Here are four takeaways from Cubs spring training Friday.
1. Yu Darvish and other veteran pitchers are on their own training schedule.
First-year Cubs manager David Ross said some players are ahead of others in their preparation, adding that some purposely train at a deliberate pace as they “listen to their bodies.”
That apparently is the case with pitcher Yu Darvish, who didn’t participate in long toss with the rest of his group one day after throwing a bullpen session.
ABC-7 cameraman Dwight Payne videotaped Darvish pointing to the area around his right elbow to a teammate, but Darvish remained on the field with his teammates.
A reporter asked Ross if Darvish was “fully healthy, 100 percent.”
“Yes, sir,” Ross replied.
Darvish missed a start in early September because of elbow discomfort but responded with 21 strikeouts and no runs allowed in his next two starts covering 11 innings. Darvish struck out 46 in his final four starts.
Ross delegates the pitching schedules to pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and the training staff. Ross reiterated that veteran closer Craig Kimbrel is allowed to progress on his own schedule.
“There’s no sense in putting someone on our schedule,” Ross said. “If you need an extra day, just tell me.”
Reliever Brandon Morrow played catch Friday, but his next bullpen session hasn’t been set because of illness.
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2. David Ross has no worries about Kris Bryant.
Ross doesn’t anticipate any special maneuvering once Bryant arrives amid trade speculation this winter. In fact, he marveled at Bryant’s concentration and levelheadedness while winning National League Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in his first two seasons.
“Kris has been dealing with a lot throughout his career and expectations and the spotlight being on him since the time I’ve met him,” Ross said. “I don’t know how he’s done it to this point. I don’t know how to handle all this stuff that he’s already dealt with. He is rock solid and has been handling things great from my perspective.”
The Cubs’ first full-squad workout is scheduled for Monday.
3. Cubs pitchers are mixing and mentoring during bullpen sessions.
Ross has seen the early benefits of mixing the bullpen sessions with veterans and youngsters, as opposed to past seasons when projected starters and relievers threw in separate groups.
“(Jon) Lester stayed around for two pens (Thursday) and sat on the backside,” Ross said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Jon do something like that. Kimbrel stayed and watched the last set of bullpens, just to be out there.”
4. Justin Steele is ready to impress.
Steele, one of the top left-handers in the organization, looks forward to pitching in spring training games for the first time after a series of injuries last spring and during the regular season at Double-A Tennessee.
“I’d say that’s a good year moving forward for me,” said Steele, who was limited to 11 starts and didn’t pitch after June 21 because of a torn oblique.
Steele has thrown only 320 innings in six minor-league seasons and underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in August 2017. But he has a 95 mph fastball and is willing to switch to a relief role if it helps the Cubs’ long-range fortunes.
“It’s not my decision,” Steele said. “I‘ll do whatever I’ve got to do to help the Cubs.”