Earlier today, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago appeared with host Jeff Todd on this week’s edition of the MLBTR Podcast, and the two discussed a variety of Cubs topics, from the Welington Castillo trade to Starlin Castro and the team’s rotation. For Cubs fans (and others) who have already checked that out, though, here are a few more notes on the team that sits four games back in the NL Central and currently leads the Padres 3-0…

  • Infielder Javier Baez has hit well at Triple-A this season, posting a .296/.375/.423 batting line in 80 plate appearances, but there doesn’t seem to be any rush to get him back to the big leagues at this time. Via David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (on Twitter), GM Jed Hoyer said that the Cubs “…want to take our time on Javy Baez. He is playing well, but we want to let him continue to keep working right now.” Addison Russell has seen most of the time at second base, where many thought Baez would play this season. After some early struggles, Russell has settled in and is hitting .273/.333/.455 over a 22-game stretch.
  • Speaking of Russell, agent Scott Boras, who represents both Russell and Kris Bryant, praised the Cubs organization prior to tonight’s game, writes Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Boras feels that both Bryant and Russell have “dramatically” improved since joining the team, leading him to praise the organization’s developmental techniques. Boras said that his main gripe in Spring Training was that he wanted Bryant to know that his fate wasn’t pre-determined (presumably, that is, to know that he wouldn’t be reassigned to minor league camp at the end of Spring Training). He also praised manager Joe Maddon for his communication skills and work with young players. “Joe Maddon is a talent,” said Boras. “He’s very good at giving the players a focus at a variety of levels of their careers. And that has a lot to do with why they’re performing so well in their careers.”
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports feels that the Cubs should think twice before considering a trade of Castro. Rosenthal spoke to a number of Castro’s teammates as well as Maddon, assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske and president Theo Epstein — all of whom feel that the 25-year-old has made strides in terms of maturity, preparedness and defense this season. Rosenthal notes that with $37MM owed to Castro from 2016-19, his contract is highly affordable as well. Of course, Castro has struggled at the plate early this year, as even after a pair of singles tonight he’s hitting .272/.304/.346, which translates to a wRC+ of just 76 (24 percent worse than the league average).

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Rays left-hander Drew Smyly tells reporters, including Matt Stein of Sports Talk Florida, that he will not undergo surgery on his left shoulder, as had previously been reported to be likely. Instead, Smyly will undergo an eight-week rehab program that doctors feel will allow him to pitch again this season.

Smyly’s rehab program would have the lefty — acquired as one of the key pieces in last July’s three-team David Price/Austin Jackson blockbuster — playing catch again within a week or two, Stein writes. Doctors have told Smyly that the tear he has in his labrum is not significant and were nothing but positive about the results of his MRI. Surgery “isn’t even an option” at this time, per Stein.

That, of course, doesn’t preclude surgery entirely; as Stein notes, the end result of the injury could be that Smyly is forced to go under the knife. Smyly pointed to former college teammate (and current Dodgers right-hander) Mike Bolsinger as a reason to be optimistic. Bolsinger had a similar situation in his right shoulder in college but rehabbed the slight tear, Smyly says, and never wound up undergoing surgery to repair the issue. Smyly feels that it’s possible for him to return to the Rays in July or August. “I’m hopeful and confident that I’ll pitch again this year,” he said.

If Smyly is to avoid surgery altogether, it could be a major boon to the Rays’ playoff chances. The team currently sits with a 22-19 record — tied with the Yankees for the AL East lead. (They’re also leading the A’s 1-0 as of this writing.) If Smyly can return, he would join a rotation that has lost Alex Cobb but hopes to be bolstered by a returning Matt Moore next month. Chris Archer has taken a step forward in 2015, pitching like a No. 1 starter, while Jake Odorizzi has been excellent and Nathan Karns has come around after a slow start. A rotation of Archer, Odorizzi, Moore, Smyly and Karns would look formidable down the stretch, health permitting, and it could allow Alex Colome to shift to the bullpen, where his 94 mph fastball could play up even further.

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The Astros have released left-handed reliever Darin Downs, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). The 30-year-old was claimed off waivers out of the Tigers organization in 2013 but was outrighted to Triple-A following the 2014 season.

Downs spent significant time in the Houston bullpen last season but struggled to a 5.45 ERA with a 27-to-19 K/BB ratio with a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate in 34 2/3 innings of work. The cumulative result of Downs’ efforts in parts of three seasons at the Major League level is a 4.76 ERA with 8.3 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 43.5 percent ground-ball rate. Downs’ overall numbers aren’t particularly eye-catching, but he’s held left-handed hitters in check quite well as a big leaguer, allowing just a .202/.291/.310 batting line in 189 plate appearances. Downs has a 4.96 ERA with 11 strikeouts against three walks in 16 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level this season.

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The Brewers announced today that they have outrighted reliever Jim Henderson to Triple-A Colorado Springs. The right-hander, who formerly served as the club’s closer in the 2013 season, has struggled with shoulder injuries since that time, however.

Henderson, 32, is a former 26th-round pick of the Expos (2003) that didn’t surface in the Majors until his age-29 campaign. He’s totaled 102 innings at the Major League level and posted a solid 3.44 ERA with 12.1 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 32.5 percent ground-ball rate in that time, also accumulating 31 saves. He’s spent the 2015 season getting up to speed after labrum and rotator cuff debridement surgery in 2014. Henderson has reached the Triple-A level again, but he’s allowed four runs on seven hits and five walks with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings there.

That he’s been outrighted means that he’s already cleared waivers, so every club in the Majors passed on an opportunity to claim the 6’5″ righty. With this move, Milwaukee opens a spot on their 40-man roster, which now has 39 players.

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Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Royals have released left-hander Joe Paterson from his minor league contract, tweets Matt DeFranks of FOX Sports Kansas City. Paterson, who turned 29 two days ago, was a non-roster invitee and had a solid Spring Training that put him in consideration for a roster spot. However, he’s struggled at Triple-A this season, yielding eight runs on 14 hits and five unintentional walks with 12 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. Paterson has yet to replicate the strong numbers he put up in his 2011 rookie season with the D-Backs.
  • The Dodgers announced that they’ve signed infielder Dan Hennigan to a minor league contract and assigned him to Class-A Great Lakes, the team announced (on Twitter). The 25-year-old was a non-drafted free agent and had been playing with the independent Camden RiverSharks of the Atlantic League.

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The Dodgers have indefinitely suspended Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena for undisclosed disciplinary reasons, reports Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman confirmed to Plunkett that the 25-year-old Arruebarrena is suspended but declined to give further detail, referring to the situation as an “internal matter.” As Plunkett points out, that would suggest that Arruebarrena has not done something that would warrant a league-mandated suspension (e.g. PED usage, drug of abuse).

Arruebarrena won’t collect any of his guaranteed salary while he is on the restricted list. The defensive-minded shortstop signed a five-year, $25MM contract with the Dodgers in February 2014 that contained a $7.5MM signing bonus and called for annual salaries of $1.5MM (2014), $3MM (2015), $4MM (2016-17) and $5MM (2018). The Dodgers’ new front office — headed by Friedman, GM Farhan Zaidi and senior vice president Josh Byrnes — clearly was never as enamored with Arruebarrena as the preceding group; Arruebarrena was designated for assignment this offseason and outrighted off the 40-man roster after clearing waivers.

Arruebarrena received a cup of coffee with the Dodgers last year, hitting .195/.244/.220 in just 45 plate appearances at the big league level. His minor league work was more impressive, with his best work coming in 95 PAs at the Triple-A level. Overall, in 272 minor league PAs, Arruebarrena slashed .259/.304/.417 with six homers and a pair of stolen bases. As Plunkett reminds, however, he was also seen as the catalyst in a brawl between the Triple-A affiliates for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, and his role in that tussle netted him a five-game suspension from the Pacific Coast League.

Friedman declined to indicate exactly how long Arruebarrena would be suspended, but he’s yet to play a single game for the Dodgers at any level in 2015.

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Ben Revere‘s name has begun to surface in trade rumors, but the speedy outfielder tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he isn’t fazed by seeing his name floated as a trade candidate. Revere says that the talk isn’t distracting, characterizing it as something that every player has to deal with at some point. (I’d imagine that having been traded once in the past has prepared him somewhat as well.) “This is a business,” Revere says. “When [Cody] Asche and [Domonic Brown] come back we’re going to have a lot of outfielders and someone might be out. I just have to prepare to help my team win whether it’s here or somewhere else. Just bust my tail and try to stay in the lineup.” Salisbury adds that he, like others, hears that the Angels have indeed discussed Revere with the Phillies.

Some more Phillies notes…

  • Continuing to play Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could actually help the Phillies’ rebuild, opines MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. Zolecki points out that in mid-April, fans wanted Howard to be benched, if not released, but he’s hitting .292/.346/.615 with eight homers in 27 games dating back to April 21. By demonstrating that level of production, Zolecki notes, Howard can only have helped his trade value. The same could eventually be said of Utley, who is struggling badly this year. The Phils have little to lose by continuing to run Utley out there, however, he argues. The club will have plenty of time to see Cesar Hernandez play in the coming years, and Utley isn’t blocking a top-tier prospect. While some are worried about triggering Utley’s vesting option, Zolecki notes that if he’s still hitting well below .200 come July, the team can very easily alter that pace in the second half of the season.
  • General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and president Pat Gillick were on hand for yesterday’s Double-A Reading game, writes Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, and the two saw a masterful performance by 2014 first-round pick Aaron Nola. The Phillies’ top decision-makers saw Nola fire seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and a walk against seven strikeouts in an effort that dropped his ERA to 1.54 through 52 2/3 innings. However, Amaro said that the team is not yet ready to give Nola a look at the Major League level, Lawrence writes. “There are some things he needs to work on still,” said Amaro. “There’s some areas he’s continuing to work on. We continue to discuss and put together a plan for him. We’re in the middle of formulating that plan.” Amaro wouldn’t say what specific areas Nola needed to improve, but the GM did say that it was certainly within the realm of possibility that Nola would pitch in the Major Leagues this season.

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