The Cubs will play their 81st game Sunday, reaching the halfway point of the season. Getting through that much of the year successfully has been a mental and physical balancing act for manager David Ross and his players — a lot of juggling getting guys back into rhythm after injuries and deciding how best to handle others who are struggling.
“You try to communicate as best as you can and talk to them and make sure how they’re feeling and where they’re at in their headspace,” Ross said. “We have those conversations and try to figure out the best way to set them up for success and give them all sorts of time to work on things.”
The conversations vary from player to player. Ross errs on the side of talking to them a lot, but being a father has also helped him know when to back off.
“When they start telling me to shut up or rolling their eyes, I kind of treat it like my kids — I usually pause then,” he joked.
Players have to figure out how to manage their own workloads, too, and a day off can feel like either a momentum killer or a welcome reset.
“It’s a constant battle of deciding when you get those off days or when you’re down,” outfielder Ian Happ said. “How much work to do and how much to give yourself a mental lull and a physical break.”
When Happ is in a good stretch and gets a day off, he likes to keep his pregame routine exactly the same so he won’t feel he’s lost momentum. Getting back in the flow after an injury can be a different story.
“It’s tough because sometimes you come back and you get to play every day, and sometimes the injury limits the amount of exposure you get,” he said. “Where the team is as far as how they’re competing and how the other guys have been doing dictates that.”
Rare Friday night game
Friday afternoons at Wrigley Field are a staple of the Chicago summer, but when Ross was scanning the schedule in spring training, this particular Friday stood out as a time to buck tradition. Sensing a tough turnaround, he immediately started going through the proper channels in the Cubs organization to get city approval to play at night instead.
It was a wise move. Ross didn’t get back to his house near Wrigley until 3:30 a.m. after Thursday night’s game against the Mets. A 1:20 p.m. start Friday would given him about six hours before he and his players would need to start arriving at the ballpark.
“It just helps the players in recovery,” Ross said of the move to a 7:05 p.m. start. “It’s really a player safety issue.”
Injured making progress
Nico Hoerner (hamstring) did infield work again before Friday’s game and took batting practice. Ross said there is no clear plan yet for how right-hander Adbert Alzolay (blister) will return or if a rehab start in the minors will be needed. Trevor Williams (appendicitis) threw a successful bullpen and will throw another in three to four days. Third baseman Matt Duffy (back) took a slight step backward but is resuming some baseball activities.