Maddon liking the look of Bryant as leading man

June 9th, 2018

CHICAGO -- and spent one game each batting leadoff, but was back at the top of the lineup on Saturday for the second straight game.
How long will manager Joe Maddon keep Bryant there?
"I don't know. I honestly don't know," Maddon said prior to Saturday's game against the Pirates. "He does such a great job of getting on base. I like where is right now [batting second]. You can hit [] anywhere. I honestly don't know [about Bryant]. I'm playing it by feel on this one and will try to determine the right thing to do on a daily basis."
As he did on Friday -- when he went 3-for-4 with three singles in the Cubs' 3-1 win in his first pro game as the leadoff man -- Bryant had an immediate impact from the top of the order. After being hit by a pitch, he advanced to third on Heyward's double and scored on Zobrist's groundout. He would finish the game, a 2-0 Cubs win, 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout.

Overall, Cubs leadoff batters have combined to hit .287 this season, tops in the National League. Bryant was the team's eighth leadoff man.

"It's more than hitting -- it's how he looked," Maddon said. "If he's able to continue to work on the stuff he's working on, I think you'll see the ball go over the fence very soon. It was much better posture. I like it -- it's kind of fun when he gets up there more often."
Bryant entered Saturday's game riding a 20-game homerless streak, which matches his longest drought since starting his career in 2015 with 20 straight homerless games.
• Right fielder Heyward is another batter who has shown improvement at the plate.
"He's made some nice mechanical adjustments," Maddon said. "Normally I talk more about mental adjustments, but I think with him and with [Bryant], I'm seeing a mechanical adjustment that matters.
"Until a hitter feels what you're talking about, he really doesn't know [if the change will work], and I think he's starting to feel it now, and he's in a better position to do what you're seeing him doing compared to how he'd been set up the last couple years," Maddon said.
It helps that Heyward has had success against left-handed pitchers, success that includes his walk-off grand slam off the Phillies' on Wednesday.

"When you hit a walk-off against a really tough lefty, that's pretty good stuff," Maddon said. "There's a lot of stuff there benefiting his confidence. The guy's a winner. I think it's interesting. I talk often about [Justin] Wilson being the linchpin in the bullpen, and Jason could be the same way on the field."
played catch on Saturday for the fourth time in the last five days as he continues his rehab from inflammation in his right triceps.
"The pain is subsiding and it's becoming more of a soreness, so that's a good thing," Maddon said. "He's still not ready to get to the mound yet. He's still in a 'play catch' mode. Everything's advancing -- not quickly, but it's advancing."
, on the disabled list since May 30 with inflammation in his right shoulder, is making progress.
"Things are trending well," Maddon said. "The strength level is getting where it needs to be."