Cubs’ lineup under construction as David Ross looks to find the right mix

Ross named Ian Happ as the Cubs’ leadoff hitter, but the rest of the lineup is still a work in progress

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John Antonoff/Chicago Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — Most of the names in the lineup are going to be the same, but the Cubs are hoping this season will bring different results. Last season wasn’t kind to the Cubs’ offense and with several players suffering down seasons, it put added pressure on the team’s pitching staff to help make up the difference.

A common theme during camp has been position players getting back to being who they are and by doing that, getting back to the things that made them a successful offensive team. One of the things the Cubs did at their best was drive the ball out of the ballpark.

Left fielder Joc Pederson and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who both homered in Wednesday’s 8-8 tie with the Mariners, are going to be a big part of that offense and their power surge gives a glimpse into the depth the Cubs’ lineup could have at full strength.

“It’s pretty special,” Pederson said. “A lot of hard-hit balls. It’s really anyone one through nine can click at any second. I think it puts the pitchers under a little bit more stress. Rizzo hit two missiles today.

“One day it could be J-Hey, one day it could be Javy, me, Kris, Contreras, you know. One through nine, it’s special.”

Manager David Ross has used the spring-training games to tinker with his lineup. The Cubs’ skipper already has named center fielder Ian Happ his everyday leadoff hitter following Happ’s success in the spot last season.

The rest of the lineup, though, remains in flux with Ross using a variety of lineups to find the best mix. Ross will have a lot of options with names like Rizzo, Pederson, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward and Javy Baez to plug into the middle of the order.

“We got people here to trust me,” Baez said. “We got the talent, we got the pitching, we got the hitting, we got everything.”

“I think we have the pieces here to have a really good offense,” president Jed Hoyer said. “Now we need to put it together.”

Ross went with the traditional left-right-left variation when coming up with lineups last season, but with a year of lineups under his belt and a better idea of what he wants to do strategically, don’t be surprised if there’s some new wrinkles this season.

“I definitely learned a lot about that last year and such being my first year managing,” Ross said. “There were some on-the-fly learning experiences that happened. You definitely want to stay away from just setting the other team up to have an easy inning, especially late having a dominant reliever.

“That’s why I tried a lot of the time to keep it right, left, right or vice versa. And split those guys up. But I don’t know that I’ll still follow that formula moving forward. I think there is some power in splitting that up. There’s also some strategy that I learned about last year that I feel can help me moving forward.”

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