The Chicago Cubs recently introduced right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon and outfielder Cody Bellinger to the North Side faithful. After making it official, both players discussed playing at Wrigley Field in 2023, the recruitment process, and all things Cubs.
Jameson Taillon on Recruitment, Wrigley Field, and Dansby Swanson
After signing a four-year $68 million contract earlier this month, Taillion sent Cubs fans into a frenzy of excitement with the addition of a stellar arm in the starting rotation. The Florida native spoke Monday about how the Cubs’ recruiting process stood out far more than the rest.
“(The Cubs sent) custom videos that no other team sent me,” Taillon said. “Selling me on the Wrigley experience, the history, the city, and the fans, that stood out to me."
Taillon added that Chicago was the only team to meet him in person, and former Cubs players, including Anthony Rizzo, helped convince him to sign with the club.
“I guess he had heard from some of his Cubs sources (that they were interested). He said I would love it there and if I ever had any questions to kind of run it by him,” Taillon said of Rizzo's endorsement. “He had great things to say.”
Taillon is no stranger to pitching in the NL Central or at Wrigley Field. Before signing with the New York Yankees in 2021, the righty started his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In four seasons with the Pirates (2016-19), Taillon started four games at Wrigley Field and posted two wins, a 2.25 ERA, and 20 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched.
Taillon spoke about his excitement to get to work with the younger pitchers and his first experience at Wrigley Field.
Fans will have high expectations for the Cubs in 2023, especially after the acquisition of shortstop Dansby Swanson. Taillon elaborated on the opportunity to play with the Gold Glove shortstop and build a relationship.
With several exciting new players joining the Cubs this offseason, there's reason for optimism entering 2023. Taillon shares that sentiment, but he knows competing for the NL Central crown won’t be easy.
“We have to go out there and prove it, but it’s a division that’s gettable,” Taillon said. “So, I’m happy that they’re adding to it, and I think it’s a group that can make some noise.”
Cody Bellinger on Health, Past Struggles, Playing at Wrigley
The Chicago Cubs also made Cody Bellinger's contract official with a press conference on Tuesday. Based on his comments, the former MVP and Gold Glover feels at home on the North Side.
Coming off back-to-back seasons that were a far cry (.193 BA, 29 HR, .611 OPS, 244 SO) from Bellinger's MVP-caliber numbers of the past, there are plenty of questions about his struggles. The lefty addressed the elephant in the room and how he’s prepared to move forward.
“You can’t change the past but you can learn from it,” Bellinger said. “There were definitely injuries involved, I could go on and on, but I’m feeling really good and confident and strong, and looking forward to it.”
Bellinger added that he changed his workouts this offseason to help manage his body as he’s gotten older. If he can combine good health with his ability, the former All-Star is a strong bounce-back candidate in 2023.
“That’s what happens as life happens and you get older,” Bellinger said. “The body-specific training that I’ve been doing recently and translating what I’m doing into the cage and just into the baseball field in general—just being athletic and letting my ability take over.”
One thing that’s never strayed from Bellinger’s game is his Gold Glove-caliber defense. He's ranked third among NL centerfielders in the last two seasons in outs above average (9) and finished second last season (7). With Bellinger and Swanson now in the mix with Gold Glove-caliber players such as Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner, the Cubs' defense has made strides entering 2023.
Like Taillon, it wasn’t hard for Bellinger to be sold on the Wrigley Field experience, specifically playing day games:
With under 100 days until MLB Opening Day, the Cubs can count on Bellinger being prepared for the long season.
“I think where I’m at right now and how I feel mentally, physically, I’m in a pretty good spot. It makes me excited to start working out with the staff and talking through whatever we need to talk through to get going," Bellinger said.
"It's definitely a big year but I feel really good and I'm excited for it."