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updated: 2/24/2018 8:29 AM

With help from veterans, young Cubs maturing nicely

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  • Associated Press File PhotoCubs shortstop Addison Russell, left, celebrates with Anthony Rizzo, after scoring during an October 2016 game. The young players on the Chicago Cubs have grown up. They're still young, but they are veterans now.

    Associated Press File PhotoCubs shortstop Addison Russell, left, celebrates with Anthony Rizzo, after scoring during an October 2016 game. The young players on the Chicago Cubs have grown up. They're still young, but they are veterans now.

 
 

PHOENIX -- The Cubs kids have pretty much all grown up.

This young group that surprised the baseball world in 2015 by making it to the National League championship series before winning the World Series the next year is now a veteran group.

Manager Joe Maddon said Friday it's not incongruous to term his troops both "young" and "veteran."

"I've kind of been talking about that the last couple of years, the fact that they're going to grow into that group," Maddon said before the Cubs' Cactus League opener against the Milwaukee Brewers. "Now they're that group. I think I mentioned before that we were young and lacking experience. We're still young but we have experience. We've kind of changed that dialogue.

"My take in my interaction is that they have grown up, that they understand and they get it. Their methods, I couldn't ask them to do anything differently. Their work is so good. Their attention to detail is so good. They're motivated to win."

The "kids" seem accepting that they're part of a mature group.

"Sure," said infielder Javier Baez. "I just try to get better every day and make my team better. Anything I can help with to get them better and learn something from them, I will do."

To illustrate the point, Baez said he and shortstop Addison Russell were at work early Friday morning.

"We both got here early," he said. "We sat and talked about communication and other stuff. And these couple days we've been working together. Everything's been good for us and all the coaches."

Perhaps more important, almost all of the Cubs' young core has come up together, having learned one way to do things, the so-called Cubs way. On top of that, the front office added veterans to the mix, such as pitcher Jon Lester, to help the kids further.

"It doesn't happen everywhere," Maddon said of a young core coming together like this. "With this group, we've been talking about how unique they are from the beginning. Part of it is they've been raised properly. They have not been raised by wolves. I've been around teams that the veterans (are) raising them like wolves. There's an adversarial component to it. They sometimes subtract the fun from the game. They're always in a negative mental state, especially after a bad performance or a couple of bad losses.

"This group has been raised properly. None of them likes to lose but we also understand how to support and move along. I think a lot of it has to do with the veterans that have been here. They've done a great job supporting these guys and teaching them the right way."

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