Cubs' struggling bats have players-only meeting

Darvish set to throw again Sunday; Maddon discusses Zobrist's ejection Tuesday

August 15th, 2018

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' offense has sputtered since the All-Star break, posting a .256 team average with a -28 run differential entering Wednesday's game against the Brewers, and the players met to remind each other how good they can be.

"It's such a tight knit group of guys, and the fact we've been together for so long, it's just a check in to make sure everybody's on the same page and everybody's doing OK," outfielder said of the players only meeting prior to Tuesday's game. "We understand that when we play with energy and enthusiasm and we're all on the same page, we're a really good team.

"I think one of the most amazing things is that these guys -- [president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] and everybody -- created this atmosphere of, 'It's OK to talk about it,'" Happ added. "We don't have to all shelter in place with our heads down. It's OK to talk about what everybody is going though and what everybody is thinking. I think that process of checking in makes us a better ballclub."

On Wednesday, manager Joe Maddon moved from the leadoff spot to No. 4 in the lineup in an effort to spark the Cubs' offense. During a 16-game stretch at the top of the order, Rizzo was batting .311 with five homers, eight runs scored and 10 RBIs.

"I just changed the seats on the flight deck somehow," Maddon said of inserting into the leadoff spot for the third time this season. "We'll see how it plays out."

The Cubs began the season without a true leadoff hitter, and Maddon has used eight players there.

"I thought maybe try something differently," Maddon said. "It's one of those things to give them a different perspective."

Darvish update

Maddon did not have an update as to what the next step will be for , who threw a three-inning simulated game on Tuesday. However, pitching coach Jim Hickey, speaking on a radio show on Wednesday, said he projected Darvish would pitch on Sunday, then Aug. 24 and Aug. 29. If all goes well, he could rejoin the Cubs rotation in early September. Hickey just didn't say where Darvish would pitch.

"It's possible," Maddon said when asked about Hickey's projection. "Obviously, if everything is good, then those are potential dates."

Darvish has not pitched for the Cubs since May because of right biceps tendinitis.

Maddon on Zobrist's ejection

is someone Maddon has known for a long time. So, Maddon was surprised to see Zobrist get ejected on Tuesday by home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi after a long discussion before the Brewers i hit in the ninth inning about a called third strike in the sixth.

"[Zobrist] said what he thought," Maddon said of Zobrist telling Cuzzi that players like the idea of an electronic strike zone. "I'm fine with that. My concern is always unintended consequences. ... Bully for Zo for saying what he thinks. I want my guys to do that. If [an electronic strike zone] does occur, I think it's down the road. I'm still not 100 percent it will occur but that's his opinion."

Maddon, who was ejected for the second time in four games, wanted to make sure his message was clear.

"I didn't get angry with Phil yesterday," Maddon said. "There as no anger involved. My biggest point was, 'Do you realize Ben Zobrist is arguing with you right now?' That has to be a bad feeling. [Cuzzi] could not focus on that thought. He could just focus on me arguing balls and strikes, which I wasn't."