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Patrick Wisdom, Garrett Cooper and the 40-man squad


MESA, Ariz. — Patrick Wisdom understands that the best way to make plays is to have left-handers slugging it out in a bench role.

It was a position in which he excelled in the second half of last year; He posted a .630 slugging percentage with nine home runs in his last 73 at-bats. Wisdom noted that manager Craig Counsell has seen him up close feasting on the Milwaukee Brewers’ left wing, and he has three innings from their southpaw in 2023.

Asked what kind of weapon Counsell sees him as against lefties, Wisdom said with a laugh: “Sorry, I had to take that into consideration, you pissed me off.”

Wisdom has been slowed down in camp due to a right quadriceps condition, which only affects him when he runs. He had five hits in a backfield sim game on Tuesday, collecting three hits, including a home run and three RBIs, and participated in an agility workout Wednesday morning. Counsell expects Wisdom to return to the lineup on Friday or Saturday.

In conversations with his new manager leading up to the Cubs Convention in January, Counsell told Wisdom that he envisioned using him against lefties, especially playing the corner infield positions if they wanted to protect left-handed-hitting Michael. Busch is one of the tougher matchups. Wisdom has received more reps at first base so far in camp to help him feel more comfortable with his footwork at the position.

“He showed a lot of confidence in me personally, which always feels good, right?” said wisdom. “So it was nice to do that from the beginning and not wonder what was going on in the first few weeks. It’s also nice to know your role. I mean, having that clarity is huge.”

Photos: An inside look at the Cubs’ spring training

First base is arguably the Cubs’ deepest position. Between the 40-man players who could be used there (Busch, Wisdom, Cody Bellinger and Matt Mervis) and non-roster invitees Garrett Cooper and Dom Smith, the Cubs have options on how they want to build the roster and Triple-A depth.

Cooper’s six years of major league performance in Miami make him a potentially intriguing choice to use at first base or as a designated hitter off the bench as a right-handed hitter. But Cooper doesn’t have the same power as Wisdom, although he believes Marlins Park has suppressed his power numbers during his time there.

Could the Cubs carry Wisdom and Cooper on the roster to start the season?

“It kind of depends on what’s going on around them,” Counsell said. “So yes, there is a situation where I think this could work, but it depends.”

Marlins hitter Garrett Cooper runs the bases after hitting a solo home run off Cubs starter Yu Darvish in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the NL wild-card series at Wrigley Field on Oct. 2, 2020. )Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

Cooper’s NRI decision came down to the Cubs and Boston Red Sox, and he ultimately chose Chicago because he felt it was a better situation to get in and potentially make the roster. Slow free agency also affected Cooper’s market. He had offers from multiple major league teams during the offseason, but their value was lower than what Cooper and his agency had in mind for him. The Cubs will have to make a decision by the end of camp on Cooper, who opted out of his minor league deal before opening day on March 26.

“The thing is, it’s not just me, it’s tons of guys who are stay-at-home guys that I talk to all the time now who shouldn’t be sitting at home,” Cooper said Wednesday. “It’s kind of a weird situation that a lot of players are in and guys are signing minor league deals, in my eyes they shouldn’t be signing my minor league deals.

“If it were up to me, I probably would have taken the first offer I got, but you live and learn and you learn that your first experience through free agency is definitely weird. So there are no regrets. It’s just part of the job and things like that happen.”

President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said Wednesday that Cooper has been a player the Cubs have liked for a while and they stuck with him over the winter. While Cooper doesn’t have an obvious crisis right now, Hoyer pointed out that Mike Tauchman was in a similar situation last season when he started the season in Triple A and got a big league chance when Bellinger was injured in May. eventually earned daily playing time.

Chicago Cubs first baseman Matt Mervis flies to center against the San Diego Padres at Sloan Park on Sunday, February 25, 2024 in Mesa, Arizona.  The Cubs lost to the Padres, 7-0.  (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune)
Cubs first baseman Matt Mervis flies out to center against the Padres at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz., on Feb. 25, 2024. The Cubs lost to the Padres, 7-0.

“I think those things evolve with performance and injuries, so I think sometimes I look at him like he got hampered by so-and-so, it takes an injury and that guy could be here all year,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer and the front office face tough moves to clear 40-man spots if the Cubs decide to keep any of their NRI players. Depending on the severity of Caleb Kilian’s injury, it could create an opening if they have to place him on the 60-day injured list. Kilian (right shoulder discomfort) had an MRI on Wednesday after leaving the start during the first inning of the third inning on Tuesday. The Cubs were awaiting results when Counsell spoke to the media, but he acknowledged “it’s concerning.”

“I expect some really tough decisions,” Counsell said of NRI options and the full 40-man squad. “I mean, it’s a good problem to have, and also knowing that the guys we put out there on waivers are going to get claimed, so the thing is, can we find a trade if we have to do that?

“It’s hard to get to a point where you know you’re going to send potentially good players to other teams.”


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