Sim game productive fun for Cubs ahead of NLDS

Sim game productive fun for Cubs ahead of NLDS

CHICAGO -- Dexter Fowler wore a Miami Dolphins helmet instead of a batting helmet. Jorge Soler got seven at-bats, including one in five straight "innings." Cubs manager Joe Maddon and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spent some time in the bullpen. And at the end of the game, strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss was in left field, assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske in right and special assistant Franklin Font in center.

"We were trying to replicate the intensity of the postseason," Epstein said. "I'm not sure we accomplished that. I sat in the bullpen for a couple innings. That was a blast."

The Cubs, who don't open the postseason until Friday with Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Wild Card Game winner (FS1, 8:15 p.m. CT), played a simulated contest on Tuesday at Wrigley Field. They had two priorities: keep everyone healthy and give some of the pitchers a chance to throw. Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, Mike Montgomery, Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman all pitched, facing their teammates.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 CHC 1, SF 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 8 CHC 5, SF 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 SF 6, CHC, 5 (13) video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 CHC 6, SF 5 video

There was plenty of good-natured razzing. Veteran catcher David Ross saw Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and some of the other front office staff sitting behind home plate.

"You guys make me nervous," Ross said.

"[We'll give you] a qualifying offer if you go deep," Epstein responded.

Ross didn't, but there may still be time. The veteran catcher had some fun, too, switching jerseys with Anthony Rizzo, who may have ticked off Lackey with a bat flip after he made contact.

Miguel Montero caught both Arrieta and Lackey, and the backstop joked that he was "trying to catch up for the whole season."

Worth noting

• Speaking of Montero, the Cubs are still sorting out their roster options for the NLDS, and they could keep three catchers. Ross will be paired with Jon Lester, who is starting Game 1, and the other backstop is rookie Willson Contreras, who took over behind the plate after Montero's four innings on Tuesday.

The Cubs do not have to submit their NLDS roster until Friday morning.

"There are certainly more than 25 guys who deserve to be on the active roster," Epstein said. "We can set it and change it for the next round based on matchups so everyone can feel involved. It's tough conversations but good problems to have."

Soler, who batted .474 in last year's postseason, is another question mark. He has been bothered by soreness on his right side, but he did get plenty of at-bats on Tuesday.

"He's definitely a part of the conversation to make the roster if he's well," Maddon said.

Soler smashes a 114-mph homer

• Maddon did meet with the players prior to Tuesday's workout, his third team meeting of the year. He talks to the players once in Spring Training and at the All-Star break. His message on Tuesday was to stay in the present tense.

"We've been talking about this since last offseason," Maddon said of the expectations placed on the Cubs. "There couldn't have been more [expectations] going into Spring Training, there couldn't have been more going into the start of the season, there couldn't have been more all season long. Our guys have been in this lifestyle for quite a bit. Why run away from it? Why worry about it now? Just enjoy it. We have to enjoy this. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us on an annual basis, hopefully that you get to this point and have a chance to win a World Series. I want them to absolutely enjoy the moment."

• Maddon isn't pouring over stat sheets for their potential opponent, the Mets or Giants, who will play in the NL Wild Card Game on Wednesday (ESPN, 7 p.m. CT). How much has Maddon thought about either team?

"Zero," Maddon said. "It doesn't matter. For me, put a lot of mental thought into both of them now doesn't serve any purpose. We played them, our scouting is good, our preparation is good. Whenever we determine which one it is, you put your full emphasis on that group. Right now, it was getting out here today."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.