Joe Maddon stepped it up a notch Tuesday when he ran out a starting lineup in a road Spring Training game that featured a majority of his every day position players. For the first time in the Cactus League, Maddon’s infield from first to third was Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Kris Bryant. Maddon had an outfield of Jorge Soler (LF), Dexter Fowler (CF) and Jason Heyward (RF) with Kyle Schwarber (C) behind the plate.
The Cubs produced a 9-6 win over the Reds in Goodyear, but led the game 5-2 in the sixth when Jason Hammel turned over the exhibition to the bullpen.
According to multiple reports, Maddon had a hitters-only meeting Tuesday. Following Monday’s day off, it is time for the Cubs to “focus on the task at hand” with the regular season just around the corner. The lineups will feature his regulars more often and it’s time to turn up the intensity.
Maddon said he’s all about the last 10 days of camp and getting off to a good start.
“One of the more difficult things is to get behind early in the standings significantly. You burn up a lot of energy getting back into it. I’m all about the last 10 days of camp and I’m about getting off to a good start.”
Maddon wanted to stress the importance of doing the little things the right way. A team has to win low scoring games to win championships and that means scoring runs sometimes without a hit. The Cubs have to get the runner in from third with less than two outs. Situational hitting was an area the team struggled mightily with last season.
Lineup wise, Maddon told ESPN Chicago that he likes Fowler, Heyward and Zobrist ahead of Rizzo and Bryant in the batting order. Bryant went 1-for-3 with a RBI on Tuesday. Bryant singled in Heyward in the fourth inning. Zobrist was on first base after a single when Rizzo went yard.
Just seeing Tuesday’s lineup reinforced how deep the team is. Maddon will continue tinkering with the combinations but a 1-5 of Fowler, Heyward, Zobrist, Rizzo and Bryant could make life difficult for pitchers in the National League this season.
Kyle Schwarber started Tuesday’s game behind the plate. Schwarber caught Jason Hammel for the second straight start.
Schwarber had a very good game behind the plate. Schwarber basically picked two runners off first base. Schwarber threw behind Jay Bruce in the second inning. Bruce was tagged out (2-3-4). In the third, Schwarber caught Ray Chang napping at first base and picked him off.
Schwarber also made a strong throw to second base that almost nailed Billy Hamilton in the fourth inning.
Kyle Schwarber told ESPN Chicago that he’s feeling “more comfortable” behind the plate with all of the work he’s put in. Schwarber is expected to catch a majority of Hammel’s starts this season.
Kris Bryant joined Jody McDonald and Jeff Nelson during Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio) on Monday afternoon.
Bryant has played only third base this spring. But he could see time in the outfield before the end of Spring Training.
Even with a crowded outfield, Joe Maddon has mentioned to Bryant he could be used in the outfield this season. Maddon wants to use Bryant in the outfield for a game soon.
Kris Bryant said he will be ready when Maddon decides to play him in the outfield.
Tommy La Stella
Tommy La Stella did not play in Tuesday’s Cactus League. He was scheduled to play third base in a minor league game.
According to ESPN Chicago, Maddon is not concerned about La Stella. Maddon “believes La Stella will be fully healed from a calf issue before the start of the regular season.” Jesse Rogers reported La Stella ran the bases during Tuesday morning’s practice.
Matt Szczur and Shane Victorino
Matt Szczur played in his first Cactus League game Tuesday. Szczur missed a majority of Spring Training with an oblique injury. Szczur entered the game in the seventh inning. Szczur replaced Dexter Fowler in center field and went 0-for-2 at the plate.
According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Shane Victorino remains sidelined with a sore calf. Maddon said Tuesday he “is not that close to playing.” Maddon knows what Victorino can bring to the table if he’s healthy.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Theo Epstein told Jesse Rogers Tuesday that he doesn’t think the Cubs are “looking for any player to play 155 games, even the Heywards and Bryants of the world.” Anthony Rizzo is the only one Epstein could see playing 155 or more games this season “because of where he plays.”
• Hardball Talk previewed the Chicago Cubs for the upcoming season. Bill Baer has the Cubs winning 97 games (97-65) and the NL Central crown.
• Bernie Pleskoff heard in the press box that the A’s are “on the prowl to move some older players and are looking for middle infielders.”
• Jorge Soler told Carrie Muskat he enjoyed watching the video of the Rays playing in Cuba. Soler hopes that maybe one day the Cubs will play in Cuba.
• New York banned smokeless tobacco from Yankee Stadium and Citi Field. New York joins Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston as the latest city to make it illegal to use smokeless tobacco at sporting events.
• The Dodgers received really bad news about Andre Ethier on Tuesday. Ethier suffered a right tibia fracture when he fouled a ball of his shin last Friday. Ethier does not require surgery, expected recovery time is 10-14 weeks.
And last, but not least, for a team that says they don’t care about the Cubs, the Cardinals sure spend a lot of time talking about them … here’s the latest from Jayson Stark.
This Day in Cubstory
2014 – Cubs granted free agency to Tsuyoshi Wada
2011 – Cubs released Mike Parisi
2011 – Cubs released Scott Rice
2006 – Cubs released Brian Boehringer
2006 – Cubs released David Lee
2004 – Cubs signed free agent Greg Maddux
2000 – Cubs released Greg McMichael
2000 – Cubs acquired Gary Matthews Jr. from the Padres for Rodney Myers
1989 – Dae-Eun Rhee, born
1987 – Cubs released Mike Martin
1984 – Cubs released Mike Chris
1974 – Cubs acquired Scipio Spinks from the Cardinals for Jim Hickman
1966 – Mike Remlinger, born
1959 – Cubs signed free agent Ossie Chavarria
1947 – Pat Bourque, born
1902 – Johnny Moore, born
1886 – Cy Slapnicka, born
1877 – Peaches Graham, born