Notes: Madrigal at leadoff? Miley ramping up

March 22nd, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- Given his elite contact rate, Nick Madrigal presents Cubs manager David Ross with an intriguing leadoff possibility. That is where the second baseman was slotted for his debut on Monday against the Reds.

Ross warned not to read too much into his Spring Training lineups.

"I'm just trying to get him some at-bats," Ross said prior to Chicago’s 3-2 win over Cincinnati. "I'll play with the lineup a lot and move guys around."

To Ross' point, it is common in Spring Training to see different players rotated in and out of the first few lineup spots. It is a way to help players rack up plate appearances quickly before they are built up to handle a full nine-inning game.

In Madrigal's case, the Cubs are being cognizant of the fact that the second baseman is coming back from a surgery on his right hamstring in July.

"Just kind of easing him back in," Ross said.

On July 30 last year, the Cubs acquired the 25-year-old Madrigal from the White Sox in the Craig Kimbrel trade, while the infielder was in the early phase of his rehab and recovery. Madrigal is back to full strength and gives the Cubs the type of bat-to-ball hitter they have craved.

Across the 2020-21 seasons with the South Siders, Madrigal posted a 92 percent contact rate and a 97.6 percent in-zone contact rate. Those both ranked first among hitters with at least 300 plate appearances. His 3.6 percent swinging-strike rate was the second-lowest mark in that time period. Madrigal hit at a .317/.358/.406 clip along the way.

That is the type of profile that could look good in the No. 1 slot of the lineup. Madrigal, who went 0-for-2 in his Cactus League debut, knows that there will be time to sort out where he hits in the order or how Ross handles his playing time.

"We're kind of taking it one step at a time," Madrigal said recently. "I know for the Spring Training aspect, they're kind of saying to not overdo it, and we want to peak during the season."

Miley gets off mound
After throwing a bullpen session on Monday morning, veteran southpaw Wade Miley cracked a smile when asked about his buildup program for the start of the season.

"How much time we got left?" Miley quipped. "I need to step on it a little bit, don't I?"

Miley understands the schedule, but he also knows he has to be smart about his routine as he preps for the 162-game slate. The 35-year-old lefty is healthy and on target for the Cubs' rotation, which has multiple pitchers fighting against this spring's abbreviated timeline.

On Monday, Miley logged around 30 pitches in a mound workout, and he will simulate facing hitters in his next session. Throwing to hitters will be the subsequent step, whether that is in live batting practice or in a game environment.

"I just want to make sure that I'm ready before I just try to rush into it," Miley said. "With the whole lockout thing, it's hard to be like, 'When do I ramp up?' I didn't know. And I can’t ramp up and stop, and then ramp up again. Then I'm toast. I played it pretty slow."

Latest on Brault
The Cubs and free-agent lefty Steven Brault have agreed to a Minor League contract that includes a non-roster invite to MLB camp, per a source. The previously reported MLB contract was changed to a Minor League pact (with an opt-out in July) due to an injury setback.

If Brault, 29, reaches the Majors this season for the Cubs, his deal would include a $1.5 million base salary plus another possible $400,000 via incentives. The lefty had a 5.86 ERA in seven outings for the Pirates in 2021.

Up next
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks is slated to start for the Cubs on Tuesday, when the North Siders face the Mariners in a 3:10 p.m. CT tilt in Peoria, Ariz. The game will be aired on Marquee Sports Network and will be available on MLB.TV.