Since winning the World Series in 2016, and ending a century-old drought in the process, the Chicago Cubs have been bounced from the last two postseasons in the NLCS and wild-card game, respectively.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo is feeling the pressure to return to the World Series as the Cubs enter spring, and is calling for his teammates to approach the season with a sense of urgency.
"It's a challenge for all of us," Rizzo said, according to Jason P. Skoda of The Associated Press. "We didn't win last year, so what are we supposed to do - sit back and do the same thing? That's insanity. We've got to play better. We've got to be better and take it upon us to lead this group."
Unlike a year ago when the team added Yu Darvish on a massive free-agent deal, the Cubs have instead focused on smaller signings this offseason, such as reliever Brad Brach, right-handed starter Kendall Graveman, and infielder Daniel Descalso.
Darvish was limited to just 40 innings in the first year of his new contract, while star third baseman Kris Bryant dealt with his own health issues and appeared in only 102 games. Rizzo, however, is looking to put those injuries in the past and start fresh.
"Maybe with a mentality we can set the tone a little bit better this year," Rizzo said. "We go out there every day and try to win. I know we will come out strong."
The Cubs are projected to finish first in the NL Central with an 87-75 record, according to FanGraphs.