The Cubs wasted no time making a change to the top of their lineup when their inexperienced leadoff man struggled out of the gate.
But manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday there are no immediate plans to take the next step with Ian Happ that seemed to work for the slumping Kyle Schwarber last June: a trip to Iowa for a heavy dose of remedial, every-day at-bats.
“I’m not even talking about that with Theo or anybody yet,” Maddon said.
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Meanwhile, Happ continues to strike out at an alarming rate.
He struck out as a pinch hitter Wednesday. It was his fourth strikeout in his last five plate appearances over the last three games.
Despite spending time on the bench recently, Happ entered the game ranked sixth in the league with 35 strikeouts, which was more than double his hits total (17). Heading into the weekend series in St. Louis, he has struck out in 46.2 percent of his 78 plate appearances.
“You’ve just got to keep talking to him, got to keep working on things,” Maddon said. “Of course he’s frustrated, but he’s handling it so well. He’s not distraught. He’s not hanging his head.”
But he is hitting just .233 with five walks and five extra-base hits. Happ has gone from a regular leadoff man against right-handers to playing based on matchup considerations while he works through his struggles.
“He’s young, and young guys like that need to play,” Maddon said. “And with the group right now, it’s hard to fit them all in there. When a guy like him is struggling, he really needs to be out there more often than not. So there’s this balancing act going on right now.”
That’s where the Iowa question comes into play.
“You have to understand, when you’re in April and May, you’re trying to get people playing … so they all look good in August and September,” Maddon said. “So he’s gonna be very good by that time.
“But in the meantime, I don’t worry about sending somebody back. Our concern is about getting him going right now. And we definitely can.”