Ross thinks Chicago Cubs could have carryover from scorching spring
Generally, the first rule of exhibition season, in any sport, is it means absolutely nothing. The wins don't count, the stats don't count, everyone's just trying to get ready for the real season.
Cubs manager David Ross agrees, but that doesn't mean he's unhappy about his team's 12-5 record this spring.
"Yeah, for sure. I talk a lot about stats not mattering, until you're 12-5 in the Cactus League and now I'm excited," Ross said with a laugh on a Zoom call with reporters. "I'm making it up as I go."
There have been positive signs along the road to the best record in spring baseball. The majority of their position players are locked in at the plate, three potential starting pitchers have posted ERAs below 1.40, and the relievers have piled up strikeouts.
There are some individual exceptions, but spring exhibitions have gone about as well as possible for the Cubs. The challenge is carrying it over once the regular season begins April 1.
"The fact that the guys have good at-bats, no matter the situation or how they're getting outs from a pitching perspective, is always reassuring," Ross said. "And scoring runs and winning is the goal any time you are in any kind of competition. Yeah, I think there's a carry-over, because it feels good to win."
Among the hitting highlights are Joc Pederson's .406 average with 5 home runs this spring. Fellow outfield newcomer Jake Marisnick is hitting .455. Marisnick, David Bote, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras have 3 home runs each.
The spring success also means there will be tough decisions to make. At second base alone, Bote, Nico Hoerner, Ildemaro Vargas and veteran Eric Sogard are viable candidates. Sogard has the lowest spring batting average among the four at .300.
"Every night when I'm on my drive back to my place, I think, 'Man, we've got a lot of good players fighting for just a few spots,' " Ross said. "I think that's all around our team, but definitely second base. David's swinging it as good as anybody. Sogy is just a very consistent, professional at-bat. You feel like you know exactly what you're getting.
"Vargy has given us one of the best right-handed bats I've seen so far. Nico obviously looks great, playing Gold Glove defense. A good problem to have is a great way to phrase that. There's real competition and there's real tough decisions to make, for sure."
As far as starting pitchers, Zach Davies (no earned runs in 9 innings), Shelby Miller (1.13 ERA), Trevor Williams (1.32 ERA) and Jake Arrieta (2.89 ERA) have stood out. Kyle Hendricks (6.48), Alec Mills (5.40) and Adbert Alzolay (15.75) have been less sharp.
That's also seven names in contention to start, and the Cubs may only need four to begin the season, since they have four days off in early April. At the same time, Ross is planning to be careful with pitcher workloads since last season was just 60 games long.
Roster decisions will be interesting and might depend on which players still have minor-league options available. Complicating the issue is the delayed start to minor-league season. Instead of regular playing time with the Iowa Cubs, those players will be in extended spring training.
• The Cubs' exhibition excellence came to a halt Monday as they lost to the Angels 15-7. Ian Happ, Patrick Wisdom and Miguel Amaya homered, while minor-leaguer Keegan Thompson started on the mound.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls