(CBS) — Observations and notes from the first week of spring training for the Chicago Cubs:
‘Own It Now’: Several players noted a new sense of urgency and are buying into Manager Joe Maddon’s new slogan, “Own It Now,” especially after the sting of a bitter end to the 2018 season.
Can You Dig It? Speaking of Maddon, expect the skipper to be his calm, cool, quirky self again. However, Maddon, in the final year of his contract, says he will have a more hands-on approach.
Maddon says he “digs coaching” and looks forward to a more personal connection with players. Cubs President Theo Epstein said Maddon has “rookie energy” right now.
Looking To Lester: During the off-season, the Cubs brass talked quite a bit about getting more leadership from players and how this young team needed more of it last season. (Oh, how they miss David Ross).
They will rely even more on their ace, Jon Lester, to fill that big role. Lester came into camp fully aware of that responsibility.
“I think they made it clear to everybody. I read the stuff too. They hit the nail on the head. I think we cleared the air on a lot of things this off-season with certain things and understanding our roles a little bit more.
“Sometimes you need to do that. You need to sit down and go face-to-face and talk about what the expectations are. I think we’re in a good place. I think everyone is comfortable with who they are and what is expected of them. Now we can just get back to work.”
Starting Stars? There is a genuine buzz about the Cubs’ starting pitching rotation. A healthy Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels for a full season would be a huge boost to the team. All five pitchers are capable of hauling a lot of innings.
They are deep and experienced and a huge reason why this team–essentially the same team with just a few new faces–believes they can win this tough NL Central again.
Even relievers are taking notice of the arms around them. Newcomer Brad Bach said in amazement, “I have never had a rotation like that on a team I have been on. It’s exciting you have three to five guys and every night you expect to go six or seven innings minimum.”
The Cubs will have their first full squad workout Monday.