Cubs

Cubs: David Ross confirms he will retire after 2016

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Cubs: David Ross confirms he will retire after 2016

MESA, Ariz. - On the day of the Cubs' first official workout, David Ross confirmed 2016 would be his last season as a player.

It wasn't exactly a bombshell or a surprise, given Ross is in the final year of his deal with the Cubs and he's been hinting at retirement for a little while now.

"It's time," Ross said. "I don't want to be that guy that stays at the party too long. It's time to get kicked out of the party."

[RELATED - Embrace the Target: Joe Maddon wants Cubs to run into the fire]

Ross will turn 39 during this spring training and admitted he doesn't know what he's going to do after his playing career. He wants to stick in baseball, but deflected with a joke when asked about a possible mangerial career - "If somebody gives me a manager job, they'd have to interview me first and see what an idiot I really am."

On many levels, Ross is already a coach, using his 14-plus years in the majors to help all the young players acclimate to life in The Show.

And he's always down for a good time, which he proved again Friday night with Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward:

 

 

"I made a joke," Ross said, "saying we should go into Dick's and act like we were buying all our stuff and Rizzo's like, 'Let's do it!' So I was like, 'Alright, I'll let the kids have some fun at my expense.'"

The veteran catcher knows his place on this team, which now has World Series expectations after Ross and Jon Lester helped Joe Maddon change the culture in the clubhouse last season. 

Maddon spoke highly of Ross' influence in the locker room:

"In spite of not hitting .275 or better, he still creates this stature or maintains this stature in the clubhouse because of the respect people have for him about how he goes about his business," Maddon said. "And then when he says something, it's pertinent, it's right on.

"I really don't care what he hits batting-average-wise. His job is totally different. Whatever he hits is gravy for us. I love what he does. How well he interacts with Jon Lester and all the other stuff that he does for the team. It's almost immeasurable. It's that important."

Ross said he and new starter John Lackey - who is 37 - exchanged texts when Lackey first signed with the Cubs, saying they wanted to give it one last "whirl" at a championship before hanging 'em up.

"This isn't about me," Ross said. "There's so much good going on here. I don't think it should ever be about the backup catcher retiring that's a career .220 hitter.

"Listen, if it's about me, we're in trouble. There's none of that - this last this, this last that. I look forward to this ride.

"I need to prepare myself so I'm not the weak link on this team. I wanna be a guy that contributes to this team. I wanna have the best year that I possibly can to fit in with this group that's super talented."

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While Ross said he hasn't given much thought to life after his playing career, he did admit he has a few things on his bucket list for 2016 beyond a World Series.

He wants to take in everything he can, experiencing the moments and seeing the sights on road trips. He also said he will write down some of his thoughts, something he started this offseason.

Ross is entering his 15th year in the big leagues and has never entered spring training on a minor-league deal or as a non-roster invitee, an area he admitted he takes some pride in.

A reporter asked Ross if he will go out like Peyton Manning (assuming the Super Bowl-winning quarterback does, indeed, call it a career), but the Cubs catcher again deflected with a self-deprecating joke:

"When you're the backup catcher with a .200 average," Ross said, "I think it's more like 'Let's just get this guy out of the game. We'll move him on, next guy.'"

Brandon Morrow ruled out for the year as Cubs dealt another big blow to bullpen

Brandon Morrow ruled out for the year as Cubs dealt another big blow to bullpen

Brandon Morrow won't be riding in to save the day for the Cubs bullpen this October.

Theo Epstein ruled the closer out for the year Tuesday evening, saying Morrow just couldn't make it all the way back from a bone bruise.

"Every time he pitched, it got worse," Epstein said, according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat.

Morrow hasn't pitched since before the All-Star break while battling the bone bruise in his forearm.

The Cubs gave him as much time as possible to recover and then he tried to ramp up his rehab over the last couple weeks in an effort to make it back for the postseason. 

He threw off a mound twice last week and then faced live hitters in a sim game Saturday that supposedly went well with the hope of being activated either sometime this week in Arizona or over the weekend on the South Side for the Cubs-White Sox series.

This leaves the Cubs in a serious hole in the bullpen for October, a time when relievers become some of the most important players on the roster.

With Pedro Strop's hamstring injury he suffered last Thursday in Washington D.C., the Cubs are down their top two relief pitchers for the final two weeks of the regular season and will be down at least Morrow in the playoffs. 

Strop said Monday he hoped to be able to return to the Cubs over the final weekend of the regular season (Sept. 28-30), but there is still a lot up in the air with his timeline. 

The Cubs are now left with a bullpen that includes Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, Carl Edwards Jr. and Jesse Chavez plus a bunch of question marks.

[RELATED — Jesse Chavez has emerged as the most important pitcher in Cubs bullpen]

Will Dillon Maples be able to carve out a role in the October bullpen? What about Jorge De La Rosa or Jaime Garcia? 

The next 13 days will be telling.

Morrow has a long history of injuries over his career - making only 91 appearances (21 starts) and pitching 180.1 innings over the last five seasons entering 2018. He emerged as a dynamic piece of the Dodgers bullpen last October and appeared in each game of the World Series against the Astros.

This is the second pitcher the Cubs have ruled out for the season with a bone bruise, as Yu Darvish also had to be shut down due to a bone bruise in his elbow. Darvish had a debridement procedure on his elbow last week and is supposed to be ready to go for spring training 2019.

Theo Epstein gets a little sassy in response to doubt about Cubs bullpen

Theo Epstein gets a little sassy in response to doubt about Cubs bullpen

Theo Epstein made it known to everyone that he believes in the Cubs bullpen and even shared some statistics with reports yesterday when asked about his club's lack of a true closer. 

The rest of Epstein's comments can be found here, but the Cubs President of Baseball Operations clearly has heard enough about the Cubs bullpen being doomed without Pedro Strop and Brandon Morrow, but that hasn't been the case. Since Strop injured his hamstring, the bullpen has thrown 9.2 scoreless innings and seen three different pitchers collect saves in Randy Rosario, Steve Cishek, and Jorge De La Rosa. 

And Epstein is right, the Cubs do own the best ERA among bullpens in the National League with a 3.30 ERA, Padres are in behind them at 3.52 ERA. However, if someone were to check Twitter about the state of the Cubs bullpen, it might seem like things are far worse than they really are. And while they may not have a true closer at the moment, and possibly longer with Brandon Morrow being shut down for the season, the Cubs are the best in baseball at keeping the ball in the park (0.79 HR/FB) and have the best opponent batting average in the National League. 

And when factoring in how many relievers in the bullpen have closing experience, the Cubs bullpen is in better shape than most despite suffering injuries in the second half to their two main closing options in Strop and Morrow. So, for Theo Epstein's sake, stop worrying about the bullpen because the Cubs certainly are not.