MESA, Ariz. — With Javy Baez currently playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, Joe Maddon gave a sneak peek at one version of his Opening Day lineup behind Jon Lester.
As Lester got his second Cactus League appearance against the Colorado Rockies at Sloan Park Saturday, Maddon built a lineup around the ace southpaw that looks like it will play April 2 in St. Louis:
1. Kyle Schwarber - LF
2. Kris Bryant - 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Ben Zobrist - 2B
5. Addison Russell - SS
6. Jason Heyward - RF
7. Wilson Contreras - C
8. Tommy La Stella - DH
9. Jon Jay - CF
Of course, the Cubs won't have the luxury of the designated hitter in St. Louis, but insert Lester in La Stella's spot and everything else is in line with what Maddon has hinted the typical lineup might look like (though Maddon isn't a fan of typical lineups) if everybody stays healthy.
Just look at how much has changed from Maddon's lineup on Opening Day 2016 against the Angels in Los Angeles:
1. Dexter Fowler - CF
2. Jason Heyward - RF
3. Ben Zobrist - 2B
4. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
5. Kris Bryant - 3B
6. Kyle Schwarber - LF
7. Jorge Soler - DH
8. Miguel Montero - C
9. Addison Russell - SS
You could plug Albert Almora Jr. in the Cubs' 2017 edition in the nine-spot and depending on the pitching matchup, Baez may also get the call somewhere on the diamond Opening Day.
"It just depends on the pitcher," Maddon said. "Javy will probably bat to the bottom part of the batting order anyway. We just plug him in somehow, whether that would be for Zobrist or Schwarber. It could be for anybody that hits left-handed and you want another righty in there.
"I don't know. That's just gonna be a day-by-day thing. Javy won't hit at the top. He'll hit toward the bottom and he'll play against righties and lefties; I'm not saying just lefties.
"But if you're gonna try to morph him in there a little bit, you're probably gonna do it against left-handed pitching and give somebody a day's rest."
Maddon said he is "leaning" toward keeping the pitcher in the No. 8 spot, but is still waiting to hear the thoughts from the Cubs' geek department.
That would make sense in games where Schwarber is the leadoff hitter, preluding Schwarber in the lineup with a position player instead of a pitcher.
Maddon also has no intentions of sitting Schwarber against left-handed pitching, even though the young slugger has posted a .143 average and .481 OPS against southpaws in his big-league career.
In the minors, Schwarber's stat lines against lefties looked like this:
2014 in A-ball: .316/.407/.570 (.976 OPS)
2015 in Double-A and Triple-A: .234/.315/.445 (.760 OPS)
"I don't have a discomfort level," Maddon said. "He's gonna get his playing time vs. lefties also. We'll watch and see how it plays out.
"I guess in the past, he's never really had problems hitting lefties. I don't anticipate that now with enough opportunity. This guy played three games last year. The year before, we saw him briefly.
"Like anything else with this guy, he'll go out there and work to be really good at that and I have full faith that he will. Now, if it doesn't play right, we'll do something differently, but he'll get the opportunity to hit the lefty."