The impending arrival of star Japanese right fielder Seiya Suzuki does not have Chicago Cubs veteran Jason Heyward worried about shifting to center field.
It would not be the first time Heyward moved from right field to make way for a new teammate.
Heyward started 74 games in center field in 2019 after the Cubs acquired right fielder Nick Castellanos at the trade deadline. Although Heyward hasn’t played in center since then, he sounded comfortable with the possibility that it becomes a more regular outfield spot this season with Suzuki, who plays right field, on the roster.
“I was prepared to do that coming into this season, not knowing if we were signing somebody,” Heyward said Thursday. “The fact that we brought in a right fielder, it’s nice.
“Probably the most important thing: angles going back, angles coming in. I always move every play anyway in right field, but I’m going to back up the left fielder and making sure I’m communicating with him because of plays in the corner, his back is always going to be against the wall.”
Cubs manager David Ross this week described the outfield logjam as “a good problem” to have, and Heyward agreed that experience is always valuable. While the playing-time breakdown isn’t yet clear, Heyward might see fewer at-bats. Regardless, he is taking a levelheaded approach.
“You can say whatever you want about playing time today, but you don’t know what that looks like until you get to the season,” Heyward said. “See if there are injuries, see how things are flowing, the teams we’re playing against, the matchups they’re going to want to make — it’s just wise and I guess respectable to everyone in this situation to just wait and see and play it by ear.”
The signings don’t stop
The Cubs’ efforts to build the roster and create depth haven’t slowed.
While the not-yet-official signing of Suzuki represents their biggest deal of the offseason, committing five years and $85 million to the 27-year-old, the Cubs have continued to make a flurry of moves this week.
The transaction list, some still waiting to be made official, features in the last 24 hours:
RHP Chris Martin: one-year big-league deal
IF Jonathan Villar: one year, $6 million
RHP David Robertson: one year, $3.5 million
RHP Mychal Givens: one year, $5 million
LHP Daniel Norris: one year, $1.75 million
RHP Adrian Sampson: non-roster invitee
LHP Steven Brault
RHP Robert Gsellman
That is significant depth and importantly includes relievers with late-inning experience. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer had indicated the Cubs had moves to make at the onset of camp, and that has come to fruition.
“I feel like I’ve met everybody and then I show up the next day, and there’s somebody new,” pitcher Kyle Hendricks said, laughing. “But it’s a good thing.”
Robertson and Givens in particular could be valuable acquisitions. Both know how to pitch in high-leverage situations. Robertson has 137 career saves.
While the Cubs addressed some areas of the pitching staff, they also received bad news Thursday. Left-handed reliever Brad Wieck was placed on the 60-day injured list with a left elbow strain. He felt something when throwing in a bullpen session earlier in the week.
Kyle Hendricks is in a great place after 1st spring start
Hendricks wants to be able to go six innings in his first regular-season start, and after Thursday’s spring debut, the veteran believes he’s in a great spot.
Hendricks struck out two and did not issue a walk in his two-inning outing during Thursday’s 4-3 split-squad loss to the Chicago White Sox at Sloan Park. He accomplished the goals he set going into the game: Establish his fastball, get down in the zone and keep his pace under control.
Hendricks feels he is ahead of where he’s typically at after his first Cactus League start.
“I got a lot of good swings from my end,” Hendricks said. “A lot of positives really to build off. ... The changeup was right off (my fastball) today, so I need a lot more of that going forward.”