Cubs Spring Training Notebook: What Matt Mervis learned at the WBC and Hayden Wesneski’s outing
MESA, Ariz. — The World Baseball Classic was significant for Matt Mervis.
But it was a lesson, too.
The Cubs slugging first base prospect was 1-for-13 in the tournament, starting off with a single and walk in his first two plate appearances of the WBC and finishing 0-for-12 the rest of the way.
“It shows that I still have a lot of work to do,” Mervis said. “I thought I had some good at-bats, but also didn’t have great success.”
But in those difficulties, Mervis learned how to deal with adversity. He faced off against major leaguers like Edwin Díaz, Jesús Luzardo, Génesis Cabrera and Héctor Neris. Struggles in the big leagues are common, so Mervis could lean on major leaguers like Joc Pederson and his manager Ian Kinsler, a 14-year big-league veteran, as well as a coach like Kevin Youkilis.
“They’re just consistent every day,” Mervis said. “I talked to Kevin Youkilis about that a bunch. Just one game isn’t make or break. If I went 4-for-4 with 4 home runs against the Dominican Republic, it wouldn’t change the Cubs’ outlook on me. It wouldn’t change my future. It’s a baseball game.
“Every day is a new day, it’s a new opportunity and just every day you gotta go out there and earn it and prove it.”
Playing in Pool D, he faced off against the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, three teams loaded with big-league talent and filled with fans passionate for the game. All three have large populations of natives and descendants in the Miami-area, too, making each game of the pool a one-of-a-kind environment.
“It was crazy,” Mervis said. “I think there was probably 30,000-plus people at a couple of the games. They were loud. They had drums and rattles and obviously they’re passionate. Anytime their guys did something good, or they scored a run or struck somebody out, it was loud and celebratory.”
He also found time to follow his Cubs’ mates in the WBC and was proud of the showing they put on a global scale.
“It was awesome,” Mervis said. “Obviously Owen [Caissie] and [Jared Young] went yard and [pitcher Javier] Assad did his thing. Everyone continues to be surprised by him, but at what point do we realize that he’s that good? Just stuff like that. The Cubs minor league guys and young guys and even in the big leagues are really, really good baseball players. Really happy and proud of those guys that they were able to play really well on the big stage.”
Mervis was back in the Cubs lineup on Friday against the Dodgers and was 3-for-3 with a double and a pair of singles.
Hayden Wesneski’s outing against the Dodgers started pretty strong.
He retired the first 8 batters he faced, striking out half of them. Then, he walked catcher Patrick Mazeika before escaping the 3rd inning two batters later.
Wesneski started the 4th with another walk, then a single to Max Muncy before J.D. Martinez hit a 3-run home run off the righty. He struck out Chris Taylor, but then his day was done.
“The walks are what killed me,” Wesneski said. “That was it. Other than that, though, can’t be too upset with the outing. Just needed to lock in a little more.”
Mechanically, Wesneski said he felt fine and his command, especially with his fastball was improving. The walks were more of a mental issue he said.
“Just lack of focus,” Wesneski said. “It’s all on me and babying pitches and all the fun stuff. I just think those were all on me and those should get up and go away, but I just gotta fill it up.”
The Cubs played the Dodgers at Sloan Park and the White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Glendale on Friday afternoon in split-squad action.
At Camelback Ranch, Edwin Ríos hit his third home run of the spring and Yan Gomes added his second Cactus League home run, a 2-run shot in the 3rd inning. Christopher Morel added a double against the White Sox.
Nick Neidert started the game for the Cubs, allowing a run on 3 hits and a strikeout over 2.2 innings. Cam Sanders had 3 strikeouts in 1.1 innings, allowing a run and 2 hits, including a home run.
The Cubs travel to Scottsdale to take on the San Francisco Giants at 3:05 p.m. Righty Adrian Sampson will start for the Cubs.