Happ leads off 2018 with a homer in Miami

March 29th, 2018

MIAMI -- didn't waste any time on Opening Day.

The Cubs' leadoff hitter belted the first pitch of the Major League season into the right-field seats of Chicago's 8-4 win over the Marlins at Marlins Park on Thursday. Happ, who hit seven home runs this spring, launched a fastball from the Marlins' .

Happ is the first player to homer on the first pitch of the regular season since the Red Sox's Dwight Evans did so in 1986 against Hall of Fame inductee Jack Morris and the Tigers.

"That was exciting," said Chicago's , who also went deep. "I don't think anyone in the dugout thought a single was coming there. We thought something special was going to happen there. To lead off the baseball season on the first pitch with a homer is pretty special."

Happ had faced Urena in the past and was anticipating a first-pitch fastball.

"Historically, I've seen him pretty well the last couple times I've faced him," Happ said. "He got me a couple times after that."

Urena struck out Happ in the second and got him to pop up in the fourth.

"I thought we swung the bats well the whole game," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Obviously, a leadoff homer doesn't hurt -- and on the very first pitch of the game."

Happ came to Spring Training wanting to earn a spot not only on the Cubs' Opening Day roster but also at the top of the batting order, and he did just that.

Last season, Happ, 23, belted 24 home runs in 115 games after he was promoted from Triple-A Iowa in May. He was projected to share center field with Albert Almora Jr., but Happ put on a show in Arizona, batting .321 in 19 games with seven home runs.

All of those games were a plus for Happ on Thursday.

"It definitely helped me get used to [leading off], especially having the first at-bat in the game," Happ said of the spring games. "It's definitely going to be a process. I think I learned more today from the other four at-bats than the first one."

Maddon downplayed trying to find one leadoff man. The Cubs rotated 11 different players in that spot last season and finished second in the National League in runs scored.

"The batting order is the batting order the first time through and after that, it's who hits after who," Maddon said. "You want guys getting on in front of your better RBI guys. You try to build it up as much as you can."

The Cubs have tried not to put any pressure on Happ in his new role.

"It's his first Opening Day," Maddon said. "He had a great year last year. He showed up, hit 24 [homers] or whatever it was. Give him a chance to get his feet on the ground. This guy is going to be a great player for many years to come."