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Maddon won't rush to judgment with Happ

Cubs' bullpen setting early standard with near-perfect results
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Last year, the Cubs began the season with Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot. On June 21, when he was batting .171, Schwarber was sent to Triple-A Iowa for a few weeks. This season, Ian Happ's slow start is prompting questions about how long manager Joe Maddon will keep him in the leadoff spot.

"I just want to show some confidence in him right now," Maddon said Monday of Happ, who was batting .179 in seven games so far. "What I think is going on is a little abnormal in a sense. We've seen him swing and miss in the past. He's a very streaky guy. I think once he gets a feel for it, you'll start seeing the ball get hit like he can -- he hits the ball really hard. I want to stay with that for now."

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CHICAGO -- Last year, the Cubs began the season with Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot. On June 21, when he was batting .171, Schwarber was sent to Triple-A Iowa for a few weeks. This season, Ian Happ's slow start is prompting questions about how long manager Joe Maddon will keep him in the leadoff spot.

"I just want to show some confidence in him right now," Maddon said Monday of Happ, who was batting .179 in seven games so far. "What I think is going on is a little abnormal in a sense. We've seen him swing and miss in the past. He's a very streaky guy. I think once he gets a feel for it, you'll start seeing the ball get hit like he can -- he hits the ball really hard. I want to stay with that for now."

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Schwarber did not return to the leadoff spot when he came back last July 6. Happ had an impressive Spring Training and won the job.

"You've got to give a guy a chance and you can't jump to conclusions too quickly," Maddon said. "We'll continue to work through it. I know him and [hitting coach Chili Davis] are working on things. He got a pretty big hit the other day [on Saturday]. I'm seeing micro things that are getting better. I like when he's getting jammed, I like when he's hitting the other way left-handed. I think those are all good signs."

Happ batted .253 in 115 games last season, hitting 24 home runs, 17 doubles and driving in 68 runs. This year, he smacked the first pitch of the Major League season for a home run, but has just four hits and 17 strikeouts since then.

"He had a great camp, swung the bat really well," Maddon said. "He's quite a talent and he's going to be fine. We just have to play through it. When you start making rash decisions too early, I think you can destroy confidence, which I don't want to do."

• The Cubs' bullpen leads the Major Leagues with a 0.94 ERA, giving up four earned runs over 38 1/3 innings so far this season. Closer Brandon Morrow isn't surprised.

"We have a lot of guys with good stuff," Morrow said. "When we continue to be in the strike zone like we have been, you see the results. Guys are getting quick outs and strikeouts when they need to and limiting the free passes, for the most part. We've been going in with a lot of confidence and starting the season on the right foot."

Maddon can see the young players feeding off each other as well.

"I think Morrow is a good example for [Carl Edwards Jr.] right now," Maddon said. "He saw Brandon go and just pound the zone, and I think I saw that [Sunday] out of C.J. They can teach each other lessons."

It helps that the Cubs' relievers offer different looks, from Edwards' fastball to Steve Cishek's sidearm delivery.

"No. 1, it's the quality of the pitches we make, but [No. 2], it definitely helps when you have different looks to throw at guys," Morrow said.

Video: CHC@MIL: Morrow flies out Aguilar for the save

• Speaking of Morrow, has he been working on his dance moves for the bullpen? When a Cubs player hits a home run at Wrigley Field, the relievers have been known to do a little celebratory dancing.

"I won't be dancing," Morrow said.

Wade Davis, the Cubs' closer last season, didn't dance either. The main reason is that by the time the closer gets to the bullpen, it's usually late in the game.

"By the time we get down there, that's kind of the beginning when we see guys stretching and locking it in," Morrow said.

The right-hander also has yet to pick the music for when he enters the game at Wrigley Field.

"I've been going back and forth," Morrow said. "It's not that big a deal. I might switch them up. It depends on how I'm feeling."

Ben Zobrist was scheduled to start on Monday at first base in place of Anthony Rizzo, who has been bothered by stiffness in his lower back. Zobrist did work out at first base over the weekend in Milwaukee with infield coach Brian Butterfield. The last time he started at first base was Sept. 23, 2010, against the Yankees.

Rizzo was still receiving treatment for his back and his status was day to day.

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