Good morning, frents!
Look, I'm just going to level with you.
I started Midway Minute a month before a pandemic started and wrote my way through five months of no sporting events.
I am not certain I can promise the same effort, drive and optimism through a Bears season led by Andy Dalton.
Panthers 6, Hawks 3
Cubs 4, Sox 4
Thunder at Bulls (8, NBCSCH)
Sox at Padres (3, no TV)
Cubs — Off
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Can Cease fire in 2021?
Last week, David Brown wrote about Nico Hoerner and how he has the potential to solve problems for the Cubs if he blossoms in 2021.
The South Side's version of that bonus wild card might be Dylan Cease, who took the hill on Monday for the first time this spring.
The 25-year-old righty performed pretty well against the Cubs, too. Cease gave up just one hit, struck out two and walked none over three innings, earning him a clip on the Pitching Ninja Twitter feed in the process.
"I think we're right where we need to be," Cease told reporters.
Cease currently slots at the No. 4 spot behind Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn and just ahead of whoever trips and falls into the No. 5 spot.
Whether or not Cease trends forward with that opening trio or backward with Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon remains to be seen.
Sox fans are optimistic it will be the former as Cease hooks up with new pitching coach Ethan Katz and hopefully gets the same makeover Lucas Giolito received before the 2019 season.
The key for Cease in 2021 will be locating his pitches and improving his sequences. After all, there's no doubt he has the stuff. Jonathan Lucroy arrived on the team this spring and called Cease's pitches "devastating."
But can he be devastating every five days?
That's the big question.
Cease only has 26 big league starts to his name and his numbers aren't the type that will make the Cubs regret sending him south with Eloy Jimenez in 2017's Jose Quintana trade.
At least not yet. Cease's career ERA is 5.71 and his WHIP stands at 1.50. He's struggled with walking too many batters and he gave up 12 homers in 12 games last year. Despite a solid August, he faltered in September and was only trusted to pitch one inning in the playoff loss to Oakland.
But his minor-league pedigree belies the "most similar player" comp (Jesse Foppert!) he currently holds on Baseball Reference. And Katz's work with Giolito has been so stellar that it's going to make believers of the fanbase's darkest clouds.
“I want to be a valuable member of the team, and I know that starts with me throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys,” Cease said on Monday.
It sounds simple enough.
But Cease making it look that way will be another matter.
Freezing Cold Take
Given the way this month has gone, it makes sense the Cubs and Sox tied their first spring training game on Monday.
But at least it happened in a highly-entertaining manner for everyone not named Liam Hendriks or this fan who got some instant knowledge from Patrick Wisdom ...
Andy Dalton to the Bears?
The Bears were quiet on the first day of legal tampering period as two potential free agent quarterbacks made plans for the fall. Jameis Winston is returning to the Saints while Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a one-year deal with Washington.
The Bears' biggest rumors came in Brad Biggs reporting the team is kicking the tires on Washington OL Trent Williams and Ian Rapaport linking the Bears to the Red Rifle himself. (A late night Biggs tweet concerning Dalton and the Bears solidified the panic even more.)
As I said up top, there's no way I'm getting on board with a 2021 season led by Dalton and I have to think the team is smart enough to know it'd kill fan interest in the season long before it ever started.
Then again, smart and the Bears have rarely been neighbors. Today has the potential to be an extremely masochistic day on Bears Twitter.
Hawks blow another multi-goal lead
Don't look now, but the Hawks are regressing to the mean.
Despite opening a two-goal lead over the NHL-leading Panthers, Florida scored the final five goals of the game for a 6-3 win and a clean sweep of the two-game series.
The Hawks have lost four of their last five games and the schedule isn't getting any easier. They'll play two against the Lightning in Tampa on Thursday and Saturday before returning to Chicago to play the Panthers in another two-game set next week.
- What could an Allen Robinson contract look like? Windy City Gridiron
- Dan Pompei's piece on Mike Richardson's downfall was excellent and not just because I learned Buddy Ryan's interpretation of "L.A." and that Richardson once stood up a young Halle Berry. Whoops. The Athletic
- As predicted, DePaul fired Dave Leitao on Monday. Jon Greenberg throws out Jon Scheyer's name for the job, though I think Scheyer is too smart to return home and take it. The Athletic
- How Patrick Williams used cutting to score his career-high 23 points against Toronto. NBC Sports Chicago
- Manny's Deli will give out free sandwiches for a day if customers go an entire month without being reminded to nudge up their chin diaper. Honestly, they might as well promise everyone through the door on Day 2 a million dollars because there's no way this lasts more than one lunch shift. Tribune