Jason Heyward's name wasn't in the starting lineup Thursday, but he said he was preparing for the game as if he were playing, testing his injured right wrist with batting practice and cage work.
Apparently batting practice went well.
Heyward entered Thursday's game before the fourth inning, taking over in center field after Dexter Fowler was thrown out of the game for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza.
Joe Maddon said the Cubs' plan was to see how batting practice went and evaluate from there, but all parties were planning on a return to the lineup in Friday's game before extenuating circumstances precipated a change Thursday evening.
Heyward missed the entire three-game series in Pittsburgh, but watched his teammates dominate the second-place Pirates without their Opening Day right fielder, left fielder (Kyle Schwarber) and catcher (Miguel Montero).
"When we lose guys, having other people come up and still do that, that's awesome," Heyward said. "I feel like those are building blocks for what can make a very special season — when people go down and other guys get reps when they're not expecting to get reps. They don't take 'em for granted. Getting everybody involved is a good thing."
Heyward said he initially hurt his wrist while doing tee work in spring training and had just been dealing with it since then.
The 26-year-old outfielder entered play Thursday hitting just .211 with a .573 OPS, but refused to use his wrist as an excuse.
"I don't like to not play," Heyward said. "It just got to a point where I was like, 'Hey, I should say something and get some extra help.' Now it's good because I can come in and get treated for it."
Heyward is playing under the biggest contract in Cubs history (eight years, $184 million) and undoubtedly wanted to prove himself to a new team and new city.
He missed just 21 games across the last two seasons, hitting .281 with a .766 OPS in the process.
Heyward had been hitting better of late, going 10-for-20 with two doubles and five RBI in the last five games of the Cubs' road trip in late April.
But then he went hitless in the rain-shortened homestand against the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves, going 0-for-17 with two walks. However, he did have a bunch of hard-hit balls, just right at defenders.
Still, he and the Cubs deemed it time to get some rest.
"It's tough [to know when to take a couple days off]," Heyward admitted. "But I know it's not a ligament [issue]. You know your body. The way I did it — it wasn't running into a wall or anything like that. It was just working hard in the cage.
"I want to play. I know I needed to play, especially at that time — it was so early. I know it's still early, but at that time, we weren't 20-6.
"It was just a matter of — is it going to help the team? Is it going to help me to get it calmed down sooner? I think it was a good time to do so."