Cubs manager Ross' perceived insult of Pirates could pay dividends

Just call Cubs manager David Ross a master motivator.

To some ears, he insulted the Pittsburgh Pirates on their way out of town Thursday, after they took two of three against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

"That's not a good team that just took two out of three from us ... or not our caliber team, I believe," Ross said after the series finale.

The Pirates took offense, as they probably should, then beat Cincinnati on Friday, a team battling the Cubs for playoff position. Ross said he texted Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton, a Gurnee native, to try to clear the air.

"Just frustrated after a game," Ross said Saturday. "I've got a ton of respect for every team we play, not just Pittsburgh. Every team can win. I thought I corrected myself within the context of talking to you guys.

"I think Derek and that crew over there has done a really nice job. Part of this job, you're not always going to be perfect in these meetings and sometimes after a game, postgame, you're going to say things that probably don't come out the right way."

Of course, there could be a silver lining to this mild controversy.

"Hopefully they use my words and kick the crap out of the Reds," Ross added.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, outfielder Bryan Reynolds took the most offense inside the Pirates clubhouse Friday.

"I guess he can say whatever he wants," Reynolds said. "We can use it as motivation. At the end of the day, if we're such a bad team, maybe he should have managed his team a little better and beat us. ... We went in there and outplayed them."

Added pitcher Johan Oviedo, "Even if you play video games against your friends and you lose, you still get mad about it. They're mad. We're happy."

Shelton, who always seems to keep a sense of humor in his news conferences, didn't lash out at Ross or anything.

"I think it's unfortunate that he made it about our team and not his team," said the Warren Township High School grad. "Because we're executing. We played well. I realize they won the season series. They're a good club. They're in contention.

"I worked for a guy (Joe Maddon) who actually worked in Chicago for a while. He used to say all the time, 'The ability to focus on your own club is the most important thing.' My focus is on our club and the fact that we're playing good baseball right now."

Out of the Box:

Another day, another bullpen injury for the Cubs. They put Brad Boxberger on the 15-day injured list with a right forearm strain, which means he's most likely done for the season. Keegan Thompson was recalled from Triple A Iowa.

Boxberger, 35, spent most of the season on the injured list with the same issue. He made five appearances in September and allowed 2 runs. The Cubs and Boxberger have a mutual option for next season.

Around the horn:

Jordan Wicks will start Sunday's game against Colorado. With Marcus Stroman likely to get another start against Milwaukee next Friday, Javier Assad will remain in the bullpen, according to manager David Ross. ... The Cubs are 44-36 at home this season with the Wrigley finale arriving Sunday.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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