By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs manager Joe Maddon has taken moves to protect two struggling young hitters in Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell.
Both players have been in extended hitting slumps as the season reaches the one-third mark. On Saturday against the Cardinals, Maddon dropped Schwarber to the No. 9 slot of the lineup. Russell wasn’t playing, as Javier Baez was at shortstop.
Schwarber was mired in a 5-of-58 (.086) downturn. Russell wasn’t much better, in a 12-for-85 (.141) rut. A player development expert, Maddon is known for getting the most out of a young struggling hitter. His way is designed to relieve some stress without watching the player get buried in failure.
After watching Schwarber have two poor at-bats Friday, Maddon decided that the seven-hole was all wrong for him, with the pitcher batting eighth. He said the Cardinals weren’t pitching to Schwarber in that situation.
“Of course, his confidence is suffering,” Maddon said Saturday. “For me, hitting ninth is so attractive if you can put your baseball ego aside. It’s not like sending a guy to play right field in the sandlot. When the lineup comes back around, he is just hitting ahead of the leadoff man. It becomes interesting that way. We are going to see it play out. How long are we going to do it? I am not sure. I just want Kyle to get back to working on things, and get pitched to as opposed to getting pitched around.”
Maddon talked about Russell and Schwarber in the same vein when it comes to less being more for each guy right now. What does that mean? Maddon talked about the pros and cons of sending a player to the minor leagues. He recalled the trials and tribulations of Devon White and Jack Howell of the Angels earlier in his career after such a scenario.
“Both were trying to do too much,” Maddon said. “I spent time with both guys. Devon went on to play great for two championship teams in Toronto, and Jack did well with the Angels and played in Japan a bit. When you ask me that question, that two stand out for me.”
Maddon isn’t ready to send either Schwarber or Russell to the minor leagues like White and Howell — as of yet. His protect mode hopefully will bring the two talented players back to life.
“I don’t want either to get too many at bats when they are struggling,” he said.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.