Anthony Rizzo fielded grounders and took BP early Saturday, working out more privately before members of the media were allowed into the park. David Ross called the activity a step in the right direction but declined to put any sort of definitive timeline on the first baseman’s return. How Rizzo feels Sunday will say a lot, and it’s not unreasonable to think he could even play in the Cubs’ intersquad scrimmage against the White Sox.
Ross was a little more committal when discussing the second base role, which gained quite a bit more clarity Friday evening when it was announced that the Cubs had selected Jason Kipnis‘ contract from Triple-A. Adding the veteran to the 40-man roster is almost certainly a precursor to placing him on the Opening Day roster, which Ross more or less confirmed Saturday.
Heading into spring training, the competition at second base consisted of about 37 players and seemed to be relatively wide open. Had things proceeded in a normal fashion, Nico Hoerner appeared to be destined for more seasoning in the minors as the Cubs looked to develop his plate approach with more regular playing time.
The pandemic shutdown saw fit to alter those plans, and it now looks as though the rookie is going to play an integral role in Chicago right out of the gate. Between the lefty-batting Kipnis, with whom Hoerner established a mutual admiration society in Mesa, and the DH in play all season, Ross can provide the young star in the making with a softer landing than if he was just being thrust into a full-time role.
Interestingly enough, though, it might not be a matter of simply swapping Hoerner and Kipnis in and out on a platoon basis. Hoerner actually hit much better against righties than lefties at Double-A last season, then had almost identical offensive splits with the Cubs. Of course, that can’t be trusted to a great degree because it included just 12 plate appearances against lefties, against whom Hoerner was being overly aggressive. What’s more, the preponderance of right-handed pitchers means a strict platoon split would see Kipnis getting a lion’s share of the playing time at the keystone spot.
Ross also raved about the flexibility on his roster, so it’s conceivable that Hoerner will spell Javy Báez at shortstop on occasion. Even with the shortened schedule reducing the typical grind of the season, a little rest through the summer heat is never a bad thing. The Cubs also need to find room for David Bote, so he’ll be getting some run at second while moving around the field as needed.
The need to be more talented and dynamic indicates quite strongly that Daniel Descalso has reached the end of his Cubs tenure. Carrying both him and Kipnis makes very little sense and doesn’t improve the roster in any meaningful way, but that’s been the case for several months and actually extends to well before the Northbrook native joined his hometown team.
Between previous inexplicable roster decisions and the fact that Daniel is an anagram for denial, I guess we can’t be shocked by anything.