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7 takeaways from the beginning of Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. — Baseball is finally back again!

Who cares if it truly is exhibition — the Cubs have an actual sport of baseball nowadays in Arizona. 

The Cubs are rolling with Jen-Ho Tseng as the starting off pitcher in their Cactus League Opener Saturday and Tyler Chatwood will get the ball for Sport 2 Sunday. 

Rigorous rain and unseasonably small temperatures dampened the excitement all over Cubs camp this 7 days a little bit, but finally, the 1st 7 days-moreover flew by compared to the typical “Groundhog’s Working day” formulation. 

The complete Cubs team has truly only spent 1 day alongside one another — a rain-soaked Friday early morning/afternoon — as Ben Zobrist described 4 days late because of to an undisclosed personal make a difference.

With the frequent time considerably less than 5 months absent now, listed here are 7 takeaways from the 1st 10 days of Cubs camp (apart from the truth the Cubs have no dollars):

1. Management electrical power rankings

Management was a substantial subject of discussion this winter, as the Cubs created it crystal clear they felt they lacked the presence in their clubhouse/dugout to maintain most people accountable and keep most people on mission. 

In camp, the only term that may perhaps best “leadership” in frequency is “urgency,” but more on that later on.

So without even further ado, here’s how the Cubs leadership electrical power rankings may perhaps line up at the commence of spring game titles:

1A. Cole Hamels
1B. Jon Lester

Both of those veteran pitchers have spent their time in entrance of media cameras conversing nearly solely about their roles as leaders and how they prepare on striving to navigate their standing though only participating in 1 out of each 5 days. 

Hamels has only been a portion of this team for approximately 2 months, but he in good shape in straight away and already has had a significant effects on some of his more youthful teammates. Lester’s forte is not as a vocal chief, but he may perhaps be the most respected voice on the roster, so whenever he does discuss up, he instructions the awareness of the other players.

3. Pedro Strop

Strop had a breakout of kinds in 2018. Not on the mound, simply because he is been a really trustworthy reliever from the 1st second he put on a Cubs uniform. But he finally bought the appreciation he deserved as he loaded in admirably as closer when Brandon Morrow went down and emerged as a chief in the clubhouse.

Javy Baez persistently credits Strop as the source of considerably-necessary guidance or counsel and Joe Maddon outlined Strop in the similar breath as Lester and Hamels in terms of the veteran leadership on the team.

4. Javy Baez

Baez is not your prototypical chief, but he proven himself as an every day player and MVP candidate a yr in the past. He also sees the sport at a amount higher than just about most people else in the sport, plays with the urgency and edge the Cubs will need each day and has limitless self confidence without a shred of worry.

Now that he is proven as a bonafide star, Baez is employing his off-the-charts baseball IQ and starting to emerge as a vocal chief.

5. Ben Zobrist

“Zo” has always been a terrific case in point for the more youthful players to observe, but he is also making an attempt to become more vocal in 2019. He is turning 38 in a few months, is entering his 14th yr in the large leagues and he can talk hitting and plate technique for hrs.

6. Anthony Rizzo
6. Jason Heyward
6. Daniel Descalso

This is not a knock on Rizzo and Heyward so considerably as it truly is a testomony to the breadth of experience of the other men in advance of them on the listing and how Baez is getting his voice as a chief in the dugout/clubhouse.

Heyward has typically been tabbed as 1 of the leaders of the team about the last 3 yrs, and he is 1 of these men who instructions awareness whenever he speaks up (assume: the Rain Hold off Speech in Sport 7).

Rizzo is the facial area of the franchise and certainly a substantial driving pressure on the over-all temper/tempo in the locker home. 

If anything mentioned about Descalso rings legitimate, he may perhaps fly up this listing to the best, Grandpa Rossy style. But we have not noticed it yet and he is only been a legitimate portion of this team for a little about a 7 days.

2. There are an terrible great deal of off-industry interruptions

From Tom Ricketts addressing his father’s racist emails to Addison Russell’s domestic abuse suspension (and subsequent push conference), an terrible great deal of time has been centered on non-baseball concerns in Cubs camp.

It truly is nowhere around the similar amount as the pair of good reasons higher than, but you could even toss in the opinions/reactions to Kris Bryant’s inadvertent war of text with Yadier Molina and the Cardinals. Even Zobrist’s mysterious absence was an off-industry discussion for a couple of times each and every day.

Who is familiar with what the long run holds, but for correct now, the target of the complete firm appears to be further than any off-industry drama and their thoughts are squarely on the job at hand. Let’s see how that holds up the future thirty day period or so, simply because this (fraught with interruptions) is certainly not the way any team would want to open a new time.

3. This may perhaps be Javy’s team now

Baez was plainly the Cubs’ MVP a yr in the past and it truly is solely achievable he requires that title yet again in 2019. Rizzo is the facial area of the team, Bryant is in all probability the ideal all-all over player, but it truly is Baez who may well be most vital to the Cubs on and off the industry.

If the Cubs are heading to perform with that edge and urgency they desire, Baez is the best guy to established that case in point. Additionally, his perform on the industry will be a significant aspect in the over-all accomplishment of the team. Can he demonstrate last year’s offensive strides are listed here to continue to be and keep on to make improvements to his plate willpower? 

At the really the very least, he will be their defensive captain, shelling out the 1st thirty day period at shortstop total-time and anchoring the infield defense in some potential if Russell returns from suspension in May possibly.

4. The improvements may well not be clear, but they’re there

Perhaps it truly is just drinking the Kool-Assist, but I am purchasing what the Cubs are providing so much.

It truly is simple for any team to feel optimistic and hopeful for the yr in advance though in the 1st couple of months of spring teaching. Heck, even the Marlins have beneficial vibes in camp.

And as they say, “most people has a prepare right until they get punched in the mouth.”

No, the Cubs have not dealt with any actual adversity yet this yr (further than off-industry concerns), but they certainly bought punched in the mouth last Oct and they damn nicely remember that feeling. 

The Cubs have mentioned all the correct points and talked the talk this spring. It really does feel like they have created some real inside improvements to try to rectify the wrongs of the previous few seasons. They necessary to get back again “on mission” the way they ended up in 2016 and at the instant, it seems like they’re on the correct route.

But now it truly is time for them to walk the walk and let us see how it plays out on the industry.

5. The Cubs have an army of arms

There are so lots of dudes in camp that have “pitcher” as their shown placement (and that won’t even include things like Anthony Rizzo or Ian Happ). 

In lieu of significant bullpen additions this winter, the Cubs are as a substitute striving to compile a qualified bullpen by throwing a bunch of arms at the trouble.

They may perhaps not be elite solutions, but there certainly are A Great deal of solutions.

Health and fitness allowing, the Cubs should crack camp with Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr., Brad Brach and Mike Montgomery as locks for the bullpen right until Brandon Morrow recovers from his injuries (more on that later on). 

Past that, the Cubs have someplace all over 20 arms that are competing for the closing 3 bullpen spots, together with: Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Kintzler, Xavier Cedeno, Brian Duensing, Alec Mills, Randy Rosario, Adbert Alzolay, Tony Barnette, Dillon Maples, George Kontos, Junichi Tazawa, James Norwood, Mike Zagurski, Dakota Mekkes, Kyle Ryan and lots of others.

Nothing at all is established in stone, but at the instant, it stands to purpose proven veterans on large-league contracts like Cedeno, Kintzler, Barnette and Duensing would have a leg up on the rest of the competition while Chatwood’s $13 million salary helps make it complicated to see the Cubs giving up on him without giving him a reputable shot in the frequent time to demonstrate he can get further than the alarming regulate concerns.

6. Health and fitness & physical fitness

This is the time of yr that most people all over baseball experiences to camp claiming to be in the ideal condition of their lives.

It truly is mainly a storyline just simply because it truly is entertaining — players reporting to camp in the BSOL not often go on to have occupation yrs just simply because they enhanced their personal physical fitness. 

But there are exceptions, of training course. Kyle Schwarber’s excess weight decline was a significant conversing level all last winter and he wound up getting some methods forward in the industry many thanks to an improve in agility and vary. (Note: Schwarber appeared in Cubs camp in terrific condition the moment yet again, shelling out a 7 days performing on the agility industry with Cubs staffers in advance of the full-squad exercises even commenced.)

This spring, Albert Almora Jr. suits the monthly bill as the BSOL player, so considerably so that his personal manager didn’t even realize him getting fly balls in the outfield because of to enhanced quickness. Almora worked on his flexibility and pace all winter and does glimpse to be in noticably better condition, which could be fantastic news for a guy who is now a really fantastic defender in centre industry despite the truth pace is not his ideal asset.

Yu Darvish and Kris Bryant have the two described to camp wholesome right after injuries severly hampered their 2018 campaigns. Both of those insist they’re 100 percent and nothing has indicated normally about the 1st two months. In truth, Darvish mentioned he feels lighter and more cost-free though Bryant’s effortless swing has returned with electrical power intact (in batting follow, at the very least).

Zobrist confirmed up to camp 4 days late, but he arrived in the similar health and fitness/condition he was in last spring in advance of he went on to put up a .305/.378/.440 slash line at age 37.

The only a few health and fitness concerns usually are not all that large of a offer. Morrow is still anticipated to pass up the 1st thirty day period of the time or so as he functions his way back again from his forearm/elbow injuries. Montgomery was stalled a little bit by shoulder tighness, but he is feeling fantastic now and is not anticipated to pass up any frequent time time (as of this instant). Prime pitching prospect Alzolay slipped and tweaked his back again though throwing a bullpen a few months in the past, but he is back again to total health and fitness now and the Cubs are easing him into anything this spring.

7. The Cubs have discovered their leadoff lesson.

At the 1st push conference of spring teaching, Joe Maddon jokingly kicked it off by inquiring, “Who’s main off?”

Then he paused for a second, laughed and mentioned, “That would truly be a fantastic 1st dilemma!”

It was a fantastic dilemma and a minor storyline at a variety of points all through camp. The small remedy is: No one is main off. At the very least not persistently.

That is a deviation for Maddon and the Cubs, who tried to effectively in good shape a sq. peg in a round gap the last two springs — first heralding Schwarber as the new leadoff hitter in 2017 (right after Dexter Fowler still left for the Cardinals) and then tabbing Ian Happ in that role last yr. 

Both guy may perhaps finally develop into the best in good shape as the steady Cubs leadoff hitter, but neither ended up there yet at the time of their ascension.

So the Cubs are not heading with any 1 guy this yr as the new leadoff hitter. Maddon acknowledged it will be really considerably like how we observed 2018 go (right after the Happ experiment) in that Zobrist will see a great deal of time up there when he is in the lineup in opposition to correct-handed pitchers though Almora will fill the role in opposition to lefties. Descalso figures to be up there each now and then, much too, and you can really considerably guess Rizzo will consider a spin atop the purchase at some level.

But the Cubs have discovered their lesson from the previous and Maddon is resisting the urge to heap that burden all on 1 player during spring camp.

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