Cubs relish homecoming, Wrigley environs

Team experiencing new bullpens; pitcher batting ninth for first time in '17

Cubs relish homecoming, Wrigley environs

CHICAGO -- Some of the Cubs players made a point to drive down Clark Street to Wrigley Field on Monday to see what the new plaza area looked like. The Park at Wrigley was unveiled earlier on Monday, and it will provide a gathering place for fans as well as be a site for concerts, farmers markets and other events.

"There were so many people out in the rain," Chicago's Kris Bryant said. "I really enjoyed seeing the outside and the new plaza and what it looked like. That will be so fun for fans to experience. I think there's a lot of talk about the pace of play in the game, but you see fans here at 1 o'clock in the afternoon and they stay until midnight, I think that says a lot about the game, especially our fans. They're excited to be at the field."

Kyle Schwarber was just glad to be back at Wrigley.

"We missed it -- we missed being here," Schwarber said. "It feels like it's been a month that we've been on the road."

How excited were the Cubs players to be home? Reliever Justin Grimm posted on Twitter: "Home opener with @Cubs fans tonight! No espresso needed! See you all out there! Let's raise the banners and the "W" flag! #ThatsCub"

The home clubhouse features five new photos related to the World Series championship, including a photo of the trophy at the Grant Park rally, one of the champagne celebration in the clubhouse, another of the fans outside Wrigley Field celebrating the Game 7 win, and another of Ben Zobrist delivering the game-winning hit. The clubhouse also has new lettering, proclaiming the Cubs as the "World Series Champions."

What manager Joe Maddon liked best was a mural of a portion of the brick wall outside Wrigley Field that fans wrote messages on after the World Series win.

• Monday was the Cubs' first look at the new bullpens, which have been moved from along the foul lines to underneath the bleachers.

"I'm going to miss being on the field, from not moving on foul balls to [bullpen catcher] Chad Noble's routine that he does," reliever Mike Montgomery said. "It'll be different. In the end, I think we'll like it better."

Maddon thought switching the bullpens would be beneficial defensively. Outfielders won't have to worry about tripping over the bullpen mounds chasing foul balls. However, Zobrist was eager to see how balls react coming off the new doors to the bullpens. When a ball hit the ivy-covered brick walls, it usually just dropped. Now, it may ricochet.

• For the season opener, Maddon made sure his lineup included the players who were key to the Cubs' Game 7 World Series win, and he did the same for Monday's home opener.

However, the Cubs' lineup was the first time this season he had the pitcher bat ninth rather than eighth. That move, Maddon said, was done because he didn't like the way it "looked" with Jon Lester batting eighth against Dodgers lefty Alex Wood.

Brian Duensing struck out five and gave up one hit over two innings in his second rehab outing with Triple-A Iowa. The lefty began the season on the disabled list because of back spasms that limited him in Spring Training.

• Cubs infielder Javier Baez will have a street named after him on Tuesday in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. The road will stretch along West Luis Munoz Marin Drive from Sacramento Avenue to Division Street along Little Cubs Field. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado will attend the ceremony, and Baez will be accompanied by the World Series trophy. The first 50 fans at the event will get a wristband to have their photo taken with the trophy. The "Javy Baez Way" street sign will be unveiled at 12:45 p.m. CT.

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.