MESA, Ariz. — David Bote has been a contributor off the bench since making his big-league debut with the Cubs in 2018. This spring, he is vying with Nico Hoerner for the job as their starting second baseman.
Both are likely to get their opportunities, and each brings strengths to the competition. Hoerner showed he was an elite defender during his first season, and Bote has been a key offensive contributor during his three seasons with the team.
‘‘Who doesn’t love a good competition?’’ Bote said. ‘‘That’s just what we’re here for — to compete for jobs all the time. Every day, you’re out there grinding away, fighting for jobs. Both Nico and [Ildemaro] Vargas are unbelievable people and unbelievable talents. So to be teammates and to work together and to compete against each other, you love to do it.’’
Like many of the Cubs’ hitters, Bote struggled during the 2020 season. But has proved he can provide some offense off the bench and play around the diamond. He has a career .240/.338/.415 slash line with 24 home runs in his career.
‘‘We all can swing it,’’ Bote said. ‘‘You let the play do the talking. Whoever’s coming out and doing it is going to get that [job]. I have confidence in myself as much as they have confidence in themselves. You just go out there and you play your best and you don’t worry about anything you can’t control.’’
Fans ‘exciting’ for Hendricks
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks not only got the Cubs’ first start of the spring, but he also was the first starter to pitch in front of fans this spring. The Cubs didn’t have any fans in attendance during the regular season in 2020 and had only a few hundred during their two-game series against the Marlins during the postseason.
‘‘It was super-exciting,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘Walking out there and seeing fans in the stands, having people cheer, we’ve obviously really, really missed that. You saw from all the guys, everybody was out there early. Everybody was upbeat . . . a little more energy today. So that was so cool. Just getting back to somewhat normal having the fans out there. It was just really fun.’’
Happ gets vote of confidence
Center fielder Ian Happ took over the Cubs’ leadoff duties last season, and it helped spark a breakout season for him.
Happ led the Cubs in almost every offensive category in 2020 and showed why the team thought he would be the perfect candidate for the job.
Following that banner season, fans can expect Happ to continue to be the Cubs’ table-setter for the foreseeable future.
‘‘I think Ian gets the opportunity to continue that role,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘I think that was a guy that had a phenomenal year for the abbreviated season. . . .
‘‘He continues to grow and find out his strengths and weaknesses, and I can see him continuing to get better. So we’re going to put him at the top of the lineup to get on base in front of some horses that should be hitting behind him.’’