Mark Zagunis on breaking camp with Cubs: ‘I get chills just thinking about it’
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MESA, Ariz. — Outfielder Mark Zagunis has done the roster math like everyone else since the Cubs optioned Ian Happ to the minors Saturday.
But the 12th man left in camp for 12 non-pitching jobs was making no assumptions a day ahead of the Cubs breaking camp to head to Texas for the regular-season opener Thursday.
‘‘Obviously, I’m still here,’’ Zagunis said. ‘‘I’m just having fun, and hopefully I’ll break with the team.’’
Zagunis, who has had two brief big-league stints before an impressive showing this spring, will make his first Opening Day roster, barring a last-minute acquisition of a big-league hitter.
‘‘I get chills just thinking about it,’’ Zagunis said. ‘‘I worked really hard and just hope I make the Opening Day roster.’’
Zagunis, who has shown strong on-base ability throughout his minor-league career, was hampered by shoulder and wrist injuries last season that sapped his power. But good health and tweaks to his swing to help him lift and drive the ball have opened eyes on the big-league staff.
‘‘I [told] him, ‘You’ve had the camp that everybody’s told us that you’re capable of,’ ’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘It’s just like [minor-league] managers have described him during the seasons, which we have not had a chance to see yet.
‘‘His at-bats have been fabulous, plus the power, how hard he’s hitting the ball,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘And then he’s accepting his walks. I think his mind has finally arrived here.’’
Zagunis, 26, suggested it’s at least as physical as it is mental.
‘‘This is the first time probably in two years I feel back to myself, healthy,’’ he said. ‘‘I got in good shape this offseason, made a few swing changes, and I think it’s going to really benefit me.’’
Either way, he did all that could have been asked this spring.
‘‘We’ll see how this all plays out the next couple of days,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘But he has put himself in a good position.’’
Left-hander Cole Hamels said he’s ready for ‘‘go time’’ and his first start Sunday in Texas. But don’t blame him if he’d like at least a few more days in Arizona.
‘‘Shoot, I’ve been having a pretty good couple of days here,’’ said Hamels, who hit a home run against 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello of the Red Sox a day after hitting the first hole-in-one of his life during a golf outing with Cubs teammates. ‘‘Sometimes you don’t want it to end.’’
Hamels pitched around some traffic and allowed one run (on a homer by Andrew Benintendi) in a five-inning tuneup in the Cubs’ 3-2 victory against the Red Sox.
‘‘There’s a lot of firsts there, so hopefully we’ll continue it,’’ said Hamels, whose golf feat was broadcast on Instagram by teammate Anthony Rizzo, who apparently was equally impressed by the homer. ‘‘He’s a little perplexed right now just because of what’s going on. It’s been fun.’’
Yu in Game 2
Maddon confirmed that, barring a setback, right-hander Yu Darvish (blister) will start the second game of the series Saturday against the Rangers. Left-hander Jon Lester will start the opener.