3/9 Extra bases
* Arodys Vizcaino is all smiles after his two Cactus League outings. The Cubs right-hander, who has not pitched since 2011 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, was clocked at 98 mph on Friday in his relief outing against the Indians.
“I’m so happy right now,” Vizcaino said.
“His story is a great story because he’s trying to come back,” manager Rick Renteria said Sunday of the right-hander, acquired from the Braves in July 2012 in the Paul Maholm deal. “He’s worked very hard to get back to where he is right now and it’s still a progression. There are still some things that he’ll have to work through. We’ll be extremely patient with how we move forward with him.”
* Renteria said Sunday he had yet to speak with pitcher Edwin Jackson about the right-hander’s last outing in which he only threw fastballs. Jackson said he wanted to work on his fastball command, but didn’t tell Renteria or pitching coach Chris Bosio what his game plan was.
* Blake Parker knows it doesn’t matter what he did last year, or the year before. The right-hander is fighting for a spot in the Cubs’ bullpen and he’s not alone.
“There’s tons of guys here,” the reliever said, glancing around the Cubs’ clubhouse on Sunday. “You look around and you start putting yourself in places, and there’s a lot of competition in this locker room. There’s some unbelievable pitchers. Vizcaino is coming back from an injury, and I saw him the other day and he’s unbelievable to watch. It’s good for the team that you have a lot of competition. It only makes you better.”
But Parker has been a little inconsistent. In his first outing, he cruised through one inning of work. In his next two, he’s given up five hits and walked four over 1 1/3 innings. The problem, the right-hander said, are mechanical and mental issues.
“I felt like my last outing, I had a strong start,” he said of his relief appearance Friday. “I got a strikeout, and got 0-2 and threw a bad pitch and gave up a hit, and another hit, and kind of got away from attacking guys and got a little timid out there, which is what I meant by the [mental issues]. From that, [I tried] to make the perfect pitch, and my mechanics started to get out of whack, and then it spiraled downhill.
“It’s time for me to get it going and really focus on the things I need to focus on and get after it and work on the things I need to work on so I’m ready when the season starts.”
Parker is competing for a spot in the bullpen with right-handers Vizcaino, Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, Alberto Cabrera, Pedro Strop, and Carlos Villanueva.
* Anthony Rizzo did not hit a single home run last spring, then belted 23 during the regular season. Does Cubs manager Rick Renteria need to see the first baseman connect to know if Rizzo is ready for the season?
“No, I know he’s got power,” Renteria said Sunday. “Once you start to get into the flow of the game and you’re swinging the bat well, a gentlemen like ‘Riz’ who has pop, those come.”
Last spring, Rizzo batted .229, and so far this year, he’s 7-for-16 with two doubles and a triple.
“I actually don’t use the [Spring Training] stats as much as you might think,” Renteria said. “I’m more concerned with the approaches they’re having at the plate. One thing we want him to do is focus on his strength, which is the left center field gap. His approach has been working, and I think it’s a conscious effort.”
– Carrie Muskat