Expect the Cubs to treat exhibition games like regular season matchups

First-year manager David Ross is ready to go – and so is his Cubs ball club.

In a normal world, David Ross would have a little over half a season of experience under his belt managing a big league team. But due to COVID-19, he’s still awaiting the chance to stand on the top step at Wrigley Field for the first time as skipper of the Cubs.

That opportunity will come on Friday night, as Chicago battles Milwaukee on Opening Day. But before that, the Cubs will play a trio of exhibition contests, including two against the crosstown rival White Sox, who we’ll see more than ever before during the regular season thanks to the adjusted travel-limited schedule.

The first of those three games will take place Sunday night at Wrigley Field as Chicago welcomes in former manager Rick Renteria and the Sox. What should fans expect? Well, obviously, empty stands, socially-distanced dugouts and a high level of focus from Ross and the Cubs.

“I’m going to treat it like a real game as much as possible,” Ross said. “I’m taking it as a preparation moment for me, finding my routine, finding out our new daily process to getting ready for a series.”

Hopefully, these three contests will allow the Cubs to hit the ground running on Friday. The team can’t afford a slow start like the one it got off to last year when it went 3-8 in the first 11 games. Such a sluggish start in 2020 could be an early nail in the coffin, especially in a division race that is, once again, expected to come down to the wire.

In Summer Camp and spring training games, Ross and the coaching staff has a plan as to which pitchers will throw which frames and even how many pitches they’ll throw. That won’t be the case in the three exhibition games, though, as the first-year manager hopes to get used to making those decisions in-game instead.

“I think the main thing for me is just having those conversations,” Ross said, “not going in with a predetermined plan. Making sure I have conversations with my pitching coach, with my bench coach, what spot’s (up) in the lineup, who’s going up, just start to prepare myself to be ready for a game and how we want to utilize matchups.”

As we know, Kyle Hendricks will get the ball on Opening Day Friday, with Yu Darvish following him on Saturday in the second game against the Brewers. Hendricks will also start on Sunday night against the White Sox in his final ‘preseason’ tune-up ahead of his first-ever nod to open the regular season.

Next: Cubs are working with a rotation filled with question marks

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We’ll have lots to talk about after tonight’s game. It will look and feel different. But baseball is almost back and Ross and the Cubs are ready to get to work.

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