Cubs

Cubs expect David Ross to take on bigger role next season as Brandon Hyde shifts to bench coach

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USA TODAY

Cubs expect David Ross to take on bigger role next season as Brandon Hyde shifts to bench coach

David Ross took on so many jobs and projects in “retirement” that the Cubs didn’t really have a chance to get him as their new bench coach. Plus, Brandon Hyde has already done the job and is widely respected throughout the organization for his straight-shooting style.  

That locked another piece of Joe Maddon’s staff into place for 2018, when Hyde will shift back into the dugout from the first base coach’s box and Ross will continue to be a special assistant in Theo Epstein’s baseball operations department.  

“I think he’s going to get more involved in that role every year,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday on NBC Sports Chicago’s Cubs Talk Podcast. “With David, he probably wanted a more relaxing first year away from baseball, and to get a chance to spend more time with his family. That just didn’t happen, because he became too popular.

“It’s his own fault, right? ‘Dancing with the Stars’ took a lot of his time – and TV stuff – so I think he’s still very much in that transition period.”

Hyde, a farm director during the early stages of the Wrigley Field rebuild, has been a bench coach for the Florida Marlins (2010-11) and during Rick Renteria’s one-and-done season (2014) before Maddon became a prized free agent.

“Grandpa Rossy” is only 40 and just a year removed from his farewell tour with the World Series champs, which made him an in-demand personality for ESPN and as the author of a memoir that’s in movie development.     

As someone with 15 years of experience as a big-league player, the catching background that allowed him to see the game from many angles and a comfort level in front of the cameras and around reporters, Ross has many of the qualities the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers saw in World Series managers A.J. Hinch and Dave Roberts.

Ross and Hoyer caught up during the World Series in Houston. While Ross worked the event as a broadcaster, Hoyer showed up to represent the organization as Anthony Rizzo received the Roberto Clemente Award.

“He’ll jump in with two feet here soon,” Hoyer said. “I saw him at the World Series, and that’s kind of how he described it. But I think right now – given his desire to spend time with his family and have a little bit of a break after playing – that’s kind of where he is mentally.

“I respect that. When you play that long and travel that much, at some point, you want to take a rest from that.”     

The ascension of Javy Baez...into Manny Ramirez?

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USA TODAY

The ascension of Javy Baez...into Manny Ramirez?

"Javy being Javy" may have to start picking up steam as a slogan.

Baez has often been compared to Gary Sheffield for the lightning-quick batspeed, but the guy Joe Maddon keeps comparing Baez to is actually Manny Ramirez. (If you're keeping score at home, Baez has now been compared to Sheffield, Ramirez and Willie Mays — and that's just in the first month of the 2018 season.)

The Cubs manager believes the only thing that has kept Baez from being Ramirez at the plate is laying off pitches out of the zone, namely the slider low and away.

Ramirez was one of the game's best hitters for nearly two decades in the '90s and 2000s, a force in the middle of the Cleveland and Boston lineups during that time.

We may be witnessing a similar type of evolution for Baez right now, who is hitting .370 with 8 extra-base hits (including 5 homers), 12 RBI and 9 runs in 7 games on this homestand.

"You're seeing the ascension," Maddon said before Thursday's game. "I've talked about this for a bit — where the moment he starts laying off the down-and-away slider, he's Manny Ramirez.

"He's got that kind of abilities at the plate. It's just a matter of maturing as a hitter, which he will."

[PODCAST: Does Javy Baez have an MVP in his future?]

Ramirez has had a hand in helping Baez become the player he is now, as the former Red Sox great was hired by Theo Epstein as a hitting consultant with the Cubs and spent time in 2014 with Baez in Triple-A Iowa.

Baez is still just 25 years old and the maturation process has already started, as he is now looking to go the other way instead of trying to pull everything.

For a guy that's hit just 21.9 percent of his balls to right field in his career, Baez has seen a jump in 2018, with 28.9 percent of his balls in play going the other way, and that was before he lined a pair of 110 mph hits) to right to kick off Thursday's game.

He's locked in right now and it's still very early in the season, but everything Baez has shown thus far in 2018 has been encouraging.

"He's using the whole field — I can't emphasize that enough," Maddon said. "He might take that out-of-control swing, but then he comes right back to reality pretty quickly. Whereas that one [would] lead to the second one to the third one and then he comes walking back [to the dugout]. 

"So I think he's making in-at-bat adjustments. His approach has been entirely different. He's willing to use the other side."

Maddon and the Cubs have typically been slotting Baez in the eighth spot in the order this season, but as he's exploded offensively, he's seen a steady climb.

That culminated in a start in the 2-hole Thursday, the first time Baez has been there since 2016.

Maddon was looking for some "energy" from Baez atop the order and it worked to perfection as he tripled in the first inning and wound up scoring a few pitches later on Kris Bryant's single. Baez singled and scored in the second inning, too.

There will still be growing pains, like when Baez collided softly with Rizzo for a foul pop-up in the third inning Thursday, causing the ball to drop. And he still doesn't walk much and will be prone to the strikeout.

But Baez can help the Cubs win in a dozen different ways and it sure seems as if his bat is catching up to the rest of his game.

Did Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo just take the best 'prom' photo of 2018?

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USA TODAY

Did Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo just take the best 'prom' photo of 2018?

Prom season is upon us, and we may already have a winner for best photo of the 2018 season.

Cubs' superstars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, whose bromance has been well-documented, combined for a hilarious photo at Thursday's Bricks and Ivy Ball at Navy Pier. Check it out:

Look at those smiles!

In all seriousness, it's cool to see Bryant and Rizzo having fun with their bromance on and off the field. And while last night's event was not an actual prom, Bryzzo has to be in the running for best photo of the 2018 season.