What's in store for Cubs under Ross in 2020?

January 20th, 2020

CHICAGO -- The upcoming season could be viewed as the beginning of a bridge between this recent era of Cubs baseball and the next. Chicago's front office is trying to thread the needle between contending now and taking steps to keep the World Series window open for years to come.

Even so, new Cubs manager David Ross would like to throw the phrase "transition period" out the window.

"My goal is to win," Ross said at the Winter Meetings. "As the roster stands right now, this is a group that is expected to win. I think we've got a chance to win the division and the World Series. There's a lot of talent in this group, and my expectations will never falter from that. I won't ever not expect to win the World Series, that's for sure."

With that in mind, let's answer some FAQs about 2020 for the Cubs:

When does Spring Training begin?
The Cubs' report dates for pitchers, catchers and other position players have not been announced yet, but expect the first report date of Spring Training to land in the second week of February. Chicago opens its Cactus League slate with an exhibition against the A's on Feb. 22. On March 7-8, the Cubs will face the Reds in Las Vegas.

When is Opening Day?
The Cubs will begin the regular season against the rival Brewers at 1:10 p.m. CT on March 26 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Chicago's home opener at Wrigley Field is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. CT on March 30 against the Pirates.

What are the highlights of the 2020 schedule?
April: Following Opening Day and the home opener, the Cubs' next highlight will be hosting the rival Cardinals for the first time from April 10-12 at Wrigley Field. The North Siders head to the Beltway from April 14-19 for back-to-back road series against the Orioles and Nationals. Opponents' combined 2019 winning percentage: .487.

May: The Cubs head to Dodger Stadium for a series against Los Angeles on May 4-6. Chicago will host the Nationals on Mother's Day on May 10. There will be a 10-game, 11-day road trip through San Diego, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee from May 14-24. Opponents' combined 2019 winning percentage: .497.

June: The Cubs and Cardinals will head overseas for the 2020 London Series, which will take place on June 13-14 at London Stadium. Chicago will host the Red Sox on June 19-21, with the finale of that series falling on Father's Day. The Cubs will play the Yankees at Yankee Stadium from June 26-28. Opponents' combined 2019 winning percentage: .512.

July: The Cubs and White Sox will face each other at Guaranteed Rate Field (July 7-8) and Wrigley Field (July 20-21). The All-Star Game will be held on July 14 at Dodger Stadium. Chicago will then have an eight-game road trip to St. Louis and San Francisco from July 23-30. Opponents' combined winning percentage: .527.

August: For the first time since 2014, the Cubs will head north of the border for a series against the Blue Jays (Aug. 14-16). Chicago will face National League teams from the '19 postseason field (Brewers, Braves, Dodgers and Cardinals) in 13 of their 14 home games for the month. Opponents' combined '19 winning percentage: .511.

September: The Cubs will finish out the 2020 slate with 10 of their final 12 games at home, where the North Siders had a 51-30 record in '19. The Cubs and Cardinals will clash on Sept. 10-13 in St. Louis and will finish the season against each other on Sept. 25-27 in Chicago. Opponents' combined '19 winning percentage: .473.

Three questions

1. How differently will Spring Training look under Ross?
During the Winter Meetings, Ross said he hopes players experience some "shock" when it comes to how Spring Training is run in 2020. While the new manager said he will keep some of what worked under former Cubs manager Joe Maddon, Ross wants to create more structure and foster an environment of working together as a team, while creating a heightened sense of accountability.

2. Can closer Craig Kimbrel bounce back to anchor the bullpen?
That is certainly the hope for the Cubs, especially given the many question marks hovering over the relief corps right now. Kimbrel will have had the benefit of a normal offseason and his regular spring routine, which was not the case last year as he waited for a team to sign him. With so much turnover in the 'pen, Chicago absolutely needs a healthy and productive Kimbrel in the new season.

3. How big of a role will top prospect Nico Hoerner play in 2020?
The Cubs were not expecting to see Hoerner in the Majors in 2019, but injuries late in the season forced the team's hand. Hoerner made the jump to MLB from Double-A and filled in admirably as the everyday shortstop down the stretch. If not on Opening Day, expect Hoerner to factor into the equation at second base (or short, if needed) during the '20 campaign.