Cubs' Maddon hopes lineup shuffle will help Heyward break slump

ByJesse Rogers ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon finally moved struggling right fielder Jason Heyward down in the order, saying he wants to "rearrange the deck chairs" with seven games to go before the All-Star break.

"Just give him a little break out of that 2-hole and see if we can get him going in the right direction on a more consistent basis," Maddon said Monday before the Cubs played the Cincinnati Reds."We talked about it. He was fine with it."

Entering Monday, Heyward was hitting .231 with an on-base percentage of .321. His line drive percentage (29 percent) is the highest of his career. His strikeout ratio (19.1 percent) is his highest since 2012.

Batting sixth Monday against the Reds, Heyward went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs with a double in the first inning ofthe Cubs' 10-4 victory.

Before the game, Heyward seemed to take the move in stride.

"Joe wants to mix it up and continue to do things to help us as a group," Heyward said. "I'm not really thinking about that. Just trying to help the team win."

Maddon said he chose this moment to move Heyward down in the lineup because the All-Star break is coming, which will give him a chance to rethink things.

"Just rearrange the deck chairs and see how it plays," Maddon said. "A week before the All-Star break,you can look at it, evaluate it. It'll look different when we come back. Just get a feel for it right now."

Maddon hopes his lineup will look different because he's due to get some injured bodies back, beginning with leadoff man Dexter Fowler. Fowler was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list (hamstring) on Monday but isn't quite ready. Instead, Javy Baez led off against the Reds for the first time in his career, andBen Zobrist got a day off. Fowler tested his hamstring with agility drills Monday.

"It's a lot better," Fowler said. "I picked up the intensity. It felt good. Hopefully it's not long."

Maddon indicated that Fowler would need a few rehab days in the minors to make sure he's ready before being activated.

Complicating things is the upcoming All-Star Game, in which Fowler is likely to be named a starter when final fan voting is released Tuesday evening. The Cubs manager said if Fowler is ready to play Tuesday -- even if he hasn't played in a major league game -- he'll play in the All-Star Game.

"Coincidence more than anything," Maddon said. "We're not trying to push for him to play in the All-Star Game. This is all conjecture. You don't want the timing to interfere with what you would have wanted anyway."

Fowler wants to play in the game but can't predict what this week will bring.

"I don't know the future," he said. "You want to be cautious with it. I haven't had any setbacks. It's getting better fast."

The Cubs are 5-9 since Fowler went down, including a 4-game sweep by the New York Mets the past weekend.