Notes: Kipnis right at home; 2B starter TBD

July 18th, 2020

CHICAGO -- As a safety precaution, the Cubs have held team meetings out in the Wrigley Field stands rather than indoors during Summer Camp this month. For , walking through the tunnel and having that different view of the Friendly Confines has brought memories flooding back.

"I grew up coming to this field," Kipnis said. "I'm remembering like, 'This view is ringing a bell to me right now.' So there's little flashbacks like that that are just special to me that I get to enjoy that not many others do. It's only going to get better from here."

On Friday, the Cubs selected Kipnis' contract from Triple-A Iowa, awarding the second baseman a spot on the Opening Day roster. To clear room on the 40-man roster, Chicago sent a cash consideration to the Padres to maintain the rights to reliever Trevor Megill, who was outrighted and reassigned to the South Bend, Ind., alternate training site.

It has been well-documented that Kipnis grew up in Chicagoland in the northern suburb of Northbrook. The 33-year-old veteran spent the past nine seasons as one of Cleveland's core players, making the All-Star team twice and famously playing against his hometown Cubs in the 2016 World Series.

After Cleveland opted against picking up Kipnis' option for the 2020 season, he hit free agency and jumped at the chance to join the Cubs. Kipnis was already a front-runner for a roster spot in Spring Training, but his physical condition and performance during Summer Camp has earned praise from manager David Ross.

"Kip's done a really good job, especially since being back," Ross said. "Great at-bats. Things that I value. He's got plenty of hits, played great defense and has really been a great baserunner as well in these scrimmages. Just a well-rounded player who looks really good, and looking at his resume, I really feel like he can help us out in a lot of ways."

Kipnis is looking forward to having that opportunity.

"I never looked at myself as an NRI guy. I kind of knew I had more in me," Kipnis said. "I knew that there was no price tag that was keeping teams away. Whether it was injuries or whatnot, I just didn't have the want-to from teams to sign me. But I knew I was better than a lot of guys out there, so I had to keep that mindset and keep that confidence going.

"I planned to prove it to any team that was going to take a chance on me, and was very excited that I wound up back home here."

Cubs Convention canceled
Given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis across the country, the Cubs have made the decision to cancel the 2021 Cubs Convention, which was scheduled for Jan. 15-17 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. The team will be exploring virtual events for its fans in place of CubsCon, which has been held annually since 1986.

"Obviously, it was a difficult decision," said Julian Green, the Cubs' vice president of communications and community affairs. "We thought long and hard about it. One of the things we thought about, when you're trying to produce an event of this size and magnitude, it just became very clear that it wasn't likely in a pandemic environment, because of the unknowns and hotel restrictions and capacity for a mass gathering. It was a set of circumstances beyond our control."

Managing second base
While Kipnis will be on the Opening Day roster, Ross has been careful not to declare anyone his starting second baseman. Both Kipnis and top prospect Nico Hoerner figure to get the bulk of the playing time at that position, with utility men David Bote and Daniel Descalso also in the mix.

"The main thing here is we're going to have to play good defense," Ross said. "We're going to have to give quality at-bats. The guys that are swinging the bats well are going to play. As we continue to navigate through this, we'll try to find the good matchups that we have, whether it's righty, lefty or swing path and sinkerballers or four-seams up in the zone.

"We'll try to match up guys as best we can, and then just use our eyes and our feel for who we trust out there and who we trust in the big moment. All those things come into play."

Worth noting
• The Cubs selected the 26-year-old Megill from San Diego in the Rule 5 Draft in December, and Friday's maneuvering allows Chicago to keep the 6-foot-8 righty in the system as a bullpen depth piece. Ross was happy the Cubs found a way to keep Megill in the fold.

"He really showed a nice young arm, true velocity, good competitor," Ross said. "All those things were nice to see, and it is nice to keep him and have that backing from the front office, who likes him as well. It's nice to keep Trevor around, and I think he's going to help us some time soon."

• Ross indicated that Anthony Rizzo (lower back tightness) felt good on Friday morning, but the manager did not have more to update on the first baseman's status. Rizzo has been tracking pitches, but has not taken swings off live pitching since Sunday.

• Ross said he is still working through which rotation slot Jon Lester will fill behind Kyle Hendricks (July 24) and Yu Darvish (July 25). In Friday night's intrasquad game, Lester worked three innings and limited the damage to seven hits and two walks. He gave up a pair of solo homers (Albert Almora Jr. and Steven Souza Jr.) and finished with three strikeouts.

• Kipnis highlighted an offense-happy evening for the Cubs (15 runs on 19 hits total for both teams) in their intrasquad game Friday, collecting three hits, including a bunt single to beat a shift, a triple and a two-run single. Javier Báez (three hits) launched a homer for his second blast in the past two intrasquad games, and Willson Contreras added a two-run double.

"I've told him, 'Listen, man, if I'm not in the game and you are, then you take this position and you run with it.' One of us has to do the job of second base, because right now people are looking at second base as kind of a weakness on this team and it doesn't have to be that way. I know both of us are more than capable of stepping in and making it a strong suit." -- Kipnis, on sharing second base with Hoerner

Up next
The Cubs plan on conducting a lighter Summer Camp workout on Saturday. On Sunday, the Cubs will host the White Sox in a 7:05 p.m. CT exhibition game at Wrigley Field. As things stand, right-hander Kyle Hendricks would be the projected starter for that cross-city contest.