Ian Happ staying helps nudge Kyle Schwarber out of Cubs’ leadoff spot

SHARE Ian Happ staying helps nudge Kyle Schwarber out of Cubs’ leadoff spot

Ian Happ has earned a spot with the Cubs and wasn’t sent back to Iowa on Saturday. | AP

Ian Happ isn’t going anywhere. That’s one reason Kyle Schwarber’s stint atop the Cubs’ lineup might be over.

Before their game Saturday against the Brewers was postponed because of inclement weather, the Cubs were expected to send Tommy La Stella — not Happ — to Class AAA Iowa to make room for Jason Heyward, who was set to return from the 10-day disabled list. Happ, the Cubs’ first-round pick in 2015, was called up May 13 and has hit well, batting .333 with two home runs and four RBI while showing his versatility in the field.

‘‘He’s done a really good job at the plate, on defense, running the bases,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘A big part of it is the fact that, like a lot of our guys, he’s not overwhelmed. That’s probably the most impressive part of it. He’s acting like he wants to stay here and that he belongs here.’’

Happ’s emergence also helped nudge Maddon into moving Schwarber out of the leadoff spot. If not for the postponement, Happ would have batted fifth and played center field. Schwarber was dropped to second in the order, with Ben Zobrist leading off and playing second base.

In explaining the lineup change, Maddon noted how well Zobrist has been hitting lately and how Happ can protect Anthony Rizzo in the lineup. He also pointed out Schwarber is more susceptible to the shift when he leads off or hits with nobody on base. If Schwarber bats after Zobrist gets on base, then he wouldn’t have to face a shift.

‘‘Happ being here pretty much permits me to think that way, I think, and the fact that he’s done so well,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I was always concerned about Zo leaving that spot [behind Rizzo]. Just imagine, if I put Zo up there [at leadoff] and Happ wasn’t there behind Rizzo, what that would look like. I wouldn’t feel as good about it.

‘‘A lot of different little moving parts. I was thinking about it [Friday] night coming into [Saturday], and I thought it made some sense.’’

Schwarber is hitting .182 and has a .305 on-base percentage, and Maddon didn’t commit to returning him to the top spot in the order.

‘‘It just depends,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘The biggest thing is just to get him untracked a little bit confidence-wise.’’

At least for now, Happ doesn’t seem to have any issues with confidence. He’s hitting like he belongs and has played all three outfield spots, all while getting used to being a major-leaguer.

‘‘As you play a ton of baseball games, you get a lot of experience in the minor leagues,’’ Happ said. ‘‘But just coming up here, it’s a continuation of a growth process. Just trying to learn every day and get a little bit better.’’

Maddon said he’ll take advantage of Happ’s ability to play various positions, though the ‘‘fact that he can play center field well makes a big difference, obviously.’’

‘‘The fact that he can play multiple positions permits him to be in the big leagues right now,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘If he was a one-position pony and that position wasn’t open, you’d have to consider somebody else. And that’s what the game was for so many years.

‘‘I love the fact young players are willing to accept multiple positions. [They’re] not worried about an old-school method of thinking or the fact that they may not achieve maybe financial reward or awards in general.’’

Follow me on Twitter @BrianSandalow.


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