For Cubs’ hitters, spring training is the perfect time for adjustments
“It gets really hard to make adjustments during the season when you’re not practicing and playing nine innings is really mentally taxing,” hitting coach Anthony Iapoce said.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Baseball is a game of adjustments, and the spring is the time when players make those, whether it’s from game to game or at-bat to at-bat.
After the Cubs’ challenging year offensively in 2020, hitting coach Anthony Iapoce wants his hitters to use the time to find something that’s comfortable. Manager David Ross has talked this spring about players trying things during games and working to find what will be successful when the season starts in 10 days.
“This is the time to experiment, especially when you have at-bats and seasons behind you and success, because you know that you’re going to be there Opening Day,” Iapoce said. “So guys with experience have a tendency to do different things. What those things are doesn’t really matter. Whether he stands taller or stands wider or does a big leg kick, he’s gonna try different things. This is the time to experiment, not saying games or at-bats don’t matter, but to learn and to teach yourself.
“Everybody does a little bit of something not necessarily different but changes up in the cage or maybe their hands or their feet. How they attack the ball. Two-strike approach.
“It gets really hard to make adjustments during the season when you’re not practicing, and playing nine innings is really mentally taxing. You just want to go out and play, so these are the times to really try some things, and then you jot some stuff down so that you have [them] later on that you can use as a nugget to tell yourself maybe in July. … Because you can forget. You forget every day unless you have a journal or something.”
Can spring success carry over?
The results of spring training don’t matter, but feeling good going into the regular season can be important for a player or a team. The Cubs are 12-6 this spring, second-best in the Cactus League. While Ross would rather win the National League Central than the Cactus League title, he’s happy to see the team’s success.
“I think anytime you’re winning, [it carries into the season],” Ross said. “That’s how we’re built. I think as some of the most competitive people in the world, that’s our job to compete. … But the fact that the guys have good at-bats no matter the situation or they’re getting outs from a pitching perspective is always reassuring. Scoring runs and winning is the goal every time you are in any kind of competition.
“So, yeah, I think there’s a carryover because it feels good to win.”
Angels 15, Cubs 7
Happ starts with a bang
The Cubs hope Ian Happ starts every game this season like he did in Monday’s loss to the Angels. Happ launched a leadoff homer, his second home run of the spring. He took over the Cubs’ leadoff duties last season and has brought some stability to the spot after the team auditioned several players following Dexter Fowler’s departure in 2017.
Happ had a breakout year in 2020, slashing .258/.361/.505 and leading the team in hits, doubles, home runs and extra-base hits and tying for the team lead in walks.
“I’m excited to put together a full body of work,” Happ said. “I think it’s a lot different when you’re coming down the stretch in September and you have 400-500 at-bats under your belt going into that last month as opposed to 100 at-bats. …
“Also, I’m excited to be on the field for 162 games and be able to take my body through that — take my mind through that. There’s a lot that goes into going out and hitting leadoff for 162 games. Getting that many at-bats, having the understanding in April at Wrigley Field with the wind blowing in your face, that it’s not gonna be like that forever — that you have 600 more at-bats past that. There’s a lot of factors that go into it, but that’s something that I’m really looking forward to.”
Amaya goes deep
Cubs prospect Miguel Amaya hit his first homer of the spring in the loss. Amaya is the Cubs’ No. 3 prospect behind Brailyn Marquez and Brennan Davis, ranking 89th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospect list.
White Sox at Cubs, 3:05 p.m. Tuesday, Mesa, Marquee, 670-AM, Dallas Keuchel vs. Jake Arrieta.