CINCINNATI -- Looking past what’s right in front of you is, at best, frowned upon in sports, including baseball -- at least in public. Nobody wants to look as if they’re not focusing on the task immediately at hand.
In the case of the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, that was the Cincinnati Reds in the finale of their three-game series, but when Cubs manager Dale Sveum was approached about his plans for the next series, an interleague event against the left-hander-heavy Chicago White Sox, he admitted that he might as well talk about it since he already had been examining it.
The White Sox are expected to start left-handed pitchers Jose Quintana, Chris Sale and John Danks in the first three of the four consecutive games, scheduled to be played at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday and Tuesday and Wrigley Field on Wednesday and Thursday. That left Sveum facing the problem of how to most effectively deploy the left-handed batters in his lineup, and he admitted that he’d been giving it some thought.
“I’ve got it all written down in the office,” he said while sitting in the visitors’ dugout at Great American Ball Park on Sunday morning. “They are three completely different types of left-handers.”
Designated hitters will be in play for the first two games at the American League site, and Sveum plans to use right-hander Scott Hairston as the DH with Ryan Sweeney in right field and Julio Borbon in center field. Against Sale on Tuesday, Sveum expects to use switch-hitting catcher Dioner Navarro as the DH.
“(David) DeJesus will play the third day, the way it’s set up,” Sveum said.
Of course, Sveum joked a day earlier that he’d pondered alternatives. The subject came up as he was being questioned about possibly giving then-slumping first baseman Anthony Rizzo a day off. Somebody wondered who would bat third in the Cubs lineup.
“Feldman,” Sveum said with a smile, referring to pitcher Scott Feldman, who had hit his first career home run the previous night.
Feldman’s homer was the third by a Cubs pitcher in May to go along with 15 runs batted in, prompting the suggestion that some pitchers could fill the DH slots in AL parks.
“Don’t think I haven’t thought about that one,” Sveum said with a smile, playing along.
Sveum also admitted that he wasn’t particularly thrilled about the rivalry week-type format invented by Major League Baseball for interleague series between natural or traditional rivals that has them playing four consecutive games, two at each team’s home ballpark. MLB’s move this season to two, 15-team leagues created the necessity of playing interleague games somewhere every day. That, in turn, led to the new rivalry format. Somebody suggested it could take on a circus-like atmosphere.
“I like circuses,” Sveum said, smiling. “It’s such a strange circumstance, but there’s no other way to do it. It’s funny how it comes out that way.”
Catching up: Sveum expects to see right-handed pitcher Arodys Vizcaino when the Cubs get back to Chicago after wrapping up their six games away from Wrigley. Vizcaino is one of two Cubs right-handers working their way back from Tommy John surgery. Both he and Scott Baker are on the 60-day disabled list.
Sveum couldn’t speculate on Baker’s progress.
“He’s long tossing right now,” Sveum said. “We’ll have to wait to see how his first mound sessions go, but I think he should be able to get back this year. There’s a chance we could see him in August. Vizcaino, hopefully, sooner.”
Looking way ahead: Sveum doesn’t get much input on which player the Cubs pick first in the annual First-Year Player Draft, scheduled this year for June 6, but he has studied several of the players the team appears to be most interested in. Among them are two pitchers, Stanford’s Mark Appel and Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma.
“They’re pretty special arms,” Sveum said. “They’re two different guys. Appel is so advanced as far as his secondary pitches, and Gray can just power you away with easy life on the fastball. It looks like it’s showing 85 (miles per hour) and it’s 100. They’re both pretty good. I don’t know if one separates from the other one.”
Sveum also has seen video of two third basemen -- San Diego’s Kris Bryant and North Carolina’s Colin Moran.
“He is another polished-type hitter at that age already,” Sveum said about Moran. “He has a Robin Ventura-type swing and presence at the plate. He has really good plate discipline and not really the power numbers that Bryant can put up. Bryant is a big 6-foot-5, some kind of leverage at the plate. Two different hitters, one’s (Bryant) right, one’s left. It’s fun to watch them.”