Kimbrel into the contest. Kimbrel wasn’t as bad in this one as he was in his first outing, but that one was horrific. In this one, he allowed only one run, a solo homer by Matt Chapman. But of the three outs he recorded, two were hit hard, including a screaming line drive by Elvis Andrus that David Bote made a nice snag on at third base.

Clearly, Kimbrel is still a work in progress.

The Cubs took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth, the first of the two runs on another home run by Joc Pederson [VIDEO].

Pederson’s a hot hitter, now batting .429 this spring with a 1.672 OPS.

Jonathan Holder, who’s trying to hold on to a bullpen slot, didn’t do himself any favors, allowing two runs and not finishing the inning he was assigned, the fifth. The A’s had a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the fifth.

The Cubs then tied the game up. Ian Happ doubled and Willson Contreras singled him to third. Pederson’s double made it 5-4, and after pinch-runner Chase Strumpf was thrown out at the plate on a ground ball by Jason Heyward, Bote doubled in Pederson with the tying run, but pinch-runner Ortega was thrown out trying to score.

The A’s put together a run off Dillon Maples in the sixth. It wasn’t all Maples’ fault. He tried to field a ground ball that bounced off his hand and Strumpf couldn’t finish the play. Tyler Soderstrom doubled to make it 6-5 A’s and Oakland added two more off Jake Jewell in the top of the seventh.

But that just set up Ortega’s heroics. It was all subs by the time the bottom of the seventh happened. With one out, Jose Lobaton singled and Strumpf walked. Abiatal Avelino put together a nice at-bat and blooped a single to left to load the bases, and then Ortega followed with the home run.

You usually don’t get that much entertainment value out of a spring training game. Most of the crowd hung around for the end and gave Ortega a nice ovation. It wasn’t quite an “ultimate grand slam” like the one Bote hit in 2018 because there was only one out, but it was exciting nevertheless.

Wednesday, the Cubs head to Scottsdale Stadium to face the Giants. Alec Mills will start for the Cubs and Nick Tropeano will start for San Francisco. Game time is again 2:05 p.m. CT. There’s no TV for Wednesday’s game. There will be an audio webcast on MLB.com with the Giants announcers. If you didn’t see today’s walkoff win, it will be rebroadcast on MLB Network Tuesday evening at 10 p.m. CT.

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Chicago Cubs manager David Ross began to piece together his starting rotation on Tuesday as he announced that starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks will be the team’s Opening Day starter on April1 when the team opens the season Cheap Chicago Cubs Jerseys against the Pittsburgh Pirates. For Hendricks, this only solidifies that he is the ace of the Cubs starting rotation. After spending past seasons with veterans Jon Lester and Yu Darvish in the starting rotation, Hendricks never appeared to be firmly cemented as the team’s ace.

No longer with the team are Darvish and Lester and that means that Hendricks is the anchor of the Cubs’ starting rotation. Hendricks was the 2020 opening day starting pitcher for the Cubs as well. During the 2020 season, Hendricks posted a 2.88 ERA/3.55 FIP/0.996 WHIP in 81.1 innings pitched.

Entering the 2021 season, there is no question that Hendricks is the only certainty in the Cubs’ rotation. What will be an interesting watch this season is if Hendricks pops up in trade rumors. The speculation during the off-season was that the Cubs were potentially talking about a mega-trade with the New York Mets that centered around Hendricks and third baseman Kris Bryant.

As the Cubs’ roster is currently constructed, Hendricks is one of the more valuable pieces that the team has in terms of a potential trade. Between his team-friendly contract and consistent performance, Hendricks likely will be a trade candidate for teams in July in the event that the Cubs become sellers. A trade of Hendricks would certainly expedite the Cubs’ efforts to rebuild their farm system with talented prospects.

Of course, the Cubs can also decide that Hendricks is the pitcher that the team will need to build their next contending team around. Entering the 2021 season, Hendricks leads a starting rotation for the Cubs that is filled with question marks.

Behind Hendricks, The Cubs have veterans Kyle Davies and Jake Arrieta penciled into the rotation. After those three, the Cubs are looking at a cast of Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay, Trevor Williams, Shelby Miller, and Kohl Stewart as options.

If the Cubs’ rotation is going to return to form and be one of the strengths of the team, then they will need Alzolay to find success at the Major League level. After struggling in 4 appearances during the 2019 season, Alzolay was impressive during the shortened 2020 campaign. Alzolay posted a 2.95 ERA/ 3.05 FIP/ 1.172 WHIP in 21.1 innings pitched last season with the Cubs. They will need more of that from Alzolay in 2021 if the starting rotation is going to find consistent success.

RELATED STORY: What is the Cubs’ perfect 2021 starting lineup?
With Kyle Hendricks officially tabbed as the Chicago Cubs opening day starting pitcher, expect the rest of the rotation to come into focus over the course of the coming days.