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Happ gets first look at leadoff spot in opener

Cubs will audition handful of players there during spring competition
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

PHOENIX -- Let the competition begin. Ian Happ was the Cubs' leadoff man Friday in the Cactus League opener and is one of at least four players who will be tested there this spring.

"We're going to try to audition the dudes who we think will be in that spot," manager Joe Maddon said. "There's nothing to be read into [Friday's game]. It's a Spring Training lineup."

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PHOENIX -- Let the competition begin. Ian Happ was the Cubs' leadoff man Friday in the Cactus League opener and is one of at least four players who will be tested there this spring.

"We're going to try to audition the dudes who we think will be in that spot," manager Joe Maddon said. "There's nothing to be read into [Friday's game]. It's a Spring Training lineup."

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Maddon said Albert Almora Jr., Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist also will likely get at-bats in the No. 1 spot this spring.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"On our team and in our lineup, any spot is good to hit in," Happ said. "Leadoff spot, being able to set the table for those guys would be great."

Happ, who went 0-for-2 Friday and made a nice diving catch of Jesus Aguilar's fly ball to end the third and strand three runners, said he'll bat wherever they want him to.

"I think they're going to try a bunch of different guys and see what sticks," Happ said.

"We'll arrive at somebody," said Maddon, who used 11 different players in the leadoff spot last season.

Video: CHC@MIL: Happ comes up with a diving grab, saves runs

Schwarber, who lost at least 20 pounds this offseason, was eager to get Spring Training started.

"He's jacked up to play," Maddon said. "I don't know what I said to him [pregame], but his response was that it's so great to get going again. He's talking about a game on Feb. 23 at Maryvale. He worked so hard, and he wants to get back out there, seeing it with first-time eyes, feeling it with first-time passion. That's what he's doing."

Tommy La Stella hit an RBI single in the third inning in the Cubs' 2-1 loss to the Brewers on Friday in the Cactus League opener. The Cubs totaled five hits, including a double by Mark Zagunis. Lefty Dario Alvarez took the loss, serving up two hits, including Eric Sogard's two-run triple, and two walks in one inning.

Video: CHC@MIL: La Stella plates the opening run on a single

• Ben Zobrist, who has not taken part in drills this week because of back soreness, joined the players for pregame stretching on Friday.

"They're just introducing things slowly," Maddon said. "I've already told him to not hurry, so he's not hurrying. He's doing well."

• It was an unseasonably cool 59 degrees for the start of Friday's game. The cool temperatures in Arizona are not conducive to Maddon's workouts.

"It's really impacting my bike rides," he said. "I don't like to ride when it's this cool. ... It has something to do with global cooling."

Up next: Eddie Butler will start the Cubs' home opener at Sloan Park on Saturday, facing the Rangers and right-hander Clayton Blackburn. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. CT. Anthony Rizzo is expected to start. The Cubs will wear the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School caps for the game.

On Sunday, Jen-Ho Tseng, the Cubs' Minor League pitcher of the year in 2017, will face the Giants and Madison Bumgarner in Scottsdale, Ariz.

This is the Cubs' 40th consecutive spring in Mesa, the longest active streak in the Cactus League.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Ian Happ