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Ross' first message: 'Share your knowledge'

Chatwood in 'the best spot I've ever been in'; Rizzo's ankle 'feels great'
@MLBastian
February 12, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- When David Ross pulled into the Cubs complex for the first time this spring, the new manager had trouble finding a parking spot near the entrance. It was the result of so many players arriving to Arizona earlier than required. "We've got to get my own parking

MESA, Ariz. -- When David Ross pulled into the Cubs complex for the first time this spring, the new manager had trouble finding a parking spot near the entrance. It was the result of so many players arriving to Arizona earlier than required.

"We've got to get my own parking spot in my contract," Ross quipped. "No, there's definitely a renewed energy around here. Guys are excited. They've talked about it. There's been a lot of communication in the offseason."

While the bulk of Chicago's pitchers and catchers have already been in camp, Wednesday marked the first official workout for that segment of the roster. Ross observed drills on the practice fields and watched bullpen sessions. He moved his way around the facility, chatting with his coaches and getting used to all the spring duties of a first-time manager.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, Ross checked another first off the list. He stood before the pitchers and catchers and delivered his inaugural speech as the Cubs' new manager. In recent days and weeks, he has jotted down notes -- his own thoughts and things picked up from conversations with others -- in order to organize the message.

Once in front of the players, Ross found himself veering off the specific script.

"When I speak freely, I kind of bounce all over the place," Ross said. "So there's definitely an order that I try to keep, but I'm just finding when I start there's a lot that just comes out that I'm passionate about and I start speaking to. It's things I've written down and I know they're on my heart."

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Ross said his biggest Day 1 message was for the players to all work to have an impact on each other. He wants the younger pitchers to watch and learn from the likes of Jon Lester and Yu Darvish. He wants the young catchers to pay attention to Willson Contreras. He wants relievers lacking in experience to see how Craig Kimbrel goes about his work.

Most of all, Ross wants workouts -- whether out on the fields or indoors -- to be filled with conversations that can help players foster a collaborative environment for learning and growing.

"There's a lot of talent in the room, and there's a lot of guys that have done some special things," Ross said. "Share your knowledge. This isn't somewhere we need to hoard the knowledge. Let's share our wealth."

Worth noting
• Earlier this week, Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy indicated that right-hander Tyler Chatwood is a leading candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation. Chatwood, who turned in a solid season as a swing man on the staff last year, said Wednesday he is ready to prove he can take that job and run with it.

"I feel like this is the best spot I've ever been in -- mechanics, throwing and everything," Chatwood said. "I'm just excited to get going and show people what I can actually do, my full arsenal that I have, and it'll be fun. I'm enjoying it."

• During a charity event in Chicago in January, first baseman Anthony Rizzo said he hoped his right ankle (injured in September last season) would be back at 100 percent by Feb. 15 (Saturday). Rizzo was asked Wednesday how that prediction was holding up.

"It's the 12th, right? I've got three days?" Rizzo said with a laugh. "No, it feels great. I don't think I'll have any restrictions. I was just asked if I ran the bases, but I don't think I've ran the bases in the offseason ever. I feel good."

• Ross called quality assurance coach Mike Napoli the "Swiss Army knife" of the Cubs' coaching staff. Napoli will team with third-base coach Will Venable to work with players on baserunning, while also lending a hand with the catchers, first basemen and hitters.

"It's easy to pick his brain," Ross said. "He's got some ideas. He was with multiple organizations, too, so he's seen things done a different way. He's seen a lot of winning. Yeah, he's very, very valuable, and I plan on sprinkling him into every area I possibly can."

• Right-hander Taijuan Walker threw for Cubs evaluators at the team's complex on Monday, but the free agent opted to take a job elsewhere. Walker agreed to a Major League contract with the Mariners on Wednesday.

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.