Jorge Soler

Cubs will welcome back Travis Wood, Jorge Soler and Jason Hammel in mini ring ceremony Monday

Cubs will welcome back Travis Wood, Jorge Soler and Jason Hammel in mini ring ceremony Monday

The Cubs will keep the festivities going at Wrigley Field Monday night as they welcome back a trio of players who helped end the 108-year championship drought.

Travis Wood, Jorge Soler and Jason Hammel — who are now all Royals — will travel from Kansas City to Chicago to take part in a mini ring ceremony before Monday's Cubs-Brewers game.

With no games scheduled against the Royals this season, the Cubs invited the trio up on Kansas City's off-day Monday in an effort to honor the former North Siders.

"I think it's awesome," Joe Maddon said. "The fact that we're doing it speaks to the organization to have that kind of foresight to do something like that and to have that first-class-ness. 

"There's no other way to do it. The date was there. We're flying them up, apparently, they're gonna get their rings. I thought it was perfect. We'll be excited to see all those guys again."

Hammel made 61 starts over the last two seasons with the Cubs — his second stint with the team — and went 15-10 last year with a 3.83 ERA. But he didn't see any time in the postseason as he wasn't on the active roster during any of the three series.

Hammel signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Royals this past winter after the Cubs kept their promise and let him test the free agent market.

[RELATED - Inside Jason Hammel's free-agent odyssey from Cubs to Royals]

Soler was traded to the Royals in the deal that brought closer Wade Davis to Chicago in December. The 25-year-old outfielder has struggled to stay healthy in his career (he's currently on the disabled list with Kansas City) and appeared in only 187 games the last two seasons with the Cubs, hitting 22 homers with a .741 OPS.

Soler was one of the first international signings by Theo Epstein's front office with the Cubs, inking a nine-year, $30 million deal that keeps him under team control through the 2020 season.

[MORE - Setting the record straight on Jorge Soler's hustle]

Wood was the longest-tenured Cubs player before he departed over the winter and inked a two-year, $12 million deal with the Royals.

The 30-year-old lefty pitched in 220 games with the Cubs — including 98 starts — with a 3.94 ERA, 1.267 WHIP and four saves. He was a valuable swingman who made nine appearances throughout the Cubs' World Series run that included hitting a home run in Game 2 the National League Division Series.

Wood was a fan and clubhouse favorite in his time in Chicago and flourished in a super-sub role under Maddon, adding pinch-hitting and pinch-running to his list of duties besides pitching and also played the outfield a few times, infamously making a catch in the vines on July 31 last summer.

No word yet on whether Wood will be wearing a shirt or camo vest for Monday's festivities.

Edgar Martinez? Miguel Cabrera? Eloy Jimenez made a huge impression on Joe Maddon in Cubs camp

Edgar Martinez? Miguel Cabrera? Eloy Jimenez made a huge impression on Joe Maddon in Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. – Could there be a Triple Crown/MVP/Cooperstown-level talent roaming around the back fields of the Sloan Park complex? Hey, who doesn't love a good story on St. Patrick's Day? But at the very least, Eloy Jimenez made a huge impression on manager Joe Maddon before the Cubs assigned their top prospect to minor-league camp. 

"What he showed to me is a tremendous understanding of his swing as a 20-year-old," Maddon said. "Watch him take batting practice. His left-field foul line is pretty much left-center. He doesn't really hook the baseball. He stays inside the ball as well as the most seasoned (hitter). 

"(It's the way) Edgar Martinez did (it). It's kind of like that approach or Miguel Cabrera. I'm not saying he's those guys yet. I'm just saying that's his approach. It's really sophisticated for a 20-year-old." 

Let's not write the Hall of Fame induction speech yet. Jimenez spent last season at Class-A South Bend. Spring training is the time and place for dreaming about young players. The Cubs obviously have a vested interest in talking up their kids down on the farm. And forget it when Maddon — who once compared Jorge Soler to Vladimir Guerrero "with plate discipline" — starts rolling. 

But at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and with that smooth right-handed swing, Jimenez certainly looks the part. Baseball America, ESPN, and FanGraphs all have him ranked as a top-15 prospect in the industry. The Cubs are already seeing a return on the $2.8 million investment they made in the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2013.

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"He's going to hit," Maddon said. "The velocity, ball off the bat, is incredible. He'll look awful on one pitch and then come back and hit a screaming line drive. He'll make quick adjustments. Again, really sophisticated or beyond his years at 20.
"I don't know when he's going to show up, but you know he's going to show up at some point. He's not many, many years out. But of course he needs another solid year or so — year-and-a-half at least, maybe two in the minor leagues — before you really want to strongly consider that. 

"The outfield defense, running routes, base-running, things of that nature, I definitely want to see him improve on also, and that was part of the conversation."          

It's not just about Jimenez. For Maddon, the larger story is the next generation of Cubs (or the growing stack of trade chips for Theo Epstein's front office). 

In cutting the roster to 43 on Friday, the Cubs also optioned catcher Victor Caratini, outfielder Jacob Hannemann and pitchers Pierce Johnson and Felix Pena to Triple-A Iowa. Joining Jimenez in minor-league camp will be infielder Chesny Young, a .300 hitter at five different levels already, and outfielder Mark Zagunis, a player Maddon compared to Kevin Millar in terms of hitting style and body type (not off-the-wall personality).

"We just sent out seven guys, one guy's already played in the big leagues, and the other six are going to," Maddon said. "That doesn't happen all the time when you have these meetings. You say: ‘Eh, you know, with this or with that…' No, Pena played already (in the majors). The other six guys will. I feel very confident about that. I don't know exactly when, but they will." 

How Wade Davis transformed into an elite pitcher by simply not caring

How Wade Davis transformed into an elite pitcher by simply not caring

MESA, Ariz. - Wade Davis doesn't listen to Beethoven before games anymore.

Not because his musical tastes have changed, but because he's one of the few baseball players who has moved away from rituals as he's grown in his career.

He used to listen to Beethoven as a way to chill out before pitching after coaches told him he needed to slow down and stop getting so amped up.

Now in a role as a closer, he doesn't do anything before games because he never knows for sure when he'll pitch.

"I try to stay away from rituals that I might be relying on," Davis said. "In the bullpen, you don't have as much time. There's that big gap of time where you're not going to be able to have that type of safety net.

"So I stopped doing that in general. I used to rely on, 'Oh, I'm listening to this music to get me in the right mindset.' I should already be in the right mindset.

"The preparation should be the ritual. Everything you've done the whole season, the winter, whatever gets you there."

In a game often dictated by superstitions and tradition, Davis has transformed into one of the best pitchers in the league — regardless of role — by unconventional means.

Among pitchers who have tossed at least 20 innings since the start of the 2014 season, Davis leads Major League Baseball in ERA (1.18), ahead of guys like Zach Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Clayton Kershaw.

Not bad for a guy who struggled with inconsistency as a starting pitcher and posted a 4.26 ERA through the first five seasons of his career.

So how did he do it?

For starters, he just stopped giving a damn.

Like when he could record only one out in his Cubs debut Sunday while giving up three runs on three hits and a walk against the Texas Rangers.

No matter.

When manager Joe Maddon went out to retrieve Davis from the mound, the new Cubs closer was smiling. 

"[I've stopped] caring about a lot of things," Davis said. "For example, that game [Sunday]. If I had a bad spring training outing then, people asking me questions like, 'What happened out there?' and I'm thinking there's something wrong, I should've done better. Instead of having the mindset of what it actually is. It is a training month, training for the season. 

"So I don't worry about little things anymore like that. Just trying to move it on to the next day and that type of stuff."

Clearly that mindset is serving him well.

Davis moved to the Kansas City bullpen in 2014 after struggling as a starter in his first year with the Royals (5.32 ERA) and wound up posting ridiculous numbers: 0.97 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 12.1 K/9 and only 3 homers allowed. He actually went all of 2014 (72 innings) without surrendering a longball.

He also allowed only one run and 19 baserunners across 25 postseason innings as he formed a dynamic back end of the bullpen (along with Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland) that lifted the Royals to back-to-back World Series appearances, including a 2015 title.

It's not like Davis had a poor season last year (1.87 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 0 HRs allowed), but 2016 was marred by a forearm issue that persisted throughout the season, limiting him to just 45 games and 43.1 innings.

The Cubs took a chance on Davis this winter, sending Jorge Soler and his enormous potential to Kansas City for the 31-year-old right-hander's final season before free agency.

It's also a reunion for Davis and Maddon, who worked together for four years with the Tampa Bay Rays from 2009-12 before Davis was sent to Kansas City in a trade that involved James Shields, Jake Odorizzi, Wil Myers and Davis' now-teammate Mike Montgomery.

Despite recording 1,376 outs for Maddon's Rays, Davis can still surprise his manager.

In Davis' appearance Sunday, Maddon was surprised to see the new closer throwing so hard.

"I'm used to seeing him throw 86, 87, 88 mph the first time he pitches," Maddon said. "He was at 92-94 mph and he hit 95 mph. That's quite a leap for me watching him."

But that was just the first step in Davis' 2017 season, a year in which his only goals are to stay healthy and help the Cubs win as much as possible.

He's not content with the elite level he's reached in his career.

When asked what lessons he can pass along to young Cubs relievers like Carl Edwards Jr., Davis balked at the notion that he is a teacher and not still a pupil:

"Maybe I'll learn something from them."