5 takeaways from Hoyer's media session to open Cubs camp

February 15th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- Given the number of players who have already been in Arizona for the Cubs, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said the start of camp felt like it arrived long before Wednesday. This was just when the "official" label was applied to Spring Training for the North Siders.

Prior to the first workout for pitchers and catchers, Hoyer and Cubs general manager Carter Hawkins met with media for a half-hour. This is an important season for Chicago, which was busy with offseason additions in an effort to start moving out of its recent rebuild.

"We feel really encouraged by the guys that we brought in," Hawkins said. "We feel like we've taken some steps forward with the Major League team with different players and feel like we've got a really good mix of players in the clubhouse here.

"The vibe here has been outstanding here for the last couple of weeks. People have been out early. So, we're definitely excited. There's an edge here that I think is a little bit more than we had last year."

Here are five takeaways from Hoyer's Q&A session.

1. No firm deadline on extension talks

Over the offseason, Hoyer stated a preference not to have potential extension negotiations with outfielder Ian Happ and infielder Nico Hoerner linger into Spring Training. Hoyer reiterated Wednesday that he hopes to have a resolution on that front before the waning days of camp.

"We've had good dialogue with both sides," Hoyer said. "We're not just going to cut it off, because we're here today. My preference is really not to get towards the end of Spring Training and get to a place where I feel like it's affecting the preparation and mentality for the season. And I do think that has happened."

2. Suzuki has already impressed

Hoyer stayed in communication with Seiya Suzuki's camp as the right fielder trained in Japan over the offseason. The right fielder arrived to Arizona ahead of his World Baseball Classic participation looking bulked up. Suzuki focused on getting stronger given how he felt late in his first MLB season in '22.

"He looks great," Hoyer said. "We knew he was working hard, but it's fun to see him in person and realize that he wasn't kidding about coming in stronger. And he talked so much about what he learned from last year."

3. Cubs believe in rotation's makeup

Veteran Kyle Hendricks (right shoulder) is unlikely to be ready in time for Opening Day, but Hoyer said the righty should be on a mound "soon" this spring. With the addition of Jameson Taillon, re-signing of Drew Smyly, return of Marcus Stroman, emergence of Justin Steele and promise of some younger options, the Cubs feel good about their starting staff.

"We're going to throw a lot of strikes, for sure," Hoyer said. "I think our staff has really good command. I think we're gonna really catch the ball. And then that's certainly the hope, is that our run prevention in general exceeds expectations."

4. No set closer going into the season

The Cubs added free agents Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer (pending physical) to the bullpen mix, and both should get chances to close out games, along with some relief corps returnees. Chicago will likely enter this year without a true closer, but rather a ninth-by-committee approach for manager David Ross.

"That'll be Rossy's decision," Hoyer said of the closer role. "I think we have a number of guys that are capable of doing it. Last year towards the end of the year, I thought he did a fantastic job with a bullpen when we didn't have a set closer after we traded [David] Robertson. He mixed and matched really well with with different guys based on the game situation. And in a way, I think that was educational for him."

5. Hoyer on board with MLB's rule changes

This season, MLB is introducing a pitch timer, shift guidelines, larger bases and pick-off throw limits. Count Hoyer among those who are in favor of the coming changes, given that the goal is to create a faster game pace with more potential for balls in play.

"The more we can put action into the game," Hoyer said, "the more people are running, the quicker pace it is, the better. No one wants to go to a three hour and 45 minute game and have that be a common occurrence. We we're actually saying [this week], there'll be some quick games this year."