Spring Training Notebook: Who will get Opening Day start for Cubs?
MESA, Ariz. — As Marcus Stroman dug into the mound at the Cubs bullpen area known as the 12 Pack, a slow crowd slowly started to build.
There were a handful of people behind him, including pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. Then a slew of reporters huddled to the left of the 12 Pack with cameras, cell phones and notebooks at the ready. Then a couple of Cubs prospects, including Aneuris Rosario, huddled to watch the Cubs’ new signing.
Everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of Stroman throwing for the first time in Cubs’ gear.
“It feels great just to get back in the swing of things,” Stroman said shortly after he finished his bullpen session where he threw 37 pitches. “I’m trying to get settled in and meet everybody, learn everybody’s names, but definitely good to have baseball back.”
Stroman threw to a fellow Cubs newcomer, catcher Yan Gomes, who also signed with the Cubs prior to the lockout. The pair spoke a bit before and after the session as they learn more about one another.
“These first couple of weeks it’s definitely gonna be about getting to know guys,” Gomes said. “Got to play against Stroman a lot. He’s a tremendous pitcher, earned everything that he’s done. I’m excited to get to work with him.”
So what was it like being on the other end of that bullpen session?
“He’s a fun guy to catch,” Gomes said. “Moves the ball around everywhere as you can tell from his ‘pen, so just trying to get on the same page and go from there.”
That’s crucial this spring training. With the lockout, new teammates like Gomes and Stroman are just now meeting and working together with Opening Day less than 4 weeks away.
“We have a quick turnaround now,” Stroman said. “So getting to know each other what my pitches are doing, how Yan likes to catch what kind of game he likes to call, and then also tapping in with all the analytic side, the coaching staff and really just learning each other.
“Because I feel like when you learn from each other, everyone can kind of create a good team and everything works good for them.”
Opening Day starter?
It’s easy to look ahead at the calendar, see both Stroman and Kyle Hendricks and wonder — who takes the bump for the first game of the season?
“Let’s get to that day, let’s get there healthy,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “What we may look like on April 7 may be completely different than what we look like, even two weeks into the season.”
This year’s shortened spring training isn’t like the summer camp that MLB went through prior to the 60-game, shortened season in 2020.
That year, Hottovy and the rest of the Cubs coaches and front office were in constant contact with players as they pitched at home. The team was able to set up a workout regiment and had a baseline for where they were at once they reported.
During the lockout, the Cubs coaching staff weren’t able to have contact with the players, so they’re just finding out where they are at from a physical and health standpoint.
“It’s gonna be interesting to see how spring goes, we’re gonna be very calculated about how we do things,” Hottovy said.
Cubs react to reported Simmons signing
Gomes was thrilled when he found out about the reported signing of Andrelton Simmons.
“That is probably one of the most exciting shortstops in the game for sure,” Gomes said. “He’s one of those guys that’s always looking for the extra out, always ahead of the play. So I’m excited to get to see him out there.”
With a rotation that has contact-oriented starters like Hendricks, Stroman, lefty Wade Miley and Alec Mills – among others – adding Simmons’ glove is huge at a crucial position like shortstop.
“Having some solidity around the infield is always going to be beneficial for us,” Hottovy said. “Not to say that guys that we currently have aren’t good defenders, especially with having Nico [Hoerner] and [Nick] Madrigal now kind of in that group.
“But just having depth in that position, having guys that can feed off each other. It’s always nice being able to move guys around and do different things with guys.”