Hot Joc fitting in right away with Cubs

March 11th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cubs manager David Ross headed out to pick up some to-go food on a recent evening this spring. As Ross was walking, someone blared their horn as they drove by him.

It was .

"He honked the horn and made me jump about 4,000 feet," Ross said with a laugh on Wednesday morning. "He's even picking on the manager a little bit. He's a fun guy. He keeps things loose."

Needless to say, Pederson is feeling plenty relaxed in his new uniform, and that comfort has quickly translated to the batter's box. Pederson was not in the lineup for Wednesday's 7-6 loss to the Giants, but has been on an early tear for the North Siders.

Pederson launched his third homer of the spring and roped a pitch off the right-field wall at Sloan Park in Tuesday's win over Oakland. Through six games, the Cubs' new left fielder has piled up 16 total bases in 14 at-bats (1.143 slugging percentage) with seven RBIs and three walks.

"He's having a great spring," Ross said. "There's a real confidence about him when he walks around. He's just himself. He knows who he is and he's comfortable in his own skin, and a fun guy. ... He's fit in real easily and he's a pleasure to have around.

"And when he's playing like that, it's just, you can just tell how comfortable he is."

Mills keeps rotation rolling

Cubs righty Alec Mills allowed one run on Wednesday afternoon, but the first-inning single off the bat of Donovan Solano nicked off the edge of shortstop Javier Báez's glove. A double by Buster Posey was of the bloop variety, falling between multiple defenders in shallow left-center field.

The good outweighed the flukes, and Mills ended with a solid showing over 2 1/3 innings. The right-hander logged 37 pitches (23 strikes), scattered three hits and finished with one walk, one strikeout and five outs via ground balls.

And with Mills' performance, Cubs starting pitchers have now combined for a 1.27 ERA and 0.94 WHIP through 21 1/3 innings in 10 spring games (excluding relief appearances). That grouping includes Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, Trevor Williams, Adbert Alzolay, Shelby Miller and Mills.

"I know what we have in here and I know that we all know how to pitch," Mills said. "And I think we have the right infrastructure here to really pitch to a scouting report, pitch to guys' weaknesses. ... Hopefully, we're going to surprise some people this year and really pitch some good ballgames."

Worth nothing

• In his second outing of the spring, closer Craig Kimbrel allowed a leadoff homer to Matt Chapman before setting down the next three batters in order on Tuesday. Ross said Kimbrel is still sorting out his mechanics, but the manager was impressed by the curveball execution.

"He got a little bit rotational, talking to him," Ross said. "He said he just felt a little sideways. I thought the breaking ball was better, right? But then the fastball was not quite there. So, it's syncing those two up. He said he felt a little quick."

• Outfielder Rafael Ortega, who is in camp with the Cubs as a non-roster invitee, launched a walkoff grand slam to beat the A's, 9-8, on Tuesday. Ross could not remember ever seeing a game-winning slam in a spring game.

"That was cool," Ross said. "That was cool for us, and just the fans. It was just really good excitement on the back end of a game that was getting out of hand for us at the end. The guys continued to fight and have good at-bats. Good things happen when you continue to battle."

• Right now, the expectation is that the Cubs will open this season with a four-man bench. That could leave the team picking between an extra outfielder or a more versatile utility man for the final job. Ross said his priority will be pinch-hitting ability, regardless of position.

"When you have the pitcher batting again," Ross said, "there's going to be definite moments where you need a real bat on the bench, and maybe the position's not quite as important."

• Both Kris Bryant and Nico Hoerner were off Wednesday, marking it their second straight day out of the lineup for the Cubs. Ross said it was a scheduled break for both players.


"We're going to look back on what we were saying in Spring Training at the end of the year, and it's going to be like, 'Man, I don’t think we even knew what kind of year it was going to be.' It's going to be wild. Going from 60 to 162, that's just a lot on a body." --Mills, on pitchers preparing for the unknowns of this season

Up next

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks is scheduled to take the ball for the Cubs on Thursday, when the Rockies host the North Siders at 2:10 p.m. CT at Salt River Fields. Hendricks has not yet been named the Opening Day starter, but appears poised for that assignment.