Notes: Happ's confidence; no platoon for Joc

February 24th, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- Two springs ago, was summoned to the manager's office and informed that he was heading back to the Minor Leagues. Last year, the outfielder started the abbreviated season in a pseudo-platoon in center field for the Cubs.

Things are different now for Happ, who claimed the everyday job in center and found a home atop the lineup in manager David Ross' first season at the helm. In this camp, Happ is not wondering about his role or place in the big league picture.

Even so, Ross believes the outfielder is keeping the past in mind.

"He's carrying himself with a lot of confidence," Ross said on Tuesday. "I think the path Ian went on to get here will always have him pushing to not take anything for granted, to continue to be at his best, to continue to focus on getting better, because of how this game can change really fast."

Happ said the biggest shift this spring has been on the mental side of things.

"It's definitely different," Happ said. "And I think it's something that I'm trying to be very cognizant of -- understanding that it's a different type of Spring Training for me. I can't say that my preparation coming in has been any different, but from a mental perspective, from a mind-set, it's definitely different."

In 57 games last season, the switch-hitting Happ turned in a .258/.361/.505 slash line to go along with 12 homers, 11 doubles, 28 RBIs and a team-high 1.9 WAR (per Frangraphs). Happ has turned in a 130 wRC+ over the 2019-20 seasons combined, and went 4-for-8 with a homer in the Cubs' brief two-game playoff experience last fall.

Following that performance, Happ was eligible for arbitration this offseason for the first time. The Cubs' player representative went through the process to the full extent, ending with an impartial three-person panel choosing his requested 2021 salary ($4.1 million) after hearing arguments from each side.

The Cubs have only reached a hearing with a player eight times, and Happ joined Shawon Dunston (1990) and Bruce Sutter (1980) as the only players to win their respective case. The Cubs won cases with Justin Grimm (2018), Ryan Theriot (2010), Mark Grace (1993), Andre Dawson (1988) and Leon Durham (1985).

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"I'm very fortunate to be at that point in my career where I was able to do it," Happ said, "and to have the ability through the system, to be able to fight for what I believed my value was, and then to be able to go to work with an organization and a franchise that I obviously have the utmost respect for."

No platoon for Pederson
During a round of live batting practice on Tuesday, new Cubs left fielder launched a home run off new Cubs righty Trevor Williams. Chicago will be hoping that Pederson can flash that power against all varieties of pitchers this season.

"The conviction he had," Ross said, "and the belief he had in being good against both sides of pitchers is something that he sold me on. And I thought we had a great opportunity for him. And the way the roster shakes out at the moment, it was, 'Yeah, of course I want Joc Pederson on my team.' And we'll find out if he can do that."

During his career with the Dodgers, Pederson was used mostly against right-handed pitching. To date, he has posted an .849 OPS and 128 wRC+ off righties (2,132 plate appearances), compared to a .576 OPS and 59 wRC+ off lefties (385 PAs). The Cubs plan on starting off with Pederson as an everyday option.

"I think he wants to prove it to himself," Ross said. "I think he wants to prove it to us. I think he wants to prove it to a lot of people. I think that's a very powerful thing -- trying to prove something can go a long way."

Worth noting
• Cubs third baseman battled a variety of injury issues that took a toll on his swing and limited him to only 34 games last season. So far, Ross said a healthy Bryant has looked good in his hitting work in camp.

"I think K.B.'s in a good place," Ross said. "Specifically, he seems to be in a good head space. He seems to be feeling really good. He was the first one to jump into live BPs, even before camp started. He's eager to get in the box and feel good."

• Besides Williams, Zach Davies, Dan Winkler, Jonathan Holder, Duane Underwood Jr. and Gray Fenter were among the pitchers who threw live BP on Tuesday. Righties Kyle Hendricks and Shelby Miller were among those with side sessions.

• Ross noted that left-hander Adam Morgan is not currently in camp with the Cubs and is not expected to factor into the Opening Day bullpen picture. Morgan (a non-roster invitee) had elbow flexor tendon surgery in October.

Quotable
"Everybody wants to do their part to get those guys paid as much as we possibly can, because they deserve it. They've done so much for this city, for the organization, for the franchise. And the more that we play together as a team and work together and help everybody play their best baseball, the better it's going to be for everybody." -- Happ, on having key players like Javier Báez, Bryant and Anthony Rizzo entering contractual walk years