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Spring Training Notebook: How Cubs are preparing during shortened camp

5 months agoAndy Martinez

MESA, Ariz. — As the first day of official workouts kicked off, Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs had a simple message for the abbreviated Spring Training. 

“We don’t wanna rush too much here,” Hendricks said. “It’s gonna be a quick Spring Training and we know it’s a long season. So our focus is on the end.” 

That means not trying to overexert themselves to be in peak condition on April 7. Although it’s a shortened Spring Training like in the pandemic-shortened season, there are too many differences that it’s unrealistic to expect Hendricks to go out and throw a complete game on Opening Day again like he did in 2020.

For starters, the Cubs coaching staff was in constant communication about a workout regimen with their players and the players had four months to work out. 

“That was midseason, almost by then,” Hendricks said. 

This year, it’s still early in the calendar and the players are just getting started on team-assigned workouts. So they’re not overworking themselves to be in tip-top shape on April 7. They’re training hard, but making sure to find a balance. 

“We’ve got three weeks here; it feels like a short amount of time for what we’re used to,” David Ross said. “But we’re going to be able to get the reps. Let’s everybody give feedback, let’s communicate, let’s talk about if you have something flare up, let’s not try to push through things right now. 

“Let’s build up to be ready to win Opening Day.”

Cubs react to Alzolay injury

Hendricks felt bad for Adbert Alzolay when he found out about his shoulder injury.

“Anytime you lose someone, it’s terrible, but a guy like Adbert, it’s big, for sure,” Hendricks said. 

Hendricks and the Cubs were excited to see Alzolay take another step in his development, but will have to wait. That puts a greater emphasis on the Cubs pitching staff, which president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said was an area that needed improvement Monday morning. 

“Our biggest focus, candidly — and we’ve said this over and over — is on pitching and pitching depth,” Hoyer said. 

That’s especially true this year. With the shortened Spring Training and playing 162 games, the Cubs and the rest of the teams in MLB will have to be creative with how they use their pitching staffs. Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy alluded to the fact that teams could piggyback starters to save innings and arms, especially now with the DH in the NL and not having to worry about pulling pitchers because their spot in the lineup is due up to hit. 

“The multi-inning reliever becomes more of a possibility when you don’t have to worry about pinch-hitter or double switching and things like that,” Hoyer said. “So what form that comes in? I’m not sure but certainly innings are going to be key.”

DH possibilities 

Count Hendricks among the supporters of the DH in the NL. 

“I think you guys have seen what I’m featuring up there,” Hendricks said with a laugh. “I’m very happy to put the bat in somebody else’s hands. Just worry about pitching.”

That opens up possibilities for Ross, too. 

In 2020, he alternated heavily between catchers Victor Caratini and Willson Contreras, using one as a catcher and the other in the DH role. That’s a possibility again this year, with Yan Gomes serving as the Cubs’ backup catcher. 

Another possibility lies in rotating the Cubs’ trio of middle infielders. With Andrelton Simmons (SS), Nick Madrigal (2B) and Nico Hoerner (SS, 2B, LF, CF), Ross can mix and match using the DH and exploiting the defensive prowess of Simmons.

Roster notes

  • Harold Ramírez and Brailyn Márquez have not reported to Mesa yet. The pair are having visa issues and have not been able to report.

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