(CBS) As the Cubs have gotten healthier of late, they’ve encountered some difficult decisions regarding who to keep on the 25-man roster — just ask Tommy La Stella — as well as how to dole out playing time on a daily basis.
What doesn’t appear to be a tough call is whether to scale back Jason Heyward’s playing time in the outfield in favor of more at-bats for Jorge Soler, who returned last Friday after missing two months with a hamstring injury. When asked about that possibility Tuesday in an interview on the Spiegel and Goff Show, manager Joe Maddon was clear — Soler’s playing time will come in semi-regular fashion, much like that of infielder Javier Baez and outfielder Matt Szczur as the Cubs look to rest second baseman Ben Zobrist, third baseman Kris Bryant and others.
Heyward — who signed an eight-year, $184-million deal with the Cubs last December — has struggled as the plate, hitting .229 with five homers, 32 RBIs and a .634 OPS in 100 games. Maddon repeatedly lauded Heyward’s defense, baserunning and his on-base percentage, which sits at .313 right now.
“Jason plays,” Maddon said of the Heyward-Soler question. “There’s nothing really to evaluate there. Jorge, again, that’s pretty much, that’s Javy, that’s Szczur, that is also wanting to give Zobrist a rest, plus getting KB off of his feet. Those are the kind of things that are involved in Jorge coming back, but Jason will be in right field.”
“It continues to be the second base-third base-and-left-field triangle (of moving parts and versatile players), so I’ll do the best I can to keep them all involved. The good thing about being in the National League is the fact that you do utilize a lot of players on a nightly basis. American League games, you might just stand there — other than taking the pitcher out, there’s not a whole lot going on.
“It will be trying to incorporate Jorge and Javy, and Matt Szczur’s been playing really well too. We have to keep all these guys in mind.”
Maddon has been pleased with Soler’s play lately. Soler went 4-of-13 with two homers and five RBIs in three games at Oakland over the weekend. Entering Tuesday night, he was hitting .232 with seven homers, 18 RBIs and a .746 OPS in 53 games this season.
Soler was set to hit fifth and play left field for Tuesday evening’s game against the Angels, which would be his fourth start in a row.
“Soler’s hitting the baseball,” Maddon said. “We’re not playing American League games anymore, so you got to put him on defense if you’re going to play. The plot thickens regarding having good players and trying to keep all on the field and playing and giving them time so nothing regresses.”
Listen to Maddon’s full interview below.