ST. LOUIS — Nothing may ever approach the Cubs' grueling schedule from last September, but they are once again in midst of a curious stretch on the calendar.
And it has nothing to do with the three hour and 37 minute rain delay Saturday evening in St. Louis (though that's surely an interesting way to begin this month).
Beginning with Friday's game in St. Louis, the Cubs are in the midst of a stretch where they play 34 games in 35 days. And they just got done with a stretch where they played 27 games in 28 days in May.
One of the reasons for this current stretch is the game set to be played Monday afternoon at Wrigley Field — a makeup against Tommy La Stella and the Angels from the April 14 snowout.
But even if the Cubs were still off that day (June 3), that would've just been a pair of breathers in a five-day stretch, sandwiched around this series in St. Louis. The Cubs have only one other scheduled off-day in June (the 17th).
In total, the Cubs have just three days off from May 3 through July 4, a stretch of 63 days.
They had eight off-days (seven scheduled, one snowout) from March 28 through May 2, a stretch of 36 days.
Nobody is outright complaining about that MLB scheduling, but that's inconsistent, to be sure.
So how will the Cubs handle this tough stretch and did they learn anything from last August/September (when they were at the ballpark for 42 games in 43 days) that can help now?
"I don't want any rainouts, so if you don't have any rainouts, I just gotta be aware of giving guys days off," Joe Maddon said. "...Other than that, it's been kinda nice. We've had one rainout to contend with — we're making that up on Monday. Otherwise, it's just been flowing pretty good.
"It's just a little bit exorbitant. We had all those days off when we didn't need them and now when you do need them, you don't get 'em. That's the logic of the Major League Baseball schedule."
In hindsight, the early off-days weren't the end of the world given the unpredictable weather in April, particularly in Chicago. The Cubs had five weather postponements in April last year and another in May.
So while they didn't necessarily need six scheduled off-days (and another added on thanks to the snowout) in March and April because everybody's pretty fresh at that point, it at least gave them freedom to work with the schedule if the weather was worse.
The other good news is the Cubs will spend much of this current stretch in Chicago. When they get back from St. Louis, they'll have only 1.5 more road trips in June — a West Coast trip to Colorado and Los Angeles from June 10-16 (and then the off-day is positioned perfectly after that) and a three-game series in Cincinnati to finish the month.
So this month shouldn't be all that grueling, but it will still come with its fair share of challenges.
The Cubs already looked like they might need another bat before Javy Baez was scratched from Saturday's game with his recurring heel injury. Baez is back in the lineup for Sunday's game and playing shortstop, but this is a situation that will bear watching in the coming days and weeks.
With Ben Zobrist still away from the team and no return in sight, the Cubs went out and signed Carlos Gonzalez to a minor-league deal and the veteran can give them more options when the Cubs feel he's up to speed (Gonzalez joined Triple-A Iowa Saturday to begin playing in games).
"I'm eager to hear how he's doing as he reports," Maddon said. "In the corner outfield, he gives us another left-hander to utilize vs. a good right-handed pitcher and that's it. ... When he's able to play and he's here, you can start three significant left-handed hitting outfielders."
Gonzalez missed only about 10 days of action after he was released from the Cleveland Indians, so he may not need long to get up to speed. If — or when — he joins the big-league club, it gives the Cubs a more proven, reliable option on the roster compared to Mark Zagunis and Jim Adduci.
However, the outfield may be a bit more crowded by the time Gonzalez is ready, as Maddon already teased the possibility of Baez potentially playing more third base down the line to limit the movement on his ailing heel. On days where he starts at the hot corner and Addison Russell is at shortstop, the Cubs would move Kris Bryant to the outfield.
The Cubs can also rest easy knowing that after a tough month of June, they'll have a rather relaxing July. They have eight off-days scheduled next month, including the All-Star Break in Cleveland.