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Outfield mix to be sorted out in spring games

Fowler, Heyward expected in center and right; LF includes Soler, Baez and Schwarber
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- When the Cubs signed Jason Heyward, the plan was to move him from right field to center. Heyward can now return to right after Dexter Fowler rejoined the Cubs on Thursday, signing a one-year, $8 million contract.

Fowler, who was the Cubs' leadoff man last season and set career highs with 17 home runs, will stay in that role. Cubs manager Joe Maddon was still trying to sort out his options a few hours after officially welcoming Fowler back.

MESA, Ariz. -- When the Cubs signed Jason Heyward, the plan was to move him from right field to center. Heyward can now return to right after Dexter Fowler rejoined the Cubs on Thursday, signing a one-year, $8 million contract.

Fowler, who was the Cubs' leadoff man last season and set career highs with 17 home runs, will stay in that role. Cubs manager Joe Maddon was still trying to sort out his options a few hours after officially welcoming Fowler back.

"When he plays, he should probably be the leadoff guy," Maddon said. "Everybody has to play. There's days he may not be playing and he may not be the leadoff guy and coming off the bench."

Maddon orchestrates Dex-tra special surprise

With Fowler and Heyward projected to get the most at-bats in center and right, respectively, Maddon said Jorge Soler will see some playing time in left as well as right. Kyle Schwarber also remains in the mix in left. Javier Baez also is in the outfield mix but most likely won't start in center, Maddon said.

"They're all good problems to have," Maddon said about juggling playing time. "It's a strong group."

In Spring Training, Maddon lets players know the lineup for the week. It could take him the entire Cactus League schedule to figure out the right combination.

"By the last week or 10 days, I should have a better understanding of what we want to do," he said. "I'm looking at it, I'm geting a lot of different information, and I'm looking at doing what's best for the group. ... Dexter being here presents an entirely different dynamic."

Video: Dexter Fowler's fantasy impact on the Cubs outfield

Fowler, who turns 30 next month, and Heyward, 26, grew up in the Atlanta area, worked out together and played on the same youth travel team.

"When I was graduating, he was a freshman," Fowler said. "They called him my twin. It's awesome to get to play with him."

Video: Fowler discusses decision to sign with the Cubs

Fowler, who batted .250 last season with the Cubs, said he wanted to stay with Chicago because of some unfinished business. Last year, the Cubs reached the National League Championship Series, only to get swept by the Mets.

"We took those losses hard," Fowler said of the NLCS. "Looking back, you see the Royals win a World Series and you're like, that should've been us. Hopefully, we can do that this year."

• Cubs acquire RHP Brooks from A's in exchange for Coghlan

The Cubs traded Chris Coghlan to the Athletics to make room for Fowler both in the outfield and on the payroll. It was similar to this offseason when the team dealt Starlin Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren, which opened a spot for free agent Ben Zobrist.

Video: Fowler surprises all and re-signs with the Cubs

"That's it -- we're not trading anyone else," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "We feel great about our outfield mix."

"Jason will still get some time in center and be ready to go out there," Epstein said. "Now, versus 24 hours ago, you'll see a lot more of Jason Heyward in right field."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

 

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez, Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler