Cubs Spring Training Notebook: An Opening Day snapshot, a defensive display and Suzuki’s injury
MESA, Ariz. — Saturday marked a banner day for the Cubs for a multitude of reasons.
The Cubs hosted the Giants for the Spring Training opener and in the process, set a Cactus League attendance record with 16,152 fans.
It also represented an early look at the potential — maybe even likely — Opening Day lineup. Here’s how David Ross’ group was initially lined up at Sloan Park before a late scratch (more on that later):
1. Nico Hoerner – 2B
2. Dansby Swanson – SS
3. Ian Happ – LF
4. Seiya Suzuki – RF
5. Trey Mancini – DH
6. Eric Hosmer – 1B
7. Cody Bellinger – CF
8. Patrick Wisdom – 3B
9. Yan Gomes – C
Marcus Stroman – P
That sure looks like a possible batting order when the Cubs host the Brewers at Wrigley Field on March 30 and Stroman figures to have the inside track at getting the ball that day.
However, best-laid plans don’t always come to fruition and Suzuki was ultimately held out of Saturday’s game…
The Cubs’ second-year right fielder was scratched from the spring opener with left oblique tightness. Instead, top prospect Brennen Davis manned right field and hit 9th for the Cubs.
Suzuki is supposed to leave within the next couple of weeks to join Team Japan for the World Baseball Classic. Prior to the oblique injury popping up, Ross spoke about his communication with Suzuki on playing in Cactus League games before WBC contests.
“We’ll adjust if he needs more,” Ross said. “We’ll get him more at-bats and make sure he feels comfortable. It’s all about setting him up to get ready for the season and getting him the reps he needs and also to go off and compete at a high level when he leaves here.”
A lot of the focus on the starting lineup was on Swanson and Hoerner’s first game action as the Cubs’ double-play combination and they didn’t disappoint. The duo ended the first inning with a smooth turn:
Oh yeah, that's the stuff. pic.twitter.com/bqtXDm9AiY— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) February 25, 2023
“I already think they’re pretty elite, but the more camaraderie and the more they start to gel together, I think you’re going to start to see some pretty incredible plays,” Stroman said. “I couldn’t ask for a better middle infield.”
Cubs fans should get ready to see plenty more of that not only in the regular season but in Spring Training as well.
“I think it’s about them getting comfortable with each other and feeling just how guys function,” Ross said. “That attack, turn the double play, how guys approach the bag. They work in practice but feeling that in-game and getting used to one another, the communication and subtleties on cutoffs and relays — little things like that.
“There’s no substitution for game reps. We’re gonna try to put them together as much as possible.”
That’s exactly what Swanson asked for and said as much at his introductory press conference back in December. He wants to be on the field with Hoerner as much as possible this spring so they can hit the ground running when Opening Day comes.
“You can practice and do as much as you want but until you actually play, it’s a whole different animal,” Swanson said. “For most of spring, we’ll probably have the same kind of schedule and be doing the same things and be out there on the field at the same time because it is important for us to build that chemistry.”
Swanson and Hoerner’s budding chemistry will be one of the biggest storylines to watch this spring, as we discussed in the latest Cubs Weekly Podcast:
But the defensive highlights were not exclusive to just the middle infield.
Patrick Wisdom also brought the leather — thanks to Stroman’s SHUGO shoes.
Wisdom made a leaping catch in the 2nd inning Saturday and immediately after, Stroman pointed to the kicks:
The hops stem from the shoes! pic.twitter.com/8UXyPzp23S— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) February 25, 2023
“Wiz is my guy,” Stroman said. “He’s just showing off the SHUGOs. I feel like if he had Nikes or Adidas on, he wouldn’t have made the catch.”
Mighty Maeve Fight Club
In the hours leading up to the Cactus League opener Saturday, the Cubs donned T-shirts with “Mighty Maeve Fight Club” scrawled across it.
It’s in reference to Maeve, the daughter of Cubs regional scout Alex McClure, who passed away at the age of 1 due to holoprosencephaly (a rare brain disorder).
McClure, his wife, Kelly, and their two daughters were at Cubs camp Saturday.
“Look, we’re all family here,” Ross said. “This whole organization. When a family member loses someone close to them, the emails have been out for weeks trying to support Alex and his family and the things they’ve been going through with the loss of Maeve. Bringing his two girls out here and his wife, Kelly, to show them a little bit of love and support, just trying to help any way we can and show them how much we feel like they’re a part of the family and we’re here for them and sending them love in their loss.”
The Cubs laid out their projected pitchers for the next few games:
Sunday at Dodgers: Justin Steele
Monday vs. Guardians (split squad): Jameson Taillon
Monday at Diamondbacks (split squad): Caleb Kilian
Marquee Sports Network will air both the Dodgers and Guardians games. Coverage begins for both contests at 2:05 p.m.