After a strong spring, the Chicago Cubs will face an immediate test in March and April

The Chicago Cubs face a tough schedule throughout their first month+ of the regular season, including series against the Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks, and Astros

Oakland Athletics v Chicago Cubs
Oakland Athletics v Chicago Cubs / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

Spring Training has been a blast for Chicago Cubs fans to this point. After a drawn-out offseason that finally saw the return of Cody Bellinger, the team has played to a 15-8 record heading into Tuesday night's game. Core members like Seiya Suzuki and Shota Imanaga have had standout camp performances while prospects like Owen Caissie and Ben Brown teased the bright future ahead for the team.

Of course, what happens in spring isn't always a great indicator of baseball's best teams. For example, one of the two teams ahead of the Cubs in the standings is the Colorado Rockies, a team that finished 59-103 last year, and well below them are the 2023 World Series champion Texas Rangers at 10-12. While their performance has inspired optimism so far, the real test for the Northsiders will come early this year as they face a cavalcade of playoff hopefuls in the first month and change of the regular season.

Starting on Opening Day, March 28, the Cubs will immediately encounter the Rangers at their home ballpark in Arlington. Injuries have been a problem for the champs in the early going, but they still have plenty of firepower between Marcus Semien and potentially Corey Seager and Josh Jung among others in their lineup. Justin Steele will go against Nathan Eovaldi to kick things off, coming off a season in which the Texas righty posted a 3.63 ERA.

Things get a little easier with the aforementioned Rockies in town to begin April, but that series is immediately followed by a visit from Shohei Ohtani and the Dodgers. The Cubs will get a first-hand look at what they missed out on in the offseason, especially if they also have to face Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Tyler Glasnow on the mound. Following arguably the best team in baseball is a dreaded West Coast road trip including a still strong Padres roster that now includes Dylan Cease, the Wild Card-contending Seattle Mariners, and the reigning National League champion Arizona Diamondbacks with their new additions including Eduardo Rodriguez.

April closes out on a softer, but not necessarily easy note starting with four games against the Marlins at home and ending with the Red Sox and Mets who both finished under .500 last year. In between them, however, are the juggernaut Astros coming off another 90-win campaign and with Josh Hader now in tow. In total, the Cubs will play 22 games against winning 2023 ball clubs through March and April, and, aside from the Rockies, the teams who didn't make that cut are looking to bounce back in 2024.

March and April could have major implications for the Cubs

On the one hand, this schedule allows the Cubs to get a rough stretch of the season over early and really make a statement that they're here to compete for the playoffs. With the Marlins, Mets, Padres, and Diamondbacks among the teams likely in direct contention with Chicago for NL Wild Card spots, these games could play a major role in determining whether they make the dance come October.

Escaping April with a .500 record or better would put the Cubs on a solid pace ahead of May which will see them face plenty of their NL Central rivals, including the Brewers (seven games), Pirates (seven games), and Cardinals (three games) as well as the Braves and Padres. This team only figures to get better as prospects like Cade Horton could provide a boost down the stretch too. Falling flat, however, creates a hole that won't be easy to climb out of and begs questions about where this team is and whether they did enough in the offseason.

No matter how you slice it, the teams the Cubs face in the first two months are opponents they have to beat to be competitive. These are games the team and the fans could look back on at the trade deadline or the end of the season if they fall short yet again.

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