Spring Training Notebook: Cubs continue stockpiling depth
MESA, Ariz. — If there’s one thing David Ross has come to appreciate in his time as a manager, it’s a little bit of positional freedom.
“Flexibility is always nice from my seat,” Ross said on Thursday, prior to the Cubs’ Spring Training opener against the White Sox.
Jed Hoyer and the Cubs front office are making sure to give Ross plenty of options so that he can keep that flexibility. The Cubs are reportedly adding versatile veteran infielder Jonathan Villar on a 1-year deal in addition to the flurry of moves that came earlier this week.
In his 9-year career, Villar has slashed .258/.326/.403 and has played over 150 games in his career at third base, second base and shortstop. His signing gives Ross depth, especially at third base, a position where Patrick Wisdom is the only player on the 40-man roster with over 10 games of experience.
With a shortened Spring Training and a full, 162-game season on the horizon, the Cubs want to ensure their players stay healthy and can perform for the entirety of the season. Having various options and depth at positions allows that.
“Making sure we take care of the young guys, the history of some of our guys, keeping them on the field is really important to me,” Ross said. “We’re gonna be the best version of us if we keep everybody healthy and be able to keep that flexibility. As things play out and guys are having their seasons and who fits where, I think all those things will become really clear.”
Flexibility on the pitching staff is important, too. The Cubs have reportedly added left-handed pitcher Daniel Norris and right-handed reliever Mychal Givens. The 28-year-old southpaw has a career 4.65 ERA in 8 big-league seasons and has been primarily used as a reliever the last two years. Givens, 31, pitched to a 3.35 ERA last year with the Rockies and Reds.
Norris’ signing gives the Cubs a veteran southpaw, something that is thin on their 40-man roster right now. The team officially signed Chris Martin to a one-year deal Thursday afternoon and moved lefty Brad Wieck to the 60-day IL with an elbow strain.
The Cubs currently have no lefty relievers on their 40-man roster, and have just three southpaws overall — starters Wade Miley and Justin Steele and prospect Brailyn Márquez, who has yet to report to camp due to visa issues. Another lefty, Steven Brault, was reportedly signed to a contract, too.
Hendricks makes spring debut
Kyle Hendricks kicked off his spring with 2 innings of 1-run ball in the Cubs spring opener with the White Sox at Sloan Park.
He started the outing by allowing a single, then struck out the next two batters, before inducing an inning-ending groundout to second. In the 2nd inning, Hendricks induced a lineout to Brennen Davis, before allowing a pair of hits. He escaped the second-and-third jam with a sacrifice fly and popout to first.
“Accomplished a lot of things I was going out trying to do — really establish my fastball, get down in the zone and just keep everything under control and have a good pace to everything,” Hendricks said after the outing. “I got a lot of good swings from my end. A lot of positives really to build off.”
The Cubs opened the spring slate with a split squad game against the White Sox at Sloan Park and at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
“This is another step forward, getting closer to the season,” Ross said before the games. “You see the guys in full uni and out there in spikes and working in front of fans.
“I think that’s what we all love to do is play in front of the crowd and what better way to do it at Sloan Park and on St. Paddy’s Day to kick it off is kinda gonna be a really good crowd over there today.”