SURPRISE, Ariz. — Right fielder Jason Heyward always has been known as a leader in the Cubs’ clubhouse, and the speech he gave during the rain delay of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series will live on in team lore.
But in the years since, Heyward has become an even bigger presence in the clubhouse. He has served as a sounding board for younger players and another leader for veterans.
And with the Cubs going through a transitional period, having a player who can relate to so many people in the organization goes a long way.
‘‘I think it’s my responsibility, it’s my time,’’ Heyward said of his role as a clubhouse leader. ‘‘When I was 20 coming into the game, there were a lot of firsts. Just having [then-Braves teammates] Tim Hudson, [now-Cubs manager] David Ross, Eric Hinske, Michael Bourn, Martin Prado, Chipper [Jones], Brian McCann, Billy Wagner [around], people like that just kind of gradually gave me information.
‘‘Of course, you’ve gotta be willing to be open to it and want to receive that stuff. But, yeah, I feel like it’s just kind of my time, my responsibility to be one of those people that passes things along to the next generation of players.’’
Kimbrel a work in progress
Closer Craig Kimbrel has started slowly this spring, and the results haven’t been pretty. Kimbrel, the majors’ active leader in saves, has allowed nine runs and seven hits in 2„ innings in his first two outings.
Kimbrel had some mechanical issues in 2019 that lingered into 2020, and the focus for him and the Cubs is getting those issues sorted out as soon as possible.
‘‘[Friday] was the first day I thought kind of looked a little like some of the older characteristics that we identified last year,’’ Ross said Saturday. ‘‘I think that’s what they’re kind of looking at this morning and trying to re-evaluate those keys. If we need to get him in the lab while we’re here, we have that resource. . . . [Friday] was probably one of the outings that most resembled some of his struggles.
‘‘That second or third outing for a lot of these guys has not been sharp. So I think Craig falls in that category, as well. The ball wasn’t coming out like it normally could [Friday]. It didn’t look like it had much behind it in general, even though the radar gun said 94 or 95 [mph]. It just wasn’t as explosive as it normally is. . . . He will try to tackle that to make sure he feels good or gets back to defining those keys and mechanics that we’ve identified.’’