Happ hits second HR in Cubs' leadoff audition
Switch-hitter competing with Almora for top spot in lineup
MESA, Ariz. -- Tuesday was Ian Happ's turn to bat in the Cubs' leadoff spot, and for the second time in as many games, he got things started with a home run. So far, Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shared the Cubs' leadoff duties.
"I just want them to play right now and see how it goes," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday. "We'll make up our mind during camp. There's a chance we'll play one against righties, one against lefties. There's other considerations. For right now, I want to throw them all out there and give them the opportunity, but I'm not looking for anything necessarily specific now."
The goal this spring is for Happ and Almora and whoever else Maddon slots in the No. 1 spot to get comfortable there.
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"That they want to do it matters, too, and that they're comfortable doing it matters, too," Maddon said. "It'll be up to us to make the best decision and be flexible with it. Nothing will be etched or written in pen. It will all have a pencil with an eraser."
• Cubs Spring Training info
Cubs 6, White Sox 5
Happ was 2-for-3, Willson Contreras hit an RBI double and David Bote added an RBI triple in the Cubs' win over the White Sox in front of 10,796 at Sloan Park.
In his first Cactus League start, Jonathan Lester threw 31 pitches over 1 2/3 innings, giving up one run on one hit and two walks while striking out three.
• Lester named Opening Day starter
Caratini hears from Felix
On Monday, Cubs catcher Victor Caratini watched his line drive strike the Mariners' Felix Hernandez and had a brief flashback to last year when he hit another pitcher with a batted ball.
"Bad luck," Caratini said of his line drive that hit Hernandez on the right forearm.
Last year, a Caratini liner struck Triple-A Memphis pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon in the head. Poncedeleon is now pitching again in the Cardinals' Spring Training camp.
"I actually started running out of the dugout, that was my instinct," Maddon said of his reaction to Hernandez. "That was really nasty. I think it got him in a decent spot, meaning it did not get bone or elbow. He's a good guy and I've gotten to know him in the American League. When he walked by [the Cubs' dugout], Victor went over to him and he patted [Hernandez] on the back. I'm glad he's well."
Caratini did exchange text messages with Hernandez after Monday's game. What was Caratini's first thought when he saw Hernandez grab his arm?
"I saw him and that he was in pain a lot, and I wanted to make sure he's feeling good and not something bad, like a fracture or something," Caratini said. "[Hernandez] said everything's OK and he'll take it day by day."
Hernandez told reporters on Tuesday that he didn't expect to miss much time. The Seattle ace also told Caratini, "Don't worry about it. Just don't try to hit it so hard up the middle.'"
Smyly energized being around teammates
Even though he can't join the pitchers in drills, Drew Smyly is happier being in camp this spring than rehabbing at home. Smyly had Tommy John surgery last summer and has a scar on the inside of his left arm to prove it.
"It makes you anxious to be able to play," Smyly said Tuesday. "I've had a long time to be able to cope with this. I'd rather be around a bunch of guys instead of being isolated and doing my own thing every day, which I was doing the first six months of my surgery.
"It's good being back with a team and getting to meet everybody and build relationships," he said. "It's tough not being able to play but my time will come soon enough."
The Cubs signed Smyly to a two-year contract in December, looking ahead to 2019. The lefty has done his homework regarding the surgery, talking to Rays teammates Matt Moore and Alex Cobb about what to expect.
"I watched them go through it firsthand and the whole recovery route," Smyly said. "It takes a while, but if you put in the work and do everything right, you'll be back healthy and hopefully better than ever."
So far, his rehab has been smooth and he's "just trucking along." The next goal is to throw off a mound. That should come at the end of March. He fully expects to pitch this year for the Cubs.
"Absolutely," he said. "If I don't, I'd be disappointed. I definitely plan on playing. I don't know when it will be -- definitely at the end of the year. That's one of my goals is to pitch this year, and the team knows where I'm at. We're all on the same page."
Third baseman Kristopher Bryant, scratched from Monday's lineup because he was ill, may return on Wednesday. He's been battling a fever.
Benjamin Zobrist, who has been battling back issues since arriving in Arizona, will likely need another week before he's given the go-ahead to get in a game.