SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Lineup is an evolving concept for Joe Maddon, a manager who will run numbers and play matchups with a Cubs roster that seemingly has unlimited possibilities. But this might be a rough outline for what you’ll see on Opening Day:
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jason Heyward, RF
3. Ben Zobrist, 2B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Kris Bryant, 3B
6. Kyle Schwarber, C
7. Jorge Soler, LF
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Jason Hammel, P
At least that’s how Cubs instructor/ESPN broadcaster Rick Sutcliffe framed it Wednesday on Twitter (before it was released to the Chicago media):
— Rick Sutcliffe (@Sut_ESPN) March 16, 2016
Heyward essentially told the same thing to a reporter with the Associated Press, that Thursday night’s lineup against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Sloan Park in Mesa will be sort of a sneak preview.
Obviously, Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta will face the Los Angeles Angels on April 4 and the Cubs will need a designated hitter in an American League ballpark. Maddon also downplayed the idea of showing off his A-team on St. Patrick’s Day for a national audience.
“It’s spring training,” Maddon said. “It’s March 17th. Everybody’s still getting ready.”
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But it probably gives some insight into what the Cubs are thinking now. If Schwarber, as a catcher/outfielder, is going to focus on working with one pitcher, it might be Hammel. And Maddon could bump Russell up to the seventh or eighth spot after consulting with the analytics department.
“The geeks got back to me,” Maddon said. “I got some really good information. I’m looking at that stuff right now. It is (still under evaluation). It could be versus righties and versus lefties having something to do with that.
“I’ll say I’ll probably lean (toward) the pitcher hitting ninth this year, more than we did eighth last year. A lot of that had to do with the development of Addison. It’s a different animal this year, so you may see the pitcher hit ninth.”