The Cubs have a weird June schedule


The Cubs have a weird June schedule

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.

Why Andy Green is such an important part of the Cubs coaching calculus

Why Andy Green is such an important part of the Cubs coaching calculus

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On the day he was introduced as the next Cubs manager, David Ross made it a point to explain how important it is that his bench coach is "one step ahead" of him as he gets his feet under him.

Theo Epstein echoed that sentiment, saying a bench coach with managerial experience was vital as the Cubs help Ross along as not only a first-year manager, but also a first-year coach.

Enter Andy Green.

The 42-year-old Green spent the last four seasons as the San Diego Padres manager, but was fired with one week left in the 2019 season and two years left on his current deal. The Padres wanted a different voice moving into the future after Green compiled a 274-366 record and lost at least 85 games each season, finishing no higher than fourth place in the National League West.

But the Cubs don't want Green to be the manager and they love what he brings to the table as a veteran coach and Ross' right-hand man. 

"Talking to the Padre guys that I know well, he has excellent in-game strategy and always thought ahead very well in-game," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. "Very bright, very well prepared. And that's not to mention he's a really good coach. We felt like that was a really good pairing for David. He hasn't managed, so having a guy next to him that, by all accounts, was really good in-game and controls information well, I think that's a really nice pairing."

At his introductory presser, Ross acknowledged his weaknesses as a first-time manager and admitted he will need some time to get the "feel" back of being in the dugout and engaged in each pitch after serving as either a broadcaster or front office executive for the last three years.

As a player, Ross often tried to think and strategize along with his manager, but that's not the same as actually having to make those calls and worry about pitching changes, pinch-hitting, umpire challenges and any other in-game duties a manger is tasked with. It can all add up quickly and managers often have to make the crucial decisions at the snap of a finger.

Ross and Green have not worked together, but the Cubs are hoping they can form a fast friendship and believe Green's ability to prepare is also an asset along with his experience. 

"He's gonna be great at [the bench coach job]," Padres GM A.J. Preller said. "I think it's gonna be a really good thing for somebody that's in that [manager's] chair for the first time having somebody that's gonna be knowledgeable, prepared, detail-oriented and somebody that understands what it's like to sit in that seat. I think all those things are gonna help serve [Green] really well."

Preller and Green reportedly didn't always see eye-to-eye in the big picture view of where the Padres were going, but there's no denying how the San Diego GM feels about his former manager's intellect and the Cubs won't need him to call the shots — only to assist Ross in doing so.

"Andy is probably one of the most intelligent baseball people I've been around," Preller said. "To me, probably as good a person as I've been around as far as Xs and Os and knowing the game. Andy always seemed to be two or three steps ahead. He's very well thought out, very well prepared. It's gonna be a huge strength for him and I think it will be nice for a first-year manager to have somebody like Andy sitting next to him."

A bench coach's exact duties vary from team to team and manager to manager, but with the Cubs, they will lean on Green initially to help Ross along with the experience aspect, making sure the game is not too quick for the first-year manager. During games, Green will be standing right next to Ross, weighing decisions and options along with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy.

But like other bench coaches, Green will also be tasked with helping to serve as a bridge between Ross and the Cubs players. In a lot of ways, Ross is the face of the franchise, as he will partake in somewhere around 500 media sessions throughout the course of the season, including before and after each game. Between that, addressing the team as a group, individual meetings with players and all the strategy and discussions with the R & D department and the front office, Ross will need to lean on Green to be his right-hand man off the field, as well.

It helps that Green just finished managing in the National League, where he knows the opponents and the game is quite different than the American League, which has the benefit of the designated hitter.

"He's a guy that understands all different aspects [of being a coach]," Preller said. "He understands some of the newer information, some of the newer technology. He's gonna understand things that have worked in the past in terms of preparing for games from an advanced information standpoint and then he'll draw upon his experiences being in the National League, knowing the league really well.

"I think he'll be able to give all those things to David Ross and to the Cubs players — somebody who comes in with the mindset of just trying to help the team out and help the team grow. All those things are going to be positives."

We'll see how quickly Ross and Green can jell together, but it's clear the Cubs believe Green can help expediate the process of preparation and in-game strategy for Ross, both now and in-season. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ned Colletti interview


Cubs Talk Podcast: Ned Colletti interview

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan talks with former Cubs front office executive and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti on how to fix a major league roster, when to deal a player who is heading into free agency, and more

01:30 How he moved from MLB to being a scout in the NHL

04:30 How to fix a major league roster

06:40 On building the roster when other teams know your weaknesses

09:30 When to deal a player who is facing free agency

11:30 Balancing trying to win now vs. building a team for a sustained run

14:30 On how a GM can't depend only on signing a big free agent

18:00 On his time with the Cubs in the 1980s

19:45 On how a GM deals with Scott Boras

22:00 On how a GM deals with talk radio and the media

26:00 On how he almost got CC Sabathia on the Dodgers for 2008 playoff run

28:00 On how not trading for Ryan Dempster helped bring Kyle Hendricks to the Cubs

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.