Albert Almora Jr. only has eight singles and the highest ground-ball rate in the majors to show for his first 11 games, including seven starts.
But manager Joe Maddon doesn’t plan to change Almora’s role in the lineup, so look for the center fielder to be back in the leadoff spot Friday against Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs.
“I would advise him not to change anything; I think he looks really good,” Maddon said of a swing that hasn’t changed since Almora’s strong spring performance. “I like his approach, meaning I like his physical, mechanical approach.
“I think he’s fine. It’s just a matter of him staying within the zone. . . . It’s just a matter of time. He’ll get on his hot streak. He’ll get disgustingly hot [like he does] sometimes, and you just can’t get him out.”
Chatwood for 75?
After Tyler Chatwood threw close to 60 pitches Wednesday night between a short bullpen session and an inning of the game against the Pirates that night, Maddon said a 75-pitch max in Sunday’s spot start is “not an unreasonable number.”
Chatwood, who lost his starting job last year because of historically bad command, pitched a scoreless eighth Wednesday and said he’s ready for whatever is asked when he takes injured Jon Lester’s turn.
“He’s pitching with a lot more confidence,” Maddon said. “We’ll see. Stuff-wise, he’s as good as anybody on our staff.”
If the miserable weather forecast is right, the game could be in jeopardy of postponement, in which case the Cubs have indicated that Chatwood likely would stay in the bullpen as they head to Miami for a series opener Monday.
Another step for Montgomery
Left-hander Mike Montgomery (lat strain) threw a 26-pitch bullpen session Thursday without issue and is expected to throw at least one more during the weekend before the Cubs start plotting his return from the injured list.
He’s eligible Monday but more likely would return, barring a setback, during the six-game homestand that starts April 19.
Montgomery’s wife also is due with their first child in the coming days.
The Cubs released right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng, presumably after he cleared waivers, five days after he was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for right-hander Allen Webster.
Tseng, 24, who made a spot start each of the last two seasons for the Cubs, had a rough season at Class AAA Iowa last year. He had not pitched this year.