Cubs balancing intensity with caution in ‘unique’ spring training
MESA, Ariz. — At this time last year, David Ross was bringing umpires into Cubs camp to up the intensity during live bullpen sessions.
He still hopes to do that this spring, but that might not be feasible under the current COVID protocols.
Ross said the virus guidelines are even more strict this spring than they were a year ago and it has caused some minor delays for a few different members of the roster and staff.
But Ross and Co. are still finding ways to achieve the desired level of intensity as spring training kicks into high gear.
On Sunday, Kyle Hendricks threw a live bullpen against Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward — sans umpires — and then minor-league signing Shelby Miller hopped on the mound to pitch to Heyward and Willson Contreras.
It was only the first day of anything even remotely resembling game-like action so Ross didn’t want to read too much into it, but he was pleased everybody stayed healthy.
The first full squad workout isn’t until Monday, but Bryant and Heyward were among the position players who arrived early to camp and they wanted to hit the ground running.
“When you see guys here for the first couple days and they already want to stand in on lives, that sends a loud message to me,” Ross said. “Just from a guy who didn’t really like standing in on lives.”
While the pandemic upended the regular season, spring training actually started out normal last year for Ross’ debut camp as manager.
So much has changed since then and even though Ross is now in his second year at the helm, he admitted it took a bit more time to feel settled in given all the uncertainty and unpredictability.
When it comes down to it, Ross and the Cubs are simply trying to do what they can to take things one day at a time and ready to be flexible if needed. That’s where the baseball mentality of a long season helps out — Ross and Co. have a lifetime of practice of focusing only on what they can control.
“We can’t control the virus and the protocols we have to go through,” Ross said. “The hardest part I think so far is we still don’t have guys that can fully work out as they go through all the testing and protocols and physicals and we still have guys that are still getting through all those tests.
“It’s a process that we have to be patient with and I think the intensity, the energy, the atmosphere so far is there. I’ve been really pleased with how guys are interacting, the work from my coaching staff, the minor league coaching staff has been doing a phenomenal job of keeping the energy upbeat.
“It’s a unique spring training just like the season was last year, but we navigated through that pretty well and we’re gonna try to do the same through this spring.”