Cubs Spring Training Notebook: Edwin Ríos’ power surge, Adrian Sampson’s outing and a new hairdo
SURPRISE, Ariz. — In his first few weeks with the team, a couple of things about Edwin Ríos have stood out to manager David Ross.
First, is something that isn’t always publicly seen.
“Been really encouraged with his work ethic,” Ross said. “He’s a guy that just comes in and — I think he’s bored at home. He’s headed to the yard and hitting off a tee. We have a night game, he’s here like 1 o’clock. He likes to be around baseball.”
The other was on full display Tuesday at Surprise Stadium against the Rangers.
“Real power in the bat,” Ross said.
The first pitch Ríos saw against Texas starter Cole Winn he sent to center field for a no-doubt home run, his second of the spring. He added a single in the 3rd inning and ripped a liner to first base that was ruled an error in the 4th inning for good measure.
Edwin Ríos crushes his 2nd HR of Spring Training! pic.twitter.com/EAmRZCnlHS— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 7, 2023
Ríos has always been known for his pop — he has 20 home runs in 291 career plate appearances and has 104 minor league home runs in 6 seasons.
His addition early in camp was a bit of a surprise, but he continues to make his case to be a regular on the Opening Day roster. He offers flexibility — he can play first base, third base or DH. And he offers a different look off the bench if the Cubs decide to go that route as a lefty bat with power.
The Cubs and Ríos believe that a new surrounding could help him. In Los Angeles, Ríos was a victim of a deep roster pool for the Dodgers — the team had a pair of veterans, Max Muncy and Justin Turner to man third base and former MVP Freddie Freeman at first base. With the Cubs, Ríos has a clear opportunity to play regularly at third base, can fill in at first base and, with Seiya Suzuki’s injury potentially moving Trey Mancini to play some right field, he can DH.
“A guy that’s had some opportunities in the past, but never given like the real reins to play,” Ross said. “It’s nice to have him in camp and watching him perform.”
Ross mentioned early that he doesn’t put too much stock into spring performances. After all, no player has won an award for what they did in the Cactus League.
So, there’s not too much concern over Adrian Sampson’s performance Tuesday against the Rangers, where he allowed 6 runs on 4 hits, including 3 home runs in 2.2 innings of work.
“Obviously you wanna limit damage whenever you can — they’re putting some good bats on balls and whatnot. I feel like I’m in a good spot,” Sampson said after the outing. “It’s just missing in the middle of the plate a little bit here and there.”
It’s still early in spring, so Sampson is trying to knock some of the rust off, including getting more separation on his sinker and four-seam fastball.
“Not trying to mesh them together,” Sampson said. “That’s when you kinda get lost in the middle and that’s what happens, the ball’s over the plate.”
It’s a fine line for Sampson, though — as much as he wants to keep working on those pitches, he can’t always throw them, even in spring. He’s going to throw the pitches more than he would in a regular season game to continue to iron them out but doesn’t “want to just throw BP”.
The most important thing for Sampson right now is to stay healthy and keep improving.
“Like I told [pitching coach] Tommy [Hottovy], I feel great,” Sampson said. “This is the time for this to happen. I’m just gonna hunt the good stuff whenever I can. Obviously, hopefully the results come here and there, but I still got time till the season starts.”
Top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong stole the show during Tuesday’s 9-6 win.
He caused chaos on the base paths for the Rangers, hitting a ball in the infield that the Rangers misplayed, allowing Jake Slaughter to score from first base and Crow-Armstrong to advance to third on the play.
🚨 Little League play alert 🚨— Andy Martínez (@amartinez_11) March 7, 2023
The #Cubs score from first on a PCA infield single. pic.twitter.com/GTTeLPWZPb
Then, he made another highlight-worthy play, this time with his glove. The center fielder, known for his defensive prowess, made a stellar catch in center field to rob Ezequiel Duran of extra bases.
PETE CROW-ARMSTRONG 🤯 pic.twitter.com/JJoSi2aiH9— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 7, 2023
Adbert Alzolay had a pretty solid outing Tuesday against the Rangers, striking out 2 in 1.1 innings of work and he sported a new hairdo while doing it. The Venezuelan righty arrived to Sloan Park with a hat on, one that covered his new-look cornrows.
Alzolay had a big afro early on in camp and he shared some secrets on how he kept it looking so sharp in camp on a previous edition of the Cubs Weekly Podcast.