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Maddon: CarGo 'brought in here for a reason'

@MLBastian
June 19, 2019

CHICAGO -- The Cubs brought in veteran outfielder Carlos Gonzalez with the hope that he could turn the page on his tough Cleveland tenure and experience a resurgence in Chicago. While no one has denied the positive influence Gonzalez has provided behind the scenes, the Cubs are still waiting for

CHICAGO -- The Cubs brought in veteran outfielder Carlos Gonzalez with the hope that he could turn the page on his tough Cleveland tenure and experience a resurgence in Chicago. While no one has denied the positive influence Gonzalez has provided behind the scenes, the Cubs are still waiting for him to find his offensive rhythm.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was asked before Wednesday's game if he has seen anything within Gonzalez's at-bats to indicate that a turnaround is coming soon.

"Not yet," Maddon said. "He's had some really good at-bats. He's hit some balls well. Without getting too technical, there's certain pitchers he hits better than others. I just want to continually be giving him opportunities to get it going in that right direction. He was brought in here for a reason."

There were a few reasons -- the top one being the addition of another lefty bat to the lineup. Beyond that, having Gonzalez in the fold allowed the Cubs to send Mark Zagunis back to Triple-A for regular at-bats rather than keep him in the Majors for a pinch-hitting job. Signing Gonzalez also bought Chicago more time for Ian Happ to continue his development at Triple-A.

Gonzalez, who was out of Wednesday's lineup against the White Sox, has hit .194 with a .652 OPS and 14 strikeouts through 11 games with the Cubs. Prior to being released by the Indians, the outfielder was batting .210 with a .558 OPS in 30 games.

While Gonzalez has cut down his ground-ball rate with Chicago (50 percent in June vs. 57.9 percent in May), his strikeout rate has climbed to an alarming level (37.8 percent in June vs. 31.8 percent in May). When Gonzalez has hit the ball for the Cubs, he's posted an average exit velocity of 88.3 mph, per Statcast. That's up from his showing with the Tribe (86.6 mph), as is his average launch angle (11.8 degrees with the Cubs vs. -0.5 degrees with the Indians).

Those numbers show that there have been adjustments, but the results have not followed.

"I'm just still studying that whole thing from afar," Maddon said, "and just trying to match him up as well as we can."

Happ -- a switch-hitter -- could fill a similar role as Gonzalez, but the Cubs also want to be able to offer consistent at-bats when the time comes to call him back up from Triple-A Iowa. On the year, Happ was batting .231 with a .777 OPS and 26.7 percent strikeout rate, entering Wednesday. While Happ worked a lot at second base in Spring Training, his primary focus with Iowa has been in the outfield.

"We just want him to get his at-bats and really not worry about the defensive side of things," Maddon said. "He could still come in and play second base, but moving forward, if he can really nail down his swing from the left side and be pertinent in the outfield, that would be the first priority."

Worth noting

• In the eighth inning of Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the White Sox, Kris Bryant lofted a pitch to left-center, where the ball dropped between three defenders. Bryant was not running hard enough to stretch the fluke hit into a double and Anthony Rizzo followed with an inning-ending double play. After the game, Bryant made no excuses.

"I'm a little disappointed in myself," Bryant said. "I probably should've been on second base. That's my fault. It's not going to happen again, because that's something I take pride in."

Maddon liked the accountability on Bryant's part.

"When people really admit to their mistakes, it's pretty easy to move along," Maddon said. "I believe that our guys are accountable. We talk about that all the time. It doesn't surpise me that K.B. had done that."

• The Cubs entered Wednesday's game with a .243 batting average with runners in scoring position, which ranked last in the National League. Chicago had a .790 OPS (10th in NL) with RISP. MLB teams as a whole were batting .263 with a .799 OPS with RISP heading into Wednesday.

"I don't want to say it's shocking or not shocking. We just should be better than that -- there's no question," Maddon said. "It just speaks to, again, middle of the field approach and moving the ball under those circumstances."

• Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel is scheduled to make his second Minor League build-up appearance with Triple-A Iowa on Friday. There is still no firm timetable for the arrival of Kimbrel, who logged eight pitches in one clean inning for Iowa on Tuesday.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.