Cubs' everyday lineup coming into focus

Bryant, Rizzo, Baez to hit in 2-4 holes; Hendricks talks extension

March 22nd, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- There is one segment of the Cubs' lineup that manager Joe Maddon feels comfortable enough to lock in for the start of this season.

While everything else will consist of moving parts based on matchups and playing time, Maddon said Thursday that he plans on having , and occupy the Nos. 2-4 spots (in that order) out of the chute. While that is hardly breaking news -- Maddon used that combination multiple times last year -- the manager had moved Bryant and Baez around a bit in the order in recent spring games.

"It's all been based on just spring," Maddon said. "That's all it is. Honestly, don't read into it. I do like K.B. in the two hole. Rizzo sandwiches nice, but God, I like Rizzo hitting fourth also. So, there's these different [thoughts]. But then, you end up going right, right or whatever. As of right now, I do like how that sets up -- Bryant, Rizzo, Baez -- among the options we have right now."

For the most part, the rest of the order will be rotated from game to game.

Maddon has noted that he likes Ben Zobrist both in the leadoff spot (against righties) and as a protection hitter in the fifth spot (likely against lefties). That said, Zobrist will once again have built in off-days similar to last season. Albert Almora Jr., who belted his third leadoff homer of the spring in Thursday's 5-5 tie with the Giants, could see time in the leadoff spot against left-handed pitchers.

No "urgency" in extension talks for Hendricks

Starter Kyle Hendricks is focused solely on the season ahead -- not on whether the Cubs want to come calling with a contract extension. Following his start against the Giants on Thursday, Hendricks said there has been no progress made on that front this spring.

Hendricks said there was no urgency on his side to get something done.

"Definitely no urgency, no," he said. "The urgency is for this stuff on the field. That's where our mind is at. We can't get diverted by all these other things going on."

Hendricks, who allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings against San Francisco with three strikeouts and one walk, did note that he would love to sign a long-term deal with the Cubs. The right-hander is under contract for $7.405 million this year and is under club control through the 2020 season.

"Of course," Hendricks said. "Everything we're provided here in this environment, it's got to be one of the best, if not the best, in baseball. To have these fans, the city of Chicago, just everything that comes along with it. Yeah, I've been treated like nothing but the best, 100 percent. That's the feeling of most guys in that clubhouse. We would love to stay in Chicago."

Bote mans shortstop

With only six games left on the Spring Training schedule, one of Maddon's goals is to get some players exposure to their secondary positions. On Thursday, for example, Bryant started in left field and utility man David Bote manned shortstop. It was an important step for Bote, specifically, given that he will be the main backup at short to Baez in April while Addison Russell is on the restricted list.

"Having David play shortstop is good," Maddon said. "He's got the ability to do it. ... Tell David Bote's he's got a chance to play some shortstop, and I promise you it's going to turn out pretty good. [His] lateral mobility, quickness [is] outstanding. Fine arm, so that all plays."

Injury updates

• Starter Yu Darvish (blister on right ring finger) continues to progress well and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday. If there are no setbacks, Maddon said Darvish could start on schedule on Sunday. The Cubs have not determined yet whether that start would be against the Padres or in a more controlled Minor League setting.

• Maddon noted that reliever Pedro Strop (right hamstring) is also feeling strong and will throw off a mound on Friday. There is growing optimism that Strop will be recovered and ready in time for Opening Day.

• Closer Brandon Morrow (right elbow) threw a 25-pitch (all fastballs) bullpen session with no issues on Thursday morning.

Up next

Left-hander Jose Quintana is scheduled to start for the Cubs on Friday, when Chicago hosts the Rangers in a 3:05 p.m. CT Cactus League clash at Sloan Park. The game will be broadcast on WGN in Chicago. Texas will send righty Jordan Romano to the mound. In an 8:05 p.m. CT split-squad road game against the Indians in Goodyear, Ariz., Cubs right-hander Duane Underwood Jr. will get the start. Both games will be on MLB.TV, and fans can listen live to the Indians matchup via a free webcast.