Third base position battle gives Cubs’ David Ross plenty of directions to consider

Cubs notes: Position players are getting a head start on spring training.

SHARE Third base position battle gives Cubs’ David Ross plenty of directions to consider
Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom throws to first during infield practice at the Cubs Spring Training complex in Mesa, AZ on Tuesday.

Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom throws to first during infield practice at the Cubs Spring Training complex in Mesa, AZ on Tuesday.

John Antonoff/Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — When the Cubs signed Edwin Rios to a one-year deal Friday, the position battle at third base got a little tighter.

“We’re going to try to line -everybody up for success,” manager David Ross said Saturday. “Defense is going to matter for sure; we’re built on defense. But adding some power to the lineup always helps. Good at-bats, base hits, how it matches up with the pitcher that day, all those things are [factors].”

On the 40-man roster, the Cubs have five third-base options with different hitting profiles. Patrick Wisdom is a right-handed power hitter who led the team in home runs (25) last season — but also in strikeouts (183).

Nick Madrigal is a right-handed hitter whose strength has traditionally been contact. But in his first season with the Cubs, returning from a hamstring surgery that cut his 2021 season short, he hit a career-worst .249 and landed on the IL with a series of injuries.

“Looking back, it all kind of stemmed from the hamstring not being totally ready,” Madrigal said of those injuries. “But there’s not a doubt in my mind right now, I feel great overall.”

Christopher Morel started his MLB career with a debut home run and franchise-record 22-game on-base streak when he jumped from Double-A to the big leagues last year, showing that at his best he can do both. But his bat cooled off as the season progressed, making consistency the next step in his development.

Zach McKinstry added a left-handed bat to the Cubs’ utility-player mix when they acquired him from the Dodgers at the trade deadline last year. With more consistent playing time, he started to find his rhythm at the plate.

Rios is a left-handed power hitter whose playing time also suffered on a deep Dodgers team.

“He’s got a really, really natural, solid swing,” said new Cubs outfielder Cody Bellinger, who played with Rios in Los Angeles. “I’m excited to see him healthy again because I’ve seen him. When he’s healthy, he’s very, very good.”

Miles Mastrobuoni also has played some third base but is primarily a middle infielder and corner outfielder.

Wisdom, Madrigal, Morel, McKinstry and Rios all can play multiple positions.

Head start

Most Cubs position players already have reported to camp, days before the first official full-squad workout on Monday.

“Coming in a couple days early, before things officially start, it’s always nice to just get acclimated,” new Cubs first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “So, once the first official day gets going, it doesn’t feel like it’s a rush. And you’re kind of settled in and settled down a little bit. So, that’s been extremely helpful so far.”

Said Bellinger: “It’s been really fun. The environment, the coaches, the players . . . it’s super fun and super refreshing.”

Extra BP

On Saturday, six pitchers threw live batting practice: Javier Assad, Mark Leiter Jr., Brad Boxberger, Vinny Nittoli and Tyler Duffey. The workout -featured the most live sessions of any day of camp so far.

Jameson Taillon, Roenis Elias, Rowan Wick, Michael Rucker, Justin Steele and Adrian -Sampson also have thrown live BP this spring training.

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