Spring training has its ups and downs. Despite yesterday’s 5-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians, Chicago’s Jake Arrieta had a great game being perfect through two innings. Pretty much picking up where he left off last season.
“Spring Training is a unique situation,” he said. “You want to work on certain scenarios, you want to pitch with guys on base, you want to work on altering your signs with a guy on second, but how do you intentionally put a guy on second base? The biggest thing is I feel great, the timeline is laid out in a manner to prepare me for Opening Day, and that’s what I’m excited about.”
The wins don’t matter now. It’s the players making their adjustments in preparation for Opening Day. One of the major adjustments from last year is the number of strikeouts the Cubs received last year. They led the National League and hope to not do the same again this season. The Cubs have a lot of young talent like Javier Baez and making adjustments at the plate is half the battle.
“The biggest thing with him, and a lot of our young guys, will be to cut down on the mental mistakes, because I will accept as many physical mistakes as they have to make,” Maddon said. “They can punch out, they can make bad throws, whatever, they can bobble balls. The thing that prevents you from winning is the mental mistakes.”
If the team can overcome their strikeout ratio, then that’s half the battle. I don’t believe you can teach plate patience to a player. It has to come by facing great pitching and by seeing those pitches. That’s what the Cubs lacked last season. The Cubs were fifth in home runs which means that they were swinging for the fences. A team like Kansas City were second last and well, look where they ended up?
“When I do the good things, you want people to know when you did it,” Baez said. “But when you’re wrong, you gotta assess what you did wrong and just fix it.”
So with that philosophy, the Cubs are doing just that this spring. Trying to fix those problems early will be the key to the post season.
How does a veteran player like Miguel Montero handle slumps?
“You’re not going to feel great every day, you’re not going to feel great the whole year — unless you’re Miguel Cabrera or Paul Goldschmidt,” Montero said. “But other than that, you’re going to struggle a little bit. But at least you got the base. You know what you need to do to try to get back as soon as possible. Don’t let that carry over so long. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not.”
It’s a long road to October but when the Cubs have guys like Montero to teach the young players like Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell and Kris Bryant then the Cubs are in great shape.