WASHINGTON – Anthony Rizzo has some competition for GLHOAT.
The self-proclaimed greatest leadoff hitter of all-time was moved down to second in the Cubs order against problematic left-hander Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals, and his replacement for the day, Willson Contreras, led off Monday’s game with a home run in his first career leadoff at-bat.
“I’ve been wanting to try Willie vs. a lefty,” manager Joe Maddon said of the eighth player he has used in the leadoff spot this year. “Even when [Kyle] Schwarber was here I thought at some point I would give that a go.”
Maddon said Rizzo, his slugging first baseman, will be back in the top spot again Tuesday against Nationals ace Max Scherzer, Rizzo’s 11th game leading off, all in the last two weeks.
Contreras said he had never led off at any level until Monday but wasn’t surprised.
“Because I know how Joe likes to work,” he said. “I was ready for everything. Every hitter has to be ready to hit in every spot [playing for Maddon].
“It feels good to feel that kind of confidence they put in you.”
The Cubs’ inability to find a reliable solution to their leadoff spot has created the midseason creativity and flux, with Opening Day leadoff man Schwarber lasting just six weeks in the spot and eventually getting optioned to the minors Thursday with a .171 batting average.
Eventually, Maddon would like to see a rebounding Schwarber return to that spot long-term, the manager said.
“I still think if Schwarbs can get back on track, his tools will reflect a lot of what you’re seeing Anthony do right now, how he gets the offense started,” Maddon said. “We don’t have that 40-steal guy. We don’t have that kind of speed combined with on-base percentage. So you’ve got to do the next-best thing. And I prefer your best hitters be at the top.”
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