Cubs' Pederson stays hot, can't wait to play at Wrigley

Cubs manager David Ross thought about holding Joc Pederson out of Friday's Cactus League game against the Brewers.

"He's in a special place," Ross said. "If I could wrap him up and ship him off to Chicago and keep him right there, I would."

The Cubs open the regular season on April 1 against the Pirates at Wrigley Field. If Pederson is as hot at the plate as he is now in the Cactus League, watch out.

Heading into Friday's exhibition vs. Milwaukee, Pederson had 5 straight hits and was leading the Cactus League in batting (.529) and OPS (2.071) while being tied for first with 5 home runs.

Pederson now has 7 straight hits and a .579 batting average after going 2-for-2 in the Cubs' 8-3 loss in 7 innings to the Brewers.

The left-hander had a bunt single in the first inning and a double in the third before calling it a day.

Pederson, who hit a pair of homers against the Rockies Thursday in an 8-6 win, joined the Cubs in early February on a one-year, $4.5 million contract. The deal includes a $10 million option for 2022 with a $2.5 million buyout.

After filling a platoon role with the Dodgers the past seven seasons, Pederson hit the free-agent market this winter and was looking for a team willing to give him an opportunity to play every day in left field.

Needing a replacement for Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs turned out to be a logical landing spot.

"It's going to be good for me," Pederson said. "To get the opportunity, it's going to be fun. It's going to be a fun year in Chicago, so I'm excited. I guess you could say I've got to prove some stuff, but I'm not out to prove it for anybody but myself.

"I know what I can do, and I'm not going to add pressure, like, 'I've got to do this for you or for them.' No, I know what type of player I am."

Jake Arrieta made his second spring start for the Cubs and gave up 2 runs in 3⅓ innings.

The 35-year-old righty said he felt fatigue in the third inning when Milwaukee scored 2 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks, but Arrieta was pleased about coming back out for the fourth and getting his pitch count up to 55.

Before the game, the Cubs assigned 22 players to minor-league camp, reducing their spring roster from 73 to 51 players.

Right-handed pitchers Cory Abbott, Tyson Miller and Kohl Stewart were optioned to Class AAA Iowa. Catcher Miguel Amaya, right-handed pitcher Manuel Rodríguez and infielder Christopher Morel were sent to AA Tennessee.

The Cubs also returned right-handed pitcher Gray Fenter to the Orioles. He was a Rule 5 pick in December.

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