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9 spring training questions for the Cubs, including Kris Bryant’s health and Joe Maddon’s new approach

Right after lacking the National League Championship Collection for the first time in 4 seasons, absolutely everyone in the Cubs firm is on notice.

And an offseason loaded with stress and controversy — but number of considerable roster moves — leaves the Cubs with these nine queries as pitchers and catchers have their first work out of spring teaching Wednesday.

1. How is Kris Bryant’s shoulder?

Kris Bryant was emphatic at final month’s Cubs Conference that the ideal shoulder that sidelined him for 50 game titles in 2018 feels great.

But for the Cubs to sense far better about their offense rebounding, they’ll need to see a effective and successful Bryant, who experienced only nine more-base hits right after returning Sept. 1 from his next stint on the disabled list.

2. What will Addison Russell have to say?

The publication this week of racist and Islamophobic e-mails from Joe Ricketts, the father of Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, has rattled a number of communities. As for the other important off-subject controversy, shortstop Addison Russell is anticipated to experience reporters this month for the first time considering the fact that currently being placed on administrative leave Sept. 21.

Russell’s 40-match suspension for violating Main League Baseball’s domestic violence policy will carry into the first month of the season. President Theo Epstein explained the group has remained in contact with the target, Melisa Reidy, Russell’s ex-wife, as effectively as with Russell. But as Epstein cautioned three weeks back, “we’re probably in the best of the next inning” with this tale.

3. Will Joe Maddon choose a much more fingers-on solution?

Supervisor Joe Maddon options to invest much more time coaching as an alternative of observing exercises and conversing expansively with reporters.

With a revamped coaching team, his new model could possibly perform great with the newcomers. But how will players adapt to one more voice, and can the concept stay singular — particularly in this era of hitting professionals from exterior the firm?

4. How will the new coaches perform out?

New pitching coach Tommy Hottovy specialized in run avoidance as an advance scouting coordinator for the Cubs. New hitting coach Anthony Iapoce labored with many of the Cubs’ younger hitters as a exclusive assistant prior to departing for the Rangers in 2016. And assistant hitting coach Terrmel Sledge labored with Ian Happ at Course A Eugene in 2015 prior to leaving for a greater placement in the Dodgers firm.

Mark Loretta, meanwhile, is the Cubs’ 3rd bench coach in as several several years as he returns to the subject for the first time considering the fact that retiring as a player right after the 2009 season — until you depend his coaching stint with Workforce Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Common. Loretta experienced been operating in the Padres baseball functions section.

Maddon messaged with Loretta in just hours of Brandon Hyde using the Orioles managing job. Quite a few persons are concerned in the match preparing that funnels via the players. The coaching modifications replicate a need for seem communication.

5. Who will be the backup catcher?

The Cubs need to achieve a satisfied medium with Willson Contreras, who led the majors in innings caught and has no options to enable up on his all-out model.

But considering Contreras’ output faded in the next 50 percent and he utilised a number of setups, a successful backup need to arise even though Contreras regains his electricity and polishes his pitch framing.

Non-roster invitee Francisco Arcia reached the majors final summer time with the Angels right after 11½ small-league seasons, and he will press Victor Caratini for the backup position until the Cubs indicator one more catcher.

6. When will Brandon Morrow be prepared?

Brandon Morrow’s elbow surgical treatment in November made much more stress over a bullpen that lost Jesse Chavez to no cost agency and added Brad Brach as a late-inning solution to enhance Pedro Strop for the nearer duties till Morrow returns.

Even with a repaired arm, Morrow is anticipated to miss out on at minimum the first month and will not be utilised in consecutive game titles as routinely as final season. His development on the bullpen mounds and small-league fields will be a measuring adhere.

7. Who will bolster the bullpen?

The list of non-roster relievers in camp incorporates George Kontos, Colin Rea and Junichi Tazawa, who have thrown a combined 886 2/3 important-league innings. Tony Barnette, signed to a important-league deal, used six seasons in Japan prior to pitching the final three for the Rangers.

This knowledge is critical as the Cubs utilised the bullpen 600 situations in 2018 and Brian Duensing and Brandon Kintzler are coming off subpar seasons.

8. What to do with Tyler Chatwood?

Maddon is optimistic that Tyler Chatwood will rebound from his miserable 2018 season. But locating excellent innings this spring for him could possibly be a problem, and it remains to be found irrespective of whether he can manage a extensive-reduction position.

Chatwood will generate $25.5 million over the subsequent two seasons. His predicament is not contrary to that of Edwin Jackson getting into the 2015 season. Jackson pitched in extensive reduction prior to the Cubs unveiled him that July with one more 12 months left on his deal.

9. Will Jason Heyward and Co. split out?

Iapoce will be the Cubs’ 3rd hitting coach in as several seasons. Appropriate fielder Jason Heyward supplied the ideal standpoint pertaining to him and his teammates who have not enhanced at the plate.

“I know what I need to do,” explained Heyward, who has batted .252 with a .367 slugging proportion in three seasons with the Cubs. “Regardless of what any coach says to me or any of us, it’s on the players at the conclude of the day.”

mgonzales@chicagogtribune.com

Twitter @MDGonzales

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