Joe Maddon used a National League-style lineup for the first time this spring Wednesday. Maddon had John Lackey bat ninth in the Cactus League game. Maddon used 119 different lineups last year, the pitcher hit eighth in 133 games, and very few of them had his starting pitcher batting ninth. But that could change this season.
Before the exhibition game, Maddon told the beat writers he is leaning toward batting his pitcher ninth this season. And he explained his thought process during the fourth inning of Wednesday’s game while talking to Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies on Comcast SportsNet.
Maddon got “some really good feedback” from the team’s nerds Wednesday and he will likely start Addison Russell out hitting towards the bottom of the lineup in the seventh or eighth spot.
“He’s probably towards the bottom of course. I’m probably leaning at this point towards having the pitcher hit ninth.”
“I thought last year, Addison a big part of his development would be that he would be protected and that’s where I wanted him nine and afforded the pitcher to the eighth slot,” Maddon said. “I think he made a lot of progress from last year to this year. I think he’s better able to stand on his own feet right now. So, more than likely a seven or an eight spot would be the slots I’m looking at right now.”
The Cubs have a rather deep lineup that provides Maddon with a lot of different options he could use. Maddon said he doesn’t want to overthink it. He wants to let it play a little and let it breath once he figures out a combination that he thinks will produce the best results.
“What I’m really trying to wrap my mind around right now is protection in the batting order and how much protection matters, talking about specifically how to set it up.”
“We have several high on-base percentage guys. We have several pretty much slug guys and how do you build the lineup among all of those different personalities, hitting personalities. So, that’s what I’ve been asking the most questions about.”
“Of course they could run it through different simulations and come back to me with different thoughts and ideas,” Maddon said. “But that truly is the … I don’t want to say concern but that’s what I’m trying to figure out. How to set this up that they feed each other properly and at the same time protect each other properly.”
“Because I tell you, the first thing I do when I get a lineup from the other side is I look at a good hitter on the other team and how well is he being protected or not. And that determines how much we should pitch to him or not.”
“That’s where I’m hung up right now because it’s a nice group of guys. How do you put together where the on-base guys feed the slug guys but at the same point protect the guys that need to be protected?”
Maddon has not run out any combination of his entire starting lineup in a Cactus League game. But that could change Thursday.
Multiple reports early Wednesday indicated the Cubs would use their Opening Day lineup, except for Jake Arrieta, for Thursday’s exhibition game against the Diamondbacks at Sloan Park.
Reports from ESPN Chicago, the Sun-Times and the Tribune have Maddon using the following lineup Thursday: Dexter Fowler CF, Jason Heyward RF, Ben Zobrist 2B, Anthony Rizzo 1B, Kris Bryant 3B, Kyle Schwarber C, Jorge Soler LF, Addison Russell SS and Jason Hammel P.
With Jake Arrieta on the hill for Opening Night against the Angels, Miguel Montero will be behind the plate. Maddon will also be able to use a designated hitter for the first two games.
Joe Maddon told Jesse Sanchez that Thursday’s lineup is the ‘St Patty’s Day Lineup’ more than the Opening Day lineup. And while it’s not Opening Day and Dave Martinez is still filling out the lineup card, Thursday’s lineup will be the first time the Cubs’ regulars will be on the field at the same time this spring.
Whether or not the pitcher bats eighth or ninth a majority of the time this season, it’s refreshing to hear a manager admit he doesn’t have all the answers and he’s open to input and ideas other than his own.