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Are Cardinals a threat to Cubs with Matheny firing? We could find out fast

Mike Matheny and Cubs manager Joe Maddon before a playoff game in 2015.

SAN DIEGO — The Cubs could find out quicker than anyone else just how much addition the Cardinals created with the subtraction of oft-maligned manager Mike Matheny.

“I don’t know if it’s better or worse,” manager Joe Maddon said of the Cubs’ seeing the Cardinals and their newly installed interim manager immediately after the All-Star break for a five-game series.

Longtime Cards organizational coach and manager Mike Shildt took over for Matheny, who was fired Saturday night after the Cardinals lost to the Reds — coincidentally managed by interim manager Jim Riggleman.

“What it means, obviously — it’s almost like Cincinnati,” Maddon said. “You’ve got to rework it. What are they like? What is this guy like? The personality of the team can change — what they’re willing to do, what they’re willing to try, how they react to situations. All that stuff changes with the new guy.”

Riggleman took over a 3-15 team in April, and the Reds have had a winning record since (40-38), including seven victories in 10 meetings against the Cubs.

“When I was more of a bench coach, all of my work on a team from a previous year, if there was a new manager, I would just toss it,” Maddon said. “It meant nothing to me because everything pretty much changes just by that seat being changed.”

The third-place Cardinals won their first game under Shildt on Sunday. The Cards had lost three in a row and 10 of 15 until then.

The Cardinals are talented enough to be dangerous in the second half if the move gives players an emotional boost. For instance, struggling former Cub Dexter Fowler, who reportedly wasn’t on speaking terms with Matheny, homered in his first at-bat Sunday.

Maddon, who said his first thoughts were of sympathy for Matheny and his family, said he has “no idea” what to expect with the change, with 11 games remaining against St. Louis.

“I just know I’ve got to get used to a new guy,” he said. “If I could have watched maybe from a distance for a bit, I’d have a better feel for it. But I’m not worried about it in a sense. I’m just curious more than anything.”


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The power of the Derby

Maddon has long dismissed as “illogical dialogue” the theory that Home Run Derby participation screws up hitters’ swings for the final stretch of the season.

In fact, he sees a mental benefit for young, first-time participants such as Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber in Monday’s event.

“They’re going to have this little thing about them now that they know that they did that,” said Maddon, who watched that self-validation boost for Anthony Rizzo and then-rookie Kris Bryant in 2015.

“And in some unknowing way that’s going to be a positive benefit to them as they move it down the road,” he added. “ ‘I was in the Home Run Derby contest at the All-Star game.’ That’s pretty solid. So I would never want to restrict them from that.”

Roster move

Albert Almora Jr. went on the family medical emergency list after leaving the team Saturday because of an illness in the family. He’s expected to be ready to play when the team opens the second half.

David Bote was called up to take his place on the roster, started at third base, then doubled, walked, scored a run and made three exceptional fielding plays.