Is it July yet? Cubs need instant answers from Yu Darvish, Kris Bryant, David Ross, others
There will be — what’s it called again? — baseball starting July 1. Here are three things the Cubs need to see get off the ground quickly and successfully.
There’s a flurry of business the Cubs must attend to before Spring Training 2.0 gets cracking in earnest at Wrigley Field on July 1.
For one, there’s the not-so-minor matter of getting players — most of whom have hunkered down in places other than Chicago since the plug was pulled in Mesa, Arizona, in mid-March — to town and helping them get set up for a brief but intense 2020 stay.
There’s the need to set up a home for a sizable taxi squad. With the minor leagues shuttered for the season, the Cubs — like all big-league teams — will have a total party this season that includes 60 players, half of whom won’t be on the 30-man Opening Day roster.
Most, if not all, of those extra players will spend the first three-plus weeks of July working out at a site other than Wrigley Field — likely the club’s outstanding Class A facility in South Bend, Indiana, home to Four Winds Field and a 17,000-square-foot performance center modeled after the one in Mesa.
There will be daily coronavirus tests and routine physical exams and conversations with individual players and position groups picking up on the ones that, for months, had to take place via video conference. On the whole, communications between the Cubs and players at all levels — from strategy sessions to mental-skills work — went well throughout the shutdown, according to president Theo Epstein.
The entire big-league operation will have to be in sync in order to best combat the insidiousness of the coronavirus. Epstein’s philosophy: The Cubs will be as safe as their worst decision-maker.
Beyond that, though, there will be — what’s it called again? — baseball. Real, live baseball starting July 1. Or practice baseball, anyway, which itself is far preferable to nothing at all.
Three things that’ll need to get off the ground quickly and successfully:
Pitchers and pitchers
Forget about catchers. The Cubs have enough on their plate getting an old starter (hello, Jon Lester) lathered up, a supposed ace (that’s you, Yu Darvish) rolling with confidence and an underwhelming but important veteran (yep, Jose Quintana) reacquainted with his former, much better self. And that’s to say nothing of nailing down a No. 5 starter.
No worries about Kyle Hendricks, whom we’re legally obligated to take for granted.
And don’t forget all the bullpen questions. Is Craig Kimbrel still a dominant closer? What impacts will newcomers Jeremy Jeffress, Dan Winkler and Ryan Tepera make? And what’ll life be like without Brandon Morrow? Wait, we already know all about that.
The Kris Bryant thing
Remember Bryant? Really good player. Super guy. A player one would think any team would be very glad to have around.
But Bryant has had a lot to deal with as his relationship with the Cubs — and some fans — has soured at least somewhat. When he played through injuries, he was stung by criticism on social media. Whether he admits it publicly or not, he has to have his guard up knowing the Cubs might not keep him after 2021 and might even look into trading him at the 2020 deadline (whenever that is) if the team bombs.
From his first swing of the “second spring,” he’ll be under the microscope as directly as ever.
David Ross’ debut already is guaranteed to be nothing like anybody thought back in early March that it would be.
In such a time crunch, when the team has to coalesce instantly and light up the standings out of the chute, what will Ross’ approach as manager be? Joe Maddon would have 18 catchy slogans by now for what the Cubs — like all teams — are dealing with. Ross has a completely unprecedented situation and, of course, very little experience to fall back on.