Joe Maddon has no interest in benching 'absolute winner' Jason Heyward

Joe Maddon has no interest in benching 'absolute winner' Jason Heyward

Cubs fans tired of watching Jason Heyward make soft contact can only hope the $184 million outfielder will find a way out of this season-long offensive spiral. Joe Maddon ultimately controls the lineup card, and the manager has no interest in benching Heyward, seeing him as the type of player who still does the little things so well.

In terms of actual value, it might not add up to the biggest contract in franchise history, but Heyward can help the Cubs win 3-2, 2-1 playoffs games with his Gold Glove defense, intelligent, aggressive approach to running the bases and the patience to drive up pitch counts and knock out an opposing starter.

“He’d be the first one to tell you he’s not happy with his offensive output,” Maddon said. “But if you’re standing in the dugout — and if you don’t know anything else about (his) batting average — you look at our record and you look at him in right field. I can’t be more comfortable with this guy (out there) while we’re playing baseball.

“He’s such a good baseball player. He’s such a great teammate, (plus) all the things he does that I believe are really important to victory, to a winning attitude, a winning team.”

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Heyward — who’s batting .225 with a .617 OPS that ranked 153rd out of the 155 qualified hitters in the majors — got a breather on Thursday afternoon as Ben Zobrist started in right field against the Milwaukee Brewers before the Cubs headed out on a three-city trip through the National League West.

As someone who built a reputation for grinding out at-bats, Heyward has as many walks (five) as extra-base hits since the All-Star break. The Cubs can’t bank on an age-27 power surge anymore, either, because Heyward has homered once since June 11.

Almost any other manager would be ridiculed by The Geek Department for saying things like this, but Maddon genuinely believes in Heyward’s intangibles and what that might mean in October.

“We’ll continue to work through all these moments,” Maddon said. “I do believe there’s going to be a tremendous reward at the end of all this, for him and for us. I know it’s difficult, outside looking in, but our record’s pretty good and he’s been on the field for most of those games. He’s a winner. He’s an absolute winner.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998


Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 12th + 13th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

An off-day did nothing to slow down the 1998 National League MVP as Sosa collected his second straight 2-homer game May 27 of that season.

He went deep in the eighth and ninth innings of a Cubs' 10-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, driving in 3 runs. 

The first homer - off Darrin Winston - was an absolute blast, traveling an estimated 460 feet. The second shot was tame in comparison with only 400 feet as a recorded distance.

In a matter of two games, Sosa raised his season OPS from .930 to .988 and his slugging percentage from .521 to .577 thanks to a pair of 2-homer contests.

Fun fact: Doug Glanville - former Cubs outfielder and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst - was the Phillies leadoff hitter that day in 1998, collecting three hits and scoring a pair of runs.

Yu Darvish back on the DL for Cubs with triceps tendinitis


Yu Darvish back on the DL for Cubs with triceps tendinitis

Yu Darvish now has more trips to the disabled list in a Cubs uniform than wins.

The Cubs place their 31-year-old right-handed pitcher on the DL Saturday evening with right triceps tendinitis. The move is retroactive to May 23, so he may only have to miss one turn through the rotation.

In a corresponding move, Randy Rosario was recalled from Triple-A Iowa to provide Joe Maddon with another arm in the bullpen. Tyler Chatwood will start Sunday in Darvish's place.

Thanks to two off-days on the schedule last week, the Cubs should be fine with their rotation for a little while. Jon Lester could go on regular rest Monday, but the Cubs would need to make a decision for Tuesday given Kyle Hendricks just threw Friday afternoon.

That decision could mean Mike Montgomery moving from the bullpen to the rotation for a spot start, or it could be the promotion of top prospect Adbert Alzolay from Triple-A Iowa.

Either way, this is more bad news for Darvish, who has had a rough go of it since he signed a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs in February.

Between issues with the weather, the concern of arm cramps in his debut in Miami, leg cramps in Atlanta, a trip to the disabled list for the flu, trouble making it out of the fifth inning and now triceps tendinitis, it's been a forgettable two months for Darvish.

He is 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 49 strikeouts in 40 innings with the Cubs.

Over the course of 139 career starts, Darvish is 57-45 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings.