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Cubs glad Farrell's 'invisible pitch' on their side

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Manager Joe Maddon got his first look at Luke Farrell last season when the right-hander faced the Cubs twice while pitching in relief for the Reds.

"I like him because he's tall and throws the ball downhill," Maddon said of Farrell, who picked up his first Major League win on Monday, pitching in relief. "You don't see that too often any more. He does have a good slider and a split off of that. He's got carry on his ball.

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CHICAGO -- Manager Joe Maddon got his first look at Luke Farrell last season when the right-hander faced the Cubs twice while pitching in relief for the Reds.

"I like him because he's tall and throws the ball downhill," Maddon said of Farrell, who picked up his first Major League win on Monday, pitching in relief. "You don't see that too often any more. He does have a good slider and a split off of that. He's got carry on his ball.

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"Beyond that, when he comes out of the bullpen, he throws harder. I think he's got superior makeup."

Part of that could be Farrell's genes. He's the son of former big league manager John Farrell, and his two brothers work in the Cubs' organization. The Cubs acquired Luke in October when they claimed him off waivers from the Reds.

"There's nothing to not like [about him]," Maddon said. "I think he has the inner workings of being a successful Major League player beyond talent."

Albert Almora Jr. is glad Farrell is a teammate now.

"I always told him, facing him last year in Cincinnati, that it was a nightmare because he has an invisible [pitch]," Almora said. "It looks like it's going to be right at your barrel, and then you look at your bat, thinking there's a hole in the middle because you never hit it. I saw that firsthand [Monday] in the outfield, and it was awesome to see."

K's outnumber hits
The Cubs are one of four National League teams who had more hits than strikeouts through April.

Any reason more Major League teams had more K's in the first month of the season? Part of it could be the weather teams had to deal with in April, Maddon said. Teams also have added plenty of power arms to their bullpens.

"Look at bullpens," Maddon said. "Bullpens right now, if you have a high-velocity situation, the information -- data, analytics -- benefits pitching and defense. ... If you know exactly where to go when you get to two strikes, and this guy will respond in a consistent manner, I think that benefits pitching."

Chicago's Anthony Rizzo has a simpler explanation.

"You've got guys throwing 98 [mph] now -- every starter or reliever is throwing that, except Kyle Hendricks, who is the new tough guy in the league because he gets guys out throwing 86," Rizzo said. "Guys throwing 95, 96, 97 with an 88-mph slider, [it's tough]. I think eventually strikeouts will cut down. It's just a month."

The Pirates, Dodgers, Braves and Cubs were the NL teams with more hits than strikeouts in April.

Alzolay sharp at Triple-A
Top prospect Adbert Alzolay gave up one hit and walked two over seven innings while striking out six in Triple-A Iowa's 10-3 win over Omaha on Monday night. Alzolay is ranked No. 1 among Cubs prospects by MLB Pipeline.

Mike Freeman helped the right-hander, hitting three home runs in the game and finishing with five RBIs. It was Freeman's first career multi-homer game.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Luke Farrell