Notes: Ross' balancing act; Almora OK

July 11th, 2020

CHICAGO -- When Kyle Schwarber connected with a pitch from Tyler Chatwood in an intrasquad game on Friday night, launching the baseball deep to center field at Wrigley Field, there was a howl from the field that was nearly as loud as the crack of the bat. It was Cubs manager David Ross reacting to the blast.

"I mean, that ball was as loud as it gets," Ross said on Saturday. "With not a whole lot of noise, I just screamed really loud."

Not only did Ross yell into the North Side night, the Cubs' first-year manager hustled onto the field in front of the home dugout, where he greeted Schwarber with a jumping air high-five after the slugger crossed home plate. The display was part genuine excitement over the homer, and part jovial jab in the direction of Jason Heyward and Javier Báez.

You see, Schwarber was playing for the Cubs team wearing the home whites, along with Heyward and Báez. Earlier in the game, they had been giving Ross a hard time over how much time he was spending sitting near the first-base dugout with the Cubs squad wearing the road blues. Ross is finding himself in a humorous struggle of how to root for his players when they are pitted against one another.

"That's the challenge, right?" Ross said. "I just like to voice my opinion, like, 'Good swing,' or 'Good pitch,' or 'Way to swing it.' And one of the pitchers said, 'It's really weird to have your manager rooting against you.' I tried to tell him I'm on everybody's side."

Ross let out a laugh.

"A hard-hit ball [for an] out is like the best outcome for a manager in this situation," he added.

Ross pointed out that after letting out his celebratory shout over Schwarber's fourth-inning blast to the center-field bleachers, he immediately shouted at the slugger to get running. That was a kind of managerial olive branch for Chatwood.

"I yelled at Schwarbs to run, because he was kind of fixin' to walk it off," Ross quipped. "So, yeah, I don't know. I balance it. I'm a fan, too. I get kind of some fandom at moments, where I'm just like, 'Man, this is really cool to watch a lot of this talent play out in front of me,' and we're all on the same side."

Almora on the mend
Ross noted that Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. was sore on Saturday morning, following a hard crash into the wall during Friday's intrasquad game. Almora was trying to track down a deep fly off the bat of Kris Bryant, but slammed into the bricks and ivy in center before falling to the warning track.

Almora (mild left rib contusion) returned to the game after a brief trip to the training room, but spent Saturday morning getting treatment rather than pushing it during Chicago's workout. The injury is not considered serious.

"That brick wall does not move -- at all," Ross said. "There's a fine line when you're sitting in this seat. You love the mindset of Albert and trying to catch every ball and kind of throwing caution to the wind. And then you're like, 'It's a scrimmage.' You'd like him to be a little more timid, but I don't want to ever take that away from my players.

"And Albert's got that ability to go into that wall and catch the ball. I definitely was concerned as I ran out there and heard his voice. And as most players are going to, they're going to try to fight you to stay in, if they feel like they're fine. Ran him in to get checked out. [Head athletic trainer P.J. Mainville] gave it the thumbs up."

Lester accepting of DH
Veteran pitcher Jon Lester began his career with an 0-for-66 slump in the batter's box, but he has gone 34-for-252 with three homers since ending that drought on July 6, 2015. Lester joked on Saturday that he would not allow Ross to use the designated hitter this season on days that the lefty started.

"I told Rossy that I'm hitting in the games I'm pitching," Lester deadpanned. "I don't know what he wants to do there, but you're taking a pretty big force out of the lineup if we're going with the DH every five days."

All kidding aside, Lester said he would be fine if the DH was in the National League for good and not only for the 2020 season.

"It takes a little bit of the nuance of the game away," Lester said. "But, I think right now, going forward, if we keep this DH in the National League, you're creating 15 more jobs for guys, which is a good thing for our game and for those guys. So I think it's a nice thing."

Worth noting
• The Cubs are constructing additional dugout-style seating on both sides of the field. The areas will give players more room to practice social distancing, while also making it easier for them to come and go, as opposed to sitting in the ballpark chairs.

"That was a concern of ours," Ross said. "Sitting on the bench is way different than sitting in an actual seat in the stands. You're going to want to be active, you're going to want to get up and move around."

• First baseman Anthony Rizzo has not played in the last two intrasquad games due to tightness in his lower back, but he took part in Saturday's workout. Rizzo got in his throwing, participated in infield drills and got some swings in to test his back. He remains day to day.

• Rookie infielder Nico Hoerner has continued to get work in at shortstop, where he is the primary backup to Báez, but remains firmly in the mix to get most of his playing time at second base. Ross said Saturday that Hoerner "looks great defensively" at both positions.

• Left-hander Kyle Ryan rejoined the Cubs and took part in Saturday's workout, following a "process based" delay. He went through the COVID-19 intake screening and was cleared for Summer Camp.

"[Almora] wanted to get back out there, so we ran him out there and he got the game-winning hit for the white team. And then I had to go over to the blue side and they were complaining about him batting out of order. That's where the competition is right now with this group, saying that run doesn't count, because Al batted out of order. I mean, it's hilarious. These guys, they want to win at everything they do." -- Ross, on Almora re-entering Friday's intrasquad game