There’s always that moment late in a February Spring Training game when fans scan the field and wonder, “Who are these guys?”
The Cubs’ exhibition game against the White Sox on Sunday likely won’t prompt those questions from Cubs fans.
“I’m going to treat it like a real game as much as possible,” Cubs manager David Ross said.
If the 60-game season is a sprint, Ross plans to jog up to the starting line. The Cubs play every day for the first 17 games of the season. A slow start could effectively sink the team’s playoff chances. So, the Cubs’ three exhibition games this coming week won’t be about trotting out every guy on the roster.
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The intraquad scrimmages accomplished that – plus the bonus of assistant clubhouse manager Danny Mueller briefly taking left field in one scrimmage.
“There’s going to be guys who need work and to see pitches,” Ross said. “I’m going to listen to these guys and their bodies. We pushed them hard (during summer training).”
For position players, Ross hopes to get his starters three to four at-bats in a game.
The Cubs will keep track of how many pitches their pitchers throw, but Ross isn’t planning on scripting out which relievers will take the mound when. Making it an in-game decision is as much for the first-time manager as it is for the pitchers.
“I think the main thing for me is just having those conversations,” Ross said, “not going in with a predetermined plan. Making sure I have conversations with my pitching coach, with my bench coach, what spot’s (up) in the lineup, who’s going up, just start to prepare myself to be ready for a game and how we want to utilize matchups.”
Ross managed Spring Training games before the shutdown and simulated games with the Cubs research and development team during the break. But never a game that counted toward the Cubs’ record.
“I’m taking it as a preparation moment for me, finding my routine, finding out our new daily process to getting ready for a series,” Ross said.
The Cubs play exhibition games against the White Sox on Sunday and Monday, and the Twins on Wednesday. Two days later, the Cubs open the season against the Brewers.