Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward needed to get to the point where his jammed right index finger wasn’t an issue before he was prepared to declare himself ready to play.
On Friday, he did just that.
“I’m playing tomorrow,” Heyward said before Friday’s game against the Brewers at Wrigley Field.
Heyward went 1-for-3 with an RBI single for Class A South Bend in six innings on Thursday. Heyward, who has been out since injuring his hand on May 5 against the Yankees, is not in the lineup Friday, but is expected to be ready to go Saturday.
Heyward it hitting .253 with three home runs and 17 RBIs this season. The Cubs won’t activate Heyward until Saturday, which provides the Cubs another day to determine who will be sent down to make room for Heyward.
Heyward said Friday he is feeling some minor soreness, but feels good enough to return without worrying about the injury worsening. He said that Thursday’s minor league start, when he hit lead-off for South Bend, went better than expected. Heyward said he went through a normal pregame routine and go through batting practice and then had his three at-bats without wearing any protection on his finger.
“I needed to go up there and swing the bat and do that worry-free and play the game and adjust,” Heyward said. “Just go up there and worry about timing, things like that…get comfortable and then play the game and not think about my hand at all, which I was able to do.”
Manager Joe Maddon said before Friday’s game that no decision has been made in regard to who the Cubs will send down. Ian Happ, who hit cleanup spot Friday, continues to impress after going 2-for-4 with a double and a walk in Thursday’s 9-5 win over the Reds.
A move will likely boil down to Happ, the Cubs’ 2015 first-round draft pick who is 6-for-17 with two homers and four RBIs, or Tommy La Stella, who is hitting .318 with a .483 on-base percentage.
Maddon once characterized the decision as being a difficult one.
“That’s what happens when you’re good – you have tough decisions,” Maddon said. “We have a lot of different options. The fact that Ian’s come up and done so well makes it more difficult. We’ll try to figure out and make our best guess.”
Asked if it makes more sense to send Happ to Class AAA Iowa where he could play on a daily basis, Maddon responded: “He could benefit from playing regularly in the majors. He’s definitely the kind of guy you don’t want him sitting around.”
Heyward said he has been impressed with the way Happ has made a solid first impression.
“It’s not easy to be young and come up and produce well, but it’s also not easy to come up and fit in,” Heyward said. “But I feel these guys in this clubhouse do a really good job – they want to get to the big leagues, they work hard, they work their tails off to get here and they see other guys before them come up and have success early on.
“So it’s good they can see someone else and relate to them and get immediate feedback from a guy they came up with.”
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