Cubs: ‘We definitely have a chip on our shoulder’

The 2016 World Series champs didn’t add much in the way of improvements over the winter, but they’re playing the disrespected underdog card to perfection as spring training opens.

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The Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber might benefit from the DH coming to the National League, but it’s a bad move for baseball.

“You look at it on paper, you’ve got a bunch of guys in here that are studs, from the [starting pitching] staff to the position players to the bullpen, the coaching staff, the front office, the owners, everything like that,” the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber said.

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MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs didn’t show up for their first workout day of the spring Wednesday with a shiny new free-agent starting pitcher or any new big-ticket relievers.

But if you think manager David Ross is the biggest thing that’s new to the Cubs this spring, he’ll tell you the biggest addition is the chip on their collective shoulder.

‘‘I think they’ve enjoyed people kind of counting them out or having a little bit of the ‘what-if’ vibe,’’ Ross said. ‘‘I think they’re out to prove something in what I see in their eyes and their comments.’’

Counting them out? The Cubs got bounced in the National League wild-card game in 2018, then missed the playoffs during an 84-victory season in 2019. Plus, their only major-league acquisitions since last year were one-year fliers on bounce-back candidates Steven Souza Jr. and Jeremy Jeffress.

No wonder no one outside of Chicago or beyond a half-mile radius around Sloan Park in Arizona seems to think these guys are legitimate threats to win the NL Central.

‘‘We definitely have a chip on our shoulder,’’ said left fielder Kyle Schwarber, who strongly objected to the suggestion this core of Cubs peaked long ago. ‘‘I know we all expect a lot more of ourselves than what’s happened the last couple of years. . . . I don’t think it’s a secret we’ve got to do things better.

‘‘You look at it on paper, you’ve got a bunch of guys in here that are studs, from the [starting pitching] staff to the position players to the bullpen, the coaching staff, the front office, the owners, everything like that.’’

But if Schwarber thinks it’s just about refocusing and letting the talent take over with a new season of renewed purpose, first baseman Anthony Rizzo cautioned against assuming anything.

‘‘I think we’re a confident group; we’re also a very humbled group right now,’’ said Rizzo, who admitted the Cubs have a lot to prove after disappointing ends to the last two seasons — which, in large part, cost manager Joe Maddon his job.

‘‘Chip on our shoulder? I don’t see why we even deserve a chip on our shoulder. We didn’t make the playoffs [last] year. We’ve got to go out and earn it. I think it’s on us to be the best team this year. We’ve got the talent.’’

That’s the other theme running through the clubhouse: The entire core returned despite a winter of trade rumors involving several players, a core that won a World Series in most cases as rookies and second-year players.

‘‘If you look around, our team’s really talented,’’ said right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who might have a say in how well the Cubs perform this season if he retakes the fifth spot in the rotation and pitches well. ‘‘Nobody liked how last year ended — the last two years, honestly. I think everybody’s hungry and ready to get going and prove everybody wrong.’’

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