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Happ gets another shot at leadoff for Cubs

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras and Javier Baez are among the Cubs who have been slotted into the leadoff spot since Ian Happ spent some time there in April. Happ was back atop the Cubs' lineup on Wednesday night and knows it may be a temporary stint.

"With our team, the way it's structured, it just depends on who's in the lineup that day," Happ said. "[Ben Zobrist] and [Albert Almora Jr.] are out so I'm going to be the guy at the top. I think both of those guys have done such a good job that we'll all see time up there."

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CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras and Javier Baez are among the Cubs who have been slotted into the leadoff spot since Ian Happ spent some time there in April. Happ was back atop the Cubs' lineup on Wednesday night and knows it may be a temporary stint.

"With our team, the way it's structured, it just depends on who's in the lineup that day," Happ said. "[Ben Zobrist] and [Albert Almora Jr.] are out so I'm going to be the guy at the top. I think both of those guys have done such a good job that we'll all see time up there."

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That's the plan. Happ began the season as the leadoff man but in 11 games there, he went 8-for-43 (.186), and manager Joe Maddon decided to give the outfielder a break. Almora has batted .318 in 20 games leading off, while Zobrist has hit .250 in 11 games there.

After a rough first three games in which he batted .077, Happ hit .286 in April and was batting .283 in May entering Wednesday.

"It was just a matter of time until things clicked," Happ said. "That's why we play 162 games and it's a game of averages. Look at the back of [Rizzo's] baseball card, and it's the same every single year. I'm just trying to be consistent."

Part of the reason Happ was back at the top of the lineup is that Maddon wanted to give Zobrist and Almora breathers. But the manager says he's also seen progress by Happ.

"I just tried to get him to primarily slow some things down and get him back to [hitting to] left-center," Maddon said. "I did not want to heap a whole lot of at-bats on him. When you do that, it's hard to dig out of that hole. ... You've seen him not chasing the high fastball as often."

Happ showed a better approach Tuesday night when he led off the ninth inning against the Indians with a home run. He took two borderline pitches, then connected and launched the ball 433 feet, according to Statcast™, off the videoboard in right field.

"I just thought he's looked better," Maddon said. "The home run is great and that's nice, but how he got to the pitch to hit out was the important thing."

Worth noting
• There are no plans to skip Tyler Chatwood's turn in the Cubs' rotation, Maddon said Wednesday.

"I really want to get him back out as quickly as we possibly can," Maddon said of Chatwood, who walked six over 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday night. "It's not mechanical in a sense, but then it is. He has a busy delivery and it requires him being on time. Yesterday, I thought he was too quick with everything and in Atlanta [in his previous start], he found his rhythm. I stand by what I said, I like this guy a lot and I think he'll have a really impactful season for us. Stuff-wise, that's good stuff that he throws up there."

Chatwood has struck out 41 and issued a Major League-leading 40 walks over 45 2/3 innings in his nine starts.

"The only thing I'm seeing is he gets too quick," Maddon said. "To go from a bunch of walks to no walks is a bad assumption. He's going to walk people, and I accept that. But he also doesn't give up a lot of hits. There's a balance to be achieved right there."

• Baez hosted 20 people on Wednesday as part of his Los Magos program. Some of the participants were displaced from Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria and are now living in Chicago, while others were host families who had taken in some of the island's residents. The group got a nice surprise as they didn't know they'd have the chance to meet Baez. They also received T-shirts, caps, food and a ticket to the game.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Ian Happ