Cubs

Maddon: Javy Baez has to get used to not playing every day with Cubs

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Maddon: Javy Baez has to get used to not playing every day with Cubs

This isn't like last September.

The Cubs didn't call up Javier Baez just to pencil him in at second base and the two-hole in the order every single game.

As manager Joe Maddon has said on several occassions - the time for development is over. The Cubs are in a pennant race and they need wins at just about any cost.

[RELATED - Cubs letting Kyle Schwarber 'chill' for a few days with rib injury]

Of course, Maddon also understands it can be a difficult adjustment for a guy like Baez, who is used to playing every day. That empathy part of what makes Maddon so popular with his players.

"It's a little bit different for him, there's no question," Maddon said. "But this is a different moment for a lot of our guys. It's September; we have a really solid chance for playoffs. It's not about anybody right now - it's about the Cubs. That's what guys have to get used to right now.

"Moving forward, he's going to be an everyday player. There's no question. As we move this thing to next year and the year after, you'll see him play on a consistent basis.

"But for right now, he has to figure out how to be ready sporadically sometimes, even in-game."

Baez was in the lineup Friday, hitting sixth and playing second base. It was his second start in three games since being recalled from Triple-A Iowa when rosters expanded Tuesday.

Maddon said he just liked the matchup with Baez against Diamondbacks rookie Zack Godley and Baez rewarded his manager's faith with three hits - including a home run - and a bases-loaded walk.

The Cubs also got Tommy La Stella back from injury recently and Starlin Castro is coming off a month in which he appeared to turn a corner at the plate, hitting .296 with a .752 OPS in August.

That means Maddon has three solid options at second base for the season's final four weeks. He wants to play La Stella - a left-handed hitter - against right-handed starters and Castro against some lefties.

[MORE - Javier Baez returns to Cubs with something to prove]

But Maddon also raved about Baez's glovework in the infield and said he's just trying to play the best matchups on a daily basis with the lineup.

"Right now, I'm really into defense a lot," Maddon said. "I feel really good about his defense. You might see him at third base, too."

Baez played nine games at third base at Triple-A Iowa this season and Maddon admitted his versatility can mean pushing Kris Bryant to the outfield - especially with Kyle Schwarber out injured - and allowing La Stella and Castro more time at second base.

Baez also said Tuesday he brought his outfield glove to Chicago  - "just in case" - but it doesn't appear as if the Cubs have any intention of playing him there this season.

Maddon didn't declare his Saturday lineup yet, but after Friday's game, he conceded to the fact that both Baez and Castro would probably be in against Arizona lefty Robbie Ray for the second game of the series, which could mean Baez at third base.

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

With the Milwaukee Brewers about to kick off the NLCS, many Cubs fans and pundits have taken to comparing them to the 2015 Cubs.

At first glance, it's easy to see why — they're in the playoffs for the first time as something of an underdog and "surprise" team — but that's not the recent Cubs squad we should be comparing the 2018 Brewers to.

This Milwaukee team is a lot more like the 2016 Cubs.

Here's why:

1. They're not a surprise.

Nobody expected the 2015 Cubs to win 97 games and wind up in the NLCS. They were expected to compete very soon, but everything went right in a red-hot August, they rode Jake Arrieta's right arm to the NLDS and then toppled the Cardinals to get to the LCS, where they ran into the brick wall that was Matt Harvey and and the Mets pitching staff.

The 2018 Brewers are not — and should not be — a surprise. Anybody who was caught off guard by this team being so good hasn't been paying much attention. The Brewers were leading the NL Central in 2017 for much of the year before a late-season fade that coincided with the Cubs' late-season surge.

This Milwaukee squad was always supposed to be one of the top teams in the NL in 2018 and they really hit their groove in September to chase down the Cubs. Still, it took a Game 163 to force a changing of the guard atop the division.

2. They greatly improved expectations with a big free-agent OF signing over the winter.

The Cubs had Jason Heyward in between 2015 and '16. The Brewers had Lorenzo Cain.

Cain has provided quite a bit more offense in the first season of his 5-year, $80 million contract but both Cain and Heyward provided leadership in the clubhouse and elite defense in the outfield in the first years with their new teams.

3. The Brewers have the NL MVP.

This one's an easy comparison to make, though Cubs fans will hate it.

Christian Yelich is this season's NL MVP. Sorry, Javy Baez fans. "El Mago" had a great season, but it's impossible to give the award to anybody but Yelich.

Yelich winning the league's most coveted accolade would be another perfect tie-in to the 2016 Cubs, who had Kris Bryant take home NL MVP.

4. They have a dominant LHP out of the bullpen.

Josh Hader has been doing his best Aroldis Chapman impression in 2018 as an absolutely dominant southpaw out of the bullpen. Unlike Chapman, Hader's spent all season with the Brewers, but like Chapman in '16, Hader will be leaned on heavily for multiple innings throughout the rest of the playoffs.

5. They picked up some valuable in-season assets.

The 2016 Cubs dealt for Chapman, but they also traded for reliever Joe Smith and called up Willson Contreras in the middle of the year, who provided a spark for the offense.

The 2018 Brewers have acquired plenty of valuable assets along the way this season from Mike Moustakas to Jonathan Schoop to Erik Kratz (more on him later) to Gio Gonzalez. But one of their most important additions (especially in October) was the promotion of top prospect Corbin Burnes, a flame-throwing right-hander who posted a 2.61 ERA in 30 regular-season games and allowed only 1 hit in 4 shutout innings in the DS.

6. They're on a mission with a chip on their shoulder.

The 2015 Cubs had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder as they attempted to take down the divisional powerhouse that was the St. Louis Cardinals. But again, they were a surprise contender - even within that clubhouse (especially early in 2015). But after falling short in the NLCS, the Cubs retooled over the winter and came back with one goal in mind - to win the World Series.

It was a goal they accomplished. We'll see if the Brewers will be able to do the same, but they certainly came to play in 2018 with a chip on their shoulder and the ultimate goal of winning the final MLB game of the year.

The Brewers didn't lead the division from Day 1 and weren't able to coast into October, but they still wound up with homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

7. They have journeyman catcher who is winning over fans' hearts.

This is a fun one.

The 2016 Cubs had David "Grandpa" Rossy who still elicts deafening cheers whenever he's shown on the giant video board at Wrigley Field. The 2018 Brewers have Kratz, who has become a fan favorite recently and was mic'd up for the final out of the NLDS.

Ross was 39 when he helped lead the Cubs to the 2016 World Series and Chicago was his eighth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey. Kratz is 38 and on his ninth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey.

In fact, Ross and Kratz are so intertwined, they've already been compared to each other by MLB.com.

But the major difference is Kratz has zero postseason playing experience until a week ago. Will he be able to ride off into the sunset with a championship ring on his finger the way Ross did?

We'll have an answer to that over the next few weeks in the final chapter of the Brewers' 2018 season, though Cubs fans surely wouldn't be too happy to see their division rivals celebrating with a World Series parade just 90 minutes north of Wrigley Field.

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

The Cubs just lost one coach with hitting coach Chili Davis getting fired. Another opening on Joe Maddon's coaching staff could also open up.

According to report from MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed with the Rangers on Thursday.

Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler was the first candidate the club interviewed, but Hyde and Astros bench coach Joe Espada were also interviewed.

The 45-year-old Hyde has been with the Cubs since 2014. He was a bench coach in 2014 under Rick Renteria before moving to first base coach from 2015-17. This past season he moved back to his original role as bench coach.

He played four seasons in the minors for the White Sox.

The Rangers job opened up when Jeff Banister was fired on Sept. 21. Banister won AL Manager of the Year in 2015 and guided the Rangers to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016, but couldn't get out of the ALDS either year. A 78-84 season in 2017 was followed by an even worse 2018, which led to his firing late this season.