Cubs could get used to sellout crowds

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.comChicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward works out during Spring training at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona Friday.

    Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.comChicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward works out during Spring training at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona Friday.

 
 
Updated 2/26/2017 8:54 PM

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs players made much of the sellout crowd and the festive atmosphere at Sloan Park for Saturday's Cactus League opener.

The Cubs likely will play before sellout crowds all spring at Sloan, and manager Joe Maddon says that can put the players into a competitive frame of mind entering the regular season.

 

"This place has such a regular-season or major-league ballpark representation that it should help you mentally get in that right spot," Maddon said. "Even at the end of our camp, we go to play Houston in a real ballpark, and I like that. I like that a lot, too.

"If you just come off throwing the last pitch of a World Series and still come back here a couple months later and get that rush, I think that's outstanding. That's just how this game works. This facility, this everything, gets you ready or gets you going. I just think what they're (the players) talking about is just the attention and the fans. It's good. It's good that that happens now."

The Cubs finish the exhibition season with a pair of games against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park before they head to St. Louis to begin the regular season in April.

"I like those two games in Houston," Maddon said. "We'll go play St. Louis, and we'll all be throw-up nervous before the game, but after that, by the first or second inning, you're fine. It's all part of the ritual on an annual basis."

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Sizing up the swing:

Joe Maddon says he likes what he sees so far of right fielder Jason Heyward's revamped swing.

"Beautiful, absolutely beautiful," the manager said. "I loved the first at-bat, first pitch (Saturday). He stayed inside the ball well. It just looks freer, something that I really believe is going to work. Just talking to him, I can just tell on his face how comfortable he is with it.

"It's like a little bit of a new toy, but he knows the toy has a lot of potential benefit to it. I really like watching what he's doing. I watched his BP (batting practice) yesterday. It was real clean. I think there's a pretty good year out there for him."

Plans for the rotation:

The Cubs top four starting pitchers will probably start seeing game action by the weekend. Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey are being eased into action after last year's long season.

Joe Maddon seems almost ready to announce his starter for the regular-season opener, April 2.

"I haven't discussed that with him yet," Maddon said. "I've got to do that. I'm really bad as a manager in regards to remembering to talk to an opening-day starter and tell him that so I can tell you guys. I've been consistently bad at that for years."

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