Cubs Spring Training Notebook: Suzuki Day, roster cutdown and another new arrival
MESA, Ariz. — Friday technically marked the Cubs’ 10th Spring Training game but it had the buzz and feel of another Opening Day.
That’s because Seiya Suzuki, the international superstar, made his Cubs debut at Sloan Park against the visiting Colorado Rockies.
Fans turned out in droves to see Suzuki during pregame workouts and gave the Japanese outfielder a nice ovation as he stepped into the box to face Rockies ace Germán Márquez.
Suzuki fouled a pitch back, swung and missed on a breaking ball and then struck out on a curveball from Márquez that dropped into the zone. In his second at-bat, Suzuki struck out looking again.
He admitted he had some nerves stepping onto the field.
“My legs were shaking,” Suzuki said through his interpreter, Toy Matsushita.
He was struck with even stronger emotions during his visit to “The Friendly Confines” earlier this month. While the Cubs made their pitch to Suzuki, they brought him into Wrigley Field and displayed his name on the outfield video board.
“I had the adrenaline rush when I saw my name on the video board but if I keep on striking out like today, I feel like somebody is going to throw some beer on me someday,” Suzuki said. “If someone throws beer on me, I’m going to be scrunched up in the corner in right field.”
Suzuki’s sense of humor has been on full display since he joined the Cubs.
Before the game, David Ross told a hilarious story about how Suzuki is fitting into the clubhouse but also conveyed his message to the young outfielder to try not to do too much.
“I’ve kinda told that to everybody of building up the right way and listening to your body as we go throughout spring,” Ross said. “Told him it’s just about getting ready, not trying to prove anything to anybody. You’re a piece here and a big piece for a long time so let’s do things the right way. He understands that.”
The Cubs plan to give Suzuki Saturday off and will assess from there. He will likely return to the lineup for Sunday’s game at Sloan Park against the Royals.
Another new arrival
Outfielder Harold Ramirez was in Cubs camp for the first time Friday morning, but his stay was short-lived — the Cubs traded him to Tampa Bay Friday night for minor league infielder Esteban Quiroz. The Colombian native had been delayed due to visa issues.
Quiroz, 30, has a .946 OPS in 200 career games in the minor leagues. He’s played in 785 games in Mexico in the Mexican League and the Mexican Pacific Winter League, hitting 69 home runs with an .837 OPS.
Ramirez has smacked 18 homers with a .271/.308/.405 slash line (.714 OPS) in 221 career MLB games.
Friday represented one of the big cutdown days in camp, as the Cubs reduced their spring roster to 44 players.
Among the cuts:
—Pitcher Cory Abbott and outfielder Greg Deichmann optioned to Triple-A Iowa
—Pitchers Anderson Espinoza and Brailyn Marquez optioned to Double-A Tennessee
—Seven non-roster invitees assigned to minor league camp, including outfielder Brennen Davis, pitchers Ben Leeper, Conner Menez and Locke St. John and infielders Chase Strumpf, Andy Weber and Dixon Machado
Davis is the organization’s top prospect and made the most of his time in big league camp.
“He’s made a really good impression,” Ross said. “He got a lot of at-bats. It’s hard to judge guys off just such a short Spring Training. But you can tell he’s just starting to fill out that body. He looks the part, had a great season last year — continue to build on that. Hopefully we see him really soon.
“He’s one of those future pieces that you see and watched him develop and put in a lot of hard work this offseason. Looks strong, fit, moved well in the outfield. Great guy and the experience he got this spring was great for him and us.”
Fun in the sun
On Thursday, the Cubs deployed an extreme shift when Matt Duffy came to bat for the Angels. The team’s center fielder — Rafael Ortega — was nearly in right field and the left fielder — Michael Hermosillo — was just about in straightaway center.
Duffy ended up lining Justin Steele’s pitch right to Ortega for an out.
*this was a joke (idk who came up with it) but yeah we were told to shift Duffy for one pitch extreme oppo and he proceeded to hit a line drive first pitch to Ortega (our CF) who was basically in RF*— Michael Hermosillo (@mhermosillo10) March 25, 2022
Cubs bench coach Andy Green was the author of the prank against the former Chicago infielder.
“Greeny was on that like 2 days before — ‘If Duffy’s in the lineup, we’re opposite shifting him,'” Ross said. “They were sending some text messages back and forth last night that were pretty hilarious. That’s Greeny poking fun at one of his favorite players he had last year. It worked out really nice.
“I was really hoping for a ground ball double play to the right side. We all fell over laughing. He’s such a good hitter and we know how well he uses that side of the field. It was fun to mess with him a little bit.”
Odds and ends
—Wade Miley is slated to throw a live bullpen session this weekend against Cubs hitters. The next step would be an appearance in a Cactus League game sometime next week.
—Frank Schwindel (back) has been trending better and took swings and grounders Thursday. He hit on the field Friday and if everything goes well, he could find his way back into the lineup for Sunday’s game.