Notes: Rotation's expectations; Bote on Nico
Jake Arrieta was asked over the weekend about the public expectations and projections not favoring the Cubs this season. The rebuilt rotation -- one based more on precision than power -- is a driving factor behind those external doubts.
"We don't care about that, honestly," Arrieta said. "That's it, really. I haven't heard any of it. I haven't seen it. It's irrelevant."
Rotation leader Kyle Hendricks said earlier this spring that there are a lot of players in Chicago's clubhouse looking to prove people wrong this year. That surely includes in the rotation, which features Hendricks and Arrieta at the top, followed by Zach Davies, Trevor Williams and Adbert Alzolay.
Hendricks has a strong track record, and Davies is coming off a strong 2020 showing. Arrieta and Williams joined the Cubs over the offseason as comeback candidates, while Alzolay is the young arm in the group with a lack of Major League experience.
"I know people talk about how it's not a great group of starters or whatnot," Davies said, "just because of velocity and strikeouts and whatever. But I'll take five guys that are going to work their [tails] off in the rotation and compete every single game, compared to guys with just pure stuff."
In Monday's Cactus League finale, Davies allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings during a 56-pitch outing in the Cubs' 7-1 win against the D-backs. That put the final touches on an impressive spring showing in which the righty with one of the game's best changeups turned in a 1.08 ERA in 16 2/3 innings.
"I think our pitching staff is going to surprise some people," Cubs manager David Ross said. "We've got some great starters that really know how to pitch "
Bote praises Hoerner
After Ross named David Bote the Opening Day second baseman, Nico Hoerner made a point to congratulate his teammate. Hoerner was also vying for that job, but he will begin the season with the Triple-A group at the alternate training site.
"He's so pro. Expect nothing less of Nico," Bote said, "coming up and saying, 'Congratulations. You deserve everything you've gotten in this game before.' I mean, yeah, you're speechless."
Bote said it was "impactful" to hear Ross say it was the infielder's turn to show he can be an everyday player for the Cubs. And Bote had plenty of praise for the younger Hoerner, who looks very much like a future core piece to Chicago's infield.
"I admire Nico so highly," Bote said, "as a person, as a friend, as a competitor, as a ballplayer. The guy works extremely hard. He loves the game. He's such a good teammate."
• Joc Pederson had a two-run double on Monday to close out his impressive spring. The Cubs' new left fielder hit .378/.431/1.000 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 45 at-bats in Cactus League play. Twelve of his 17 hits went for extra-bases.
• Closer Craig Kimbrel worked one shutout inning on Monday, giving him four consecutive scoreless appearances to end his spring. After giving up nine runs in his first 2 2/3 innings, Kimbrel made some delivery adjustments and struck out five with one walk and two hits allowed in his last four innings.
• Hoerner belted a three-run homer on Monday, finishing his Cactus League showing with a .364/.396/.659 slash line in 44 at-bats. The infielder compiled two homers, three doubles, two triples, three steals and 11 RBIs.
"You get called up at some point. That's the first check. And then Opening Day roster is another big step in your career. It feels good. It's something that kind of gives you that call-up feeling all over again. It's a special day, and I'm happy that there's going to be fans in the stands for those guys that get their first Opening Day this year." -- Davies
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks is slated for his second straight Opening Day start on Thursday, when the Cubs host the Pirates at 1:20 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field to begin the 2021 campaign.