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Cubs manager David Ross reflects on passing of a year since MLB turned out the lights

“It wasn’t really on my radar,” he recalled about the days leading up to the March 12, 2020, shutdown.

Cubs manager David Ross: “It’s fresh this year. It feels good to be back because it does feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
Cubs manager David Ross: “It’s fresh this year. It feels good to be back because it does feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

The last year has been so long. How long has it been?

‘‘It feels like it’s been seven,’’ Cubs manager David Ross estimated. ‘‘I don’t know how to put that in perspective. There’s been a lot.’’

Seven sounds about right, doesn’t it? It certainly has been a year unlike any other in sports and in baseball, which turned off the lights last March 12 as pandemic-related concerns intensified.

Not quite a year since that portentous day, Ross was asked whether — let’s say on March 10, 2020 — he saw the shutdown coming.

‘‘It wasn’t really on my radar,’’ he admitted.

He was a first-time manager juggling the regular demands of spring training. Around every turn was something new to figure out that was about plain old baseball. In short, Ross’ head was swimming already.

Then-president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was more ahead of the curve. When the 12th arrived and the day’s games were canceled, Ross asked his boss whether players should stick around.

‘‘No,’’ Epstein advised. ‘‘It’s going to be a while.’’

Why does it matter now? Marking a year feels kind of good, that’s all.

In Hoerner’s corner?

Don’t think Nico Hoerner’s possible ascent to an every-day second-base job is all about his hot hitting. Nine hits in 13 at-bats to begin the spring is one thing, but Hoerner is a ‘‘great’’ glove man, Ross said, is getting better as a baserunner and is confident and mature. See? Lots of stuff.

OK, fine, it’s the hitting.

‘‘That’s the main thing,’’ Ross said.

Of course.

Strop back in camp

Reliever Pedro Strop, reunited with the Cubs — for now — on a minor-league deal, returned to work four days after breaking health-and-safety protocols while dining indoors with a party that included Indians players Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes. All three players isolated from their teams and tested negative for COVID-19.

CUBS 9, ATHLETICS 8

Grand finale

Aren’t we legally obligated to start with the walk-off grand slam even when a player who might not set foot inside Wrigley Field any time soon hit it?

It was outfielder Rafael Ortega who gave the Cubs the win in the bottom of the ninth — sorry, make that the seventh — bombing away from the left side of the plate off Nik Turley. Ortega, 29, has three homers in 410 major league at-bats spread over brief stints with the Rockies, Angels, Marlins and Braves.

So far, so good, Sogard

Newcomer Eric Sogard, who played several seasons with the A’s before becoming familiar to Cubs fans as a member of the Brewers, lined an RBI single off starter Cole Irvin in his first plate appearance of the spring. That’s not going to hurt him a bit as he tries to make the team as a second baseman or utility infielder.

Hanger, banger

Is Joc Pederson going to make it as an everyday guy in left field? He got another start against a lefty, but Irvin was out of the game by the time Pederson slugged an opposite-field shot to left in the fourth inning. This one — his third of the spring — came off veteran right-handed reliever Sergio Romo, who caught every bit of the center of the plate.

Come again?

No errors for the Cubs on Tuesday.

“I think good teams play good defense,” manager David Ross said. “I think championship teams play great defense. And I think it’s important to me that we play good defense.”

Wait, didn’t he mean to say “great”?

On deck

Cubs at Giants, 2:05 p.m. Wednesday, Scottsdale, Alec Mills vs. Nick Tropeano.