With future murky, Maddon just focused on wins

September 13th, 2019

CHICAGO -- Depending on how the rest of this season plays out for the Cubs, and given the uncertain contract status hovering over manager Joe Maddon beyond this year, this homestand has a chance to be his last at the helm for a franchise he helped lead to a World Series triumph three years ago.

Maddon insists that is not on his mind at all right now.

"I would not think about that unless you ask me the question," Maddon said on Friday morning. "I mean that sincerely."

It is the storyline that has existed just below the surface throughout what has been a turbulent season filled with injuries, inconsistencies and a wide variety of other issues for the Cubs. Even with a constant stream of obstacles, Chicago headed into this final 10-game homestand in contention for either the National League Central crown or an NL Wild Card spot.

Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations, made it clear back in November that there would be no talks of a contract extension with Maddon until this season ended. That stance remains the same with 16 games left on the regular-season slate.

"At the end of the year," Epstein said, "we'll take stock of where we are as an organization, what direction we're going and get together on it at that point. Nothing's changed."

Epstein echoed Maddon in saying the contract situation is not on anyone's mind at the moment, given the importance of the remaining games.

"We're just thinking about winning," Epstein said. "We are where we are. We feel like we are talented enough to do a lot of great things this year, and we've put ourselves in a position where we have a really small margin for error. So, we're just micro-focused on winning each day so that we can try to get where we want to go.

"Every year, there's consequences. And then every year, it's important as an executive and a leader to step back and see the big picture and where you are as an organization and not overreact to anything, too. I think people know enough about this organization. I don't think we're hyper-reactive or anything like that.

"But, I think we are realistic about where we are, what we've done, accountable and we want to try to get it right. So at the end of every year, there's a process of trying to figure out what you can do better and what direction you need to go."

In the meantime, Maddon completely understands all the external speculation about his future with the Cubs.

"Of course. The whole year is going to be speculation," Maddon said. "And I'm fine with it. I have no issues with it whatsoever. I get it. And it's just a natural part of the landscape when you're in a situation like this. So you accept it. But at the end of the day, I'm worried about today and when the todays are done, before the season concludes, then I'll put together next season."

Kimbrel watch

One day after completing a bullpen session, Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel played catch on Friday, marking another positive step in his comeback from right elbow inflammation. If everything goes according to plan, Kimbrel is scheduled to test his arm with a full bullpen session on Sunday. The Cubs will monitor how he feels over the next two days before clearing him for that step.

"He was feeling really good today," Epstein said. "Based on how he feels, [we're] pretty optimistic [about his return], but we'll be cautious until we see the results of the bullpen."

Childhood Cancer Awareness Day

Prior to Friday's game, the Cubs hosted a group of children who have dealt with cancer as part of a day of awareness around Major League Baseball. Chicago's players wore special "Everybody in Gold" batting practice shirts, some donned yellow wristbands and others stopped by the dugout before the game to chat with the kids on hand at Wrigley Field.

"It's wonderful to see our players and our staff embracing the platform to try to make a difference," Epstein said. "Any time you see a kid who's had to deal with something like this, it brings you to a point where you just want to help. It's instant empathy. Instant love for the kid. And that's what I see in our players. We have a great bunch of guys who go out of their way and do everything they can."

Worth noting

• First baseman Anthony Rizzo was back in the leadoff spot on Friday, and Maddon indicated that he plans on sticking with that approach for now. Epstein backed that lineup decision, which paid off when Rizzo hit a third-inning grand slam for his second hit of the day.

"I think it works," Epstein said. "It's just an unacceptable level of performance getting on base out of the leadoff spot [for us this season], and that's on me. It's not on anybody else."

• Prior to Friday's game, the Cubs recalled right-handed reliever Dillon Maples from Triple-A Iowa, bringing Chicago's roster to 37 players. Maples had a 3.77 ERA with 79 strikeouts and 36 walks in 43 innings for Iowa this season.

• Shortstop Addison Russell, who was hit in the head by a pitch on Sunday in Milwaukee, remained in MLB's concussion protocol on Friday.