Cubs

How Cubs open training camp in position of strength? Let them count the ways

How Cubs open training camp in position of strength? Let them count the ways

As the Cubs on Friday opened their second shot at a first impression this season, they were at full strength — minus one dishwashing mishap. And to hear the manager talk, they might be ready to play games as quickly as anyone in baseball.

Manager David Ross, who let the news slip during a Zoom session with reporters that all the Cubs players tested negative for COVID-19 during intake screening, already has his replacement pool in place for starter Jose Quintana (badly cut thumb/dishwashing), plans the team’s first intrasquad game Saturday and would seem to have very few job battles open in this three-week training camp.

“Thankfully, we’ve had a group that stayed ready,” Ross said, “and taking live batting practice, and [pitchers] have been throwing live bullpens and followed the protocols that our coaches have set out. 

“All of them look like they’re in phenomenal shape.”

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Spoken like every manager on every first day of spring training. Except it was July, in Chicago, with three anxious weeks between now and the scheduled openers of a 60-game sprint of a would-be baseball season.

So, strap on the mask. Snap on the latex gloves.

And count the Cubs’ blessings as things open up:

— Aside from left-hander Quintana, the fourth starter whose season is in doubt as the Cubs await the progress in a few weeks of the surgically repaired nerve in his thumb, the Cubs expect to have everybody else scheduled to be in camp available for workouts, Ross said. This while teams such as the Phillies (four COVID-19 cases) and the Angels (nine inactive for undisclosed reasons) deal with more severe roster losses from the outset.

—Even Quintana’s loss has already, presumably, been replaced by sixth-man Alec Mills — whom Ross has “a ton of confidence in” — with right-handers Colin Rea, Adbert Alzolay and Jharel Cotton in the wings as rotation depth and candidates to fill Mills’ swingman/long role in the bullpen.

“We’ve gotten a lot of good reports back from the work that Colin Rea’s put in,” Ross said. “Jharel Cotton is a huge pickup, especially in this shortened season — and not having a lot of innings under his belt the last couple of years. And he feels really good and has stayed sharp. So, we’ve got some good options to fill that void internally that I have extreme confidence in.”

As for looking for outside help with Quintana down, Ross called that a “wait and see” proposition for front office bosses Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. “Jed and Theo are working hard on all areas of that.”

—Did somebody say job battles? When last they trod the diamond in March, the Cubs essentially had only a few bullpen spots, the center field mix (Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ or a combination of both) and second base (Jason Kipnis and/or Nico Hoerner) to figure out. But with a 30-man roster to start the short season, all four of those position players should not only be on the roster but also be in position to play significant roles. And the additional spots for pitchers figures to make some of the bullpen calls less fraught.

“We’ve got a little more leeway for some [roster] expansion,” Ross said. “But those pieces are going to be important, and they’re going to have value when they are on this team. So, you’ve still got to look at them through the same lens in putting the best group that you can together.”

—Did somebody say they’ve got to get a look at guys in competitive situations? Ross said enough pitchers have stayed on top of their throwing programs that his starters are ready to throw three innings out of the chute. Consequently, intrasquad games start Saturday, though Ross is ready to employ pitch limits and hamstring-forgiving guidelines for base running the first several days.

Still, as past Cubs managers have often learned the hard way, Ross seems to understand this will be no push-button operation, especially under these trying circumstances over these next few one-day-at-a-time weeks.

“It’s not something we can map out and say this is how we’re going to run things,” Ross said. “We’re going to take feedback from the players and when we can push them a little bit harder, we’re going to push them, and when we feel like we’ve got to back off, we’ll slow things down a little bit.

“Everything we’re having to do now is unique.”

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Cubs' Javier Báez, wife Irmarie are expecting a second child

Cubs' Javier Báez, wife Irmarie are expecting a second child

Cubs shortstop Javier Báez made a big announcement on Monday: he and his wife, Irmarie, are expecting a second child. 

Báez revealed the news in an adorable social media post with the help of his 2-year-old son, Adrian.

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Congrats to the Báez family!

RELATED: Javy Baez's 1-year-old son already has all the makings of a baseball superstar

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Cubs GM Jed Hoyer on unrest in Chicago: 'There's so much tension in the world'

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer on unrest in Chicago: 'There's so much tension in the world'

Cubs manager David Ross learned on Monday of the previous night’s unrest in downtown Chicago from his players. Some lived close enough for it to wake them up.

“I just listened to their stories,” Ross said. “I just feel like every day there’s something new. And I hope … our world gets back to being better in so many ways: health, society, emotionally, trying to get back to loving one another as best we can, as human beings.”

Police, responding to a call about a man with a gun, shot a young man in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood on Sunday afternoon. According to police, the individual was 20 years old and shot first as he fled from a confrontation. The officers returned fire. The young man was taken to the hospital and is expected to survive, according to Chicago police Superintendent David Brown.

CPD Deputy Chief Yolanda Talley told reporters that misinformation about the age of the individual spread. Investigators said the same misinformation sparked the destruction downtown in the early hours of Monday morning.

Hundreds of people gathered downtown, vandalizing and looting stores along the Magnificent Mile and surrounding areas. More than 100 people were arrested. A civilian and a private security guard were shot, according to the Chicago Tribune. Thirteen police officers were injured.

“There's so much tension in the world right now,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said, “between the economy, unemployment numbers and COVID, just a constant sense of anxiety is over your daily lives, that violence… is going to happen with all this tension.

“And I think that the hope is that we can release that tension here hopefully soon, whether it's through a vaccine, or through controlling the virus better or improving the economy because with so much tension on everyone's lives right now, it's a sad end result of what's happening.”