2/23 Maddon: Bryant “gets it”

Kris Bryant had his one-on-one meeting with Joe Maddon Monday, and, no, the Cubs top prospect did not tell the manager that he belonged on the Opening Day roster. Bryant, 23, is confident, but knows he has to show Maddon and the Cubs he’s ready.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the big leagues,” Bryant said Monday. “I feel I’m pretty close now. I’m going to use this Spring Training as a way to go out there and get better in those areas.”

The Minor League player of the year last season after batting .325, hitting 43 home runs and driving in 110 at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, Bryant first met Maddon in December during the Winter Meetings.

“He’s a guy I want to play for — I sure hope I get the chance this year,” Bryant said.

Cubs fans hope so, too. They can be assured that Bryant didn’t bring all his trophies to Mesa. He left them at home and has moved on.

“I know I have a lot to prove on the field and those [rankings] are just opinions I can’t control,” he said. “The only expectations I have to live up to are the ones I have on my own and I can assure you mine are greater than anybody’s out there.”

Maddon’s first impressions of the Cubs top prospect?

“That he gets it,” Maddon said. “Of course, he’s talented, great body, great power, wonderful arm, good third baseman, good outfield. He’s a lot of good things and he gets it. I think he understands the work involved necessary to be great. He’s rather humble for me. He’s not outgoing in a sense in a negative way. He knows he’s good. There’s also a humility about him, too.”

Maddon said Bryant could see some playing time in outfield this spring but will likely focus on third.

“Long term, Kris would be a nice long term solution,” Maddon said. “Is he ready right now? I don’t know. I’ve never seen the guy on the field. There’s other really good candidates who can play there, probably not to the level he can. At the conclusion of this camp, what’s the right thing to do then? That’s what we have to decide.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/23 Monday notes – UPDATED

* Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Jacob Turner, Eric Jokisch, C.J. Edwards and Dallas Beeler threw side sessions on Monday in Cubs camp. Position players report Tuesday, but several were in the clubhouse Monday, including Chris Coghlan, Junior Lake, Mike Olt, Addison Russell, Ryan Sweeney, Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo.

* On Tuesday, sports psychologist Ken Ravizza will meet with the pitchers prior to the workout.

* On Wednesday, the hitters had better be ready. It will be the first full squad workout and at least eight pitchers are scheduled to throw live batting practice, including Arrieta, Edwin Jackson, Turner, Felix Doubront, Hendricks, Jokisch, Justin Grimm and Jason Motte.

* Lake played in the Dominican Republic this winter and worked with Minor League hitting coach Desi Wilson. The focus was to get on base somehow, someway.

“[Wilson] told me when you get on base, it’s like 80 percent the run will score,” Lake said. “I worked a lot with him about that, about walks, about getting on base no matter what. I know that’s what I need to get on base and then [Anthony] Rizzo or [Starlin] Castro can drive me in, or somebody in the lineup.”

* Manager Joe Maddon was very hands-on with the catchers on Monday, offering suggestions on positioning and technique. It isn’t that Maddon doesn’t trust all the catching coaches, which includes Mike Borzello, Henry Blanco and Tim Cossins.

“Part of it is I really like the catching component of the game,” Maddon said.

* Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who missed Sunday’s side session because of tightness in his left hamstring, is scheduled to throw on the side Wednesday.

– Carrie Muskat

2/22 Three catchers? No problem

All David Ross has asked of his new Cubs teammates so far is to guide him so he go to the wrong field for drills. Ross may not know his way around the Cubs complex but he can definitely handle a pitching staff. And so can the Cubs other two catchers.

“From the other dugout, I’ve always known the benefits that [Ross] brought to a team,” manager Joe Maddon said Sunday, “and then you get to converse with him and be with him, and it’s true. He’s just a different man.”

What Maddon likes is how much Ross understands the game. And they’ve only been together three days. Ross is still getting to know everyone.

“I’ve introduced myself to some guys three or four times,” Ross said Sunday.

He wasn’t signed to a two-year deal simply to keep Jon Lester happy. The Cubs like Ross’s experience and leadership, and Theo Epstein sold the catcher on what they’re trying to do in Chicago.

“I think this is one of the places to be in Major League Baseball,” Ross said. “Joe said it the other day, this is the spot to be. I believe that, too, whether Jon Lester is here or not. These guys came in to play [the Red Sox] last year, and kicked our tail. I saw it first hand, and faced Jake Arrieta. He was the best pitcher I faced last year all year with my limited at-bats. He was a true top of the rotation starter.”

The Cubs not only have Ross but veteran Miguel Montero and Welington Castillo, who has been the starter the last two seasons. Maddon is high on the trio.

“You get three catchers like that in the same area code, that’s pretty good,” Maddon said.

The Cubs have had three top catchers on a roster before. In 1991, Joe Girardi, Damon Berryhill and Rick Wilkins were together on the team.

While Ross, who turns 38 next month, will likely be matched up with Lester as he was in Boston, Maddon will talk to Montero, 31, about how many games he wants to catch. The manager already knows the answer will be as many as possible.

– Carrie Muskat

2/22 Extra bases

* Joe Maddon wants the Cubs to play just as hard in March as in June, July or August, and hopefully, in October. That will be part of his message Wednesday when he addresses the full squad.

“I do like to win in Spring Training,” Maddon said Sunday. “I think my message to the group when they show up in a couple days is I want them to play the game whether it’s March 15 or July 15 or Oct. 15. When you build that mindset, and you get to the end of the season and the playoff situation, you don’t change your game. I think that’s the trap that a lot of groups fall into — that I have to try harder or I have to do more or I have to step up. I really don’t like the phrase ‘step up’ at all. That insinuates that you have not been trying before that.”

The Cubs open Cactus League play on March 5 with split squad games, and Maddon will expect to see good effort then.

“If we can build the thought process of where you come to play every day, regardless of the date, don’t apply any more weight to any game, by the time we get to the playoffs the game feels the same and I don’t think you’re going to be intimidated by that moment in any way shape or form,” he said. “That’s how I approach it.”

* Tsuyoshi Wada is the only pitcher being held out of drills. The left-hander has some tightness in his hamstring. All the other pitchers who threw on Friday had their second side sessions on Sunday.

* The Cubs will be careful with Jorge Soler this spring to avoid any leg injuries, which slowed the outfielder last year. The plan is to not keep him on his feet too long or push him too hard, Maddon said.

– Carrie Muskat

2/22 Travis Wood: “Let’s go”

The 2014 season was humbling for Cubs pitcher Travis Wood. An All-Star in 2013 when he compiled 24 quality starts and a 3.11 ERA in 32 games, the left-hander posted a 5.03 ERA in 31 starts last year.

“Last year was a big learning year,” Wood said Sunday. “I always say you learn a lot more when you fail than when you succeed. You see your flaws better.

“I kind of went into ’14 like, ‘All right, I’ve got it, I know how to do it,’ and it was a humbling experience last year [finding out] that you’ve never got it in this game,” he said. “You’ve always got something to work on and get better at.”

What is Wood focused on this spring? He says he’s getting back to basics. Wood doesn’t blame a change in mechanics or anything else.

“I just chalk it up to the bad year and time to move on,” he said. “Let’s go.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/22 Sunday schedule

Jon Lester, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jason Motte and Jason Hammel are scheduled to throw side sessions on Sunday at the Cubs complex. Players will be on the field at 9:30 a.m. Arizona time for stretch.

Position players report Tuesday, and the first full squad workout is scheduled for Wednesday.

2/21 Expect different lineups

Even though the Cubs have enough position players already in camp to fill a roster for an intrasquad game, manager Joe Maddon hasn’t seen enough of them to be able to fill out a lineup card yet. And when he does, Cubs fans may be puzzled by some of the combinations.

“You know I’m not going to be afraid to try different things,” Maddon said Saturday.

That could include batting a pitcher eighth. Jon Lester, who consistently goes deep into games, will bat ninth, but Travis Wood, who’s a good hitter, could hit eighth, depending on who he’s facing that day.

It’s all to be determined, and Maddon and bench coach Dave Martinez will meet and write down one week’s worth of lineups prior to the start of Cactus League games on March 5. Maddon likes to think about what he’s going to do while riding his bike. Be prepared.

“There will be a lot of haphazard stuff,” Maddon said.

– Carrie Muskat

2/21 Rondon is closer but ‘pen is “work in progress”

Manager Joe Maddon didn’t mention the closer’s job to Hector Rondon during their one-on-one pre-spring meeting. Maddon didn’t think he had to.

“Mr. Rondon looks like he’s going to be pretty darn good here,” Maddon said Saturday.

Rondon took over the Cubs closer duties last season, converting 29 of 33 save opportunities, and liked the job but said he’ll do whatever Maddon asks, and that could be to pitch in the seventh or eighth, depending on the situation.

“Every reliever wants to close games,” Rondon said. “For me, it’s no big deal. Give me a chance to pitch whenever — second inning, third inning, last inning. The only thing that matters is put me in the game.”

The only possible change to Rondon’s role could be because of the addition of Jason Motte, who saved 42 games in 2012 for the Cardinals but missed 2013 after needing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. But Maddon sees Motte as what he calls a “force multiplier,” which is someone who makes the group around them better.

“He’s a perfect guy to fit in a variety of spots,” Maddon said.

The Cubs bullpen is still a work in progress. Maddon is looking for pitchers who can handle both right- and left-handed hitters. He’d like a reserve split guy, like a right-hander who is stronger against righties. There isn’t a clear-cut lefty for the mix. Having that one closer, though, will make things much easier.

“It’s always nice to have one guy but you have to have the one guy who’s able to do it,” Maddon said. “When you have one guy who permits you to think differently during the course of the game, then you have to manage eight innings worth of pitching because you know the ninth inning is taken care of.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/21 Who’s the Opening Day starter? Who else?

It should come as no surprise but Jon Lester will likely be the Cubs Opening Night starter.

Manager Joe Maddon confirmed the left-hander would get the ball on April 5 at Wrigley Field with a cautionary note.

“I would think that he has to be,” Maddon said, “but I need to talk to him first. I think it’s appropriate if you’re going to do something like that, to talk to Jon first before we make any kind of announcement like that, but I’m not going to sit here and be disingenuous. I really need to sit and speak to him first.”

Lester signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs in December, and would likely be followed in the rotation by Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel.

– Carrie Muskat

2/21 Cubs Day 2 schedule

Jake Arrieta, Eric Jokisch, Jacob Turner, Dallas Beeler and Kyle Hendricks are among the pitchers scheduled to throw side sessions on Saturday on Day 2 of the Cubs spring training camp. Also, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, C.J. Edwards and Corey Black will have side sessions. Players are scheduled to stretch at 9:30 a.m. Arizona time.

* If you see Tsuyoshi Wada, wish him a happy birthday. He turns 34 on Saturday.

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