Cubs Counting On Revamped Order For Consistency

Ben Zobrist will lead off several times a week.

Bruce Levine
September 02, 2019 - 6:28 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The sputtering Cubs offense will have a new look at the top of the order come Tuesday.

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The Cubs will use veteran utilityman Ben Zobrist in the leadoff spot when they host the Mariners, manager Joe Maddon said. Zobrist returned to the active roster Sunday after nearly four months away from the team for a personal leave of absence. 

Maddon plans to use the switch-hitting Zobrist at leadoff at least a couple times a week, with most of those opportunities likely to come against right-handed pitching. Zobrist, 38, won't be an everyday player, given his age and time away. 

Outfielder Jason Heyward has been the Cubs' primary leadoff man since late July. It's been an odd dynamic, as the Cubs are 22-10 when he leads off this season despite Heyward struggling with a .151 batting average and .246 on-base percentage out of the top spot in the order entering play Monday.

"I will talk to Jason about that," Maddon said of the adjustment. "I have not had that conversation with him yet. He understands that. It was pointed out to me what our record is with him leading off. It is pretty darn good. He is such an important part of us winning, and it was out of necessity that we asked him to do it."

The Cubs' hope is that with Zobrist leading off and catcher Willson Contreras set to return late this week from a hamstring strain that they'll have a deeper lineup that brings more consistency. On Monday, the Cubs snapped a 24-inning scoreless streak with a five-run seventh inning that rallied them to a 5-1 win against the Mariners at Wrigley Field.

With the wins, the Cubs remained three games behind the NL Central-leading Cardinals.

"If we can get them both back into the lineup and we can maintain some offensive momentum, I think we can get back to being the team we want to be," Maddon said. "I have been talking about this for a while -- the run would be in the offense. The inconsistency is in that area of our game. We must stay in our strike zones."

The lack of strike-zone discipline is what has hurt the Cubs and what Maddon has been preaching. Asked if the Cubs were better in that regard in their win Monday than in a shutout loss Sunday, Maddon responded, "Eh."

"That is the one we still have to get better at," Maddon said. "That is the separator right there."

One of Zobrist's strengths is his plate discipline, 

"I know what Zo is capable of doing," Maddon said. "He is ready to rock and roll. He will start on Tuesday and get a lot of playing time this weekend in Milwaukee."

Maddon added he has "a lot of faith in our guys" and believes the turnaround will come. There's just little margin for error at this point in the season, with only 25 games left. 

"I wish everyone outside of the team could see the motivation we have in the clubhouse," said outfielder Kyle Schwarber, who hit the go-ahead three-run triple Monday. "We always believe we are one hit away every time. That is the way we play the game."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.