Cubs set to battle with strong lineup, rotation

March 26th, 2018

MESA, Ariz. -- There's been talk of Salvador Dali, bounce houses, flamingos and energy in Cubs camp this spring. The Opening Day roster was pretty much set before manager Joe Maddon met with the pitchers and catchers, who got a fresh face just prior to the first workout when signed a six-year deal.

Darvish joins a formidable rotation that may be the best Maddon has ever had. The position players aren't too shabby either. Opening Day is Thursday against the Marlins in Miami.

"This offense can be really scary," said. "I tell people, we have a group of three-hole hitters on our team and even on the bench. You can't take a break. You've got to lock in on everyone. That has to be a tough task for a pitcher."

Maddon, who enlisted the help of a Tampa Bay artist to get his message across, said he hasn't written down his Opening Day lineup.

"I know how tough it was last year to fit everybody in every day," Maddon said. "I want to stay open minded. I have faith in everybody out there, I feel confident in everybody out there. Not every manager can say that.

"I can't be happier with a group -- it's impossible to feel better about a group than I feel about this group," Maddon said.

Here's a lineup and more:

Projected Opening Day lineup

1. , CF

2. , 3B

3. , 1B

4. , C

5. Kyle Schwarber, LF

6. , SS

7. , RF

8. , 2B

9. , P

Key roles

Who will lead off?

Happ has had the most at-bats in the leadoff spot this spring, and he will get the most at-bats there. If the Cubs are facing a tough lefty, Maddon may go with Albert Almora Jr. in the No. 1 spot. Or, Maddon might pick , who appears to be 100 percent recovered from a sore wrist that hampered him last year.

The closer

Last spring, signed a Minor League contract with the Dodgers and he had to battle to win a spot in the bullpen. He wound up setting up and pitching every game in the World Series. This offseason, Morrow signed a two-year, $21 million deal with the Cubs to be their closer. He hasn't held that job since 2008-09 with the Mariners, and at that time, it was part-time duty.

Platooning

There will be a lot of sharing this season. Happ and Almora will share center, Zobrist and Schwarber will share left field. Zobrist and Baez also will share second base. Maddon believes in making sure guys get a breather, so could see time at third to give Bryant a rest.

Injury updates

Maddon did the splits in the dugout at Scottsdale Stadium on Thursday night and he had a sore right leg. It may affect his bike-riding -- he's an avid cyclist -- but he should be able to make the trips to the mound all right.

was slowed this spring by a tender left calf, which limited him to two appearances in Cactus League games.