Cubs spring training 2019 report: What you need to know from first two days

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Mike Montgomery and Cole Hamels share a conversation as they leave Field 1 at Riverview Park, the Spring Training home of the Chicago Cubs, in Mesa, AZ. | John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

The first two days of Cubs’ spring training dawned a dreary overcast — and that’s not a reference to the weather.

After Cubs pitchers and catchers reported to camp Tuesday, team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and manager Joe Maddon answered reporters’ questions ranging from the lack of offseason moves to troubled shortstop Addison Russell’s second chance to Cubs patriarch Joe Ricketts’ racist emails.

Epstein elegantly answered each question, as columnist Rick Morrissey pointed out in his Wednesday column.

RELATED: Cubs’ Theo Epstein confronted Joe Ricketts’ hate head on — and it was very good

Russell was one of the early arrivals among position players, who are scheduled to report Feb. 17. He’ll be a full participant at spring training even though he’ll serve the rest of his 40-game suspension for domestic violence at the start of the season.

Epstein has repeatedly made it clear Russell won’t play if he doesn’t continue to show improvement and meet the standards set by MLB and the Cubs. And as Sun-Times’ Cubs reporter Gordon Wittenmyer wrote, we’re only in the “bottom of the second inning” of this story.

Programming note: Russell is expected to talk later this week for the first time since he was put on administrative leave Sept. 21.

Sights to see:

Coming to a TV near you

The Cubs announced Wednesday the launch of their own television network, Marquee Sports Network, in conjunction with Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which the Sun-Times first reported in December. The regional sports network will begin broadcasting in 2020.

Former big-league pitcher Ryan Dempster, who is still actively involved in the Cubs organization, expressed interest in exploring a show on the Cubs new network. He even welcomed Yadier Molina to be a guest on his show after him and Kris Bryant angered the Cardinals catcher last month by throwing shad at “boring” St. Louis.

In other news…

Wednesday marked the first day of pitchers and catchers official workouts.

Yu Darvish said he felt good after first official bullpen session of camp — good news for the Cubs, who desperately need their $126 million right-handed pitcher to have a bounce-back season in 2019.

Jon Lester fed into the narrative that the Cubs are still bitter about last season’s disappointing ending, which Wittenmyer expanded on in his most recent article.

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