Cubs' lopsided loss precedes Ross' return

September 12th, 2021

CHICAGO -- While confined to his residence over the past several days, Cubs manager David Ross has still been assembling the daily lineup. He has remained connected with his team from afar via regular texts and calls.

That part of the Cubs' operations has been relatively normal, while Ross has quarantined after a positive COVID-19 test. Prior to Chicago's 15-4 loss to the Giants on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, bench coach Andy Green cracked a smile when asked for the biggest difference without Ross around.

"It's a lot quieter," Green quipped.

After some laughter from Green's temporary media audience subsided -- the bench coach has served as the Cubs' acting manager in Ross' absence -- he shifted to a more serious take on the past 10 days.

"His presence," Green continued. "Everybody enjoys being around him every single day. There's also, at times with him, there's a sharp edge that's good for a culture and good for a clubhouse. He expects to win no matter what roster we have or don't have.

"And he creates a nice culture that way where we're pushing towards that every single day."

With the Cubs having shifted their focus to development and evaluation in this season's second half, while keeping 2022 and beyond in mind, that makes Ross' return for the final few weeks an important component.

Green noted Saturday that Ross has remained asymptomatic since his positive test led to him isolating away from the team late last week. Given that good news, and with no subsequent positive tests around the team, the manager is planning to rejoin the Cubs for Sunday's finale against San Francisco.

That will give Ross a chance to sit down with infielder Nick Madrigal (60-day injured list), who was acquired at the Trade Deadline and is spending this weekend with the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The manager can also convene with his team and staff ahead of the upcoming road trip through Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

"So, this will be the last time you have to talk to me," Green said with a smile. "I told him I was going to go on a little two-day vacation, take it to the house and see you guys in Philly. I don't know that he's going to approve of that."

Jokes aside, the Cubs have played relatively well throughout Ross' time away from the club. Chicago was in the early part of a season-high seven-game winning streak when its manager had to step away. Overall, the North Siders won six of the nine games that Ross missed.

"The guys have kind of found their stride," Green said. " It's been fun to watch."

A game like Saturday's, however, showed the kind of growing pains that come with development.

Following a rough two-inning start by righty Zach Davies, San Francisco jumped on rookie reliever Manuel Rodríguez in a six-run fifth inning. It was similar to how the Giants broke through against Trevor Megill one game earlier.

Both Rodríguez and Megill have power stuff and the makings of late-inning bullpen pieces for the future. At the moment, they are experiencing the ups and downs that come with developing in the Majors.

"There's been some flashes of great stuff," said Green, referring specifically to Megill earlier this weekend. "It's the type of stuff that you can look at and you can dream on."

Down the stretch, the Cubs will continue to test their less experienced relief arms. Chicago will keep seeing if more seasoned players like Patrick Wisdom, Frank Schwindel and Rafael Ortega might fit in the 2022 plans. Younger rotation pieces like Justin Steele, Adbert Alzolay and Keegan Thompson will be monitored closely.

“It's definitely been weird [not having Ross around],” said Schwindel, who had three hits in the loss. “Obviously, he's been great. He's been very positive and very motivating. And that's what we need in the clubhouse. Greeny's been great. He's been a lot of fun, too. We're looking forward to having him back and getting back to playing some good baseball."

Green said it will be a welcomed development to have Ross providing his input in person again.

“He's going to come back with 312 new ideas that we're going to have to sort through,” Green said. “He's passionate about what he does, so I know he's been bored."

Green said Ross has been watching a lot of baseball and has "read a lot" in his down time. Ross' only escape from his home has been retreating to his backyard. After Cubs games, the manager has been sending Green his thoughts and ideas.

"He's on ‘do not disturb’ now," Green joked. "I only have about 24 more hours left to be in charge, then I've got to start answering his calls."

No need. Ross will be there to tap Green on the shoulder in the dugout.

"His voice wasn't there," Green said. "But outside of that, this is 100 percent his club. It's been that the whole time."