Chicago Sun-Times

New-look team meshing well in spring training


MESA, Ariz. — Eric Hosmer’s long fly ball bounced off the Sloan Park wall in left-center, and one of his new teammates shouted, “Belli robbed it.” “Shocker,” Hosmer said.

Center fielder Cody Bellinger robbed Hosmer before, when they were National League West rivals, Bellinger with the Dodgers and Hosmer with the Padres. But on Wednesday, they were on the same side, taking live batting practice and trading banter with their Cubs teammates.

“It feels like a really good vibe around the group,” manager David Ross said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that like to talk baseball. It’s very evident the baseball conversati­ons are ongoing.”

Fostering that bond has been a focus. Last month at the Cubs Convention, about 15 players and their significan­t others went out for dinner after the opening ceremonies, Bellinger said.

“You create [a winning culture] in times like this, honestly,” Bellinger said then. “Getting to know one another . . . . We’ve got to remind ourselves that this is a game, and doing it together is the biggest thing. And I think we’re going to be doing that well this year.”

Now they’re all sharing a field for the first time.

“The energy is just different,” third baseman Patrick Wisdom said. “There’s a heightened level of will to win and expectancy, if you will. You just sense it. The way people are carrying themselves, the way they talk, the things we talked about, it’s all about winning and striving to be the best.”

Defense first

“We’ve got gold everywhere,” Ross bellowed as the team broke a huddle and headed to infield-outfield drills.

The group taking the field has combined to win nine Gold Gloves.

“Infield-outfield is one of those things — I know, it’s so old-school,” Ross said. “And whenever we get to do it, I just love to see when things go smoothly and crisp . . . . When they’re doing that, it just fires me up.”

Highlights included a pick by first baseman Trey Mancini, on-target lasers thrown by relay man Zach McKinstry ,a play off the wall by Ian Happ and a rangy scoop and throw from converted third baseman Nick Madrigal.

“I’ve been impressed,” Ross said of Madrigal, who has played almost exclusivel­y second base in his profession­al career and battled injuries last season. “He’s moving really well. Feels like a totally different player than we saw last year, [when] he looked like he was guarded at times and it was hard work to run.”

Stroman to face Giants

Right-hander Marcus Stroman is scheduled to start Saturday against the Giants in the first spring-training game, Ross announced. Right-hander Adrian Sampson, who is competing for the fifth rotation spot, is set to come in after Stroman. First pitch at Sloan Park is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.

 ?? JOHN ANTONOFF/SUN-TIMES ?? Eric Hosmer and other new members of the Cubs already are starting to form a bond.
JOHN ANTONOFF/SUN-TIMES Eric Hosmer and other new members of the Cubs already are starting to form a bond.

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