The Cubs’ starting outfield trio is back on the active roster together. The club activated centerfielder Ian Happ (left rib contusion) from the injured list on Saturday.
Happ is penciled in to start in center and bat sixth in the lineup Saturday at Detroit. Jason Heyward is batting behind him and playing right field. Joc Pederson gets a break from playing left field but will lead off as the Cubs’ designated hitter.
Due to injuries – first to Pederson (left wrist tendonitis) and then Happ – Saturday marks the first time in almost four weeks that all three are in the lineup together.
Kris Bryant, who hasn’t played third base in weeks while filling holes in the outfield, is again starting in left field Saturday.
To make room for Happ’s return, the Cubs designated infielder Ildemaro Vargas for assignment.
At the plate, Happ started the season in a slump (.167 batting average) while batting leadoff. But he went 3-for-5 with a home run and double at Cincinnati two weeks ago, before exiting the game due to a collision with Nico Hoerner. Both landed on the IL in the following days. Hoerner (left forearm strain) returned Friday.
“Easing Happer back into it made some sense,” Ross said of Saturday’s batting order. “But Joc looks good at the top right now, and we'll ride that. If things change, we'll mix it up. The good thing about having really good players and guys that are going to come and go in the ebb of flow of the season is being able to move them around a little bit. And both the guys are willing and able to man that (leadoff) spot.”
Pederson too started the season slow, but since rerunning from the IL last week, he’s 15-for-31 (.484 batting average.) Happ said reclaiming his leadoff role isn’t on his mind.
“However Rossy writes the lineup out,” Happ said. “Looking forward to being down in the sixth hole and hopefully having (Pederson) on base a few times – maybe touch home before I get up.”
Happ said he feels “great” and has been able to throw and run in his workouts the past three or four days – two motions that were especially painful early in his time on the IL.
“Obviously a ribcage isn't something that it's going to heal overnight,” Happ said. “It’s not something that you can snap your fingers and make better. It’s not like anything that I've ever had before -- it's healing a bruise, that takes time.”
Even with Happ’s return, the Cubs outfield isn’t at full strength. Jake Marisnick, the Cubs’ fourth outfielder, went on the 10-day IL Tuesday with a right hamstring strain.
According to Ross, Marisnick ran stadium stairs Saturday morning, but the Cubs haven’t set a timetable for his return.
“But he's definitely moving around and was moving good today,” Ross said. “I told him he’s moving better than I can, and I feel like I'm kind of healthy.”