(CBS) Cubs manager Joe Maddon doesn’t know exactly he’d structure his lineup for a potential one-game wild-card playoff. Outside of the regulars, there are several variables at play, including the progress of outfielder Jorge Soler in his minor league rehab stint.
Maddon just knows whomever he calls upon will be ready and whomever he doesn’t call upon will be ready for their role off the bench. Because sacrifice is, after all, one of the themes he’s preached this season, and he’ll be pushing a number of buttons in the late innings to align his team best defensively late if Chicago grabs a lead.
“You talk to them in advance of the moments also,” Maddon said Tuesday in an interview on the Spiegel and Goff Show. “When you have to make these moves, when you make these moves, the guys all know we’re just trying to win this thing, and they know — if they’re really good self-evaluators — they’ll know this other guy might be a better defender. The poor self-evaluator, the guy with an ego a little too big, cannot come to grips with that sometimes. But we’re just doing this, trying to make the defense better in the latter part of the game. And it’s not real brain surgery. It’s just obvious. As these games, as they get critical in the latter part of the game, sometimes you’ll leave a hitter in the game a little longer just based like if the score’s real tight, a one-run game, maybe you don’t want to take someone out. You kind of play with a little bit of a dangerous moment there defensively, but that’s the other part about whether to take somebody out is the score, the distance between you and them. That also plays into it.”
How Soler would factor into the wild-card game on Oct. 7 that the Cubs are on track for remains to be seen. He’s been inconsistent in this injury-plagued season and is still working his way back from an oblique injury as he gets playing time with the advanced Single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Soler recently said he felt “great” and intends to be ready for the playoffs, though he understands his role may be reduced.
Soler’s been inconsistent in right field at times, and Chris Coghlan is also making a case to play every day, hitting .342 with a 1.037 OPS in September. If Soler’s healthy, the decision likely comes down to Maddon starting two of the Coghlan-Soler-Javier Baez trio in a one-game playoff.
“Jorge is in the minor leagues right now still trying to get back up here,” Maddon said. “Once he gets back up, we’ll figure (his role) out. I guess he’s swinging the bat OK right now and once the Pelicans are done with their playoff run, we’ll make that evaluation. But Jorge knows, if he’s playing in right field and we’re winning in the later part of the game, we’re probably going to put somebody else out there.
“The veterans are really good about this. If you look at the veterans on this team, they all understand what this is all about. Chris Denorfia’s done it for awhile. Austin Jackson, playing in the National League for the first time, gets it.
“All of this stuff is pertinent, man.”
Listen to Maddon’s full interview below.