Notes: Hendricks starting spring opener

Maybin officially joins Cubs; Arrieta looks great vs. top hitters

February 25th, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- Even before the Cactus League schedule was recently altered, the Cubs' plan was always to have ' first spring start to fall on Monday. That now happens to be Chicago's first Spring Training game.

Hendricks' upcoming outing against the Padres would also put him on target to possibly start Opening Day for the Cubs against the Pirates on April 1 at Wrigley Field. Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Thursday morning that nothing was official on that front.

"There will be multiple guys that technically could be ready," Hottovy said. "But he's in a good place right now, and we want him to be ready for that first game."

Last year, Cubs manager David Ross picked Hendricks as the Opening Day starter for the abbreviated 60-game season that followed a quick Summer Camp prep period. Hendricks then answered the bell by spinning a shutout in the July 24 season opener against the Brewers.

Chicago's rotation will have some interchangeable parts this season, but Hendricks and figure to be locked in atop the order, with behind them. At the back end, the Cubs have , , and as the leading candidates for starter innings.

The Cubs are not considering a strict six-man rotation for 2021, but they are planning on remaining flexible with how the innings are distributed. Jumping to 162 games from 60 is a challenge for every MLB team, and Hottovy is trying to determine the best path for managing workloads and keeping arms healthy.

"We're going to be creative in the way we make these decisions," Hottovy said. "If we have a long stretch without off-days, maybe there's an opportunity to give a guy a start in that kind of sixth spot. Maybe there's opportunities to piggyback guys, depending on how we want to handle this.

"It's a long season. And to say today, on Feb. 25, what we think we're going to do versus what is actually going to happen, it could just be so different."

Maybin officially joins fold
The Cubs added veteran outfielder to the Spring Training camp roster on Thursday. The 33-year-old Maybin (signed to a Minor League deal with a non-roster invite) played in 18 games for Chicago down the stretch last season and won over his teammates and Ross.

While the Cubs' outfield has four other players poised for jobs in , , and , the North Siders will give Maybin a chance to make the team as a complementary piece.

"Cam came over here and really helped us on a lot of levels," Ross said. "He was ready for any role. Ready to come off the bench, ready to start. If somebody went down, he was ready to play great defense. ... He's just an ultimate professional."

Worth noting
• Both Arrieta and closer threw live batting practice against Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Pederson on Thursday at Sloan Park. Kimbrel looked particularly sharp in his mound workout, especially in his command of his curveball.

"You can tell he really put some work in this offseason," Ross said. "The breaking ball, I thought, was the one that was still not where he wanted it last year. And today that was a great sign, seeing how it was sharp and being able to spin that for strikes and also for chase."

• The Cubs are in the process of gathering more information about righty Rowan Wick's left side injury. The setback, which has been described as an intercostal injury, is related to the oblique strain Wick sustained in September. Wick has not resumed throwing and there is no timetable for his return.

"It's just getting, one, to the root of what's going on," Hottovy said. "And just kind of getting him the right program to get him back to being himself. We don't want to rush that process, either. I think that's the biggest thing."

• Ross is a fan of the MLB guidelines for Spring Training game length this year. Games through March 13 will be seven innings (or the managers can agree to shorten to five innings or increase to nine). Games on or after March 14 will be nine innings (or shortened to seven, if both managers agree).

"I think that's great," Ross said. "I think that's been a wonder why we didn't do this in the past, really. The back end of those games sometimes can drag on, but it is also an opportunity to get some younger guys at-bats, and younger guys looks. So it's kind of a fine line there."

"Jake looked really good out there today, honestly. I'm happy to have him back in the Cubs uniform. It was weird seeing him in another pinstripe. I'm sure he enjoyed his time in Philly, but it's really cool to see him back with the guys." -- Bryant, on Arrieta