It’s time for a return to the Cubs’ leadoff spot for Ian Happ for a stretch. Or maybe for another turn at the top for the self-proclaimed Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All-Time, Anthony Rizzo.
Either one of those or a mix-and-match leadoff committee — at least until Kris Bryant gets his left wrist and finger and/or elbow well enough to return to some semblance of his .382-on-base and .894-OPS form.
Bryant on Tuesday had an injection believed to be a cortisone shot, in his sore left wrist, putting him out of the lineup regardless until at least Friday's series opener against the White Sox.
“He’s batting a lot of things right now,” manager David Ross said when asked about what might be wrong with Bryant’s swing after a 1-for-7 doubleheader against the Cardinals Monday that dropped his season average to .177 (.271 OBP) with a .595 OPS. “It’s hard to talk about swing when — you want to have results. He definitely wants to have results, and he expects to be great. He’s been a great player in his career.”
This is a short season, which already crossed the one-third mark Monday. And a sagging Cubs’ lineup has been impacted — especially during its recent skid — by a leadoff spot that ranks fourth from the bottom of the majors with a .179 average with a .274 OBP.
Before the shot on Tuesday, an inspired decision in the spring to make the best hitter on the team the leadoff man has devolved into an exercise in pain tolerance for Bryant, who has missed games because of back tightness and more significantly a sore left elbow and then the jammed wrist and finger last week in Cleveland.
“He’s got some bumps and bruises,” Ross said. “He’s just trying to grind it out for the guys. I give him a lot of credit for that to be honest with you. It’d be easy for him to sit out till he feels 100 percent. He’s not. He’s out there grinding, playing good defense. His attitude’s been good."
That's why he's still valuable in the lineup, and should be in it regardless when he returns.
“We’re all going to struggle," Ross said. "Right now, it’s what he’s going through.”
So as he returns and regroups, let him do it lower in the order.
This year’s best hitter, Ian Happ, has steadily moved up from the bottom to the middle of the order and on Tuesday was at the top in Bryant's place. Happ has a .416 OBP and .994 OPS so far, and some — albeit, spotty — experience as a leadoff guy in recent years.
Rizzo, the de facto backup leadoff guy, has a .433 OBP this year — and a .422 OBP in 59 career games as a leadoff guy, with 14 homers, 27 walks and a 1.014 OPS.
Bryant was the right choice for the job when the season started and will be when he's well again.
But if Happ and/or Rizzo and/or (fill in the blank) look good the next three games, then ride the wave until then.