SAN DIEGO – Cubs fans hoping to see a shake-up that might jolt a .500 team will have to settle for this: Joe Maddon buying a leisure suit and an embroidered leather jacket for the “Anchorman”-themed flight home and slotting contact hitter Jon Jay fifth in Tuesday night’s lineup against the Padres.
After Maddon stocked up at Flashbacks, a local vintage clothing store, Theo Epstein projected a sense of calm in his own way, stopping by Petco Park to face the media and take some heat off the defending World Series champs. The president of baseball operations and his manager aren’t looking to make any dramatic personnel moves.
“Not right now,” said Epstein, who’s on a West Coast scouting trip for the amateur draft. “Keep an open mind to everything. But when you have belief in certain guys’ talent – not just potential but talent – then you want to find a way for it to manifest, because it’s really valuable for guys to work through things up here.
“But you can’t be stubborn about it. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, then you got to look to other ways to get guys going. It’s happened throughout baseball history. But certainly the preferred course is for guys to work through things up here and come out the other end stronger.”
Those conversations would presumably revolve around two recent first-round picks: Kyle Schwarber (.173 average) and Ian Happ (2-for-22 with 13 strikeouts in his last seven games). But Epstein sent this message loud and clear: “Our solutions with hitters are on the 25-man roster right now.”
Maddon also signaled that he’s not planning to drop Schwarber toward the bottom of the lineup, the way he eventually moved Jason Heyward, trying to stop what still became a season-long offensive spiral.
“I know he hasn’t gotten hits, but I’ve liked his at-bats recently,” Maddon said. “There’s a tremendous difference between what Jason went through last year and what he’s gone through. Last year, Jason was more based on the mechanics of his swing. Right now, with Kyle, it’s more the mental process, because his swing physically is really good, so I see it as two different problems to consider.
“I’m not saying I won’t. But for right now, I thought the at-bats have been good.”
Maddon is focused on restoring the confidence that made Schwarber believe he could impact a 97-win team during his first full season in professional baseball – and make a dramatic comeback from major knee surgery to rake in last year’s World Series.
“Of course, it’s been dented a little bit,” Maddon said. “It’s not easy when you look up and you see that number (on the scoreboard) and you’ve never really struggled like this before. With anybody, their confidence is going to take a hit.
“Listen, every time I write his name down, I get excited. I think it’s a good thing. It’s going to happen. He’s going to come back. He’s going to show what he can do. There are certain things we’ve talked about regarding just approach in general. And I think I’ve been seeing better with that the last couple games.”