It’s the start of the Cubs Cactus League schedule and time for the mad scientist’s experiments to begin …
Joe Maddon sent the first signal Wednesday that this Spring Training is going to be anything but predictable. While the Cubs’ skipper didn’t post his lineups for the Cactus League openers, he did say that Anthony Rizzo would hit in the two-hole behind Dexter Fowler in Thursday’s exhibition game in Mesa.
The first five batters in his lineup against the A’s will be, according to reports, Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Miguel Montero and Javier Baez. And Rizzo hitting second could happen during the regular season.
Anthony Rizzo batting second is one of the many experiments Joe Maddon has planned for Spring Training. Maddon would like to move players around the infield and outfield and of course different spots in the batting order.
Joe Maddon used 129 different lineups last season, down from 147 in 2013 and 151 in 2012.
If Anthony Rizzo bats second when the games count, and that’s a possibility according to the Sun-Times, it could have to do with where Maddon hits his pitcher. Maddon started gathering information in December on the benefits of hitting the pitcher in the eighth spot of a lineup.
Shortly after camp began, Maddon explained the thought process of batting a pitcher eighth. One of the factors in the decision is how deep he can pitch into a game. It’s more likely a five- to six-inning pitcher would bat eighth where a starter expected to pitch deeper in to a game would hit ninth. Having the pitcher bat ninth would help delay the decision to pinch hit for him.
Maddon plans on using a designated hitter instead of letting his pitchers hit until the middle of the March. Once the pitchers start hitting, Maddon could have the pitcher’s spot eighth in his lineup.
According to the Sun-Times, Maddon “won’t start seriously putting together lineup plans for the season until he starts working with combinations toward the end of the middle and late part of March.”
“I just want to try guys in different slots,” Maddon told the Sun-Times. “You’re going to see them in different spots the whole camp.”
Joe Maddon’s daily mixing and matching begins Thursday afternoon.
Lining Up the Defense
Joe Maddon not only has ideas of where he would like to see his players bat in the lineup, but where he would like to see them on the field.
According to the Sun-Times, Maddon is going to use different outfield combinations during the spring games while several players will be moved around the infield.
Along with the outfielders listed on the Cubs Spring Training Roster, Kris Bryant, Mike Olt and Arismendy Alcantara are supposed to see time in the outfield. And Alcantara should see time at second base, shortstop, third base, left and center field this spring.
Maddon said he plans on getting Tommy La Stella acclimated to third base and Javier Baez will be move “around a little bit,” which would seem to point to Baez seeing time at third base along with second base and shortstop.
Joe Maddon said he’s “not a big Spring Training performance guy,” but with the roster he has full of young players with a lot of potential, what he sees over the next month should have an impact on the way the roster is built to start the season.