Notes: Bryant in OF, Marquez, Arrieta

March 5th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cubs have their starting outfield set. Veteran will have his Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field, claimed the everyday job in center last year and was signed over the offseason to play left without a platoon label.

Even so, Cubs manager David Ross plans on working into the outfield mix when it makes sense.

"Yes, I do anticipate that," Ross said on Thursday.

Bryant, of course, will have his home at third base for the Cubs in the upcoming campaign. Over his career, though, his versatility has given his managers options. During Bryant's National League MVP Award-winning campaign in 2016, as an example, he started 100 games at third and 48 in the outfield (36 in left and 12 in right).

The reason Ross is open-minded about using Bryant rests in the fact that all three of Chicago's starting outfielders lean left. Heyward and Pederson both bat from the left side, while Happ is a switch-hitter. was added to the mix as a righty complement, and veteran (non-roster invitee) gives the Cubs another bench piece to consider, too.

On days when a left-handed starter is on the mound for the opposition, Ross may look for ways to maximize the offensive production. One avenue used in the past has been playing a righty hitter at third (such as utility man ) and bumping Bryant to an outfield corner.

Ross does not want to rule out such a scenario for 2021, especially given Bryant's willingness to help out in that way, if necessary. Bryant started four games in the outfield for Ross in 2020, though that included an Aug. 12 appearance during which a diving attempt led to wrist and finger injuries.

"K.B., to me, multiple times has said he's fine. He likes to move around," Ross said. "He's fine with playing the outfield. And maybe it's just what you tell the manager, but he's pretty comfortable out there. He actually was here getting some reps the other day in some down time in the outfield.

"So he understands that anything can happen. Roster, injuries, there's a lot of things that can happen. We're definitely left-handed heavy out in the outfield, so he understands, if there's a tough matchup that we've got other positions that we can fill in the infield from the right side, that pushes him to the outfield at times."

Marquez building slowly
Cubs top prospect left-hander -- ranked No. 60 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list -- is playing catch and building up arm strength, according to pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. Marquez was delayed at the start of camp due to the COVID-19 intake process.

"He's always a guy that we've kind of taken a slow and deliberate approach with," Hottovy said. "And then coming in with all the COVID protocols and all the stuff he had to deal with, it was going to take some time to ramp him back up. He put in a lot of good work in the offseason, fortunately."

Marquez, 22, was a part of Chicago's 60-man player pool last season and spent most of the regular season at the alternate training site in South Bend, Ind. The lefty made his MLB debut on Sept. 27, but he does not project to be a part of the Cubs' Opening Day plans this year.

"The sky's the limit for him," Hottovy said. "It was fun to see him grow as the year went on, and we're looking forward to big things."

Worth noting
• Cubs right-hander faced hitters in live batting practice on Tuesday and threw a bullpen session during Thursday morning's workout. Hottovy said the next step will be a game for Arrieta, who has been focusing on mechanical adjustments.

"He's looking really good," Hottovy said. "He threw a really good bullpen today. It's going to take some time. Again, he's had these habits form over years of trying to deal with [injuries]. Now, it's retraining it. But he's in a good place."

• Ross said there has been some "positive feedback" from righty (intercostal injury) in recent days. Wick played light catch earlier this week, but there remains no firm timetable for his return to the mound.

"It's still really day to day. It really is," Hottovy said. "So I think we really have to take these next few weeks of just giving him the freedom of feeling good and getting out there to do what he can, and understand that there might be tough days."

• Closer has also been on a more conservative veteran schedule, but his Cactus League debut is slated for Friday against Cleveland.

"I thought they've done a good job so far of getting up there and getting off their 'A' swing. Attacking the pitcher, trying to scare guys out of the zone with the aggressive swings that are coming in the zone. I've thought we've done a good job of that so far in spring." -- Ross, on the Cubs' offensive approach

Up next
Right-hander is scheduled to start for the Cubs on Friday, when Chicago hosts Cleveland at 2:05 p.m. CT at Sloan Park, available on MLB.TV. Mills projects to be on the Opening Day staff either as a starter or a reliever.