How good can impressive right fielder Jason Heyward be in center field?
How good was Jim Edmonds?
That’s the comparison Cubs manager Joe Maddon immediately envisions when he thinks of the Cubs’ new, $184-million outfielder moving into a regular center field spot after six years building a reputation as the best right fielder in the game.
Maddon was an Angels instructor in the early ‘90s when Edmonds was breaking through the upper minors of the Angels’ system and remembers vividly his impression of Edmonds playing right field one spring.
“I’m out there watching him one night, and he made a couple plays, and threw this guy out at third base from right field,” Maddon said, “and I went back and said, `I think this guy can play center field.’ “
Edmonds went on to win eight Gold Gloves as a center fielder for the Angels and Cardinals.
“You watch Jason Heyward play right, and I don’t really understand what the negative rub would be, why he can’t play center field,” Maddon said. “Center field’s actually an easier position to play than right field is.
“He runs well enough, he’s got the arm, he’s got this nose for the ball, great first step — he’s got all this.”
Heyward has started 30 career games in center, including 10 for the Cardinals last year, before signing an eight-year free agent deal with the Cubs after last year’s starter, Dexter Fowler, departed for free agency.
“I’ve got him being good out there, I really do.”