Dillon Maples Experience on Full Display Friday Night

Dillon Maples is exactly what the Cubs need in the bullpen: A pitcher with elite velocity and nasty stuff who can miss a ton of bats. Unfortunately, he’s exactly what the Cubs don’t need in the bullpen: A pitcher with control issues who can miss the zone a ton.

We saw both aspects of Maples’ profile on full display Friday night, with the better side winning out. He walked the first two batters he faced on 11 pitches, eight of them fastballs in the 97-98 range that generally failed to come anywhere near the zone. His last pitch to Ketel Marte was a slider, the first he’d thrown in the outing.

It was a ball, but it clearly got Maples going. The slider is his best weapon and might be the best pitch of its kind in the game today. Maybe ever.

He dropped a 90 mph wiffleball for a called strike one on Ildemaro Vargas, then fired a 97 mph heater that was fouled off. Then he made like a traveling smut peddler and came to the front door armed with a load of filth.

After dispatching David Peralta in similar fashion, opening up with two choice sliders for called strikes before getting a foul and a whiff, Maples faced veteran Adam Jones. This is a guy who’s been in the league since 2006 and has faced the best the game has to offer. And folks, Jones wanted no part of Maples.

Like a first-time Little Leaguer who’s afraid of the ball, Jones was bailing out on everything. He nearly jumped out of the box on a slider that appeared to clip the inside corner for a ball. Then he turned away from another pitch that was farther in. The next pitch, another slider, split the plate right down the center.

Jones was so baffled by what Maples was throwing him that he ducked away in fear and then gave a look like, “I don’t know what I’m even doing up here.”

After getting Jones to swing through a fastball, Maples then bent another slider for a called third strike and strutted off the mound unscathed. The walks are going to come, that much we know. But if Maples can control that a little bit and settle down like he did Friday night in Arizona, the free passes may not matter.

He showed in Iowa that he was getting things under control, and his start this spring showed that he can harness the control to a greater degree than before. If he’s more consistent with that and limits the walks to a greater degree…You know, I don’t even want to allow myself to dream.

But, man, he’s fun to watch.

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