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Cubs awarding 'Cash Money Coach of the Day'

@MLBastian
March 5, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs hitting coach Anthony Iapoce emerged from the team's complex with staff assistant Juan Cabreja at his side. Around Cabreja's neck was a large (fake) gold chain with the Cubs' logo on a massive medallion. "Cash money coach of the day!" yelled Iapoce, as Cabreja beamed.

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs hitting coach Anthony Iapoce emerged from the team's complex with staff assistant Juan Cabreja at his side. Around Cabreja's neck was a large (fake) gold chain with the Cubs' logo on a massive medallion.

"Cash money coach of the day!" yelled Iapoce, as Cabreja beamed.

Each spring, players use the six-week preseason not only to hone their skills for the season ahead, but to build camaraderie and chemistry. The same goes for coaching staffs, especially when -- as is the case with the Cubs this year -- there is a group of new coaches who joined the fold over the offseason.

Iapoce reached back to his Minor League coordinator days in coming up with the "Cash Money Coach of the Day" concept. During the daily morning coaching staff meeting, the previous day's winner names a new recipient or two. The idea is to either recognize a coach for putting in extra work, or to maybe poke some fun for something that went wrong in a game or workout.

"We do all this stuff for the players," Cubs manager David Ross said. "And 'Poce is like, 'We've got to start giving some love to the coaches,' and I agree. ... Whether it's a Minor League coach or a big league coach, or somebody that impacts a player, somebody that does something unique in the dugout or on the field, we try to point that out and just know that you're appreciated."

Cabreja and fellow Major League staff assistant Franklin Font received the honors earlier this week for events during Monday's split-squad games. Nate Halm, the Cubs' assistant director of advance scouting and run production, and third-base coach Will Venable were the latest honorees on Thursday morning.

Halm and Venable earned a big chain for putting in some extra work in the batting cage and practice fields, respectively. Halm not only set things up in the hitting lab, but then stuck around to pick up baseballs (something non-uniform personnel don't always do). Venable gathered baseballs in the outfield for two rounds of batting practice, and then helped out during small-ball drills.

"We're just trying to bring guys together," said Iapoce, who also thinks the fun reward will help make Minor League coaches more comfortable. "A lot of time, Minor League guys come over and they try to stay out of the way. You want them involved. You want them coaching. You want them coming up with ideas."

Iapoce said he got the chains after browsing the aisles of a party store. The Cubs' hitting coach said he is always on the lookout for items that will get a laugh, or might come in handy with other team-building concepts. He laughed when asked if he had some ideas for rewarding Chicago's hitters this season.

"I've got something," Iapoce said with a smirk. "It's not out there, yet."

Worth noting
• Ross is still in wait-and-see mode when it comes to how the Cubs will handle the 26th roster spot this season. The manager said that decision will be directly impacted by how Chicago goes about building the rest of its roster.

"I just want someone that complements the rest of the team," Ross said. "Maybe something different. I don't want to have six utility guys. Maybe we have a power bat on the bench or a speed guy or a backup catcher, a third catcher. We're still looking at all those options."

• Not only was right-hander Yu Darvish scratched from Thursday's start due to illness, but second baseman Jason Kipnis was sent home after feeling ill, too. Outfielder Albert Almora Jr. was also under the weather on Thursday. Reliever James Norwood started in Darvish's place and Nico Hoerner took over for Kipnis in the lineup.

• First baseman Anthony Rizzo was also scratched from Thursday's game against the Rangers due to a blister on his right middle finger that split open.

• Rizzo, Kipnis, Hoerner, Kris Bryant and Ian Happ are among the position players listed to travel to Las Vegas for this weekend's games against the Reds. Alec Mills, Ryan Tepera, Casey Sadler, Rowan Wick and Trevor Megill are among the pitchers tentatively slated to make the trip as well.

Up next
Left-hander Jon Lester is scheduled to start for the Cubs on Friday, when the North Siders host the rival White Sox at 2:05 p.m. CT at Sloan Park. In his previous outing, Lester spun three shutout innings with four strikeouts and no walks on Sunday vs. Seattle. The White Sox will send righty Lucas Giolito to the mound. Watch live on MLB.TV.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.