On Saturday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon teased that a day out of the starting lineup was coming soon for Javier Baez. There was no such warning about Kris Bryant.
On day 27 of a stretch of 30 games scheduled for 30 days, Maddon sat both Baez and Bryant. Baez has played 145 of the Cubs’ 148 games, and become one of the few truly everyday players on the roster as he builds his case for MVP. Bryant, meanwhile, has a solid .370 on-base percentage but no home runs and a .391 slugging percentage since returning from the disabled list on Sept. 1.
But if there’s any concern about Bryant, Maddon isn’t saying. Maddon likes that Bryant is keeping two hands on the bat more consistently, but is just slightly underneath the ball. Overall, Maddon said Bryant’s bat speed and legs look good, but “I just think he needed today off.”
“He’s fouling his pitch off,” Maddon said. “The pitch that he could really drive, he’s just under it a little bit. It’s going straight back. Otherwise, he’s had some decent at-bats.”
One thing he hasn’t had many of is a homer, with his last coming July 21.
“Overall, that the ball is just not been in the seats. That’s the only big difference that I’m seeing so far,” Maddon said. “This is just observation-wise from the side. Underneath, just like a click under the ball when he gets that A-hack off that goes back. I want to believe that it’s going to start getting squared up. It would be nice to get the ball in the seats from him and a couple other guys moving it forward.
“I really believe today is very important to give him today off, and Javy.”
Giving Baez a rest presents other challenges. Not only is he clearly the Cubs’ best player, but he’s chasing an MVP award and every inning missed could cost him a chance to burnish his case.
Maddon said if the schedule was “normal” the rest would have been built in. But days of rest have been scarce, so Baez got a break from the starting lineup, though he is available for use later in the game.
“He was good (with sitting). He’s banged up a little bit,” Maddon said. “He’s not talking about it, but he could use the day.”
Before Thursday when the Cubs finally have a day off, there still might be more resting players. Maddon mentioned how the Cubs are facing Arizona lefties Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray, which could be a chance to sit Daniel Murphy.
Tommy La Stella was originally supposed to start Sunday but was scratched with low back tightness, allowing Albert Almora to start on his bobblehead day.
“That was my mistake. I did not know today was Albert Almora bobblehead day until I walked in,” Maddon said. “So in some weird way, he’s gotten into the lineup. So heads up. Bobbleheads up.”
The Cubs activated Jason Heyward (right hamstring) from the disabled list and was available to pinch-hit Sunday. He won’t start Monday against Corbin but is physically “good to go” otherwise.
The news wasn’t as encouraging on Kyle Schwarber (back). Maddon didn’t think Schwarber would be available Sunday and wasn’t sure he’d travel to Arizona.
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