MESA, Ariz. — There’s a sense of normalcy in Mesa, the first full spring training unaffected by Covid-19 or the baseball lockout since 2019.

The Chicago Cubs carry the momentum of a 39-31 second half and a busy winter into 2023 with raised expectations that this can be a team to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2020.

David Ross enters year four on the job and had to like the fact that most of his big league roster is already at Sloan Park Wednesday despite the first full team practice not starting until Monday.

Several of the top free agent signings like Dansby Swanson, Trey Mancini and Jameson Taillon are at camp, developing those relationships with new teammates. The Cubs stressed character and leadership traits in their offseason spending spree, adding to a team they believe is on the cusp of taking that next step.

“I just feel like there’s a lot of great baseball players and this day and age you see a shift going from the whole analytic model to guys who actually know how to play the game of baseball,” said new Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson. “From just the little bit of time I’ve been here you have a lot of guys who care about each other. We have a saying that good teams hang out together and I feel like this is a great team that can embody that.”

“We have a lot of winners and guys who know how to compete at a high level and that’s the intangibles that don’t show up on paper, the anticipation, the little things that don’t show up when lose by one when you could’ve turned a double play earlier in the 4th inning, those things are going to get done,” said manager David Ross. “And that’s what I’m most excited about. We got baseball players and I use that term with a lot of respect.”