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Cubs notes: Ross talks DH options, OD starter

@MLBastian
June 29, 2020

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager David Ross has already discussed the possibility of Kyle Schwarber serving as a designated hitter. The outfielder's name has come up as a future DH candidate since he broke into the Majors, but Ross wanted to let Schwarber know he still has a home in left

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager David Ross has already discussed the possibility of Kyle Schwarber serving as a designated hitter. The outfielder's name has come up as a future DH candidate since he broke into the Majors, but Ross wanted to let Schwarber know he still has a home in left field.

"We're on the same page," Ross said in a Zoom call with Chicago reporters on Monday. "He's comfortable in the DH spot. He's told me that. I've told him it's not going to be strictly a DH role for him."

Ross named Schwarber and Steven Souza Jr. as possible DH candidates from within Chicago's outfield cast. The manager also floated the concept of finding ways to work both of his catchers, Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini, into the order when it made sense.

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In such a short season, Ross also wants to play the hot hand, while balancing potential analytical advantages. There will also be times when the DH slot could be utilized as a way to get another everyday player off his feet.

Simply put, the Cubs will not have one full-time DH. The job will be used in a variety of ways.

"It's about balancing the rest," Ross said, "[with] guys who are giving us the best at-bats -- we're not going to have a huge sample size -- and guys getting into the season. We're going to have to kind of read at-bats as we go and what guys are squaring the ball up with some frequency, and really try to put those guys in situations to succeed.

"So, we have a lot of options, the way our roster is set up right now."

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Ross was also quick to note that he has no issue with playing Schwarber in left field, especially given the work put in by the outfielder to improve his defense in recent years. Schwarber posted minus seven Defensive Runs Saved in 2017, but bounced back with three DRS and a 14.0 UZR/150 in '18. Last year, Schwarber was a touch under league average (minus three DRS and minus 0.9 UZR/150) in left.

"I don't see Kyle as a huge outfield risk for us," Ross said. "We do have some guys that are better defensively, of course, outfielders than Kyle, but he plays a solid left field, to me. And I don't have any hesitation with putting him out there."

Who takes Opening Day mound?

As the Cubs were closing in on the end of Spring Training in March, Ross was down to picking between Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks as the Opening Day starter. The manager laughed when asked Monday if he had made a decision on that assignment in the past three months.

"I haven't even seen my players," Ross said. "All the guys that were in the realm of being the Opening Day starter have stayed ready and seem to be on a good path. We'll take this next couple weeks and see where everybody's at and I'll give you guys an answer when I at least get to see my players and look them in the eye."

Two staffers test positive for COVID-19

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer confirmed on Monday that a pair of Tier 1 staffers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and will be delayed in joining the team for the start of camp. Hoyer did not disclose the names of the individuals, except to say that neither test involved one of Chicago's players.

Hoyer said both cases were considered "mild" at the moment and came as the result of testing done at home prior to the staffers heading to Chicago. Beyond players, Tier 1 includes the manager, coaches, bullpen catchers, team physicians, head and assistant athletic trainers, physical therapists and strength and conditioning coaches.

"There's going to be positive tests -- there's no way around that," Hoyer said. “We have too many players in the league. I think it's unrealistic to think that we're not going to have some positive tests, but we have to do everything we can to avoid the kind of outbreaks that are happening in certain states right now."

Players arriving to Wrigley Field began undergoing COVID-19 testing (including antibody tests) on Saturday in an area outside the ballpark. Hoyer noted that the "majority" of players were traveling on Monday and Tuesday and would have their tests done on Wednesday.

Worth noting

• Hoyer said the Cubs' priority when coming up with their 50-player pool (out of 60 allowed spots in total) was maintaining some flexibility at the start of camp. While a team can add to its pool, things can get trickier when it comes to removing players from that roster. So, Chicago built in a 10-spot safety net for now.

"It's a lot easier to add than it is to subtract," Hoyer explained. "We can get to camp, get a feel for our guys, get a feel for our depth and then, if we get to a place where we feel like we need more Major League depth, we can pivot in that direction. If we get to a place where we feel like we can add a few more prospects to our list, then we can do that as well."

• To date, Hoyer said there have been no players or coaches who have expressed a desire to not participate this season, but added that "we would respect the decision and understand that this is being made from a very important place."

• Hoyer said the Cubs were not close on any external additions, but they plan on keeping their options open: "I would expect that we report with the 50 that we have on Friday and then go from there. I think at that point, we'll be nimble."

Quotable

"If they're passing out a trophy, I want it. If they're handing out rings and we're all starting from the same point, I don't care if it's a five-game season. This is competition and it's what we enjoy doing. It's why we suit up." -- Ross, asked if the 2020 World Series comes with an asterisk

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.