CLEVELAND — The Cubs are running out of patience with Jason Heyward. It’s nothing personal, because Heyward continues to be a Gold Glove defender and a model teammate. It’s not necessarily a statement on the next seven years of the biggest contract in team history. But manager Joe Maddon recognizes the urgency of the situation, benching the $184 million outfielder in the franchise’s first World Series game since 1945.
Chris Coghlan didn’t create the offensive spark Maddon hoped for against Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night, and Albert Almora Jr. became a late-inning replacement in right field during a 6-0 loss at Progressive Field.
“It is what it is,” Heyward said. “Just be ready. And if it’s not you, it’s not you. It’s a situation where — don’t be caught off guard — and be ready all the time. If you don’t get called, then you don’t get called.”
While Kyle Schwarber’s return to the lineup dominated the pregame news cycle, Heyward is coming off two playoff rounds where he went 2-for-28 (.071 average) against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, continuing a year-long trend where he put up career lows in homers (seven) and OPS (.631).
“You want to win now,” said Maddon, who spoke with Heyward before the game. “There’s no time to really give him time to get back in the groove, like we were trying to do earlier this year. We’ll see how this looks tonight. We’ll play it out tonight — see what it feels or looks like — and then make our determination for tomorrow.
“Not giving up on him by any means. (And) I stand by (this): I love having him on the field. I feel so good with him out there.”
But the Cubs don’t have the same luxuries anymore, the way Maddon gave Heyward a mental break for an August weekend at Coors Field in the hopes that it would clear his head and unlock his offensive game. The Cubs no longer have weeks to tinker or the comfort from having a huge lead in the division. Yet Maddon still thinks Heyward can change how Year 1 will be remembered.
“(With) human nature, sometimes you’re going to see that happening,” Maddon said. “Things maybe in the first year don’t go exactly according to plan. However, I really feel strongly that they will with him.
“He’s an incredibly wonderful young man. And he’s very strong mentally. He just has some things to work out, honestly, from the offensive side with his swing. I’m not saying anything new (here), but that’s what comes next. The offseason is going to be really important for him. But over the course of this next week, I’m certain he’s going to do something to help us win this whole thing.”