MESA, Ariz. -- The position players are set. There's a new closer. And there's going to be a new starter in camp in Yu Darvish. The emphasis this spring for Cubs manager Joe Maddon will be making sure they have enough depth to get to the postseason for a fourth
MESA, Ariz. -- The position players are set. There's a new closer. And there's going to be a new starter in camp in Yu Darvish. The emphasis this spring for Cubs manager Joe Maddon will be making sure they have enough depth to get to the postseason for a fourth straight year.
New hitting coach Chili Davis knows how good the Cubs are.
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"They've accomplished a lot in three years," Davis said. "They didn't win the World Series all three years, but they had a shot to go. They went to the National League Championship Series all three years and won the World Series the second year. Coming in here, it's kind of a tough act for me to follow.
"It's nice knowing you have that caliber of team to work with," Davis added. "They're really good players and seem like really good young people. You know they're competitive and they've shown the last three years they know how to compete."
Davis and new pitching coach Jim Hickey will spend the early part of camp trying to match names with faces. With winter pummeling the Chicago area with more snow, it's a perfect time to think spring. Pitchers and catchers will have their first workout on Wednesday, and the first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 19. The first Cactus League game will be Feb. 23 against the Brewers in Phoenix.
Last spring, the questions in camp were about how the Cubs would deal with a World Series hangover. Those questions will now be directed at the Astros.
"The World Series is still fresh in our minds, but it happened a while ago," third baseman Kristopher Bryant said in January. "You can't use that as an excuse anymore, and it's never good to use that as an excuse. You look at what we did last year and I don't know if many people expected us to make it that far because of where we were in the first half. [Getting to the] NLCS three years in a row is pretty special."
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The Cubs were 5 1/2 games behind the Brewers at the All-Star break last year and rallied to win the Central, eventually losing to the Dodgers and Darvish in the NLCS. The Japanese right-hander picked up the win in Game 3 at Wrigley Field on Oct. 17, limiting the Cubs to one run, on Kyle Schwarber's homer, over 6 1/3 innings.
Brandon Morrow was the Dodgers' setup man then; he's the Cubs' closer now. Darvish will join Jonathan Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood in the rotation. Maddon and Hickey just need to sort out the bullpen to find the best eight.
The Cubs may not be done. On Feb. 26, 2016, Maddon gathered the players on one of the backfields at the Cubs complex, and they were surprised when William Fowler came out to the field. Fowler had agreed to a one-year contract to return.
Be prepared. The Cubs may have more surprises this spring.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.