Cubs Spring Training Notebook: Why Zach McKinstry was in left field, plus a Kyle Hendricks update
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Zack McKinstry will never be the Cubs everyday left fielder. Heck, he probably won’t ever see too much playing time in left field for the Cubs.
But, over the course of a 162-game season, you never know what could happen. There can be injuries or substitutions that require McKinstry to move to the outfield late in a game. So, David Ross and the Cubs want him prepared for anything that may present itself in season. The last thing they want is for McKinstry to be pressed into action in the outfield in-season without him having seen time there.
“That’s not kinda the priority, but if I have to put him out there, it’s just a little irresponsible of me not to get him some reps,” Ross said. “He is an option out there, he’s played there before. Just making sure that we get him a game out there, some game reps, something to just turn his attention [to] the little details out there, be fundamentally sound out there.”
Given McKinstry’s situation — he’s out of options this year — he’ll likely start the season with the big-league team, meaning the Cubs want him ready for any and all situations. Ross and the Cubs like to have versatile bench pieces and McKinstry certainly is that — he’s a left-handed hitter than can play second, third or shortstop, so having that ability to play in the outfield in a pinch is a boost to the Cubs roster.
That’s what Spring Training is for, after all. Ross wouldn’t use a game in April or mid-season to start McKinstry and give him those reps. And in the long run, Ross hopes he doesn’t have to use McKinstry in that situation, but if he does, he now knows he has some more experience under his belt.
Wesneski shines again
The results are there, but Hayden Wesneski wasn’t totally satisfied with the process. The rookie righty threw 4 perfect innings with 4 strikeouts against the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch.
“To be honest with you, I’m throwing good, yes, and the results are really good and I’m working my tail off, but I’m not as refined as I’d like to be, especially during a season,” Wesneski said after Saturday’s outing. “Yes, I’m getting outs, but it’s not as clean as I’d like it to be.”
Part of what he’s trying to refine is mechanical. He admitted he’s “not finishing pitches” and he’s “cutting myself off.” Many of the hitters he’s facing haven’t seen him before, so he’s been able to get away with his stuff, which can trip up even the most seasoned of hitters, like J.D. Martinez and Max Muncy saw firsthand on Saturday.
Another part of his struggles could be mental — the 25-year-old admitted it’s hard to block out the competition he’s in for the team’s fifth starter role.
“Man, I’m fighting it,” Wesneski said. “I really am. It’s one of those things where I’ve never been in this position, so you don’t know how to treat it.”
He’s been leaning on mental skills coaches and, most importantly, his father to help him through the situation. What he ultimately learned, though, is that it’s out of his hands. All he can do is continue to fine tune those mechanics and try to continue to post results like he has — he’s allowed 5 hits and 1 unearned run with 2 walks and 11 strikeouts in 8.2 innings of work over 3 starts.
“Ultimately, if I strike out every guy from now on, in reality, I still won’t make the team sometimes,” Wesneski said. “Like it happens. It’s out of my control. So, I try to remind myself of that and try to put myself in better situation that way.”
Kyle Hendricks threw a 30-pitch bullpen Friday morning at Sloan Park and felt good the next day.
“It was just a regular pen, they just let me throw,” Hendricks said. “Got my work in; finally got some pitches out of the stretch. Got that aspect going.”
The next steps for the righty are more bullpen sessions to continue to ramp him up. The hope is to throw about 8 more bullpen sessions and then begin facing hitters in a live batting practice situation in early April.
“That’ll be the next big step,” Hendricks said.
In the meantime, Hendricks is focusing on his mechanics in the bullpen sessions and then his recovery after the bullpens.
“That’s been the biggest thing,” Hendricks said. “Being able to push it and push the intensity on my big days and coming in the next day and still warming it up, still getting it right and still feeling good and being able to just throw light and get it moving. That’s huge mentally to know I’m back-to-back and recovering.”
The Cubs host NL Central rival Milwaukee at Sloan Park. Adrian Sampson gets the start for a game that begins at 3:05 p.m. and will air live on Marquee Sports Network.