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Spring Training Notebooks

Spring Training Notebook: Bellinger’s timeline, Cubs sim game action and injury updates

1 month agoTony Andracki

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PEORIA, Ariz. — Monday represented another good test on Jordan Wicks’ journey toward a possible spot in the Opening Day rotation.

Tasked with facing a Padres lineup that featured all of the team’s star players (Fernando Tatis Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado), Wicks’ 3rd Cactus League outing was solid.

He pitched into the 4th inning, allowing a lone run in 3.1 frames. He did not strike out a batter and now carries a 2.25 ERA in Cactus League play.

Wicks said he is more focused on his own work right now than the opponent but acknowledged it was important competition to face guys like Tatis and Machado.

The 24-year-old southpaw made his MLB debut for the Cubs down the stretch last season — just over 2 years after he was drafted 21st overall. Wicks provided a boost to the rotation with a 3.00 ERA in 6 starts before a rough outing (6 ER in 1.2 IP) to close out his season.

He entered camp competing with the likes of Drew Smyly, Javier Assad and Hayden Wesneski for the final spot in the Cubs rotation.

But that didn’t change Wicks’ approach as he came entered spring.

“I’m a big whatever happens, happens guy,” Wicks said. “I know I need to be in a particular place for the season and I think I’m harder on myself than anybody else would be.

“For me, I want to get myself in the best possible position for Opening Day. Wherever that is, it is. For me, executing my pitches is only something I can control. A lot of things like results and things outside of myself I can’t control, I try not to worry about those.”

Wicks entered the offseason knowing he had to improve his secondary stuff so he could throw his full repertoire at big-league hitters.

The slider was his main focus over the winter and he feels really good about where that pitch stands right now.

“We’ve seen some really good shapes with that early on,” Wicks siad. “I think it’s looked really good at times. The execution part is something we’re still fine-tuning. Breaking ball command for me is usually one of the later things to come around.”

Sim game action

Cody Bellinger and Jameson Taillon took part in a simulated game on the backfields at the Cubs complex Monday.

Taillon threw 3 innings facing Bellinger and a collection of minor leaguers.

Bellinger roped a single off lefty Thomas Pannone (a non-roster invite to camp) and flew out deep to left field among his 6 trips to the plate.

This was another ramp-up opportunity for Bellinger, who will get into a game Wednesday as the DH. He is on track to play the field in Friday’s contest with an off-day in between.

Bellinger’s first official workout day was last Wednesday, Feb. 28 and the first live pitching he saw all offseason was the following day (Feb. 29).

Bellinger has been taking swings all offseason in Arizona with his personal hitting coach, Micah Franklin. His rapport and comfortability with the Cubs coaching staff is an asset as he works to get up to speed after joining the team two weeks into Spring Training.

Taillon, meanwhile, was pitching on the backfields to get some work in in a controlled environment. He has been slowed a bit by calf soreness and is working on honing in elements of his delivery and arm motion.

He is on the same progression as the rest of the Cubs starters.

With so many pitchers in camp vying for spots on the roster, the Cubs are utilizing sim games to get regular work in for a few veterans, allowing some of the younger arms to continue to get experience in games.

Without the sim game, Taillon and Jordan Wicks would have had to piggyback each other in Monday’s contest against the Padres.

Smyly, Mark Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather are slated to throw in a sim game Tuesday while Caleb Kilian will start the Cactus League game at night in Surprise, Ariz., against the Royals.

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Injury updates

Nick Madrigal left Monday’s game with a right leg cramp. He started at second and grounded out in his only plate appearance before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the 3rd inning. 

He has been hampered by leg injuries throughout his career, missing time in each of the last 3 seasons. He had a hamstring tear in 2021 that cost him significant time and then went on the IL three separate times in 2022 with a low back strain, a left groin strain and a right groin strain. Twice last season, he was placed on the IL with a right hamstring strain.

Outfielder Brennen Davis has been out for the last week with a mild concussion. He was struck in the head with a pitch in a game last Tuesday.

Davis has not been able to get on the practice field since then but he was scheduled to do a little bit of activity Monday.

“It’s going probably slower than I had first stated,” Craig Counsell said. “He’s progressed the last couple days and so today, it’s the first day we’ll try to ramp up and we’ll start a process of physical activity.”

Patrick Wisdom (quad) was originially scheduled to return to the Cubs lineup Tuesday but that has been pushed back. He was in line to do some baseball activity Monday and the Cubs are considering him “day-to-day.”

“Just not going as fast as we want it,” Counsell said. “So just be a little cautious there.”

If Wisdom is able to be ready by Opening Day, he could be in the mix at first and third base as well as DH, playing mostly against left-handed pitchers.

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