Notes: Cubs' 2-strike approach, Davies

March 8th, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- choked up on his bat and adjusted to his secondary swing with two strikes against him in the fifth inning on Monday. The first baseman then pulled a sharp ground ball through the right side of the infield for a single off Rangers lefty John King.

One batter later, delivered another two-strike hit for the Cubs, who have been impressing manager David Ross with their collective approach out of the gates this spring.

"The two-strike hitting already has improved," Ross said prior to the Cubs' 9-0 victory over the Rangers at Sloan Park. "I find myself writing down on my note card, a lot of that. Good two-strike approach. Even when it's not hits."

During this first segment of spring games, Ross said one thing he has noticed has been more aggressiveness on the part of his hitters. sure put that on full display in the fifth, when he launched a loud, first-pitch three-run homer. Then, (now 9-for-13 on the spring) followed Báez with a ground-rule double with two strikes.

It was the type of overall showing that Ross hopes the Cubs can carry into the season, following a rough 2020 from the team's key offensive players.

"I feel like last year, it was we just never found that real rhythm," Ross said. "This year these guys are getting off a lot more swings early on and feeling where they're at, right? Rather than trying to take and time. They're just coming out swinging and I feel like that's the best way to find out where your swing's at and then we get real feedback from that."

Davies sharp in latest start
was so efficient through three innings on Monday afternoon against the Rangers that the Cubs' starter had to log more pitches in the bullpen. The precision-based righty breezed through the 10 batters he faced in his second Cactus League outing.

"I kind of expected that," said Davies, who cited experience facing Texas' lineup last season. "But, just staying over the plate today, staying down in the zone and getting early contact was how it went. I'm always happy with that."

Davies needed only five pitches (all strikes) to induce three groundouts in the first inning, and his outing ended with 25 pitches thrown in total on the afternoon. He issued one four-pitch walk in the second and worked around an error, generating six outs via ground balls overall.

With Davies' performance, Cubs starters have combined to allow just one run on eight hits in 16 innings through eight Cactus League games this spring. The group has combined for 13 strikeouts against five walks.

Worth noting
• Reliever Pedro Strop (non-roster invite) will be held out of Cubs camp until at least Tuesday or Wednesday as he quarantines following a violation of COVID-19 protocols, according to Ross. The manager indicated that Strop tested negative for the virus, but he still had to clear some hurdles before rejoining the rest of the team in person.

Ross addressed the issues with the team as a whole on Monday morning.

"The reminder here, for me, is just about talking about just staying diligent," Ross said. "It's easy to let down our guard. It's a good reminder for us all to continue to follow the protocols. Things are moving the right direction. Let's just not speed things up."

• Center fielder Jake Marisnick (mild calf issue) faced lefty Justin Steele in live batting practice on Monday morning. Ross noted that Marisnick is progressing well and could be on target for his Cactus League debut by the weekend at the earliest.

• Ross indicated that left-hander Kyle Ryan, who was delayed at the beginning of camp while on MLB's COVID-19 related injured list, has been off a mound and could begin live BP soon.

• Long-time Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes will make his Marquee Sports Network debut this week, doing play-by-play for the Friday (vs. Brewers) and Sunday (vs. Angels) broadcasts.

"It just looks like he's ready to fire on every pitch. It really looks like his timing's in place. He's synced up at the plate. I really noticed some really good strike-zone awareness early on, which is, I think, hard to do. And he seems to be commanding the strike zone, making good swing decisions." -- Ross, on Rizzo

Up next
Right-hander is scheduled to start his second game of the spring for the Cubs on Tuesday, when the North Siders host the A's at 2:05 p.m. CT at Sloan Park, live on MLB.TV. Catcher Willson Contreras might also return to the lineup, following a day off Monday.