Cubs

Joe Maddon explains decision to move Kyle Schwarber out of leadoff spot for Cubs

Joe Maddon explains decision to move Kyle Schwarber out of leadoff spot for Cubs

Kyle Schwarber wasn't in his usual leadoff spot for Saturday's scheduled Cubs-Brewers game, which was postponed due to rain.

Manager Joe Maddon released a new lineup with Ben Zobrist hitting first, followed by Schwarber — and the usual Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

It's no secret the Cubs slugger has struggled in the leadoff spot this season. Hitting .182/.305./.351 in 38 games, Schwarber has been looking to find consistency at the plate.

Maddon even came to his defense earlier this week when asked whether the slumping Schwarber would continue to hit first in a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.

So Maddon's shakeup in the lineup doesn't exactly indicate his lack of confidence in Schwarber, but the Cubs manager does think it could help him get his bat going again.

"What I was looking at there was a couple things," Maddon said. "Zo’s been really good lately. We gave him that couple days off and he’s come out real nicely. And (Ian) Happ’s the new Zobrist. In other words he could protect Rizzo.

"The other component I thought we’ve talked a lot about Kyle hitting a lot of balls into the shift. If in fact Zo could get on a little more often, it might move that second baseman out of that spot. I don’t know, it might. So you look at Schwarber’s batting average, even Anthony’s, a lot is impacted by these shifts.

"Happ being here pretty much permits me to thinking that way and the fact that he’s done so well. Cause I was always concerned about Zo leaving that spot, but just imagine that today if I put Zo up there and Happ wasn’t there behind Rizzo, what that would look like. I wouldn’t feel as good about it. A lot of different parts. I was thinking about it last night coming into today and I thought it made sense."

In 36 games, Zobrist has three homers and 14 RBIs with a .246/.348/.385 slash line this year.

Maddon said that Schwarber's move out of the leadoff spot isn't necessarily permanent. 

"It just depends," Maddon said. "The biggest thing is just to get him untracked a little bit confidence-wise. Started the shift several years ago and a lot of your own guys hate you now. That’s just the fact that they’re hitting into this positioning a lot. So we’ll see. We’ll see how it all plays out."

Maddon's lineup had another new/old look.

After missing two weeks with a finger injury, Jason Heyward's return to the lineup was put on hold on Saturday. The 27-year-old outfielder was set to bat sixth and play right field.

On Thursday, Heyward had a rehab assignment with the South Bend Cubs, where he went 1-for-3 with an RBI single. After the game, Heyward said he felt no pain and was ready to return to the big club.

Though it's not official, Tommy La Stella is expected to be optioned to Triple-A Iowa as a corresponding move.

Cubs Talk Podcast Ep. 237: It's so good to be with the Director of Morale

wrigley_field_shot.jpg
USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast Ep. 237: It's so good to be with the Director of Morale

Luke Stuckmeyer and producer Eric Strobel welcome Frederic, aka the Cubs' unofficial Director of Morale. Fred takes us through the origins and growth of his fandom and social media persona (1:30), before discussing how Jake Arrieta's dominance announced the Cubs as contenders (7:30) and the now-ubiquitous hard hats in the bleachers (16:00). Finally, Fred and the guys talk about this year's team, including the lack of strikeout stuff on the pitching staff (22:30) and the unicorn that is Javy Baez (30:00). 

You can listen to the entire thing right here or in the embedded player below:

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is one step closer to joining the Cubs bullpen.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Kimbrel will join Triple-A Iowa and make his first appearance on Tuesday, against the Sacramento River Cats.

While the Cubs officially signed him on June 7, Kimbrel has yet to pitch in actual games. The 31-year-old has been in a condensed spring training program at the Cubs' Arizona complex, throwing live batting practice on both Thursday and Saturday.

The Cubs haven't revealed an official timeline for Kimbrel to join the 25-man roster, as they are basing things off of how he feels. The expectation is he will pitch in about five games with Iowa before joining the Cubs. However, both Theo Epstein and Kimbrel acknowledged how the goal isn't to rush the closer back into MLB action.

"We're not gonna rush it," Epstein said. "It's gonna be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we're trying to plan this thing the right way so that he could be in a position to succeed not just immediately but in October. That's gonna be our guiding principle as we go."

"We sat down and put a gameplan together — something to work off of," Kimbrel said. "But at the end of the day, it's based off how I recover, how I get ready. This isn't about getting back on the field as fast as I can. This is about being the best that I can be in October and down the stretch and doing what I came here to do for this team."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.