The Cubs are ready for the twists and turns of the 2020 season
Friday at Wrigley Field consisted of standard baseball activities — a few bullpens, some infield/outfield work, a couple rounds of batting practice.
Yet it was a surreal experience for all involved.
It was the beginning of the Fourth of July weekend and yet it was the first time Wrigley Field has been truly open for the year. Most Cubs players hadn’t stepped foot inside the iconic ballpark prior to Friday, which marked the first official workout of summer camp.
The ivy was green all along the outfield wall, when it’s typically still brown by the time the Cubs first get onto the diamond at the corner of Clark and Addison. And there was zero chance for a snowout and no need for a jacket like Wrigley openers of years past — Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day on Chicago’s North Side.
While everybody involved was appreciative to be back on the field, it was also a stark reminder of everything that has transpired over the last few months and that there are still a lot of unknowns for the players and coaches.
“It’s very strange,” Ian Happ said. “Talking with a lot of teammates and guys around the league — we haven’t really had a May or June without baseball probably since we were 8 years old. Going through that experience, being away from the game for a while — definitely really strange.
“But being able to be back, to be back with teammates, be back playing the game, I think that’s the most comfortable thing we could possibly do. Those hours that we get on the field, on the grass, that’s as comfortable as we’re gonna get.”
The Cubs worked out Friday missing only one player — pitcher José Quintana, who suffered a laceration on the thumb of his pitching hand washing dishes last week. The injury will keep him out for at least two weeks, leaving the Cubs with a hole to fill in their rotation.
While that freak injury is not an everyday occurrence, it was also a reminder that there will be a lot of unpredictability this season.
“There’s gonna be twists and turns throughout this season and adversity that we’re all gonna have to overcome,” Ross said. “This is a new one from the manager’s standpoint where you’re sitting in this seat and you get a phone call and it has nothing to do with COVID, but you’re going to be missing a player for a while.
“Yeah, it stinks. It’s terrible to get those calls. Q — his energy around here, the way he performs, the way he carries himself on the mound, he’s a veteran, he knows how to compete. Yeah, it’s a big loss, but I just feel like that’s what this season’s gonna be. Every team is gonna go through adversity and the team that continues to pick up their lunch pail and go to work each day is gonna be the one that comes out ahead in the end.”
Beyond the mental aspect of it all, there’s also the physical component. These players had about a month of spring training in Arizona, then were shut down for three-and-a-half months and now have to ramp things up in three weeks to play a 60-game season.
The Cubs did all they could as a team during quarantine to keep guys at the top of their game and the players took the responsibility seriously to stay in shape. Starting pitchers came into summer camp already ramped up to a 3-inning workload and intersquad scrimmages begin Saturday.
Anthony Rizzo thinks it won’t take long for the position players to get up to speed and has no doubt the Cubs will be ready for the July 23-24 Opening Day.
“As a position player, it’s all the mindset and the mentality,” Rizzo said. “Give us about 10 days of intersquad games and we’ll get used to the stadium with no fans in it, get used to what the ball is gonna sound like off the bat and the different sounds — because those are gonna be a lot different — and train our brains to react a certain way again.
“But we’re three weeks out. I think for sure we’re gonna be ready in safe way.”