CHICAGO -- By the time Joe Maddon completes his cross-country drive and parks his RV in Mesa, Ariz., he should have his 2018 theme set. Whether he picked up any additional pitchers along the way remains to be seen.With most of the roster returning from a team that has reached
CHICAGO -- By the time Joe Maddon completes his cross-country drive and parks his RV in Mesa, Ariz., he should have his 2018 theme set. Whether he picked up any additional pitchers along the way remains to be seen.
With most of the roster returning from a team that has reached the National League Championship Series three years in a row, the Cubs might be content to head into this season without making many changes. But president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer knew they had gaps to fill in the rotation and hope to address other areas with changes to the coaching staff.
You'll hear plenty of stories from Cubs camp about how slim Kyle Schwarber is. The Cubs need to focus on their pitching. Among the new faces in camp when pitchers and catchers have their first workout Feb. 14 will be Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and Drew Smyly. Smyly is coming off Tommy John surgery and isn't expected to help this year. Chatwood will be inserted into the rotation while Morrow is the new closer, the Cubs' fourth in the past four seasons.
The Cubs saw plenty of Morrow last season in the NLCS. Los Angeles' pitchers held Chicago's hitters to a .156 average and took the series, 4-1. For the season, Morrow, 33, posted a 2.06 ERA over 43 2/3 innings.
"You've got to have that great bullpen to play the last game of the year and win it," Maddon said.
That's true, but the Cubs also lost Jacob Arrieta and John Lackey to free agency, and have filled only one of those holes with the addition of Chatwood, who was 8-15 with a 4.69 ERA with the Rockies. The pitching prospects in the Cubs' system aren't quite ready, which could mean that lefty Mike Montgomery, projected for the bullpen, will be starting if they don't add another pitcher.
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A lot of time this spring will be spent on introductions. Jim Hickey and Chili Davis join Maddon's staff as the pitching and hitting coaches, respectively. Hickey, a Chicago native, was with Maddon in St. Petersburg.
"He's old school, super dry humor," Cishek said of Hickey. "His scouting reports are excellent. He tells you just enough information not to overbear you or put too much on you, and he tells you enough that you feel you'll be successful when you go out there. It's a little bit different than other styles. It worked well for me."
Maddon has known Davis since both were on the Angels. They spent time in a back room talking about hitting philosophies. The Cubs scuffled with situational hitting at times and Maddon is hoping the young roster can graduate to another level under Davis.
"Chili played for 19 years and switch-hit and all those things, so he brings a different perspective and a different mindset," said Jason Heyward, who started working with Davis in Mesa in November. "For me, Chili is somebody who is team-oriented at-bat-wise and has a plan and wants to get that across to the group and everybody going in the same direction."
Maddon's past themes have included "Embrace the Target" and "Be Uncomfortable." During the Cubs Convention, Maddon said he was still working on his theme for 2018.
"The two most important items all summer will be energy and enthusiasm," Maddon said. "We've been [to the postseason] three years in a row, right? We're pretty good, we have good guys coming back, we acquired some good guys [for 2018]. If you show up with energy and enthusiasm every day -- they'll do their work, they'll study, do the video -- what else could I possibly ask them to do? If you show up with the right mental attitude every day, that's when all that stuff really kicks in. If I'm going to make an emphasis on anything, it'll be that."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.